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Hey Fat Head: feed your brain!

Paleo, Primal, low carbohydrate and ketogenic enthusiasts and supporters have known for a while now that eating fat does not make you fat. The conventional wisdom would have you believe that dietary fat not only contributes to weight gain, but to heart disease, diabetes and a host of other non-infectious diseases.

I had the pleasure of listening to brain and nutrition researcher Delia McCabe speak at a health and longevity workshop at the end of 2016, and since that time I have developed a fascination with the brain (mine in particular), and the ways in which food can enable an improvement in the sense of well-being, alertness, memory, focus.

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However, ask almost anyone if food could help them feel better, you get a look of astonishment at best or complete dismissal at worst.

“How can food help me to think sharper?”, “keep my thoughts in order?” “Not be depressed?”

According to her bio,

Delia turned her back on conventional talking therapy, after completing her Masters in Psychology. Since then she’s immersed herself in the fascinating world of nutrition and the brain – based on solid science – into how specific foods can improve your mood, concentration, memory and learning ability as well as help you stay calm and happy in our busy, stressful world, regardless of your age! Food Matters Website

The healthy low fat diet myth is heavily entrenched and highly pervasive in our culture (here is a well researched synopsis of how we have been fooled into believing that low fat moderate sugar diet is the perfect solution over the past 40 years). As Delia mentions in her talks, many people become angry when they realise they have been fooled about the critical importance of fat to our health and wellbeing, especially to our mental health: Are you aware that after water, fat is the most abundant substance found in the body and the brain? Every single organ is surrounded by fat and every tissue contains fat and every cell is surrounded by fat, it should be a fundamental component of your diet!

What follows is a series of excerpts from “Feed Your Brain:7 steps to a lighter, brighter you!” written by Delia McCabe (Exisle Publishing Pty Ltd, 2016)

Hey Fat Head…

Sixty percent of the brain is made up of fat. That means that if you have been avoiding fat, chances are you suffer from low mood, possibly depression, and as  you get older your ability to learn new things and to remember the skills you already have goes down drastically. In addition, you probably have sore joints, dry skin, dry eyes, a sluggish metabolism and low energy… researchers now know that a lack of specific types of fat is very likely to predispose you to memory decline, which in its drastic stages is also called Alzheimer’s disease (page 137)

What is becoming apparent is that when you give your brain the nutrients it needs to function optimally, you naturally improve your mood, your weight stabilises and you start loosing weight if you need to. Your brain works more efficiently, improving learning potential, focus and memory and you become lighter in mood and weight, brighter in outlook and cognitive capacity. Due to the brain being the ‘greediest’ organ in the body, when it is satisfied it sets off a wonderful ‘domino effect’ or cascade of improved health on every level.

Do fats and oils have to be organic?

All the foods that you choose to eat should ideally be organic because pesticides obviously do not support optimal health. However, many pesticides are oil-soluble which means that oily nuts and seeds will contain pesticide residues if they are not grown organically. Pesticides accumulate in the fat tissues of animals, including humans, this means that our cells and tissues will end up containing pesticides if we don’t eat organic nuts, seeds and oils. As your brain is 60 per cent fat, you don’t want to take the chance of accumulating pesticides there!

Finally, the “Feed Your Brain” action plan (page 162):

  1. Purchase and start using the best organic, unrefined essential fatty acid (EFA) supplement you can find
  2. Replace cooking oil with organic coconut oil and organic, grass-fed butter (in small quantities) and don’t buy any more damaged, shelf-stable vegetable oils
  3. Replace margarine and other vegetable oils with organic, unrefined oils such as olive oil, avocado, macadamia nut butter, tahini (sesame seed paste) and real butter
  4. buy a variety of fresh nuts and seeds and keep them refrigerated, use them in salads, to make muesli bars and great snacks

[post script:] Following her game-changing discussion, I turned my eating regime around: I have always eaten what I thought was a reasonable amount of good-fat foods and wholefoods in general, but when I made a conscious effort to increase the amounts of good fats and decrease the amount carbohydrates daily (in order to keep my average energy consumption in a healthy range), I have continued to notice a clarity of mind, increased focus, and general improvement in my energy levels. And no weight gain, to be honest, I’ve dropped a few Kg!

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