Most of us are aware of the unwanted extra pounds and several health related issues, that poor eating habits can cause to us. However,  what we hadn’t realized for a long time, is the discovery how a bad diet can damage our brain. Actually among all of our organs, the brain is the most vulnerable to inadequate nutrition.  Everything in the brain calls out for proper food to perform well. Let’s examine why a bad diet will damage more than our waistline, and which foods and drinks we should avoid.

The importance of perineuronal nets

Perineuronal nets (PPNs) are structures that enmesh certain neurons in the brain. As a result,  they regulate how often the brain turns experiences into memories. When we learn new things we form memories and make new connections between neurons (synapsis). From one hand, PPNs can prevent us from obtaining irrelevant information by maintaining existing connections. On the other hand, they can also enable us to form these long lasting neural pathways. When everything goes smoothly, PPNs protect neurons and synapsis from toxins, and they also control the plasticity of these neurons. Eating too much refined sugars and saturated fats can cause damage to the PPNs and the neurons that they encase. The reason behind that is the oxidative stress and toxic inflammation, that are generated by the consumption of junk foods. In consequence, it can all result in poor memory and cognitive decline. (1)

neurons

Bad for the heart, bad for the brain

Clogging arteries will decrease the blood flow to the brain. Therefore foods high on the glycemic index, that fill the arteries with fat are not only bad for our heart, but also for our memory and brain health. The brain absorbs about 20% of all the carbohydrates that we take in. The ideal case is a steady stream of blood sugars without interruption or extreme changes. Accordingly, foods that provide you with temporary sugar spikes (e.g. candy bars, soft drinks) are far from perfect. Although they usually give us firstly a short “feel good” due to the sugar high, but it always leads to a sugar low as well. As a result this roller coaster causes chemical imbalances in the brain, which leads to tiredness and bad mood. However, nutrition that helps maintain a steady and balanced absorption of blood sugars are invaluable for the brain. (2)

blood flow

Our brains are what we eat

By the food we eat, our body can obtain nutrients, which goes into the bloodstream, and flows to the the brain. As a result, they refill the depleted storage, activate cellular reaction and incorporate into brain tissue. Therefore, the brain can only get the necessary nourishment through our diet. Firstly, when we eat e.g. meat or fish, the protein turns into amino acids, which are the backbone of our brain cells. Secondly, if we consume e.g. nuts, fish or avocado the healthy fats will provide us with omega-3 and omega-6 acids, that make the neurons responsive and flexible. Finally, the glucose content of fruits, vegetables and whole grains help to keep the brain energized and protect it against “brain fog”. As you can see, if you don’t nourish your body with proper nutrition, you won’t support your brain with it’s everyday endeavors. (3) 

 

If you are busy, read only this part

Concluding everything above, here is a list of foods and drinks that you should completely avoid or at least minimize in your diet:

 

And just to give you some more specific examples:

 

Your brain and plenty of other organs will be grateful.

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