We generally choose the foods we eat based on taste, appearance and their health-providing qualities. In addition, we often consider foods to support heart health, liver and kidney function, weight loss, glowing skin, good digestion, and try to avoid those that might cause cancer, diabetes, etc.
How often do we choose or reject certain foods based on their effect on our brains? Good question… Except for totally giving up diet sodas (actually, sugar substitutes and diet drinks of any kind) because they contain Aspartame, Saccharin, Sucralose, etc., I have to admit, I hadn’t given much consideration to my brain when I’ve made food choices.
Wondering and wandering around the Web, I found that there were many discussions of what foods are good for the brain…’brain food’ if you will. Generally foods we choose for our bodies are also good for our brains, such as certain fruits like apples and berries like blueberries,… certain nuts like walnuts, spices like cinnamon (gee, it’s sounding a lot like an apple, blueberry, walnut pie!), … certain seeds like pumpkin, and grains like oatmeal.
There were, surprisingly, far fewer articles discussing foods that are actually harmful to the brain and brain function that we should avoid. In researching this topic, I found that the biggest culprits were in the condiment category of too much Salt and Sugar and Sugar Substitutes.
Not just artificial sweeteners, but good old regular sugar! Sugar has been found to create inflammation in the hippocampus, which is the control center for memory… kind of important. As for salt, many foods naturally contain salt, so it’s not necessary to avoid salt in its entirety, just don’t add extra salt to the foods we eat and don’t choose processed foods where the salt content is high.
Another biggee to avoid are trans fats, such as those found in margarine, shortening, fried foods, pancake and waffle mixes (like Bisquick), and non-dairy creamers, to name a few. (For a really thorough list of foods that contain trans fats, click here.
Unlike trans fats that are an absolute no no, Saturated Fats are on or off the list depending on whose advice you choose to accept. Saturated fats are in meats, cheese, eggs, fish and a whole host of foods that are also very good for us.
For myself, I’m a big fan of saturated fats as long as I balance them with sufficient veggies and limit my carb intake. My research and my own personal experience support that rather than staturated fats alone being unhealthy, it is the combination of trans fats and saturated fats that is so bad for us, i.e. any meat protein that’s fried in a trans fat like shortening.
Unlike trans fats that we should cut out entirely, there are other culprits that we should avoid eating often and in large quantities because they too are bad for our brains…namely, the other two T’s…Tofu and Tuna. Tofu because soy products in large and frequent quantities, contain phytoestrogens which are linked to poor memory. Tuna because of its generally high mercury content which is linked to reduced cognitive function.
There you have it:
Sugar and sugar substitutes (with the exception of stevia)
Trans fats/Saturated fats combo
Those are the most common food stuffs that we need to either cut out of our diet entirely or ingest only in moderation. It’s not always easy to change a lifetime of eating habits, but adjustments here and there can make a difference.
Look at the whole list of 6 foods to avoid, look at your diet, look at what you’re either willing or not willing to change, check many sources on the Web if you’re interested, and make up your own mind.