The sentiment, “you are what you eat” has never been more true than when it comes to your brain. That’s because your brain needs high quality fuel to keep everything in your body running smoothly—from your physical body to your moods and intellect. Before we explore the best foods to eat, let’s examine the foods to avoid.
FOODS TO AVOID FOR A HEALTHY BRAIN
Bad Fat, Bad Brain
Your brain is 60 percent fat and needs plentiful amounts of high quality fats to create healthy new brain cells. So, if you’re eating harmful fats like trans fats, margarine, shortening, lard and all of the foods made from them (that includes most baked goods and restaurant foods), you’ll also experience low grade inflammation which is known to be a factor in most brain diseases like Alzheimer’s disease, dementia and Parkinson’s.
Even excessive amounts of Omega 6 fatty acids can increase brain inflammation so it is best to reduce your consumption of all foods made with these harmful or potentially harmful fats. That includes reducing your intake of animal protein which is high in saturated fats, vegetable oil, corn oil, safflower oil and sunflower oil, and the bottled sauces, mayonnaise and other prepared foods made from these Omega 6 fatty acids. And, of course, it means eliminating or cutting back on all fried foods, all of which are inflammatory in nature.
The World Health Organization (WHO) classifies processed meats (yes, that includes bacon—don’t hate the messenger!) as carcinogenic. These foods pack a one-two punch directly on the brain by hitting it hard with inflammatory fats and then packing a second punch full of cancer-causing nitrites and nitrates. Skip the luncheon meat and bacon, as much as possible.
Monosodium Glutamate (MSG)
MSG is a well-known nervous system toxin, known as a neurotoxin, due to its brain- and nervous system-damaging effects. It is rarely listed on the ingredient lists of products but is frequently contained in many prepared foods, fast foods and restaurant foods, usually in spices and condiments. Because it is not required to label this ingredient there is little way to know whether the foods you eat contain it. The best way to be sure is to make more of your foods at home from scratch without prepared sauces or spice mixtures.
Foods Containing Polysorbate 80
Polysorbate 80 is found in many different foods, including ice cream and cottage cheese. It is comprised of nanoparticles that have been linked in animal studies with brain cell death and brain inflammation and have been shown to, not only gain access to the brain, but to deposit themselves in the frontal cortex of the brain. Read labels and avoid any food that contains this toxic ingredient.
Foods that Contain Sodium Benzoate
The Lancet also found that a commonly-used preservative, sodium benzoate, is linked to hyperactivity in children, suggesting the chemical excessively stimulates the nervous system. Sodium benzoate is used as a preservative in many bottled sauces and processed foods, including soy sauce, and is even used in many liquid supplements and other liquid products. Be sure to check the label and avoid foods that contain this nasty ingredient as much as possible.
FOODS TO EAT FOR A HEALTHY BRAIN
Coffee and Tea
Don’t feel guilty about your coffee or tea habit. It turns out that both of these beverages are packed with antioxidants that destroy free radicals before they attack your brain. That is, of course, unless you add flavored syrups with sodium benzoate, high fructose corn syrup or other nasty ingredients.
An Apple a Day
This sentiment could be finished with “keeps the neurologist away” because apples have been found to be fantastic brain foods. In a study published in the American Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease and Other Dementias researchers found that people with moderate to severe Alzheimer’s who drank a half-cup of apple juice two times daily had significant improvement in anxiety and delusion. Better yet, eat a whole apple complete with all the enzymes, phytonutrients and fiber intact for a brain and overall health boost. Simple add a chopped apple to your morning cereal or oatmeal, include it as a snack or part of your work lunches, or enjoy after dinner instead of less-than-healthy desserts.
Ginger and Turmeric
Adding just 2 spices to your daily meals can make a huge difference to your brain health. Both of these spices/herbs add flavor but are also Nature’s anti-inflammatories. Research in the medical journal Experimental and Therapeutic Medicine found that curcumin, one of the active ingredients in turmeric was even effective in the treatment of Parkinson’s disease.
Cherries, Berries and Grapes, Oh My
Cherries, grapes and berries like raspberries, blackberries and blueberries have all been found to be helpful for brain health. All of these foods contain potent phytonutrients (plant nutrients) that give them their gorgeous red, blue or black color and quell free radicals that would otherwise damage the brain.