Brain Food: What To Avoid For A Healthy Mind

The wrong kinds of food can negatively affect our brain impacting our memory, our mental health and increasing the risk of Alzheimer’s. Like our bodies- our brains need the right nutrients to function. However, indulging in the wrong foods can lead to negative effects such as an increased risk of dementia. Fortunately, the risk can be reduced by the removal of certain foods from your diet.

1. High mercury fish

Sushi lovers beware. Due to years of pollution, fish has become heavily contaminated with the metal mercury. According to a 2012 study, once mercury becomes ingested into the bloodstream- it can result in a 5% dip in cognitive function.  Mercury can also harm your heart, kidneys and affect the immune system. If ingested by pregnant women, the metal can affect the brain development of the fetus. Nonetheless, a healthy diet is inclusive of fish thus it’s best to follow The American Heart Association recommendation of having two servings of fish a week. Fish that is low in mercury and full of omega-3s include salmon, sardines, and mackerel. Enjoy this delicious salmon recipe.

2. Foods high in trans-unsaturated fats butter & healthy fats

Trans-unsaturated fats – commonly known as trans-fats and often listed as partially hydrogenated oils on the nutrition tab of food labels – are artificial fats that can be found in foods such as margarine, ready-made cakes, donuts and microwave
popcorn. Aside from being a strong source of obesity, cholesterol and inflammation, trans-fats can also affect your brain health. A study published in 2014 in the Neurobiology of Aging journal found that high levels of trans-fats in the body increase the risk of Alzheimer’s disease, impaired memory, lower brain volume and a cognitive decline. While the FDA busies itself with removing trans fats from the food supply system – you can swap out your margarine for more healthier alternatives such as avocado or olive oil.

3. Artificial sweeteners

Removing sugar from your diet is a great idea but you need be careful what you replace it with. A common artificial sweetener used in many sugar-free products is aspartame. A study published in the journal Nature argued that when consumed in excess- the sweetener can cause behavioral and cognitive problems such as higher levels of depression. Fizzy drinks that claim to contain no sugar can also be debilitating to your brain’s health as consuming artificially sweetened drinks can increase the risk of dementia.

4. Sugary Drinks 

Sugary drinks aren’t just limited to cola beverages. They can also include energy drinks and store-bought fruit juices. The main ingredient in sugar drinks is the artificial sugar high-fructose corn syrup. The high levels of fructose in your body can lead to obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes. These factors heavily increase the chances of you developing dementia. In 2015, Oregon State University found that the sugar from various drinks can also affect the healthy gut bacteria which can later alter cognitive function. You can read more about the study here. Click here to find out how much sugar is really in your food and drink.

5. Fast Foods

Fast foods are full of ingredients that – when eaten in excess – can be terrible for your health. The high levels of cholesterol in fried foods actually contain brain-slowing properties and they can not only increase the risk of Alzheimer’s but they can also cause a decline in cognitive function. One of the most damaging effects that fast food has on the brain is its’ effect on the
hypothalamus. The hypothalamus regulates various part of the body including hunger however its ability to do so is affected with a high-fat diet increasing your risk of obesity. This diet of choice can also lead to a blockage in the arteries leading to
your brain which can result in a stroke. Furthermore, a 2017 study revealed that individuals who regularly indulge in fast foods are more likely to suffer from depressive symptoms.

6.Refined carbohydrates Carbohydrates - Jam and Bread

These foods include sugars and highly processed grains such as white rice and they are considered high on the glycemic index which means that they cause a rise in blood sugar and insulin levels. Aside from a poorer memory, foods with a high glycemic index can also affect your mental health. According to a study published by The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, post-menopausal women who indulge in such foods increase their risk of depression. Foods that are low on the glycemic index include vegetable and whole grains.

7. Alcohol

Moderate consumption of alcohol has plenty of health benefits yet excessive consumption can lead to harmful effects on the brain. Binge drinking can cause the brain to misread emotional signals and this can lead to alcohol-induced aggression.

Your brain is the most important organ in your body- the best thing you can do for it is follow a healthy diet rich in whole grain and fresh foods.

Worried about your eating habits? Here are three steps to more mindful eating.