Fats on the Brain

The brain loves fat. In fact, the brain is made of 60% fat. The mitochondria, the engines powering the brain’s neurons, also favorably use fat for fuel. So eating healthy fats is a cornerstone in the plan to revive a thriving mind.

Fat can be a controversial subject in nutrition, especially when it comes to brain and cardiovascular health. What kind? How much? Here are a few rules of thumb for fat and brain health:

  • Stay as far away as possible from trans-fats and processed vegetable oils like soybean oil, canola oil, and safflower oil. These are pro-inflammatory and toxic to the brain and blood vessels. For plant-based oils, opt for monounsaturated fats like olive oil and avocado oil.
  • Be careful with more fragile nut and seed oils like sesame seed, flax and walnut oils, which become rancid easily. These should be refrigerated and should not be heated or used for cooking. They are great in salad dressings or to drizzle over a vegetable dish.
  • Saturated fats from animal fats, butter, and coconut are fine, even beneficial for those who are APOE4 negative, but for those with the APOE4 gene, they should be limited. MCT oil from coconut can assist with helping the body get into ketosis, so APOE4 positive people can use them for a short period of time and then opt for olive oil.
  • The brain needs essential fatty acids like DHA which are also high in anti-inflammatory Omega 3s. These can be taken in the form of fish oil, flax oil, and eating fish, like salmon and sardines, which have a lower mercury content.

Homemade Mayonnaise Recipe

Most store-bought mayonnaises are made with soybean oil, a highly processed oil that contributes to inflammation, a major contributor to cognitive impairment and many other health problems.  Canola oil is not much better, as it is also highly processed and treated with solvents, and contains high levels of omega 6 fatty acids, which are pro-inflammatory when out of balance with omega-3s.

Homemade mayonnaise is surprisingly easy and fun to make and has many health benefits over store-bought mayo. By adding your own cold-pressed oils, you get the benefits of enzymes that help to digest fats and proteins. Fat also helps digest proteins, which is why chicken and tuna salads were born. Mayo is a great way to get more fat into your diet while on a diet to feed your mitochondria – you can dip veggies in it, put it on fish or in salad dressings or

Mayonnaise contains raw egg yolks, which are easy to digest and contain more carotenoid antioxidants than their cooked counterparts. You can probably guess that carotenoids take their name from carrots. They are the pigments that make carrots and egg yolks orange and are powerful anti-oxidants, sweeping up harmful free radicals in the body.  Raw egg yolks are also rich in zinc and Vitamin D. The yolks have a lower risk for carrying salmonella than the whites, which is also less of a worry in eggs that come from happy hens that are pasture-raised.

2 egg yolks at room temperature

1 tsp Dijon mustard

1 ½ tablespoons lemon juice

¾ -1 cup extra virgin olive oil, avocado oil, walnut oil, or other neutral flavored oil

Pinch sea salt

In a food processor or blender, place all ingredients except for the oil. Process until well-blended. Then, while the motor is running (using a lid with a hole), add the oil very slowly, drop by drop until the mayo reaches the desired consistency – the whipping action of the blender gradually thickens the mayonnaise. When thickened, taste and check seasoning (may want to add more salt or lemon juice)

You can add flavoring to the basic recipe above after it is completed, here are a few variations:

Aioli (Garlic Mayonnaise) – add 1 clove garlic, crushed or finely grated.

Garlic Chili Mayonnaise – Add 1 clove garlic and ½ tsp red chili flakes or hot sauce of choice

Herbed Mayonnaise – add ½ cup minced fresh herbs – try dill, basil, tarragon, parsley

Fennel Mayonnaise – great as a dip or on a BLT – add:

2 tablespoons finely chopped fennel bulb

2 tablespoons finely chopped fennel leaves

3 tablespoons orange or lemon juice

1 clove garlic, minced (optional)

-From Farmer John’s Cookbook by John Peterson

Caper Scallion Mayonnaise – add greens from 2 scallions, finely chopped, 1 tablespoon small black capers – great with salmon or artichokes!

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