The Japanese, Inuit and many of the peoples who have lived off the bounty of the ocean probably never realized they were contributing to the health of their memories. In fact, they most likely assumed that as they aged, everyone remained as sharp as they did. But the jury was out quite a while ago, on how eating deep, cold-water, ocean fish can contribute to better memory retention.
It is the very fact that certain ocean fish live in cold, deep water that gives them the increased omega 3 benefit, because this environment is conducive to increased fatty acid production in their flesh. And that’s great news for our memories, hearts and much, much more.
And there’s nothing as versatile as fish to cook; it can be baked, poached, steamed, grilled, prepared as a soup or stew and even eaten raw as in Japanese sashimi.
It’s all in the omega 3’s
Not only is fish an excellent source of protein, it contains omega 3 fatty acids and this is the key to sustained memory. And the best fish for this fatty acid content includes wild salmon, sea bass, mackerel, flounder, herring, halibut, tuna, sardines and anchovies.
Omega 3 fatty acids include both EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docohasexaenoic acid). The high EPA fatty acid in these fish is beneficial for high blood pressure, macular degeneration, schizophrenia, heart disease, alzheimer’s and much more. But it it is the DHA that goes that extra mile in helping memory and learning ability.
Science daily.com reports that, within a study conducted by Yves Sauve, “we discovered that memory cells in the hippocampus could communicate better with each other and better relate messages when DHA levels in that region of the brain were higher… when a diet is supplemented with DHA additional stores of the Omega 3 fatty acid are deposited in the brain”. Numerous and on-going studies seem to be demonstrating the same conclusions about the DHA factor.
There’s always something
Unfortunately the fear of high levels of mercury might accompany us as we make our way to the fish counter. For several years this has been a predominant topic when it comes to fish. And sadly, it is all too true that in some fish, the toxic effect of the mercury levels outweighs any benefit received from their healthy fatty acids. Mercury is especially dangerous for pregnant women. Fish, high in mercury, are shark, swordfish, tile fish and King mackerel.
Two other factors to remember while fish shopping, is sticking with wild caught as much as possible, as it has less chance of containing mercury. And second, with our present concern for the environment, the purchase should have sustainability in mind.
Best way to cook fish to boost memory
Once all this great fish is purchased, what is the best method of cooking it to retain all that omega 3 goodness? As it turns out, baking or poaching, rather than frying, is the better way to maintain the health value. Trans fat oils and most vegetable oils can negate the benefit because of their adverse effect on the heart.
If frying is preferred, however, stir frying lightly in olive oil or a stable cooking oil, like coconut oil is best. A combination of the relatively healthy saturated fat- natural butter, mixed with a little olive oil, will also work wonderfully for light frying. Furthermore, to ensure an optimum omega 3 bonus, it is wise not to overcook the fish.
Fishing for quality
Salmon is one of the more common, cold water fish to eat, and is incredibly versatile to cook. It has a high level of omega 3- over one gram per 3 ounces. Wild Pacific Salmon is the better choice, as mentioned above. Also Atlantic salmon is over-fished and much of it is farmed, which can bring about a whole new set of problems.
Also an excellent source of omega-3, mackerel can contain a certain amount of mercury, especially King mackerel. Look for Spanish, Atlantic and Pacific mackerel which have lower levels of mercury. A richer fish, mackerel is also versatile to cook..
A wonderful source of the coveted good fatty acids, sardines really deliver – about 1 gram per serving. Since they are relatively small, they tend to have a very low level of mercury. From a can, they are delicious in salads and in sandwiches, but you can enjoy them fresh too by filleting them, then grilling, braising them in a sauce, etc.
Herring is another small fish that’s big in omega 3 – almost two grams per serving. They are low in the food chain and therefore can promise very low levels of mercury. Often eaten in pickled form with onions, they are a delicacy in Norway, Scandinavia, and many European countries. They’re also available smoked, fermented, or even eaten raw.
A lighter tasting fish, flounder is actually related to sole. It has lower mercury levels and delivers about half a gram of omega 3 per serving. This white, delicate fish is a popular eating fish and can be broiled, grilled and baked easily.
Quick and easy poaching
Here’s a quick suggestion for easy poached salmon that will keep all the brain boosting goodness in:
Add about a cup of vegetable or chicken broth to a saucepan (more for two or more portions), and allow it to come to a boil. Lower the heat and let it simmer. Gently lower portions of salmon into the liquid and let simmer for a few minutes. Cover the saucepan after a short while and cook for 7-10 minutes depending on the thickness of the fish. When done, add pepper and spread a little Dijon mustard on top of each fillet just before serving.
Variations: Add teriyaki, soya sauce, ginger or all three to the broth, before adding the salmon. Or add dill, thyme, onion, celery and even white wine to the broth for even more possibilities. But if you want to keep it simple, just add a touch of butter and lemon.
Eating fish that will give your memory a boost doesn’t have to be a challenge. It can be delicious and healthful at the same time. Including a favourite fish in the weekly grocery list is a great way to get started. And remembering to try some new varieties will only add to this newly found experience. Anyway, if the memory enhancing effects of the DHA are working properly, remembering should start getting a whole lot easier.