There's a reason why fish is known as brain food. Salmon is packed full of omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA which provide a multitude of brain and mood supporting functions, including the receptor and transporter roles around neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine. These fats can not be synthesized within the body and therefore have to be consumed.
The simplest way to imagine how it all works is to picture in your mind that these oils lubricate the brain cell membranes, not enough and the messages can be short-circuited or mixed up which can result in changes in mood, memory, concentration and behavior.
These essential fatty acids are also known to profoundly affect inflammation as they are able to block inflammation pathways in the cell. Many researchers believe that chronic inflammation that has spread to the brain can set off changes in neurons and can result in symptoms of depression. Longer term, studies suggest that a moderate intake of EPA and DHA may even postpone cognitive decline although results are not conclusive.
Like many things diet-related, it is all about balance. If you are like most people in the UK, you probably consume plenty of omega-6 fats from plant based cooking oils and not enough omega 3 fats from oily fish. Get this ratio wrong and it affects the ability of the brain cells to communicate with each other. In an ideal world we’d all consume oily fish at least two or three times a week.
There are other plant sources of omega-3 fatty acids but they don’t share the same structure as the fats in oily fish and are not as helpful for the brain. If you are not a fan of salmon, other types of oily fish that provide similar benefits include mackerel, sardines, herring and trout, or supplements are available.
Fresh salmon can be pricey but can be bought in budget friendly, larger frozen packs of wild atlantic salmon. Wild salmon is thought to contain more beneficial fats than farmed salmon as they have a carnivorous diet and as the fish is frozen at sea the fats are thought to be well preserved.
If you are feeding a family remember that using a pastry base for salmon bakes, parcels or pies can make even the most fish-resistant family member enjoy this mood-enhancing meal.
Here's a great recipe for those who don't particularly like the taste of salmon! These salmon burgers are truly amazing and super easy to make!
- 2 bone and skinless salmon fillets
- 1 tbsp red curry paste
- 1/2 fresh lime juice
- 1 tsp reduced salt soy sauce
- 1 bunch coriander
- Ground pepper
Cut up the salmon into cubes. Add all ingredients into a food processor and mix together until it is all combined. Shape into 2 or 4 equally sized burgers. Add a little bit of olive oil in a frying pan and cook the salmon burgers a few minutes on each side. Don't cook them too long or they will get dry. Serve with a fresh salad!