Can’t remember where you put your keys? Dietitian Melanie McGrice explains how the key to unlocking your memory can be found in a diet rich in Omega-3
We all forget things from time to time. It can be considered normal, but are those small occasional memory lapses occurring more often than they should? We live in an age of information overload; there is so much to remember. Furthermore, as we age, research shows that our memory often declines as the synapses which connect brain cells start to fail. However, there is a simple way to minimise this decline and improve our memory: omega 3.
Omega 3 is a type of ‘good’ polyunsaturated fat and is found in three different forms; eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) from animal sources and α-linolenic acid (ALA) from plant sources. Omega-3 fatty acids are so highly praised because they are ‘essential’ in that our body is unable to make these fats by itself and we therefore need to consume them from our diet. Omega-3 also plays a positive role in a wide variety of health benefits such as heart, joint and mental health. EPA and DHA Omega-3s help make up the structure of your brain and so it’s not surprising that they can be beneficial in modulating how your brain functions in areas such as thinking processes, decision making and increasing memory.
Australian recommendations are that women over 60 years consume a minimum of 430mg of Omega 3 fatty acids per day, and men over 60 consume a minimum of 610mg per day to prevent deficiency and to maintain general wellbeing. As sufficient Omega-3 needs to be obtained from the diet it is important to know which foods to have and how much of it you need in order to see these beneficial effects.
Fish and seafood are the main source of Omega-3 fatty acids in the diet. A handy tip to remember is that the oilier the fish, the richer it is in Omega- 3 fatty acids.
Oily fish such as salmon, sardines and trout are the best options with a 150g serve providing over 2000mg Omega-3! White fish including Snapper, tuna, John Dory and seafood such as scallops, prawns and oysters are still great options providing approximately 200mg of Omega-3 fatty acids per serve.
Recent data shows that 60% of Australian adults don’t meet the Australian Dietary Guidelines of consuming fish at least 2-3 times per week so adding more fish into the weekly menu can be the easiest way to reach your Omega-3 target.
Recommended intake: aim for 2-3 150g serves of oily fish per week
Data from the National Nutrition Survey estimates that ~40% of the Omega-3 consumed by Australian adults came from red meat sources. A 65g serve of beef or lamb will give you approximately40-80mg Omega-3 fatty acids per serve. The same serve of white meat such as poultry or pork provides a smaller amount of approximately 10-15mg.
Recommended intake: Aim for 3-4 65g serves of lean red meat per week
Eggs themselves are very nutritious and can form a staple meat alternative in vegetarian diets. A standard 60g egg will provide 60-100mg Omega-3. Even though eggs provide less Omega-3 than marine or meat based products, they are still a good source of Omega-3 and contribute to meeting your target. Some manufacturers supplement the diet of the laying chickens in order to fortify the eggs produced and really boost their Omega-3 content. Always check the label of fortified products to confirm Omega-3 quantities, but as a general guide an enriched egg may provide 150-200mg Omega-3 per 60g serve.
Recommended intake: Aim for 6 60g omega 3 enriched eggs per week
Plant based Omega-3 fatty acids comes in the form of ALA from foods such as flaxseed/linseed, chia seeds, walnuts, soybeans and canola oil. ALA itself isn’t able to directly impact your health and so the body must convert ALA into EPA and DHA which can cross the blood brain barrier and improve your memory. It is important to note that this conversion rate is slow and inefficient (less than 10% when compared to the Omega-3 content obtained from fish) and is affected by genetics, gender, age and dietary composition. Of all the plant based sources, flaxseeds are the best source as they contain ~50-60% ALA. It is better to opt for flaxseed oil where 1 tbsp can provide up to 10g of ALA as opposed to whole flaxseeds which are poorly digested and can only provide ~ 3g ALA.
Recommended intake: Aim for 1 tablespoon flaxseed oil per day
The ancient Greek actor Aeschylus said “Memory is the mother of all wisdom”. Would you agree that it should be something that is preserved and treasured?
Sixty per cent of the brain is made from structural fat, primarily DHA.
Studies conducted by CSIRO have shown that good quality salmon can contain between 10 and 100 times as much Omega-3 as beef, chicken, lamb and most other kinds of seafood.
Flaxseed oil is extremely sensitive and easily destroyed by heat, light, and oxygen and is therefore tightly bottled in dark containers. Be sure to buy good quality flaxseed oil and process it at low temperatures in the absence of light, extreme heat or oxygen.
Do you have a good or bad memory? What do you do to make sure you keep your memory? Share with us below.