(WellnessNova.com) - They say you are what you eat, and in terms of how food affects the brain, this certainly seems to prove true. Healthy foods like avocado, blueberries, walnuts and kale have all been proven to promote a healthy noggin, while unhealthy foods like the ones below have all been linked to negatively impacting your memory, cognitive function and emotional health.
1. White Rice
High glycemic-index foods, including refined carbs like white rice, have been shown to increase your risk of depression since they cause your blood sugar to suddenly rise, promoting a spike of insulin. A 2015 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition even found that post-menopausal women who consumed high-glycemic foods had a higher incidence of new-onset depression, while participants who ate more lactose, fiber, non-juice fruit and vegetables were less likely to get depressed.
Fish generally falls in the “healthy” category of many health experts’ lists, but not all fillets are created equal. While salmon has been shown to boost brain health thanks to its generous helping of omega-3s, tuna is high in mercury. Though the latter is also rich in omega-3s, research has found that they may not be powerful enough to offset the neurotoxin’s negative effects. A study at the University of South Florida on middle-aged corporate executives found that those with the highest levels of mercury in their bloodstream were consuming high-mercury fish, and scored 5 percent lower on a cognitive test.
3. Fruit Juice
Sugar continuously gets a bad rap, and now its been found to reduce cognitive flexibility, as well as short- and long-term memory. All the extra sugar in fruit juices, for instance, may be declining your brain function. A 2015 study published in the journal Neuroscience analyzed how high-sugar and high-fat diets affected the brains of mice, and found that both diets showed a significant cognitive decline. The researchers concluded that fat and sugar alter your healthy bacterial systems. “It’s not just the food that could be influencing your brain, but an interaction between the food and microbial changes,” explained lead study author Kathy Magnusson in an article on the Oregon State University website.
4. Microwave Popcorn
Many microwave popcorn brands are packed with trans fats, which have been commonly linked to hurting your heart by increasing inflammation and damaging blood vessel linings, but they wreak havoc on your brain, too, by harming brain function and memory. Other foods that are high in trans fats include: stick margarine, frosting, frozen pizza, refrigerated dough and coffee creamer.
Even the FDA aims to completely dismiss trans fats from the food supply by 2018. And a study published in the journal Neurology discovered some seriously scary downsides of consuming too much trans fat: poor cognitive function and a decrease in cerebral brain volume. Another study of 1,000 men found that participants who ate more trans fat had low scores on memory tests. Furthermore, dietitian nutritionist Tori Holthaus says that, “Diets high in trans fats increase beta-amyloid — a peptide ‘plaque’ — deposits in brain that are associated with Alzheimer’s disease.”
Saturated fat like cheese has been found to hurt your memory and cause inflammation in the brain. Not only that, but it’s been shown to harm your hypothalamus, the part of the brain that aids in body-weight regulation. A 2011 study published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation determined that after feeding rodents a high-fat diet that consisted of 60 percent calories from fat, their hypothalamus suffered inflammation. The researchers also found injured brain cells in the exact same region, alluding to the fact that a high-fat diet harms your brain’s ability to regulate the food you take in, which can result in obesity.
Along with being high in saturated fat, fried foods like doughnuts also increase blood cholesterol levels and your risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. “Cholesterol is a central dietary component in the development of Alzheimer’s disease,” says Martha Clare Morris, ScD, Professor and Director, Section of Nutrition and Nutritional Epidemiology, Department of Internal Medicine, Rush University. She says, “There’s a link between blood cholesterol levels and dementia.”
A 2014 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association discovered that people with high levels of bad cholesterol and low levels of good cholesterol had a higher chance of developing a build-up of beta-amyloid proteins in their brain, which are indications of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.
7. Agave Nectar
Since the downfall of sugar, people have been trying to find healthy alternatives to sweeten foods and drinks. And while research has proven the downside of many of these other options, including artificial sweeteners, natural options aren’t always the best choice either. Agave nectar, once thought to be on the list of healthy choices to take advantage of, contains high levels of fructose, which may harm brain function according to an animal study from the University of California Los Angeles. Researchers fed rats a diet supplemented with fructose, and analyzed their performance through an already-learned maze. What they found was they had a more sluggish pace and fewer memory skills compared to rodents fed with omega-3s. The study concluded that the fructose caused disturbances in brain cell signaling.
Be kind to your brain and plan for a healthy mind in the long term by staying away from these seven brain-damaging foods.