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The #1 Best Fish to Keep Your Brain Sharp, Says Dietitian

Enjoy this fish twice a week for major benefits.

Seafood of all types is wonderful for overall health and well-being; however, it is especially beneficial for brain health. According to the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, almost 90% of Americans do not meet the recommended intake amount of eight ounces of seafood per week. Across the board, seafood is a nutrient-rich food category providing protein, healthy fat, B vitamins, and minerals like zinc, iron, and iodine. When it comes to nourishing the brain and keeping it in tip-top shape, the best fish to consume is wild salmon.

Over half of the brain is made up of fats, specifically omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, according to Nutrients. About 90% of the fat that makes up the structure of the brain is in the form of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Salmon is a rich source of DHA, as well as another important omega-3 fatty acid, Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). In fact, one 3-ounce portion of wild salmon contains 1.22 grams of DHA and 0.35 grams of EPA. If you are wondering how that stacks up with the recommended amount of DHA and EPA, one should consume each day, this is about 100%

salmon fillets with pepper, salt, dill, and lemon

More and more research is being done to understand how diet can slow down or prevent cognitive decline. What is known thus far is that higher intakes of polyunsaturated fatty acids are associated with a lower risk of mild cognitive impairment, according to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

In addition to feeding your brain prime sources of omega-3 fatty acids, consuming wild salmon may help produce a powerful protein called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). BDNF supports the growth and survival of brain cells and is one of the proteins responsible for creating new brain cells.

For salmon lovers, this is great news! Not only do you get to enjoy a tasty form of protein, but you get to take care of your brain in the process. In order to see the benefits of consuming salmon, be sure to consume it at least two times a week but ideally three. Ways to enjoy salmon include roasting it in the oven with pesto and a side of vegetables, simply grilled with a side of grains and vegetables, or in a curry.

Wild salmon fillets can be on the pricer side, so if shopping on a budget, try canned wild salmon. It is an excellent budget-friendly option and can be added on top of salads or used to make tasty salmon burgers.

Sydney Greene, MS, RD
Sydney Greene is a registered dietitian specializing in nutrition for addiction recovery, disordered eating, and body image, as well as chronic digestive issues. Read more about Sydney