Nutrition can impact brain health throughout your life. One of the most important nutrients for a healthy brain is omega-3s, particularly EPA and DHA omega-3s. These also happen to be among the nutrients that many people aren’t getting enough of.
Our bodies aren’t able to make enough EPA and DHA, so we have to get them from food or supplements. Unfortunately, 95% of Americans don’t get enough EPA and DHA. Here’s what you can do to make sure you’re getting enough of these brain-boosting omega-3s.
Disclosure: this blog post is a collaboration with GOED. As always, all opinions are 100% my own.
Omega-3s and Brain Health
DHA, an omega-3 fatty acid, is one of the main types of fat in the brain. Brain cells, called neurons, are mostly made up of DHA. Neurons send messages from the brain to our muscles and nerves.
DHA plays an important role in brain development and function throughout your life.
Here are some highlights of DHA’s key functions from the womb to older adulthood:
DHA is essential for cognitive development, particularly during the second half of pregnancy.
Pregnant women need to be sure they’re getting enough DHA so this key nutrient can be passed to the fetus via the placenta. That’s why eating enough fatty fish or taking an omega-3 supplement is especially important during this time.
Getting enough DHA is also important for babies to promote cognitive development during this time of rapid brain growth.
Babies can get DHA via their mother’s breast milk or fortified infant formula.
Breastfeeding women should also make sure they’re getting enough omega-3s whether its from fatty fish or supplements.
Getting DHA throughout adulthood alone or together with EPA can help boost memory in older adults.
Learn more about the importance of omega-3s for brain health in this video from GOED:
How Much EPA and DHA Do I Need?
Not sure if you’re getting enough EPA and DHA for brain health? Most health care professionals recommend 250 – 500mg of EPA and DHA per day for healthy adults. If you have coronary heart disease, talk to your doctor about how much EPA and DHA to take.
How Do I Get Enough Omega-3s?
To meet your needs for EPA and DHA:
- Eat 2 servings of fatty fish such as salmon, trout, mackerel or sardines each week (1 serving is about the size of the palm of your hand)
- If you don’t eat enough fatty fish, take a fish oil supplement
What about ALA? Can’t I Get Omega-3s from Vegetarian Foods?
You can get another type of omega-3s called ALA by eating plant foods such as chia seeds, flax seeds, hemp seeds and walnuts. Your body can turn a small amount of ALA into EPA and DHA, but the process isn’t very efficient and won’t be able to provide enough EPA and DHA for brain, eye and heart health benefits. That’s why getting EPA and DHA from fatty fish or a supplement is your best bet.
If you’re vegan or otherwise want to avoid fish, you can find algae supplements that contain EPA and DHA.
Recipes to Help You Get Enough EPA and DHA
Aren’t sure how to cook fish? Or had it once and weren’t a fan of the flavors that were used or found it was too dry? Try my fish recipes that are not only delicious, but quick and easy to prepare, and loaded with EPA and DHA for brain health!
Baked Lemon Dijon Salmon – ready in 15 minutes!
Are you getting enough EPA and DHA for a healthy brain? Take the quiz!
Share your favorite EPA and DHA-rich recipes in the comments below!