Diet and brain health are very much related. We all know that there are many reasons to eat well, but among them, one priority should be to promote your brain health.
From reducing your risk of dementia to supporting mental health, experts say there are good reasons to limit these foods and drinks if you aren’t doing so already.
Diet and Brain Health: Foods to Eat and Avoid
Since diet and brain health are related, it’s worthwhile to know what foods are bad for your brain and what alternatives are healthier.
• Fruit Juices
“Many people [drink] a tall glass of fruit juice in their breakfast without realizing how badly it is affecting their brain. “Fruit juices have some useful nutrients, but still, they are sugary beverages that have almost no fiber in them,” says Susan Kelly, registered dietitian with pacific-analytics.com, a diagnostic lab that conducts different medical tests.
“The consumption of sugary beverages is blamed for lowering total brain volume and hippocampal volume. Kelly adds that it’s best to eat whole fruit instead of consuming it in drink form. The British Heart Foundation says blending fruit causes natural sugars “to be released from within the cell walls of the fruit and become ‘free sugars’” – with include added sugars like honey and maple syrup.
• Alcoholic Beverges
“Alcoholic beverages affect your brain’s communication pathways to a great extent. It becomes difficult for a person who drinks a lot of alcohol to remember things and process new data while leaving him depressed and disordered easily,” says Kelly.
“To avoid such damage to the brain, women should not drink more than one glass of alcohol and men should stick to two glasses in a day.”
• Treats like pastries, ice cream, yogurt, cookies and candy.
“The consumption of sugary beverages is blamed for lowering total brain volume and hippocampal volume.”
“The gut contains beneficial bacteria known as the microbiota, which plays a key role in maintaining health in both the body and mind.
“Researchers have found that a direct line of communication exists between the brain and your enteric nervous system, known as the gut-brain axis. This line of communication makes it vitally important to keep the gut healthy and the microbiome in balance. An excessive amount of sugar consumption can lead to an imbalance in gut bacteria.
• Refined grain products like white bread, pizza, burritos, white rice and white pasta.
“Refined grains elevate inflammation and can worsen one’s mental health,” says Sheetal DeCaria, M.D. “Elevated levels of inflammation have been linked to mental health disorders, including depression and fatigue.
Instead of refined grains, opt for whole grain products like whole wheat bread, whole wheat pasta, barley, oatmeal, brown rice and millet.
• Eating Too Many Calories
“In addition, overeating or consuming a lot of calories in a shorter period is linked with an increased risk of memory-related problems and overall cognitive impairment,” says Kelly.
“Overeating causes obesity that contributes to diabetes, high blood pressure and heart diseases, which are believed to be further causing Alzheimer’s and other brain illnesses.”
• Diet Soda
“Studies have shown even diet soft drinks, which some are led to believe are healthier options, have been tied to elevated brain inflammation and increased risk of depression,” says DeCaria.
There are many other health reasons to ditch diet soda (it may decrease bone density, according to a 2020 study on high consumption of soft drinks and an increased risk of fracture.
• Junk, fried foods, sugary products and red meat are the enemies of your brain if you overindulge in them.
“These foods trigger inflammation and damage the blood vessels of your brain, which increase your risk of developing dementia and affecting cognitive abilities.”
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