Brain health is something that is often overlooked as everybody is so focused on physical fitness, obesity and their associated diseases. However, we live in a world where more people are being diagnosed with mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, panic disorders, ADHD and OCD and PTSD. So, what can we do to improve our brain health? Well, unsurprisingly, the same healthy and balanced diet rules apply to our brains as our guts.
Added sugar might be the worst ever ingredient in the modern diet. When someone consumes sugar calories, the brain does not perceive them as food. As a result, people will still be hungry or thirsty after eating or drinking sugar, which is why the substance is considered to be “empty calories”. Sugar significantly increases the daily intake of calories — with no health benefits!
In addition, sugar can facilitate insulin resistance within the body. A high sugar intake is thought to contribute to the non-alcoholic fatty liver condition as well as type 2 diabetes and heart disease. It’s also known to contribute to obesity, brain fog, anxiety, and depression.
But sugar tastes oh so good — so what alternative do you have? It sounds boring, but substitute sugary drinks with regular old water. Add a piece of lemon, mint, or fruit to drinking water to give it some pizzazz. Or if you’re missing the carbonation of sodas, get a device that makes carbonated water at home. Also make sure to check the labels of food items at the grocery store — you’d be shocked at what foods have sugar added to them!
Did you know that pizza is featured on the list of the world’s most popular junk foods? The convenience, size, and taste make it an all around winner. However, commercially-made pizzas are usually prepared from cheap, unhealthy ingredients. For instance, the dough is often made from extremely refined wheat flour along with processed meat.
However, you can definitely get a pizza made with healthier ingredients. Make yours at home and include whole wheat flour, low fat cheese, and tons of veggies!
Bread is prepared from wheat, a substance that contains gluten. This is the reason why any wheat-based bread should not be an option to individuals with celiac condition or gluten sensitivity. However, it can be argued that most commercial bread is unhealthy and too high in gluten, refined carbs, and sugar. Most are prepared from refined wheat which contains less vital nutrients and leads to a spike (and afterwards a significant drop) in blood sugar.
What are your other options? For individuals who can’t eat gluten, Ezekiel bread or bread made with almond flour is a perfect choice. For those who can, go for whole grain breads instead of white ones.
For many years, margarine was perceived as the healthiest alternative to butter. However, it turns out that it’s really not that good for you! Margarine is an extremely refined pseudo-food that has been engineered to resemble and taste like butter (who are they fooling?). It has tons of artificial ingredients that aren’t good for the body. Margarine is prepared with hydrogenated vegetable oils meant to harden into solids, contributing to a higher amount of trans fat in the body. Manufacturers are granted the right to label their items “trans-fat free” provided the amount does not exceed 0.5 grams per serving. However, this is still a large amount that can be harmful to the body and brain.
To avoid health complications from margarine, go for real butter, preferably taken from grass-fed cows.
Although white potatoes have proven to be healthy, many products that use potatoes end up being very unhealthy. Think of french fries and potato chips! These foods contain large amounts of fat and calories, but the neutralness of the taste makes them easy to consume in excess. A number of studies associate the intake of French fries and potatoes with gaining weight. Furthermore, these products may contain substantial quantities of acrylamides, a carcinogen that is form when the potato is fried.
Are there alternatives for you? Definitely yes! Boiled potatoes are the best option. As difficult as it us, stay away from fried potatoes. If you need something crunchy as your midday snack, reach for baby carrots or nuts instead.
You may be highly knowledgeable about the foods you should eat to be healthy, but it’s equally as important to know about the unhealthy ones too. In addition to avoiding unhealthy foods, improve your brain healthy with added vitamins and supplements like nootropics. To promote brain health, eat foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, such as fish, seafood and nuts, although a supplement is a good idea if you are not a fan of fish. Also, there are nootropics for ADHD, anxiety, and depression which can boost brain health as well as heighten creativity and energy levels. By avoiding these foods and taking supplements, you’ll be well on your way to a healthier and happier brain.