You’ve probably heard that there are foods that are good for your brain, like fatty fish, and nuts and seeds. They might help to improve memory and concentration. But there’s a flip side too, which we might not often think about. There are foods that can have a negative impact on your brain functioning as well.
The brain is the most important organ in our bodies; it controls our various bodily systems and keeps our lungs breathing and our heart pumping. Having issues with cognition, memory, and mood can be quite difficult, especially as you age, and therefore are more susceptible to diseases like Alzeimer’s or dementia. Therefore, foods that hinder the brain from functioning as it should in any way should really be avoided. So what are these foods?
So we all love a bit of sweetness. Who can resist a chocolate-chip cookie or a delicious slice of chocolate cake, or a stick of candy? But the fact is that while sugar may be fine as a treat, a lot of people eat way too much of refined sugar. This causes inflammation in your brain and it might cause an upsurge in your blood sugar levels. Your body won’t have enough energy for other things. Also, sugar is quite addictive, which is why we all just want to keep eating it.
It can stimulate your brain the same way alcohol and drugs do. It also affects your brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) levels, which are associated with learning and memory. So next time, no matter how tempting it is, think twice before getting that second double chocolate brownie after dinner. Fruit is a good alternative, and it gives you that additional kick of sweetness while being good for you.
You probably saw this one coming. You might like the occasional glass of wine with your dinner after a long day of work, there’s really nothing wrong with that as long as you pace yourself. But if you overdo the alcohol consumption, it can have some bad effects. It can reduce brain volume and affect neurotransmitters (chemicals used by the brain to communicate).
It can even result in specific brain disorders, cause sensory issues, and mess with your memory. If you binge-drink, it can really mess with your brain, and you won’t recognise emotional cues (an easy way to get in trouble with your friends). And, of course, consuming too much alcohol when pregnant can be really bad for the baby.
Okay, everyone loves a good slice of pizza or a well-made lasagna, but overindulging in cheese can be a bit dangerous. It’s a saturated fat that can cause blockages in the brain vessels if you end up eating too much. It can inflame the brain, might increase risks of strokes, and also affects your memory.
Sodas or sugary drinks
Even if you’re into sports drinks and juice, rather than fizzy drinks, this can still be dangerous if you’re becoming too reliant on them. You have an increased risk of Alzheimer’s as well as dementia (due to an increase in blood sugar levels). Studies have found that this can also lead to insulin resistance in the brain, and affect general functioning, memory, and learning, due to the presence of HFCS (high-fructose corn syrup) in these beverages. So make sure you’re being responsible and moderate with your consumption.
Too much red meat isn’t good for you. As with cheese, the saturated fats in red meats can cause clogging in your brain (as well as in your cardiovascular system). In many parts of the world, people regularly eat beef, lamb, and pork at least a few times a week, so this might be a difficult habit to break for some people. You can try cooking with beans more as a substitute.
If you haven’t yet switched to whole-grain bread or brown-rice pasta, you should give it a go. Refined breads don’t have much nutrient-quantity, and they’re digested too quickly through the system, therefore causing blood sugar levels to rise. If you just eat refined carbs, then it can lead to issues with memory. With whole-grains, your blood sugar levels will be more stable.
While it’s definitely not true that you should avoid these foods at all costs, you should simply be practical and responsible with how you consume them. Almost everything is better in moderation. Food affects the brain as much as it affects the body!