Diet therapy

Fat and the brain

Around two-thirds of the human brain is made from fat and the types of fats that we eat not only affect things such as our weight, heart and cholesterol levels but also the way our brain processes information.

The types of dietary fat do matter

Saturated fats

These are large droplets of fat that are “sticky” and over time clog our arteries and raise cholesterol and the risk of heart disease. Diets high in saturated fat have been found to impair learning acquisition and memory.

Unsaturated fats

Such as poly and monounsaturated fats e.g. omega 3’s these travel through the blood system more easily. These reduce the risk of heart disease and at a mental level aid discrimination learning and reduce depression and moodiness.

Tips to reduce saturated fat intake

If this year’s resolution is to get fitter, lose weight, lower cholesterol and feel mentally more alert and happy then the following is recommended.

  • Eat less saturated fat- e.g.Butter, cream and fried foods, watch your meat portions and use low- fat dairy products.
  • Also watch the margarines you use as they are not all polyunsaturated.
  • Some commercial margarines used to make cakes, biscuits, crackers, pastries and snack foods have high levels of trans fats which behave in the same way as saturated fat.
  • Look out for those foods with the Heart Foundations Pick theTick® as 25 varieties of margarine’s have now been approved because they have <1% trans fats and <28% saturated fat content.
  • Eat foods rich in Omega 3 fatty acids found in salmon, tuna, sardines, cod, soybean, bran, wheat germ, walnuts, flaxseed (linseed), canola and olive oils.

If you would like to assess the different fat levels in your diet then contact Lea for an appointment she would be happy to help you.

About the author View all

Lea Stening

Lea is one of New Zealand’s leading paediatric dietitians and also specialises in Sports Nutrition. She has specialised in Paediatric Nutrition for 31 years and in 1985 was the first paediatric dietitian to enter private practice in New Zealand. Lea helps families through her private consultations, public lectures, newspaper and magazine articles as well as television and radio interviews. Read more »

View all posts by Lea Stening »


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