Eat Good Fats. Preserve Your Memory!
I often hear people say, “Oh, I’m having a senior moment.” And I feel for them, as it is true that our bodies change as we get older and part of this change manifests itself through memory lapses. However, some people age a little more gracefully and their memories stay sharp through old age. Others start becoming unusually forgetful before they even reach their 50’s. What is the one thing we can do to preserve our memory? Eat fat! Good fat brings many benefits to your body, and one of them is keeping your memory sharp. In fact, good fats are essential for overall health. Donna Gates, a strong proponent of healthy fats and oils in our diets and author of the Body Ecology Diet notes that “Reducing healthy sources of dietary fat has contributed to a serious decline in our well-being, and those of us that speak out against the anti-fat establishment are still largely ignored.” One of these declines is manifested in memory loss.
Other experts draw similar conclusions. One of them, Dr Josh Axe, refers to research published in Scientific American that concludes that: “Healthy fats are … vital for optimal brain function, and for the prevention of degenerative brain disorders like Alzheimer’s.” In a blog by Axe and Eric Zielinski entitled “Is Palm Oil as Good as Coconut Oil?”, they include various health benefits of one of these healthy oils used in many tropical dishes, palm oil. Axe and Zielinski write that palm oil has the ability to reduce the risk of as many as 11 disease processes. The two among these are: Alzheimer’s and cognitive impairment. To gain these health benefits, however, they recommend using fresh red palm oil instead of the oxidized, hydrogenated kind. Hydrogenation is meant to extend the oil’s shelf life but this process turns a naturally healthy oil into one that is harmful. It “induces an adverse lipid profile, reproductive toxicity and toxicity of the kidney, lung, liver, and heart,” add Axe and Zielinski.
Neurologist David Perlmutter, along with Kristin Loberg, contributor to Grain Brain, contend that: “The brain thrives on a fat-rich, low carbohydrate diet, which unfortunately is relatively uncommon in human populations today.” According to Mayo Clinic researchers, “individuals favoring carbohydrates in their diets had a remarkable 89 percent increased risk for developing dementia as contrasted to those whose diets contained the most fat. Having the highest levels of fat consumption was actually found to be associated with an incredible 44 percent reduction in risk for developing dementia.” Donna Gates expresses her concerns that limited consumption of the good fats and oils affect not only adults but also children and one of the ways it does this is through cognitive decline and memory impairment. She notes that this is one of the devastating impacts of putting children on a low fat diet. It deprives them of a key nutrient “essential for their brain’s and nervous system development”.
It is really unfortunate that despite the evidence, we still have a lot of people, including one of my clients, a middle school child who, during a coaching session with her parents, declared, “but I thought fat was bad for you!” So, the message has made it through the generations of young and old, keeping the myth that “fat is bad” alive and harming ourselves in the process. My rule of thumb these days is to consume as many types of foods as I can find and enjoy – in moderation. Quality matters always and adding variety ensures that we gain the health benefits that each food brings. We might have our own “senior moments”, or know others (parents, siblings, friends) who go through these moments on a regular basis and we have come to accept it as a normal part of aging. And that could be the case, but there is enough evidence to suggest that consuming good fats can delay memory decline.
My favorite sources of fat include: Avocados that I add to a cup of black bean soup for a filling lunch; almonds, pumpkin and sunflower seeds that I add to my morning meal, or to a salad or soup any time of the day; olive oil that I use to flavor cooked pasta or other cooked foods. I use it also for lightly frying foods on low heat as high heat destroys its health benefits; palm oil which is my favorite oil for cooking Isombe or ground cassava leaves, one of my favorite tropical vegetables I sometimes buy frozen at a local African food store; ground flaxseeds, a good source of anti-inflammatory Omega-3 fatty acids and also high in fiber to promote regularity and that I have with my morning meal; walnuts that I also add to breakfast cereal, soups or salads; and wild-caught omega-3 rich fish such as salmon and sardines that I often have as my protein for lunch or dinner. These good fats are easily burned as a source of energy and have anti-inflammatory properties. They are not only good for the brain, hence keeping our memory sharp, but they also promote a healthy heart and their anti-oxidant effects give us a healthy skin. Having these regularly have helped me reduce the frequency of my “senior moments” that I felt were coming before my time. I hope that you too, will start incorporating good fats into your diet, if you are not already. You owe it to your memory and cognitive function.
Together, we are healthier!
Rose Kadende-Kaiser, Ph.D Integrative Nutrition Health Coach
David Perlmutter and Kristin Loberg. Grain Brain: The Surprising Truth About Wheat, Carbs, and Sugar – Your Brain’s Silent Killers. Little, Brown and Company. September 2017.