The ultimate reason we eat is to achieve good health and retain it. Good health also suggests being in good mental state; because, as psychiatrists note, there is no good health without mental health.
When we eat good foods, our bodies get nourished from the head down. On the other hand, wrong foods can affect the way our brain works.
Scientists say our brains need sugar every day to function, as brain cells require two times the energy needed by all the other cells in the body – roughly 10 per cent of our total daily energy requirements.
Research indicates that a diet high in added sugar reduces the production of a brain chemical known as Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor. Without BDNF, they note, our brains can’t form new memories and we can’t learn (or remember) much of anything. Levels of BDNF are particularly low in people with an impaired glucose metabolism such as diabetics and pre-diabetics; and as the amount of BDNF decreases, sugar metabolism worsens.
So, what foods are likely to injure your brain? These ones…
The list is endless, and they include biscuits, canned and bottled drinks, canned fruits in syrups, sweetened ‘fruit’ juices, dissolvable powdered drinks, candies (sweets), cakes, dried fruits, jams and other sweetened spreads, energy bars, milk shakes, etc.
Experts say it isn’t that you don’t eat any of these foods at all; what they are concerned about is their percentage to the content of your entire daily meal intake, and also if your entire meal chain revolves around these foods.
A group of researchers, led by the University of California Los Angeles biology professor, Fernando Gomez-Pinilla, discovered that bingeing on soft drinks, sweets and sugary snacks for as little as six weeks may impair brain function.
The study shows that a diet high in fructose (sugar) slows down the brain, and hampers memory and learning.
Gomez-Pinilla says, “Our findings illustrate that what you eat affects how you think. Eating a high-fructose diet over the long term alters your brain’s ability to learn and remember information.”
Scientists regularly warn that sugar harms the body through its role in diabetes, obesity and liver problems. A study published in Psychology Today states that overeating, poor memory formation, learning disorders and depression have all been linked to too much consumption of sugar.
So, instead of feasting on sugary snacks, try wholesome fruits.
As far as some people are concerned, patronising fast food outlets is status symbol. But scientists say the bad fats in junk foods can actually clog up the brain and interfere with the way it sends messages. The effects are even worse in growing children, they warn.
A study published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health states that the IQs of children who ate fatty, sugary, processed foods appeared to suffer years later, while the IQs of those who ate healthy foods improved.
Again, researcher, Dr. Alex Richardson, of the University Laboratory of Physiology in Oxford and co-director of the Food and Behaviour Research Charity, says trans fats displace healthy fats in the brain.
She warns, “Every time children eat crisps, biscuits or cakes, they are filling themselves with what are essentially toxic fats. There are no health benefits to these hydrogenated fats, yet they are all that some children and adults are eating.
“They are replacing the essential fats that would make their brain and body work properly with ones that are clogging up the machinery. In layman’s terms, the brain gets thicker,” Richardson says.
Besides the fact that regularly eating fried foods can give men aggressive prostate cancer, scientists warn that their effects on brain function are as terrible.
A study by researchers at the University of the Basque in Spain, published in the journal Food Chemistry, reveals that compounds released from common cooking oils significantly increase the risk of neurologic degenerative diseases and a variety of different cancers. They conclude that toxic compounds from fried foods cause cancer and deteriorate brain health.
Foods such as French fries, crispy fried shrimp and classic fried chicken, among numerous others, could only fry your brain.
In the United States, for instance, many schools have cut out fried foods in the café, all in a bid to help kiddies’ brain power. Instead, they serve baked chicken, baked chicken wraps, strawberries, peaches, sweet potatoes, carrots and kale.
Experts also recommend alternate food preparation methods such as roasting, steaming and broiling.
Again, scientists say too much salt and too little exercise are hard on the heart. However, new research suggests that they can be hard on the brain, too.
A three-year study of more than 1,200 people, led by Carol Greenwood, a nutrition scientist and interim director of the Baycrest Kunin-Lunenfeld Applied and Evaluative Research in Toronto, has linked a salty diet and sedentary lifestyle to cognitive decline in old age.
In fact, scientists say salt affects your brain the same way hard drugs do!
Of course, we don’t cut off salt from our diets totally; rather, what we need is a balance between things. A physician, Dr. Louise Chang, notes that the iodine in iodised salt helps the body make thyroid hormone, which is critical to an infant’s brain development.
So, a little salt is essential to good health.
The bottom line
Eat your foods as naturally as possible.