A recent study was just published that reminds us, once again, how important omega-3 fatty acids are for our health. Omega-3 fatty acids are an essential fatty acid. This means that the body cannot make them and you have to get them from food sources. Examples include: salmon, tuna, mackerel, and halibut. If you are not a fan of fish, you can get some omega-3s from some plant and nut oils. A large study on the benefits of omega-3 fatty acids was just conducted and published in the April issue of Neurology. Results indicate that people who consume foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids and have low amounts of saturated fat and meat in their diet had improved memory and thinking abilities! Georgios Tsivgoulis, MD states that “since there are no definitive treatments for most dementing illnesses, modifiable activities, such as diet, that may delay the onset of symptoms of dementia are very important.”

The study monitored the diets (over a 4 year period) of ~17,478 African-American and Caucasian people. The participants were around 64 years of age and were given tests that measured thinking abilities and memory. It was found that healthy people who more closely followed the Mediterranean diet (rich in omega-3 fatty acids) were 19% less likely to develop issues with their thinking and memory skills. Results also indicated that participants with diabetes following a diet similar to the Mediterranean diet did not have these same benefits in thinking/memory.

I am a big fan of omega-3 fatty acids. They have been widely studied as to their possible benefit in helping reduce risk of heart disease, cancer, stroke, etc. However, many of my patients tell me that they don’t like fish and don’t like taking supplements so “how can I get enough?” I consistently urge people to step outside of their comfort zones and give fish a try. Many people are intimidated about cooking salmon or tuna but it is actually quite easy. But, if fish is truly not your thing, I recommend adding dashes of flaxseed oil into a salad or cook with canola oil. These are rich in a type of omega-3 fatty acids. You could snack on walnuts or add flaxseeds into your oatmeal. Make one day a week “meatless” and create vegetarian dishes using kidney or pinto beans. Finally, spinach is good source of omega-3s so you could add it to spaghetti sauce or whip of a large spinach salad for dinner!

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