How to Live to 100: Page 6
6. Boost brainpower with brain-healthy fats.
What the research shows: Research into the importance of omega-3 fatty acids continues to pour in, and researchers have begun to better understand the vital role these fats play in brain health. According to neurologists, two thirds of your brain is composed of fats. Myelin, the protective sheath that covers neurons, is 70 percent fat -- and the membranes of neural cells are composed of fatty acid molecules as well.
The bottom line: Your brain cells depend on fatty acids to maintain their ability to communicate. Studies have shown omega-3 fatty acids boost memory, reduce depression and other mood disorders, protect cardiovascular health, and reduce cancer rates. As far as brain health, the benefits kick in quickly: In one recent study, participants 55 and up with memory problems took omega-3 fatty acids for six months and scored many fewer errors on learning and memory tests than those taking a placebo.
How to make this work for you: The body can't make its own omega-3 fatty acids; you have to get them from food, so boost your diet with as many fatty acids as you can. Stock up on ground flaxseed (whole seeds are not easily digested and pass right through), which is becoming increasingly available in grocery stores, and add it to everything you can think of. Sprinkle it on oatmeal or cereal; add it to a bowl of yogurt and fruit or a smoothie; stir it into soup or sprinkle on a salad.
Adorn your table with a decorative decanter for olive oil (it keeps its potency best in an opaque bottle) and drizzle it over veggies and salads or dip your bread into it.
Keep a jar of fish oil capsules on your kitchen counter and take one as you begin each meal. (This way you're less likely to have the "fish burps" that annoy some folks.) Because fish oil has been purified for mercury and other heavy metals, you don't have to limit your intake the way you do with seafood.
But eat seafood too; some studies have shown that populations that eat a diet high in fish are much healthier and longer-lived than populations that don't. Algae is high in DHA, one of the key omega-3 fatty acids, and some people incorporate algae-based supplements, such as spirulina, as well.