If you’re looking for how to improve memory, put away those cookies, donuts, and chips full of trans-fats. You probably know that trans-fats are terrible for your cholesterol levels which put you at increased risk for heart disease, diabetes, obesity and some types of cancer, but studies now report findings that these trans-fatty acids also affect your memory.
To avoid eating trans-fats you have to know what and where they are. They naturally occur some in meats and dairy products, but the ones to really be concerned about are the ones made by adding hydrogen to vegetable oil. This allows the oil to be in a solid form at room temperature and for foods to have a longer shelf life in the grocery store. Partially hydrogenated vegetable oils are also often used by restaurants for frying foods because they don’t have to change the oil as often. This trans-fat or partially hydrogenated oil is used in foods like cakes, cookies, crackers, pie crust, biscuits or any other foods that contain shortening, as well as fried foods like donuts, French fries, potato chips or corn chips, pancake mixes, some types of margarine, coffee creamer of the non-dairy variety, and many fast foods. Penny Kris Etherton, PhD, RD, nutrition professor at Pennsylvania State University, University Park and a spokesperson for the American Heart Association, cautions that you should read lists of ingredients on food labels and look for hydrogenated oils or fats, or partially hydrogenated fats. Reading labels is a good way to help you avoid trans-fat, but maybe not as much so as you think. Reading labels on foods and staying away from anything listing these oils or fats won’t keep you totally away from them because if the product contains less than 0.5 grams per serving the label is allowed to put 0. This may not seem like much, but it can add up if you consume several 0.5 gram servings of different products.
Trans-fat And Memory
More recent studies, such as one at UC San Francisco, have discovered a link between the consumption of trans-fats and declining memory. This study particularly reported that men less than 45 years of age showed a decrease in word memory skills and that the more trans-fats consumed the less words they were able to recall. Studies on how we are affected by trans-fats have also reported a link to aggressive behavior. According to Dr. Patrick T. O’Gara, president of the American College of Cardiology, studies such as these confirm that what we eat does affect our mood and cognitive ability. While more research is needed to fully understand exactly why memory loss can be caused by eating trans-fats, experts such as Dr. Walter Willett, chairman of the Department of Nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health, theorize that these types of fats get into the body’s cells and wreak havoc on their functioning.
Fat Versus Fat
When we talk about trans-fat as being bad fat, don’t get confused in thinking you need to avoid all fats though. There are healthy fats that the body and especially the brain need to function properly. Healthy fats are needed in the diet for brain health, energy, healing, keeping hormones balanced and can act as a natural anti-inflammatory. You want to avoid trans-fat as much as you possibly can by reading food labels and making many of the types of foods that typically contain them from scratch. Look for recipes that you can make with healthier oils such as olive, canola or coconut oil. The fats you do want to have in your diet are monounsaturated and polyunsaturated. Foods with omega-3 fatty acids and omega-6 fatty acids are a particularly good addition to the diet. Watch out overdoing the omega-6 fatty acids however as this can cause more inflammation than necessary. The optimal ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids is 3:1. One way to be sure you get the exact ratio of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids is by taking AFA blue-green algae since it has the exact ratio of fatty acids the human body needs as well as the polyunsaturated fats that are good for you. The form of bluegreen algae with the cell wall removed is especially good for the brain as it allows the nutrients to pass through the blood brain barrier easier. Other foods with healthy fats include avocados, olives, nut butters, coconut and coconut milk, almonds and almond milk, oily fish like salmon, mackerel and tuna, and flax, sunflower, pumpkin, hemp and chia seeds.
Now that you know how trans-fat can affect not only your heart health, but also your memory, start ridding yourself of foods containing it from your diet. Concentrate on replacing those trans-fat foods with foods with essential fatty acids like a balance of omega-3 and omega-6, polyunsaturated fats and monounsaturated fats. You’ll find this will not only be a memory booster, but give you more energy, help with weight loss and make you generally more healthy.