Just as cars use gasoline as their source of energy, we humans use food energy from the things we eat everyday as our energy source. Because the brain is part of our body, it is only natural that we could become irascible or slow-thinking depending on what we eat. You may have heard it said that children who eat a lot of fish are smart and have good memory. Maintaining an active mind requires keeping the blood clean and so that it can more easily carry nutrients to the brain. We asked Sanae Shiratori, a doctor of nutrition, about brain-boosting foods and how to eat them for maximum benefit.

DHA, short for decosahexaenoic acid, was once touted for making people smarter. DHA is present in large amounts in the tips of neurocytes, the nerve cells of the brain.

“Half of the brain is comprised of lipids, of which 10% is DHA. The Inuit people of Greenland have a low incidence of blood clots which research has shown is due to large amounts of DHA and EPA (eicosapentanoic acid) in their blood. These lipids help prevent blood clots from forming, and inhibit aging and deterioration of the ability to learn,” said Dr. Shiratori.

DHA is plentiful in sardines, saury, mackerel and other similar fishes, which Japanese call aozakana, or “fish with bluish-green skin.” In the past, these aozakana became the subject of much attention when they were recommended to children facing school entrance examinations. But children are not the only ones who can benefit. Everyone, including the middle-aged and elderly should all make an effort to eat these fish because they can help prevent deterioration of the brain. Because aozakana also lower cholesterol and thin the blood, they are ideal for helping prevent lifestyle-related diseases, as well.

Despite its many benefits, however, DHA is easily oxidized. So choose the freshest fish possible and prepare and eat them while they are still fresh.

“Mackerel together with komatsuna or other vitamin C-rich foods that help prevent oxidation is a good combination. Sardines should be eaten with vitamin E-rich pumpkin, and saury should be had with carrots, which are rich in beta-carotene,” said Dr. Shiratori.

More to learn about how to give your brain a boost in next month’s issue of The Hawai‘i Herald.

(Translated by Roy Mashima from Kokiku Magazine’s March 2003, volume 29, number 3 issue.)

(The information provided should not be construed as medical advice or instruction. Consult your physician before attempting any new program. Readers who fail to consult appropriate health authorities assume the risk of developing serious medical conditions.)


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