The Top 5 Fish Species for Brain Health, Per Scientists

Eating to increase cognitive function is a popular topic at the moment. Why? because the human brain is undoubtedly one of the body’s most intricate and interesting organs. Thinking rapidly is possible because the brain functions at its best when it is fed with the right nutrients. However, you can have trouble focusing, memory loss, or mood swings if your diet is deficient in important nutrients.

The essential nutrients for brain health have fortunately been extensively studied by researchers, and the two most significant omega-3 fatty acids are still eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Although EPA and DHA are not produced by our bodies naturally, they have been shown to play a critical role in maintaining cognitive health. These omega-3s are essential to our diets and are found in large quantities in fish. Find out which fish to concentrate on and why fish are important for your brain.

The Significance of Fish for Cognitive Health

A review from 2021 that was published in Advances in Food and Nutrition Research made clear how crucial fish is to maintaining brain function. Scientists not only emphasised the significance of fish-derived fatty acids for maintaining healthy brain, eyes, and hearts, but they also talked about how little seafood is actually consumed in the US. Less than 1 in 5 Americans actually eat seafood, despite the 2020–2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommending it for at least twice a week to promote brain function.

Why does it matter so much? Well, the majority of our brain is composed of fat. Among the many fatty acids present in the brain, DHA is the one with the highest concentrations. Kaitlin Roke, Ph.D., a researcher and the director of scientific communication and outreach at the Global Organisation for EPA and DHA Omega-3s, states that DHA is essential for nerve health and plays a significant role in the cell membranes in brain tissue. She continues, “EPA is also very important for metabolic processes and brain health functions.”

Therefore, you should try your hardest to include these omega-3s in your diet. If you consume fish now or in the future, there are several seafood options that are particularly high in these fatty acids.

The Top 5 Fish That Are Optimal for Brain Health, Per Neuroscientists

According to the USDA, a 100-gram (about 3.5-ounce) serving of herring contains approximately 909 milligrams of EPA and 1,100 mg of DHA. While currently there is no defined level of EPA or DHA that the USDA recommends Americans consume, the American Heart Association recommends at least 250 mg per day of DHA and EPA to prevent heart disease, according to a report in Circulation in 2022.

1. The Herring

One major benefit of looking for little fish is that they are less affected by heavy metals and other pollutants because they are lower on the food chain. Additionally, when compared to a comparable piece of other fish, they are richer in omega-3 fatty acids, according to Mélanie Plourde, Ph.D., a nutritional neuroscience researcher at Université de Sherbrooke in Canada.

2. Mackerel

Plourde enjoys mackerel because, like herring, it’s a tiny fish with a high EPA and DHA content. The USDA states that a 100-gram (3.5-ounce) portion of mackerel has about 898 mg of EPA and 1,400 mg of DHA. The robust flavour profile of mackerel goes well with a heavily spiced glaze. Taste it in our Grilled Mackerel with Gochujang Glaze.

3. Salmon

Perhaps more widely known, psychiatrist Joseph Hibbeln, M.D., suggests salmon as a fish to try. A 100-gram (3.5-ounce) portion of salmon has about 862 mg of EPA and 1,100 mg of DHA, according to the USDA. You can count salmon in all its forms—fresh, frozen, or in a can—against your daily allowance of EPA and DHA. Take a look at our collection of 28 salmon supper dishes that require five steps or less.

4. Snap Peas

Sardines are among the foods that Plourde and Hibbeln advocate including in the diet. Sardines are a handy fish in a can that comes in a range of flavours (such as lemon and olive oil or peri-peri), so you can try them all and see which one suits your palate the best.

According to the USDA, a 100-gram (3.5-ounce) serving of sardines has about 473 mg of EPA and 509 mg of DHA. Additionally, a 2023 article published in Frontiers in Nutrition states that sardines are a good source of heart-protective and anti-inflammatory minerals like calcium, potassium, magnesium, and zinc that may help control cardiovascular disease. For a high-protein and omega-3-rich dinner, try our Greek Salad with Sardines, which is made with sardines.

5. Sea Bass

Tuna in a can is a tasty, convenient, and reasonably priced choice. The USDA states that a 100-gram (3.5-ounce) serving of canned tuna (in water) has about 25 mg of EPA and 197 mg of DHA. Open a can and try one of these 20 tuna can recipes for dinner tonight.

Advice on Buying Fish

  • Purchasing fish doesn’t have to be as scary if you know what to look for and can be more economical. Elana Natker, a registered dietitian and GOED consultant with expertise in omega-3 nutrition, offers the following advice:
  • Seafood must be labelled with its Country of Origin, which provides information about the product’s origin. “Made in the USA” or “Product of China” may be shown. This might assist you in determining the best options for your family based on your area.
  • Consider making sustainable decisions. Check to see if the fish has a sustainability certification, such the red, white and blue Friend of the Sea logo or the blue and white Marine Stewardship Council logo, suggests Natker. Additionally, you can visit the website of the Monterey Bay Aquarium to find out which fish are in season or are being overfished.

When buying fish, go to the frozen case where prices can be lower. The majority of seafood is flash-frozen soon after it is caught to preserve its freshness and nutrition.

  • Seafood that has been canned, tinned, or packaged is likewise very inexpensive and very nourishing. Read the ingredients carefully on any packaged food you buy because certain sauces, seasonings, and salts may be added that could alter the product’s nutritional value. Invest in brands that cater to your specific health requirements.

The Final Word

According to neuroscientists, eating fish on a regular basis will help maintain the health of your brain. Aim to incorporate fatty fish—herring, mackerel, salmon, sardines, and tuna—in your diet, unless you’re vegan or have a food allergy. The healthy omega-3 fatty acids, EPA and DHA, that promote brain function are found in this fish. You should include other seafood options in your diet as well. It’s beneficial to eat more fish of any kind. Consume what you enjoy,” Hibbeln advises.