The human brain is truly a marvelous thing!
Scientists understand only a fraction of what the brain is capable of and how it works, and there are tremendous discoveries and breakthroughs being made every day. The mysteries of the human brain are slowly being unlocked, and with every new revelation, a bit more is understood.
Researchers at Denmark’s University of Copenhagen made a fascinating discovery: to have a healthier brain, you need to eat more fat (1). This isn’t very surprising if you consider that two-thirds of the brain is composed of fat (2).
How Fat Keeps Your Brain Healthy
Fat is one of those words that makes you instinctively cringe. You’ve heard how saturated fat can kill you by causing heart attacks and strokes. You’ve heard how trans fats can lead to cancer and a host of other health problems. You’ve heard that eating too many fatty foods will cause acne, obesity, and diabetes.
But now experts are starting to realize that some fats are actually very important to health. Saturated fats are no longer blamed for heart disease. Dieticians and nutritionists are going out of their way to recommend high-fat foods as “healthy”.
According to the research done in Denmark, your brain needs fat in order to function optimally.
Fatty acids–such as the ones in olive oil, coconut oil, yoghurt, and nuts–have proven to be effective at protecting your brain from degenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
“Our study suggests that a high-fat diet can postpone aging processes. A diet high in fat also seems to postpone the aging of the brain. The findings therefore potentially imply that patients with Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease in the long term may benefit from the new knowledge,” says researcher Vilhelm Bohr who is with the Center for Healthy Aging at the University of Copenhagen.
Fats Help Repair Damaged Cells
The brain uses glucose as its fuel source, but when there is no glucose available, it turns to fat reserves by converting it into ketones. In lab tests, the Danish scientists noted brain benefits when the fat from coconut oil, which contains a special type of fat called medium chain fatty acids, was used by the brain.
In their research on aging problems in the brain, the scientists also found that having extra fat in brain cells could help them repair genetic damage more handily.
“… We therefore hope that a diet with a high content of coconut oil or similar fats will have a beneficial effect, because the brain cells are given extra fuel and thus the strength to repair the damage,” says researcher Morten Scheibye-Knudsen who is with the Danish National Institute of Health.
Thanks to this study, dieticians and nutritionists are recommending a diet that contains a bit more fat. But not the unhealthy, artificial trans fats (which are linked to a wide range of health disorders) but healthy fats that will protect your brain.
Want to know what foods to eat to get more healthy, brain-protecting fatty acids? Try these:
- Coconuts (and coconut oil)
- Olives (and olive oil)
- Nuts (walnuts, in particular)
- Seeds (flax, chia, etc.)
All of these foods contain healthy fats, which will go a long way toward not only protecting your brain (as the research suggests), but can help you to lose weight and will prevent heart disease as well.
Eating the right kind of fat is definitely good for your health!