For the most part, the same foods that are well known to be unhealthy, fattening, or a danger to your heart health, are also the usual suspects as it relates to impairing or stifling cognitive activity. The worst foods for your brain are at times, what the brain winds up causing your body to crave. We’ll find out why that is throughout the article.
Bloated waistlines, belly fat, flabby arms and double chins are what we’re typically trying to diminish as it relates to watching what we eat. For some reason, a healthy brain tends to be an “off-road area” that isn’t a priority. Perhaps because we don’t see it when we look at ourselves in the mirror. We should be just as concerned about what food is doing to our brains, as we are with what it does to our bellies.
The following is some information on a few different foods and chemicals in food that can have a negative impact on your brain’s wellbeing.
Trans fats can disrupt the brain’s cognitive functions, and decrease one’s ability to focus and comprehend information. Some may consider this to be “brain fog.” Though this is a temporary effect, trans fat can over time have long lasting, permanent effects on the brain such as cellular destruction and brain shrinkage. (1)
Fried Foods — Fast Food
One famous way trans-fat is made is by adding hydrogen to vegetable oil. Anything fried or battered is full of trans fat. The degree of trans fat will vary depending on what the frying medium is, but despite the amount, it’s there one way or the other. Not only is it heart healthy to stay away from fried food, it’s also healthier for the brain.
Deep fried: potatoes (fries, wedges, tater-tots, etc.), fish, dough, chicken, onion rings, or any other battered/breaded food that winds up being submerged and/or cooked in oil, are a sure source of trans fat.
That said, fried foods are not the only source of trans fat that we might come across anytime we’re looking for something to eat. There is a lengthy list of different foods (particularly snacks) that harbor a high trans fat percentage. Here are a handful:
- Margarine and vegetable-based shortening
- Chips, crackers & cookies
- Non-dairy creamer & pre-made frosting
- Certain types of pastries and pies
- Many other types of “pre-prepared” foods
Processed meats are often loaded with preservatives, fillers (in some cases), and other additives, none of which are good for you. Some of these not only cause heart troubles, but might contribute to problems with the brain. Problems such as increased risk of brain tumors, and a host of “mania” issues, have been associated with a prolonged diet of processed meats. (2)
It’s a safe rule of thumb; if the word processed is involved in your food, regardless of what it might be, it won’t be brain healthy, heart healthy, or otherwise. Even processed cheese has been known to build up chemicals in your body that have been linked to Alzheimer’s disease. (3)
High Glycemic Index Foods
A prolonged diet of foods that register high on the glycemic index (GI) are known to be contributors to a variety of mental health problems, such as:
- Addictive behavior/food cravings
- Mood swings
Foods that register highest on the glycemic index are:
- White rice
- Instant oatmeal
- Table sugar
- White bread
- Corn syrup
- French fries
Note: A common way to curb the negative effect of a high GI food is to eat it alongside something that is rich in fiber. The fiber will slow the digestive process down and prevent glucose spikes from occurring.
Any sugary drink, whether it be an energy drink or a bottle of soda, has no health value in the least. If anything, they only contribute to poor health — the brain is no exception.
Sugar is bad enough for you, elevating glucose levels, which can lead to reduced cognitive function and wanting memory, attention, and concentration. (4) But what’s proven to be even worse would be artificial sweeteners. Even at levels that are FDA approved, artificial sweeteners have been shown to be toxic to the brain. (5)
Is it a headache to try and figure out what you should and shouldn’t eat? Yes, it is. Will you find that many of your favorite foods are among the worst foods for your brain? Yes, you sure will. But is it worth it? Again, yes, it certainly is worth it.
If you avoid these foods or food types as much as possible, you can effectively combat cognitive decline, brain fog, mental disorders, or a steady trend of potentially making yourself dumber as you advance through the years.