True or False: Fish Is Brain Food?

Learn five alternative sources for brain food.

Here's a brain-teaser:

Technically, eating lots of fish should make us smarter. But how smart is it to eat a lot of PCB- and mercury-laden fish?

I got to thinking about this a couple mornings ago, when I caught a Today Show teaser while making my morning coffee. In a pre-java daze, I heard Matt Lauer chirp: "Is fish really brain food? We'll find out right after this commercial break." Before I could find out, however, I got distracted and forgot to listen to the answer.

I now blame this lapse in concentration on (what else?) not eating enough fish. So, after fueling up at lunch with a spicy tuna roll, I decided to tackle the question for myself.

A quick search online revealed that there's lots of research to back up the claim that eating fish does indeed benefit our brains. The magic, as you probably know, comes from omega-3 fatty acids found in oily fish like salmon, tuna, sardines, herring, mackerel, and others varieties. It seems that one of the omega-3s—DHA—can help strengthen brain cells and protect them from disease.

But these days, aren't we all a bit wary of fish? It's impossible to ignore all that talk about mercury, PCBs, and other environmental contaminants. The fact is, my sushi habit has dwindled considerably. Clearly, it's time to find other ways to feed my head; I'll take any brain-boosting I can get now that I'm limiting my intake of fish.

So I started poking around, and came across several articles about other foods that are believed to help our brains function better. The good news is that a reasonably healthy diet goes a long way.

  • Flax and walnut seed oils are thought to be the next best thing to fish oils. Plus, they're a good fallback for vegetarians and anyone else who's unwilling to eat fish several times a week.
  • Eggs, red meats, and peanut butter have choline, which is also thought to enhance memory.
  • Whole grains — high in vitamin B and magnesium — are good for nerve function.

So, tomorrow I'll make toss some blueberries into my oatmeal. Or sprinkle some turmeric on my next egg salad sandwich. Then I'll sit back and wait for my IQ to soar to new heights... or at least for the moment when celebrity gossip starts to seem downright trivial.

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