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.