Foods That Drain Your Brain

Foods That Lower Brain Function
We recently reported a study that showed how a diet high in sugar can lower IQ.  As a follow up to that here is more evidence that what we eat can lower brain function and ultimately make us dumber!
Red Meat and Butter
A diet high in “bad” saturated fat 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.

Tip: 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.

Chips, Pizza, and other Junk Food
Will junk food rot kids’ brains? A 2011 British study of nearly 4,000 children found that those who ate primarily junk food (lots of processed and fast food) at age three had a small drop in IQ five years later compared with children who ate healthier diets. (And the link remained after researchers accounted for confounding variables, such as socioeconomic status and parents’ education.) 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.

Tip: It can be tricky to get young picky eaters to eat healthy foods, but remember that kids need repeated exposure (sometimes a dozen or more times) 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.

Gum
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 (In this case, participants were asked to learn the order of items in a list) The finding contradicts previous research, which found a positive association between chewing gum and mental tasks.

Tip: Because of mixed study results, you might not want to spit just yet. But be sure to include other brain-boosting habits in your daily routine, such as drinking water (dehydration can affect focus and acuity), getting plenty of sleep, and playing brain games.
Low-Carb Diets
Ditching carbs can sap brainpower (along with energy and mood). 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.

Tip: 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.

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