5 Foods That Drain Your Brain
You’ve probably been hearing a lot about how too much sugar is harmful to healthy brain functions. But, new research is now proving that sugar isn’t the only type of food that negatively affects your mind.
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New research shows that sugar can hurt your brain, as well as your waistline. In a recent animal study, UCLA researchers found that rats fed a solution of fructose had a harder time navigating a maze, a sign of slowed learning and memory loss, compared to a second group of rats who were given the fructose solution as well as omega-3 fatty acids, which are thought to have a brain-boosting effect.
The researchers suspect that the fructose-only diet decreased brain activity because it affected insulin’s ability to help brain cells use sugar to process thoughts and emotions. Certain omega-3 fatty acids may buffer the brain from the harmful effects of fructose.
While this research is still preliminary, it’s just general good health advice to minimize your intake of added sugar and up your consumption of foods rich in omega-3s, including walnuts, salmon, flax seeds and soybeans to your meals.
A diet high in “bad” saturated fat, such as red meat and butter, may hurt brain function, according to new Harvard research published in the Annals of Neurology. When researchers studied the eating habits and tested the brain function of 6,000 women for an average of four years, they found the women who ate the most saturated fat scored lower on tests of brain function and memory. On the other hand, women who ate the most monounsaturated fats (found in foods like olive oil and avocado) had higher scores.
You don’t need to shun saturated fat sources entirely, but choose low or non-fat versions of animal products, such as cheese, yogurt, and milk. Avoid processed meat, like bacon, and stick to lean cuts. Get more protein from vegetable sources, like soy and legumes.
Will junk food rot kids’ brains? A 2011 British study of nearly 4,000 children found that those who ate primarily processed and fast foods at age three had a small drop in IQ five years later compared with children who ate healthier diets. Early diet choices especially seemed to affect kids’ verbal abilities, according to Time.com. The study suggests that smart diet choices may be particularly crucial during early years of rapid brain development.
It can be challenging, but remember that kids need repeated exposure to “like” a new food. So don’t give up so easily! And many classic kid favorites, like string cheese and yogurt, make for healthy snacks instead of processed cookies and chips.
Ditching carbs can sap brainpower. A small Tufts University study of 19 women between the ages of 22 and 55 found that when dieters eliminated carbohydrates, they showed a gradual dip in cognitive skills – particularly on memory-related tests – compared to a group who stayed on a low-calorie diet that included carbs.
Carbs aren’t evil-your body needs them for many important functions, including fueling your brain. So avoid diets that eliminate or severely restrict them, and choose healthy options, like whole grain pastas and breads, brown rice, and quinoa.
Does blowing that bubble boost or bust your brainpower? Here, the research is mixed. A recent British study published in the Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology found that chewing gum during a memorization exercise impaired participants’ short-term memories. The researchers believe the act of chewing may get in the way of concentrating on memory tasks.
Because of mixed study results, you don’t necessarily have to give up that gum habit. Just be sure to include other brain-boosting habits in your daily routine, such as drinking water, getting plenty of sleep, and playing brain games.