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Given the fact that I love butter as much as anyone has ever loved butter in the history of the world, this isn’t a brain fitness article I’m going to derive any pleasure from writing.
Put another way, “Man, this sucks.”
Friday, researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital published a study that has made me forever think about what I spread on my biscuits and drizzle on my popcorn: Butter causes the brain to age more rapidly than other kinds of fat.
All saturated fats are guilty as charged – I just mention butter because it causes me the most distress. Other full-fat dairy products are also brain-agers. With many apologies to hamburger and steak lovers, I have to point out that the same can be said of red meat.
Thanks to my inner Mary Poppins, however, I prefer to concentrate on the positive. Besides, I don’t want to cry – my mascara will run. The good news is: Olive oil, avocado, and other monounsaturated fats appear to slow brain aging. Personally, I love the flavors of olive oil and avocado even more than butter, so I think my mascara’s safe. There are also some outstanding butter-pretenders on the market – just be sure to read the labels carefully
The study, published online in the Annals of Neurology, involved 6,200 healthy subjects over the age of 65. Their diets were closely scrutinized. Cognitive functioning tests taken about five years later and found that those women who reported the highest saturated fat intake also had, on average, the worst scores on reasoning and memory tests.
Those with the highest monounsaturated fat intake had the best cognition test scores on average, compared with those who ate mostly polyunsaturated fats — found in corn and vegetable oils.
Subjects who had a high intake of saturated fat had brains that appeared 5 or 6 years older than their biological age, according to study author Dr. Olivia Okereke, a psychiatrist and epidemiologist at the Brigham, while those with the highest consumption of monounsaturated fat had brains that were about 6 or 7 years younger.
- Replace butter with olive oil as frequently as possible. Here’s an idea we love in our family. When serving French Bread (or Italian!) with pasta, instead of buttering the bread and sprinkling it with garlic powder, simply toast the bread. Fill a dish with Extra Virgin Olive Oil and add herbs, freshly ground black pepper, and/or a little garlic salt. You’ll never miss the butter.
- Slather freshly cut and mashed avocado on your sandwiches instead of mayonnaise.
- When making tuna fish salad, use olive oil instead of mayo or salad dressing. Add pickles, onion, celery, and a little lime juice and enjoy with wheat or pita bread.
- Experiment with Black Bean Burgers in place of hamburgers. There are some excellent ones on the market.
- Order more chicken and fish and less red meat.
- READ LABELS!
As a bonus, remember that anything you do that’s beneficial to your brain is also beneficial to your heart. It’s a win/win situation!
Photo Credit: The image shown above is actually a gorgeous Avocado Canvas Print. Click through for a closer look.