Healthy Oils for a Healthy Brain

Give your brain a boost by stocking these oils in your kitchen.

olive oil with herbs, olives

Medically reviewed in December 2020

Updated on April 4, 2022

Who says fat has to be a bad thing? Fat makes up an estimated half of the brain’s weight, and a diet with the right amount of healthy fats is essential to brain health. Oils, which are simply fats in liquid form, can be a great way to get the healthy fats your brain craves.

Some oils are healthier than others and not all deliver the same nutrients. Here are three oils that may help keep your brain running smoothly.

Rice bran oil
Some research suggests that a particular type of vitamin E, called alpha tocotrienols, found in rice bran oil may have brain-protective powers. Rice bran comes from the husk of the rice kernel, and oil made from this bran is popular for stir-fries because it doesn’t burn easily. You can find rice bran oil in many grocery stores, Asian markets, and online.

Coconut oil
Coconut oil is popular for everything from cooking to skin care. While it’s about 90 percent saturated fat, which is bad for cholesterol levels, getting a moderate amount in your diet (for instance, sautéing your vegetables in coconut oil) may provide some brain benefits. Medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) are found naturally in coconut oil, and studies have suggested that when people with Alzheimer’s disease take MCT supplements, their brain function improves.

Olive oil
This is the big one, the oil commonly touted for heart health and stroke prevention. But olive oil is also great for the brain. A Mediterranean diet supplemented with olive oil was also found to improve cognitive function in older adults, a 2015 JAMA Internal Medicine study found. Another study found that eating polyunsaturated fats along with olive oil was associated with a decreased risk of developing depression.

Article sources open article sources

Valls-Pedret C, Sala-Vila A, Serra-Mir M, et al. Mediterranean Diet and Age-Related Cognitive Decline: A Randomized Clinical Trial [published correction appears in JAMA Intern Med. 2018 Dec 1;178(12):1731-1732]. JAMA Intern Med. 2015;175(7):1094-1103.

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