By Melaina Juntti for Men's Journal
A new study from Penn State University found that people who ate baked or broiled fish had healthier brains than those who ate fried fish or no fish at all. And it only took one serving a week to do it.
The researchers gauged brain health by measuring the participants' grey matter volume (generally, the more volume, the healthier the brain). Compared to non-fish eaters, those who ate baked or broiled had 14 percent more grey matter in the brain region responsible for cognition and 4 percent more volume in the area that controls memory. Those who opted for fried, however, did not have any more grey matter than those who didn't consume fish.
The researchers chalk up these findings to a few factors. According to lead study author Cyrus Raji, M.D., Ph.D., the types of fish usually baked or broiled, such as salmon or mackerel, are especially high in omega-3 fatty acids, which are known to protect against memory loss and cognitive decline. But the omega-3s don't act alone. "Fish also has key antioxidants like vitamins C and E, which likely work in combination with omega-3s to ensure better brain health," Raji says.
You're not as likely to get these nutrients if you fry fish, says Raji. "We think the high heat of frying destroys the omega-3s and other nutrients," he says. Which would help explain why the fried-fish eaters' brains in this study weren't as healthy. Also, here again Raji thinks fish type plays a role, since the kinds we tend to fry, like cod, aren't as high in omega-3s and other antioxidants to begin with.
The jury's still out on where grilled fish fits in. The researchers didn't track that for this study, because Raji says there are too many different grilling styles, from smoking to cooking on charcoal, making it tough to get consistent results.