Here Are The Worst Foods For Your Brain

Forgetful? Irritable? Brain feeling sluggish and foggy? There is a reason that your brain isn’t functioning as it should, and it’s possible that the reason is related to your food choices.

Here’s what brain researchers want you to know about your food choices – especially with the holiday season upon us.

Artificial trans fats:

  • Found in deep-fried treats, snack crackers, and almost all fast food.
  • Also known as partially hydrogenated oils, these fats were banned by the FDA in 2015 (but food companies were given three years to complete production). That means these foods may still be on shelves and very likely still in products.
  • These fats do a number on your memory. The more trans fatty acids you consume, the poorer you perform on word-recall tests. Even worse, high consumption is also linked to shrinking brain volume, aggression and irritability.
  • How much is okay to eat? None.

Avoid/reduce added sugar:

  • We Americans are addicted to it. You’ll find it in our soda, snacks, candy, and unlikely places too, such as ketchup, salad dressing, soup, nutrition bars, bread, yogurt, granola, and many health foods.
  • According to research, sugar is bad for your memory. A high-sugar diet made it harder for rats to remember where a specific object was located in a place they’d been to before, according to findings published in Brain, Behavior and Immunity.
  • Sugar is also responsible for inflammation – another no-no for brain function. High amounts of sugar can lead to inflammation in humans brains, making the brain less efficient at retrieving and processing information.
  • How much sugar is okay to eat? The American Heart Association says women shouldn’t have more than 6 teaspoons of added sugar per day, the amount you’d get from one candy bar, ¾ of a can of soda, or a 6-ounce container of low-fat vanilla yogurt. That means most of us go way over this amount, every day.

Avoid/reduce added salt:

  • Like sugar, it’s everywhere – from breads to cheeses, butter to cold cuts, breakfast cereal to fast foods, and added to most restaurant entrees.
  • In a recent study of the activity levels and sodium intake of 1,200 men and women between the ages of 67 and 84, too much sodium plus lower activity levels led to poorer cognitive health. Salt can lead to a narrowing of the blood vessels that transport oxygen and other essential nutrients, which means your brain can’t get the resources it needs to work at its highest levels.
  • How much is okay to eat? The FDA standard guidelines say, No more than 2,300 grams per day for healthy people; 1,500 mg if you’re over 50, African-American, or have high blood pressure.
  • Talk with your doctor about what’s ideal for you.

What about fat? Is it good or bad?

  • The list of the benefit of healthy fat continues to grow. However, a diet that’s too high in total fat may also affect your emotions. According to research in the International Journal of Obesity, mice on a high-fat diet (58 percent of total calories) developed signs of despair and anxiousness.
  • Saturated fat seems to be particularly harmful to the brain, according to the Montreal Diabetes Research Center at the University of Montreal.
  • So how much is okay to eat? Based on a 2,000 calorie a day diet, between 56 and 78 grams of good-for-you mono and polyunsaturated fat per day, such as fish, nuts and avocados. But restrict saturated fat to 16 grams per day, such as three slices of cheddar cheese.

So, say the clinicians at INDY Neurofeedback, since your brain is ultimately responsible for your body’s health and wellbeing, eat with your brain fitness in mind.

If you have a concern about brain function, give us a call. Your first consultation is always free.

The Fascinating Brain-Gut Connection

As you eat your dinner, some pretty fascinating things are going on in your body that go well beyond filling your stomach and keeping your body fueled.

  • As you swallow, multiple enzymes in your gastrointestinal tract release the nutrients from your food into your bloodstream and deliver them to the muscles and organs in your body to give them energy.
  • You are also feeding the billions of bacteria at home in your gut. In fact, there are at least two pounds of them.
  • Interestingly, you are also actively feeding your brain, which requires a lot of fuel – and prebiotics.

Really? Your brain and gut work together? “Absolutely,” says Leanne O’Neil of INDY Neurofeedback. “That’s because what you eat doesn’t just feed your active body, it also profoundly influences your mental as well as physical health. Even more interesting, what your body can’t digest may be the biggest boon to your physical and mental well-being.”

Here’s why:

  • Every person’s microbiome is distinct, influenced by age, genetics, diet, and sex.
  • There’s a sort of secondary market for the indigestibles in your colon. This is where an incredibly diverse family of permanently entrenched bacteria feed on the enzyme-resistant carbohydrates you eat.
  • Prebiotics, types of dietary fiber that feed the friendly bacteria in your gut, influence the production of gut bug-derived metabolites like short-chain fatty acids, compounds that play a pivotal role in gut-brain communication.
  • Your colon actually ferments these in ways unique to your inner gut biome. The composition of this unique microbiome influences such functions such as memory, sleep, appetite, vulnerability to stress, anxiety, depression, and lots more.

“In other words,” says O’Neil, “your gut may have way more to do with your brain than you ever thought possible.”

Recent studies show that it is prebiotics that curb your brain’s response to stress, dampening secretion of the hormone cortisol. Prebiotics also step up to regulate the way your brain processes emotional information, helping to keep it from depression.

What prebiotics can you eat to help your brain-gut connection?

Nondigestible carbohydrates (fiber), prebiotics act as fertilizer for specific strains of healthy gut bacteria.

The best-researched prebiotics are complex carbohydrates called FOS (fructooligosaccharides), which are found in fruits and vegetables.

GOS (galactooligosaccharides) are another helpful prebiotic strain, found in legumes.

New research has also discovered that polyphenol antioxidants in green tea, red wine, blueberries, and cocoa boost populations of beneficial bacteria in your microbiome. No wonder you get an emotional release after eating chocolate and consuming a glass of red wine!

The first few months of life and adolescence seem to be particularly important times for regulation of gut-brain health. This is because the diversity of the microbiome during that period will have lasting effects on the adult body, helping set the body’s stress threshold for life during certain sensitive periods of development, when the brain is growing especially rapidly.

Overall, says Leanne O’Neil, prebiotics are dietary components that can promote gut and brain health with links to physical health and mental well-being at any age. So eat – knowledgeably!