We’ve heard about foods that damage our heart, liver, and digestive system, but what about those that damage the most important organ in our body – the brain? It’s more than likely that you’ve felt tired or groggy after eating lunch – most likely because you ate something that affected your brain in some manner. In that case, which foods should you be avoiding in order to keep your mind sharp, and which can you have in moderation?
Our first culprit is well-known for its damaging influence on the body. While it's common knowledge that large quantities of sugar are bad for you, consuming it for a prolonged period of time may lead to neurological problems. High levels of sugar will affect your ability to learn and retain information, as well as reduce your brain’s elasticity. High blood sugar levels inhibit the breakdown of insulin by the brain, leading to a reduction in mental and cognitive processes.
Recommended daily dosage: Women – 6 teaspoons of sugar, Men – 10 teaspoons of sugar.
Salt is known to cause problems with blood pressure, heart rate, digestive system, and even respiratory issues. The brain uses the same cardiovascular system as these other organs, and so will be similarly damaged. Salt is essential for the body’s functions, but it is highly important not to overdo it.
Recommended daily dosage: A teaspoon of salt is the maximum recommended daily intake. For people over 50, those with diabetes or chronic kidney issues, the amount drops to half a teaspoon.
There’s a reason it’s called junk food. Studies have shown that junk food can become addictive for some people. The main reason is that junk food raises the levels of dopamine in the brain (the chemical responsible for joy and satisfaction), and quitting junk food causes actual withdrawal symptoms, as well as anxiety and even depression. In increased consumption levels, it may lead to memory loss, and in rare cases, it can even cause Alzheimer’s.
Recommended daily dosage: It’s OK to indulge in these foods once in a while, but experts recommend that people should avoid consuming more than 500 calories in a meal. The problem is that most fast food meals contain 800 calories or more on average. Thanks to new laws, restaurants now have to display the caloric value of served food, allowing you to make sure you get the number of calories your body truly needs.
Some oils, such as sunflower oil and flaxseed oil, release a substance known as aldehyde. At the lowest heat level, Aldehyde is known to damage neurological brain functions. Furthermore, fried food can become addictive, similarly to junk food. Finally, a 2008 study found a correlation between the consumption of fried fish and sub-clinical disturbances in the brain, as seen in an MRI scan.
Recommended oils for frying: While you should avoid fried food in general, if you do decide to prepare some, avoid harmful oils like sunflower and flaxseed oils. Stick with healthier options such as red palm oil and avocado oil.
Aspartame is one of the most common artificial sweeteners in use nowadays, but many researchers advise to avoid it, as it may be responsible for increasing the risk of developing brain cancer. If that’s not enough, artificial sweeteners lower the energy levels in the brain, and regular consumption actively slows down brain functions. These artificial sweeteners can also be found in toothpaste, processed foods, mouthwash, and even chewable vitamins.
Recommended daily dosage: The maximum amount of sweetener, containing saccharin, an adult should consume daily is 8 sachets, which is equal to 2 cans of soft drink. As for aspartame – the maximum is higher, standing at 32 sachets, or 8 cans of soft drink.
A study on the effects of nutrition on elderly people who do not suffer from dementia found that consumption of trans fats is linked to shrinkage of the brain, and researchers are inclined to believe that trans fats may affect the brain in a similar way to Alzheimer’s. Recently, the American FDA announced that trans fats will become illegal in the United States in the near future.
Recommended daily dosage: Experts warn about letting trans fats take up as much as 5-6% out of our total daily calorie intake. This means that if you eat around 2,000 calories a day, your trans fat intake rate should be a maximum of 0.45oz (13g). However, with recent information surfacing, it might be wise to decrease even that amount.
Dear vegans and vegetarians, even though tofu is considered to be a good substitute for meat, it may cause neurological issues. Researchers from Oxford University found that people between the ages of 52 and 98 who consumed large quantities of tofu were more likely to suffer from memory loss and dementia.
Recommended daily dosage: It is recommended that you do not consume more than two cups of tofu per day.
Preservatives, additives, food coloring and flavoring can all be found in processed and preserved foods. All of these chemicals affect our brain functions and behavior. Additionally, ingesting large quantities of these chemicals will slowly damage brain cells, causing brain shrinkage.
Recommended daily dosage: It’s hard to determine what the recommended quantities of these chemicals are, as it is always better to eat fresh foods instead. Try to avoid eating canned vegetables and fruits, as well as processed foods.