Salmon is one of the most popular (and nutritious) types of fish. Whether you serve this filet as a beautiful main dish or top your morning bagel with lox and cream cheese, the benefits of salmon for brain wellness are numerous. There are benefits for all stages of life- from brain development during childhood to healthy brain aging.


Salmon is highly enriched with a type of fat known as omega-3 fatty acids, namely EPA and DHA. Unlike most other fats which your body can create on its own, omega-3 fats are deemed “essential”. This means that they can only be absorbed from what you eat. Not only are these omega-3 fats essential parts of our diet, but they also help to make up the membranes of our brain tissues and play a critical role in the scaffolding of our nervous system.


In recent years, fish consumption has been touted as a form of preventative medicine, specifically in the prevention of cognitive disorders. As more than 60% of brain matter is actually fat, the link between fish consumption and brain wellness becomes clear. This is supported by a number of research studies. In fact, one review article published in 2015 in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition analyzed dietary data from over 180,000 participants to determine whether increased consumption of omega-3 fatty acids could alter the risk of developing cognitive decline. The results indicate that consuming at least one serving of fish per week was associated with lower risks of both dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.


In a 2015 study published in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine, the authors analyzed data from 260 otherwise healthy adults over the age of 65 regarding their fish consumption in the past year. All participants then underwent both cognitive testing and MRI imaging to assess for any functional and structural changes in the brain related to their dietary habits. The research team found that consumption of baked or broiled fish on a weekly basis was associated with larger brain volumes, specifically in the brain regions responsible for memory and cognition. They hypothesize that it is not solely the fish consumption, but rather that eating baked or broiled fish with some regularity is a marker of a healthy lifestyle which has the greatest influence on healthy brain aging. This study supports the breadth of research linking the Mediterranean diet (which is rich in the omega-3 fatty acids found in salmon) with improved cognition and reduced risk of memory loss and dementia.


As our population ages, we become at greater risk of changes in memory and cognitive ability. While research is still emerging in this exciting field, it seems that salmon, and other fish-containing sources of omega-3 fatty acids, may just be the most nutritious (and delicious) avenue of preventative medicine.