Omega-3 fatty acids — which are found in brain fuel foods like salmon, flax seed and walnuts — offer a number of health benefits, such as improving cognitive performance and warding off mental and mood disorders. They support brain plasticity, which is your brain’s ability to change in response to stimulation demands placed on it, which could then enhance the expression of several molecules related to learning and memory.
In one of the largest studies of its kind, researchers analyzing the diets of 12,000 pregnant women found that children of those who consumed the least omega-3’s were 48% more apt to score in the lowest quarterly on IQ tests. And in a similar study, 396 children between the ages 6 and 12 who were given a beverage with omega-3 fatty acids showed higher scores on tests measuring verbal intelligence and learning and memory after 18 months than a control group of students who did not consume the drink.
A deficiency of omega-3 fatty acids in humans has also been linked to a increased risk of mental disorders such as attention-deficit disorder, dyslexia, dementia, depression, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. One study found that individuals who consumed more omega-3 had increased volume of the brain’s gray matter volume, especially in the hippo-campus, the part of the brain associated with self-awareness, compassion and introspection.
For all of these reasons, if you’re wondering how to sharpen your mind, give it the right brain fuel by consuming more healthy fats.