Protein is most known for helping us build healthy muscles, but the nutrient offers benefits from head to toe. In particular, protein plays an important role in your brain health, and getting enough of the right ones in your diet can help preserve its function.
Protein is found in every cell of the body including the brain, so it’s important to get enough of it through your diet. That said, of all the protein-rich foods out there, some may benefit your brain more than others.
As for which proteins support your brain the most, we asked a neurologist who told us that you can support your cognitive functioning over the years by adding more fatty fish to your routine. Here’s why.
Nutrients in Fatty Fish
Fatty fish, which includes salmon, black cod, anchovies and bluefin tuna, is high in protein and other nutrients like omega-3 fatty acids (a type of “healthy fat“), making it a nutritious addition to any diet.
For example, a 6-ounce filet of cooked salmon provides 43.2 grams of protein and 246 percent of your Daily Value (DV) for omega-3 fatty acids, per the USDA.
With input from Sharon Stoll, DO, a neurologist and Assistant Professor of Neurology at Yale School of Medicine, we take a deep dive into how eating fatty fish on a regular basis can support healthy cognition.
4 Ways Fatty Fish Benefits Your Brain
1. It’s Rich in DHA
Docosahexaenoic acid, or DHA, is an omega-3 fatty acid that’s commonly associated with brain function, though it also supports a healthy nervous system.
Fish is an ideal source of DHA because it’s readily available. In fact, most of the top food sources of DHA are fatty fish like salmon, tuna and cod, per the USDA. Plant sources of omega-3 fatty acids contain alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), which gets converted to DHA in the body.
Brain tissue may have a preference for DHA in order to keep the brain functioning normally and efficiently, per the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
DHA is especially important for brain development in early childhood, according to the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Though its effects are mainly seen in infants, the effects of DHA may also be seen during childhood and adulthood, per a January 2016 review in Nutrients.
In adulthood, low DHA levels have been associated with a higher risk of brain conditions like Alzheimer’s dementia.
2. It Supports Healthy Blood Flow
The body is made up of complex systems, and they don’t work independently from one another. The functioning of your cardiovascular system, for example, can influence your brain health.
“A lot of people don’t realize how interconnected the heart and brain are — you can’t have one without the other,” Stoll says. “Healthy fats are important for brain health because they’re important for the cardiovascular system, which then plays a role in brain functioning.”
Keeping your heart healthy can lower your risk for brain-related health issues like stroke and dementia, according to the CDC. When blood vessels are damaged, your brain can face serious consequences.
“To keep your brain in tip-top shape, we want the blood vessels as open as possible,” Stoll says. That’s where nutrient-dense foods like fatty fish come in.
Protein is an essential nutrient, but animal proteins like pork and some cuts of beef are high in saturated fat, which can raise “bad” cholesterol levels in your blood and clog your arteries. This raises your risk for stroke and heart attack, according to the American Heart Association (AHA).
Fish is considered a more heart-healthy source of protein because it’s not high in saturated fat. In fact, the omega-3 fatty acids may actually improve endothelial function (the lining of your blood vessels), promote vasodilatation (the widening of blood cells) and decrease artery wall stiffening, according to March 2017 research in Nutrition, Metabolism and Cardiovascular Disease.
Keeping your heart healthy, then, translates to better blood flow to your brain.
3. It May Help Lower Triglycerides
There’s a lot left to learn about Alzheimer’s disease, the most common type of dementia, but high triglyceride levels may play a role.
“Eating fatty fish is important for brain health for the same reason it’s important for the heart — it’s associated with lower triglyceride levels,” Stoll says. It’s true: High triglyceride levels in midlife are associated with a higher risk of Alzheimer’s disease later in life, according to a January 2018 study in Neurology.
“Triglycerides are part of what blocks those vessels in the brain and throughout the body, which leads to stroke and heart disease,” Stoll says. There’s strong evidence that omega-3 fatty acids may help lower high triglyceride levels, according to the Mayo Clinic.
4. It May Help Lower Your Risk of Mental Decline
As the number of older adults (age 65+) is steadily increasing, so are rates of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease diagnosis. An estimated 5.8 million people in the United States are affected by the disease, though the number is expected to rise in the coming years, according to the CDC.
Getting more DHA has been associated with a lower risk of these diseases, according to a June 2022 study in Nutrients. Low levels of DHA have also been linked to a higher risk. All that said, more research is needed to determine the direct benefits DHA may have on cognition.
“While the research isn’t conclusive, one thing is definitely for sure — nutrients like omega-3 fatty acids may help protect your brain over time and could slow down the progression of brain diseases,” Stoll says.
It’s a fresh new twist on this classic vegetable!
- 1/4 c. olive oil
- 2 tbsp. red wine vinegar
- 2 tsp.Dijon mustard
- 1 tsp. kosher salt, plus more to taste
- 1/2 t ground black pepper, plus more to taste
- 1 lb. green beans, trimmed
- 1/4 red onion, sliced
- 1 large tomato diced (about 8 oz.)
- 1/2 c. Kalamata olives, chopped
1/4 c. chopped roasted salted almonds
Combine the olive oil, vinegar, mustard, salt, and pepper in a jar with a tight-fitting lid. Shake well to combine.
Meanwhile, heat a large pot of water over high heat until boiling. Season generously with salt. Add the green beans and cook for 3 to 5 minutes, until tender, yet still a little crisp. Transfer the cooked beans to a bowl of ice water. Let sit 3 minutes to cool, then drain.
Transfer to a platter and top with goat cheese and almonds, if you like.
WASHINGTON – A new study by Environmental Working Group scientists finds that consumption of just a single serving of freshwater fish per year could be equal to a month of drinking water laced with the “forever chemical” PFOS at high levels that may be harmful.
Researchers calculated that eating one fish in a year equated to ingesting water with PFOS at 48 parts per trillion, or ppt, for one month.
is thought to be a major source of PFAS exposure for Americans.
The findings are a particular issue for communities with environmental justice concerns, whose survival often depends on eating freshwater fish they’ve caught.
EWG found the median amounts of PFAS in freshwater fish were an astounding 280 times greater than forever chemicals detected in some commercially caught and sold fish. The testing data, from the Environmental Protection Agency and Food and Drug Administration, showed that consuming a single meal of freshwater fish could lead to similar PFAS exposure as ingesting store-bought fish every day for a year.
“People who consume freshwater fish, especially those who catch and eat fish regularly, are at risk of alarming levels of PFAS in their bodies,” said David Andrews, Ph.D., EWG senior scientist and one of the study’s lead authors. “Growing up, I went fishing every week and ate those fish. But now when I see fish, all I think about is PFAS contamination.”
The forever chemical found at greatest concentrations in freshwater fish was PFOS, formerly an ingredient in 3M’s Scotchgard, averaging roughly three in four of total PFAS detections.
“These test results are breathtaking,” said Scott Faber, EWG’s senior vice president for government affairs. “Eating one bass is equivalent to drinking PFOS-tainted water for a month.”
Consumption of PFOS-contaminated freshwater fish can cause significant increases in peoples’ blood serum levels of the forever chemical, creating potential health risks. Even infrequent consumption of freshwater fish can raise PFOS levels in the body.
“The extent that PFAS has contaminated fish is staggering”, said Nadia Barbo, a graduate student at Duke University and lead researcher on this project. “There should be a single health protective fish consumption advisory for freshwater fish across the country.”
The researchers analyzed data from more than 500 samples of fish filets collected in the U.S. from 2013 to 2015 under monitoring programs by the EPA, the National Rivers and Streams Assessment and the Great Lakes Human Health Fish Fillet Tissue Study. The median level of total PFAS in fish filets was 9,500 nanograms per kilogram, with a median level of 11,800 nanograms per kilogram in the Great Lakes.
“PFAS contaminate fish across the U.S., with higher levels in the Great Lakes and fish caught in urban areas,” said Tasha Stoiber, Ph.D., an EWG senior scientist and another co-author. “PFAS do not disappear when products are thrown or flushed away. Our research shows that the most common disposal methods may end up leading to further environmental pollution.”
Freshwater fish are an important source of protein for many people, and PFAS contamination threatens those who cannot afford to purchase commercial seafood. Communities that depend on fishing for sustenance and for traditional cultural practices are inordinately harmed. This makes exposure to chemical pollutants in freshwater fish a textbook case of environmental injustice.
“Identifying sources of PFAS exposure is an urgent public health priority,” said Stoiber.
The widespread contamination of fish in rivers and streams across the country further emphasizes the need to end industrial discharges of PFAS.
EWG estimates there may be more than 40,000 industrial polluters of PFAS in the U.S. Tens of thousands of manufacturing facilities, municipal landfills and wastewater treatment plants, airports, and sites where PFAS-containing firefighting foams have been used are potential sources of PFAS discharges into surface water.
This contamination of water has spread PFAS to soil, crops and wildlife, including fish.
“For decades, polluters have dumped as much PFAS as they wanted into our rivers, streams, lakes and bays with impunity. We must turn off the tap of PFAS pollution from industrial discharges, which affect more and more Americans every day,” said EWG’s Faber.
Testing fish for PFAS
The EPA and the FDA test differently to detect PFAS in fish. The EPA uses what’s known as draft Method 1633 to test for up to 40 PFAS compounds in fish tissue, as well as in wastewater, surface water, groundwater, soil, biosolids, sediment and the liquid that forms when waste breaks down in landfills.
National EPA tests show nearly all fish in U.S. rivers and streams are contaminated with PFAS in the parts-per-billion range – even greater than parts per trillion. Although the most recent test results found decreasing PFAS levels, freshwater fish are still contaminated at high levels.
The FDA improved its scientific method to test for 20 different PFAS compounds. Its approach is used to test seafood samples, as well as processed foods. In its 2022 survey of seafood, the FDA found much lower levels of PFAS in seafood from grocery stores. The median levels of total PFAS detected by the EPA were 280 times higher than levels in commercially sold fish tested by the FDA.
PFAS are among the most persistent compounds in existence, contaminating everything from drinking water to food, food packaging and personal care products. PFAS build up in our bodies and never break down in the environment. They are found in the blood of virtually everyone, including newborn babies.
Very low doses of PFAS in drinking water have been linked to suppression of the immune system, including reduced vaccine efficacy, and an increased risk of certain cancers. PFAS are linked with increased cholesterol, reproductive and developmental problems and other health harms.
“The EPA needs to move swiftly to set regulations for the industries most likely to be dumping PFAS into the environment. Downstream communities especially have suffered the consequences of unregulated PFAS discharges for far too long,” added Faber.
2 tbsp olive oil
1 teaspoon unsalted butter
1 teaspoon thyme sprigs
Shaved skin of 1 lemon, plus grated zest of ½ lemon
1 large onion, peeled and thinly sliced
2 large celery sticks, cut into 3cm pieces
2 bay leaves
1 tsp caraway seeds
Salt and white pepper
1 large cauliflower, broken into small florets
1 large potato, peeled and cut into 2cm dice
4 cups vegetable stock (or chicken stock for non-vegetarians)
2 tbsp chopped chives
For the mustard croutons:
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tbsp Dijon mustard
3 tsp picked thyme leaves
4 slices gluten free bread
1. First make the croutons. Heat the oven to 180C/350F/gas mark 4. Put the butter in a medium saucepan on a medium heat. When it starts to foam, whisk in the mustard, herbs and a quarter-teaspoon of salt, take off the heat, leave for a couple of minutes to cool slightly, then stir in the ciabatta. Spread out on a parchment-lined baking tray and bake for 12-15 minutes, until crisp. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool. (Any you don’t use for this dish, store in an airtight container.)
2. For the soup, put the oil and butter in a large saucepan on medium heat. Tie together the thyme, parsley and lemon skin (or put them in a tied-up muslin), and add to the pan with the onion, celery, bay leaves, three-quarters of a teaspoon of salt and a quarter-teaspoon of white pepper. Cook for eight to 10 minutes, stirring often, until the onion is soft but has not taken on any color. Add the cauliflower, potato and stock, bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cook for eight minutes, until the vegetables are cooked but still have some bite.
3. Use a slotted spoon to lift a third of the cauliflower out of the pan – avoid removing any potato – and set aside. Let everything simmer away for another five minutes, then remove the herb bundle and the bay leaves. Using a hand-held blender, or in a food processor, blitz the soup until smooth, return to the pan and add the reserved cauliflower pieces. Stir in the grated lemon zest and chives, and serve, sprinkling the croutons on top at the last minute..
Ginger Lime Vinaigrette
1 lime, juice of
1 teaspoon grated ginger
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
salt & freshly ground black pepper
Sesame Crusted Cod
3 tablespoons white sesame seeds
3 tablespoons black sesame seeds
1 pound Cod
1 teaspoon wasabi paste
salt & freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons sesame oil
Ginger Lime Vinaigrette: In a small bowl, whisk together lime juice, ginger, olive oil, and salt & pepper.
Sesame-Crusted Salmon: Combine white and black sesame seeds and spread evenly on a plate. Set aside.
Brush each piece of salmon with thin layer of wasabi paste and season with salt and pepper. Roll in the sesame seeds and coat evenly.
Heat the oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Gently place the pieces of salmon into the pan. Cook salmon for 1 minute. Turn and repeat cooking each of the 3 remaining sides for about 1 minute each (that includes the narrow sides, too). Lower the heat if the sesame seeds are browning too quickly.
Place the salmon on individual plates then drizzle with Ginger Lime Vinaigrette. Serve immediately.
3 tablespoons distilled white vinegar
3 tablespoons Monkfruit sweetener or honey
6 tablespoons Dijon mustard
6 tablespoons mayonnaise
4 large pickling cucumbers, peeled, cut into 1/2-inch cubes (about 2 cups)
2 large mango, peeled, pitted, cut into 1/2-inch cubes (about 1 1/2 cups)
1 pound cooked medium shrimp
3 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
Hot pepper sauce
Salt and Pepper to tastMix vinegar and sugar in small bowl until sugar dissolves. Whisk in mustard and mayonnaise. Cover and chill.
Combine cucumbers, mango, shrimp, and dill in large bowl. Pour dressing over; toss to coat. Season with salt and hot pepper sauce.
Serving Size : 4
2 large pink grapefruit — sectioned
1 large pink grapefruit — juice only
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 lemons — zested
4 large bananas — ripe
1 tablespoon honey
1) Peel grapefruit over bowl to retain juice. carefully section grapefruit so as not to break the sections.
2) Pour all the juice into a saucepan with the lemon juice, honey and lemon zest. simmer until it is reduced in half.
3) Turn off heat, allow to cool for 5 minutes. place grapefruit sections in pan with warm juice and toss.
4) Preheat oven to 500° . peel bananas and slice once lengthwise. place in glass baking dish. roast approximately 3-4 minutes, until bananas are fairly soft.
5) To serve, place bananas with some of the juice that cooked out of them into a shallow bowl and spoon grapefruit sections with juice over the bananas.
3 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, divided, plus more for drizzling
1 medium onion, chopped
1½ tsp. salt
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 large head of cauliflower (2½–3 lb.), florets broken into small pieces, core chopped
¼ tsp. freshly ground white or black pepper, plus more
¾ cup almond or cashew cream
1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
1 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
5 cups country-style bread, gluten free, preferably day-old, torn or sliced into 1″ cubes
1 Tbsp. plus 1½ tsp. fresh lemon juice
1) Place a rack in middle of oven; preheat to 350°. Heat 2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil in a large saucepan or small Dutch oven over medium-low. Add 1 medium onion, chopped, and season with kosher salt. Cook, stirring occasionally and reducing heat if onion starts to brown, until softened but without taking on any color, 5–7 minutes. Add 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped, and cook, stirring, until softened and fragrant, about 2 minutes.
2) Add 1 large head of cauliflower (2½–3 lb.), florets broken into small pieces, core chopped, 1½ tsp., ¾ tsp salt, ¼ tsp. freshly ground white or black pepper, and 5½ cups water (the water should just barely cover the cauliflower). Bring to a boil, then reduce heat, and simmer, uncovered, until cauliflower is completely tender and starting to fall apart, 15–20 minutes. Stir in ¾ cup half-and-half and simmer 5 minutes; remove from heat.
3) While the soup is simmering, whisk 1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard, 1 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted, and 1 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil in a medium bowl to combine; season with salt and pepper. Add 5 cups country-style bread, preferably day-old, torn or sliced into 1″ cubes, and toss to coat in mustard mixture. Transfer bread mixture to a parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet and bake in a single layer, turning halfway through, until cheese is melted and croutons are golden brown and crisp, 10–15 minutes.
4) Working in batches, carefully purée soup in a blender until very smooth, transferring to a medium bowl as you go. (Alternatively, you can use an immersion blender to blend soup in pot until smooth.) Return soup to pot and reheat over medium-low, stirring and adding more water to thin if needed (you’re going for the consistency of heavy cream). Stir in 1 Tbsp. plus 1½ tsp. fresh lemon juice. Taste and season soup with more salt and/or pepper if desired.
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
2 Tbsp sesame seeds
1 Lb wild Salmon Fillet
1 pound Rice ramen noodles
1 cup wilted spinach
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
1 green onions, sliced
1 Teriyaki Sauce (soy free, I make it using coconut aminoes)
1 cucumber, quartered and sliced
2 roma tomato, quartered, seeds removed & sliced into thin strips
1/2 small red onions, sliced thin
1) Preheat oven to 400°F. Place salmon fillets on a
foil-lined sheet pan. Brush with 1/2 of teriyaki sauce and sprinkle with sesame
seeds. Bake 20 minutes.
2) Meanwhile, cook pasta according to package
directions; drain well.
3) Combine pasta with remaining teriyaki
sauce and all ingredients except salmon. Portion out
into 4 bowls and top with sesame salmon.
2-3 garlic cloves- minced
1 green onion
1 tsp sesame oil
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 Tbsp. soy sauce
1 Tbsp. oyster sauce
½ Tbsp. sugar
2 lbs whole salmon fillet
1/8 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp toasted sesamel oil
1 pat melted butter
2 Tbsp scallion oil
1/4 cup crushed roasted peanuts
Peel and finely mince the garlic. Finely chop the green onions.
In a measuring cup, add the sesame oil, lemon juice, soy sauce, oyster sauce, and sugar. Stir together until the sugar is dissolved. Add the minced garlic and green onions and mix together.
Rinse salmon on both sides with cool water and then pat dry with paper towels.
Line a large baking dish with 2 pieces of foil. Leave excess foil on both sides, enough to be able to wrap the fish later when baking. Drizzle 1 teaspoon vegetable oil onto the foil and coat evenly. Place the fish, skin side down, on the foil. Spoon the marinade on top of the fish coating it evenly. Sprinkle ground black pepper on top. Marinate in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. While the oven is heating up, remove the fish from the refrigerator. When the oven is up to temperature, wrap the fish using the foil from the pan creating a tent. Fold over the ends as well. This will keep all of the hot air in the tent. Bake for 15 minutes.
Remove the fish from the oven and carefully peel back the foil. Brush the fish with melted butter. Set the oven to broil and bake the fish for another 5- 7 minutes until it is golden brown.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 5 minutes. Transfer the baked salmon to a serving dish. Top with scallion oil and the crushed roasted peanuts.
Serve with Tamarind Dipping Sauce.