Back in the 1980, all fats were considered to be unhealthy. Then, we started distinguishing between good fats and bad fats. Healthy fats include certain unsaturated fats like the monounsaturated fats in olive oil and Omega-3 fatty acids. Sources of Omega-3s fats includes fish, fish oil, canola oil, flaxseeds, and a few other seeds and nuts. Omega-3 fatty acids are widely used to help reduce inflammation and blood clotting. They are also important for skin health and mood. Omega-3 oils support the brain and are associated with healthier brains as we age.
It has long been argued that consuming fish or other Omega-3 sources is good for the heart. Some studies have confirmed this, but others showed no results. A recent well-conducted study seems to have solidly demonstrated the benefits of Omega-3 for the heart and overall longevity. Of over 2000 participants over 65 years old, those with the highest blood levels of Omega-3s had a 27% lower risk of death compared to those with the lowest levels during the 15 years they were tracked. This corresponded to the people with the higher levels of Omega-3s living 2 years longer on average. The largest effect was a 50% reduction in deaths due to cardiac arrhythmias, which are irregular heartbeats that can be live threatening. The difference between this and previous studies is this study measured the amount of Omega-3 fatty acids in the blood of the participants, while other studies had relied on dietary recall of what participants were eating or used questionable quality fish oil supplements. Many prescription and supplemental fish oils are modified from their natural form and may not be absorbed well. It is argued that fish oils that occur in their natural form, know as triglycerides, will be much better absorbed. This is one of the reasons I recommend brand that make sure their oils are in the natural triglyceride form like Nordic Naturals.
Though the holidays are a time of joy for many, they can be trying for some. The combination of shorter days and holiday stress can contribute to winter blahs, more technically known as seasonal affective disorder. St. John’s wort is one of the most popular herbs for mild depression, and it can also be a good choice for seasonal affective disorder. St. John’s wort has multiple actions on the brain. It increases the activity of serotonin, one of the main neurotransmitters associated with contentment. St. John’s wort additionally improves the availability of norepinephrine, a neurotransmitter that helps us feel alert and energized. Finally, St. John’s wort may reduce the production of cortisol, the stress hormone that is linked to some types of depression. Because of these amazing actions, many studies have shown St. John’s wort to be nearly as affective as some of the most common anti-depressant medications for mild to moderate depression.
Among its lesser-known uses, St. John’s wort may help other mood issues like anxiety. St. John’s wort might help activated the brain receptors for GABA, a calming neurotransmitter. Because of this calming action, St. John’s wort has also been used for sleep disorders like insomnia. St. John’s wort not only affects the brain, but also can benefit nerves throughout the body. A common use is for nerve pain, especially when due to injury or from shingles. St. John’s wort has some anti-microbial benefits that particularly help it fight viruses in the herpes family to which shingles belong. But before you decide to try this helpful herb, there are a few warnings to pay attention to. St. John’s wort should be avoided by people with bipolar disorder or any other form of mania. Also, St. John’s wort may interact with some medications to make them less effective, including birth control pills. Finally, St. John’s wort shouldn’t be used with most of the anti-depressant medications because of potentially dangerous side effects.
An increasing number of studies are showing how our food choices correlate with our mood. They show that it is important to look at our overall pattern of choices as well as a few particular foods. One recent study showed that people who ate a healthy diet were up to 30% less likely to develop depression. By a healthy diet, they mean one high in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, fish and unsaturated fats. Another study analyzing a similar diet showed a 30% reduction in the risk of anxiety disorder. This study also included in their healthy diet high-quality meats such as those from free ranging and grass fed animals. Previous studies have also found that diets rich in high-fat dairy, fried foods, and refined and sugary foods are correlated with a significantly increased risk of depression.
Our choice of fats can also have a major impact on our mood. In particular, the unsaturated oils have been shown to decrease the risk of depression over time. These include the polyunsaturated fats from nuts, seeds, and fish and the monounsaturated fats found in olive oil, avocados, and some nuts. Some of the best documented brain-supporting fats are the Omega-3 fatty acids from fish. These healthy oils not only decrease the risk of depression, but also support our memory and cognitive functioning. Deficiencies in Omega-3 oils may also be one of the risk factors for suicide. The worst fats for our brains and mood are the trans-fats, which are associated with increased depression and stroke risk. Trans-fats are the artificially created fats that are more similar to saturated fats and are found in many highly processed foods. As far as saturated fats are concerned, I draw a line between those from conventionally raised animals and free ranging animals. Beef from cattle that are grass fed and finished has a fat profile that is more similar to fish and can be a healthy part of the diet for many people.
Posted in Health
Tagged anxiety, depression, DHA, EPA, fish oil, monounsaturated fats, nutrition, omega-3 fatty acids, trans fats, unsaturated fats, vegetables