Pretty much everyone knows that fish is good for our brain. But why exactly is fish brain food? We’ll give you a hint: it’s the oil!
The lean part of the fish contains plenty of nutrients that are essential for our body. Such as phosphatidylserine, B vitamins, protein and others. But when it comes to the brain benefits of fish, most of the research is focused on the fish oil.
So, what is it about fish oil specifically that helps our brain work better?
Why is Eating Fish Good for Your Brain?
The reason why eating fish is good for our brain is mostly due to the fact that DHA, the famous omega-3 fatty acid in fish, makes up a big part of our brain cell membranes. The communication between your brain cells is dependent on the health and fluidity of these membranes.
According to some experimental evidence, mothers who consumed more fish during pregnancy gave birth to infants with improved motor skills, verbal intelligence, and social behavior. A study has also linked a mother’s fish intake during pregnancy with children’s IQ later in life.
This is suggested to be the result of the increased blood levels of DHA in the baby, even though that’s probably not the only reason why.
DHA Might be the Key to a Sharp Brain
Whatever the case, the importance of DHA can’t be understated. As an essential omega-3 fatty acid, it’s been proven to enhance memory, improve brain function, and even reduce the risk of depression. The latter of which, although grossly underreported, is one of the most prevalent health issues in the world.
Authors of some studies also pointed out that our brains lose DHA as we age, which is why eating fish becomes even more important when you get older.
Can Eating Fish Make You Smarter?
According to Telegraph, eating fish can indeed make you smarter. Scientists have discovered that eating foods that are rich in omega-3s – including plant based sources – boosts blood flow to your brain and improves its performance on mental tasks.
Recent research also claims that eating fish can reduce our levels of mental fatigue, as well as improve mental reaction times during challenging tasks.
The British scientists say these findings could be especially important for the elderly, as a diet rich in omega-3s has the potential to ward off dementia.
What do Studies Say?
The researchers conducted two clinical trials to study the effects of fatty fish on the brain. Participants took fish oil supplements high in DHA, which as we discussed, is an omega-3 fatty acid linked with the most benefits.
Results of one study showed that taking omega-3s enhanced blood flow to the areas of the brain active during mental tasks.
Another study, which gave two fish oil supplements to volunteers aged 18-35 over the course of three months, showed a bit different results. Although the volunteers didn’t experience much of an increase in brain blood flow, their reaction times were faster and they were less tired after a mental task.
Disadvantages of Eating Fish
We live in a polluted world. And it’s getting worse by the day. The seas where fish live continue to accumulate mercury and other harmful chemicals. Mercury poisoning is known to disrupt our nervous system and mitochondria, which makes no surprise considering that it’s the single most deadly neurotoxin we know.
Luckily, not all fish have high amounts of mercury. The smaller the fish the less mercury it has. Low mercury fish include:
Additionally, shrimps, oysters, crabs, and scallops are also low in mercury.
On the other hand, fish that are known to have high levels of this poisonous heavy metal include:
- King mackerel
- Some Tilefish
- Tuna (Ahi and Bigeye)
Fish is Brain Food – Myth or Fact?
It’s not a myth, but a fact! Fish contains many nutrients that our brain absolutely needs and can’t survive without. The most notable being Omega-3s, DHA and EPA. While EPA is considered to be less important than DHA for brain function specifically, both are essential for our body, which means you need to get them daily for optimal health.
Anything Else to Consider?
Clearly, fish plays a critical role in supporting brain health. But sticking to a clean and balanced diet overall and exercising often are both also very important for your mental performance, along with making sure that you get enough sleep every night.
As always, you should chat with your doctor about any medical concerns you might have. The information we have here is written by a qualified nutritionist and is research backed, but it doesn’t substitute medical advice – and doesn’t intend to diagnose, treat, or cure any disease or condition.
The Bottom Line
So there you have the answer to your question “why is fish brain food?”. As you saw, fish is good for our brain and contains nutrients that are absolutely essential for maintaining healthy cognitive function.
However, scientists still don’t fully understand if omega-3 fats in fish are the sole reason why fish are so brain-friendly, or if there’s more than it meets the eye.
FURTHER READING: 15 Indian Food to Increase Memory Power