Food for the Brain – Omega 3 DHA

The Western diet has changed a lot in the last 20 to 50 years, not only with the choices we make about what to eat, but how the food is grown and manufactured.  Increasingly our soils are being depleted of essential minerals and our food is heavily processed which robs it even more. The animals that we consume are being fed grains that are limited in nutritional value, which leaves their meat deficient in nutrients and fatty acids, putting us at even greater risk of being deficient in essential minerals, vitamins and fats. Add to this an increase in daily stress, which causes a “fight or flight” reaction which shuts down blood flow to the gut and decreases secretions needed for digestion, we can find ourselves much more susceptible to disease and emotional problems.  Doesn’t sound too rosie?

But by choosing a diverse range of fresh, organic foods for our diet we can start to ensure that we are consuming all the wide and varied minerals, vitamins and fats that are needed for our body.  In Traditional Japan it is believed that a diet should contain over 20 different foods per day in order to maintain health.
An important fat needed by the body is Omega 3 DHA.  It is an essential unsaturated Fatty acid, which is unable to be manufactured by the body but is essential for normal metabolism.  It is found in fish oils, flaxseed oil and algal oil but is also found in meats, eggs and cheeses, but only from animals, which have consumed plants high in omega 3. (check your stockist for grass fed animals or buy organic)
The Center for Genetics in Washington DC USA states:  “Western diets are deficient in omega-3 fatty acids, and have excessive amounts of omega-6 fatty acids compared with the diet on which human beings evolved and their genetic patterns were established” A Western diet can be as high as 15:1 (Omega 6:Omega 3), opposed to the early hunter/gatherer ratio of 3:1.  A diet high in Omega 6 can lead to the production of high levels of proinflammatory cytokines. “These cytokines …-… influence the onset and course of many conditions associated with aging, including cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, and arthritis.” Medscape Medical News Diets With High Omega-6:Omega-3 Ratios Enhance Risk for Depression, Inflammatory Disease
Omega 3 is also thought to have an affect on depression, affecting how people deal with stress and depression in their life.  Studies into Omega 3 and depression are still in their infancy but have some favourable early findings.
Although, the effect on Omega 3 on the brain is well documented.  The brain is made up mostly of fats and needs Omega 3 to develop and function properly.  Making Omega 3 absolutely vital in the first 3 months of pregnancy to help develop the brain and make them extra clever 😉 But the other side of this is that if your levels of Omega 3 are high during pregnancy, there is no need for the baby to rob you of your own levels of Omega 3 reducing the frustrating symptom of “baby brain” forgetfulness.
All nutrients, minerals and fats are important in our diet in a balanced healthy range.  Being aware of areas of deficiencies are important to maintain health and wellbeing, eating a good quality, varied diet will help you to achieve this.  But if you feel as though you may be deficient or are not eating a balanced diet talk to your practitioner about ways in wish you may be able to supplement or improve your diet.

Pip Atherstone-Reid is a Chinese Medicine Acupuncturist at Kundalini HouseKundalini House stocks Bioceutical Supplement

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