Want to keep your brain healthy as you age?
The best thing you can do is take a look at your diet.
Are you eating too many inflammatory foods? The fuel we choose for our bodies has the potential to both harm or protect us.
Here are 5 of the worst foods for your brain health and 5 suggestions for anti-inflammatory plant-based foods to eat instead for a healthy, happy brain.
What is chronic inflammation and why is it bad for your brain?
Inflammation is a defense mechanism. When we are hurt or sick, our immune system sends armies of white blood cells to fight off the injury or illness and repair damaged tissue. With more blood flowing to the source of harm, we feel discomfort, swelling, redness, and heat. This is why an ankle swells up when sprained. Without inflammation, healing can't happen.
But chronic inflammation happens even when there isn’t an injury or illness. Your body, unable to tell the difference, sends white blood cells to attack healthy tissue instead.
Chronic inflammation leads to many serious conditions, from diabetes to heart disease. And it also affects your brain, increasing your chances of developing neurological issues, including depression, dementia, and Alzheimer's disease.
5 worst foods for your brain (and what to eat instead
1. Refined breads and pasta
Refined breads and pastas are stripped of their nutrients so there’s no fiber to slow down their digestion. Instead, these processed carbohydrates rush through your system and spike your blood sugar. A diet comprised of refined carbohydrates has been linked to impaired memory in adults and kids.
Eat this instead: whole carbohydrates
Not all carbs are bad! In fact, whole crab are great for you. Whole grain breads and whole grain or brown rice pastas still have their fiber in tact. This means they’re digested more slowly, your blood sugar is better regulated, and you therefore have a steady stream of energy so you can buckle down and focus.
2. Red Meat
Studies found “the most important dietary link to Alzheimer’s Disease appears to be meat consumption, with eggs and high-fat dairy also contributing.” Just like saturated fat clogs cardiovascular system, the blood vessels in our brain become clogged as well.
Eat this instead: beans
Skip the beef and make beans the center of your plate! A great source of protein (saturated fat-free!) and packed with brain boosting B vitamins and magnesium.
You might be surprised to see this one:
3. Vegetable oils
High in omega-6s, an inflammatory fatty aid, consuming vegetable oils — particularly canola oil — is linked with increased risk for Alzheimer’s Chronic brain inflammation is also linked with depression and other cognitive issues. When our brains are inflamed, energy production goes down, the firing of neurons is slowed, and we’re often left mentally exhausted.
Eat this instead: walnuts
Filled to the brim with protective fatty acids, walnuts are a great way to get your Omega-3s. Omega-3 deficiencies can mess with our ability to learn and retain memories. In fact, studies have found that dementia patients have low omega-3 levels.
Pizza and cheese are the biggest sources of saturated fat in the American diet. As we mentioned with meat, this saturated fat clogs our brain vessels just like it clogs our heart vessels. Higher saturated fat is linked with inflammation of the brain, higher risk of stroke, and impaired memory.
Eat this instead: avocados
If you don’t have heart disease, try avocados as a creamy and plant-based alternative to cheese. Avocados haves lots of potassium, which can improve blood pressure and reduce risk of stroke. They’re also a great source of folate — a deficiency of which is associated with cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s disease.
5. Refined Sugar
Americans eat way too much added sugar (nearly 66 pounds per person a year) — and most of it is refined. Why is this a problem? Too much sugar causes inflammation in the brain and like those refined carbs, it spikes your blood sugar which leaves your body and your brain without the energy they need. Too much sugar also reduces our brain-derived neurotropic factor (BDNF) levels. BDNF is crucial for learning and making new memories.
Oh, and sugar is addicting! Brain scans reveal that added sugar changes our brain chemistry in a way that looks very similar to our brains when we ingest cocaine or alcohol.
Eat this instead: whole fruit
Turn to whole foods, like fruit for your sweet fix, particularly blueberries! Eating this delicious little berries may stave off short term memory loss thanks to their powerful antioxidants called anthocyanins.
In Summary :
*Chronic inflammation is bad for your brain health and is often caused by the foods we eat.
*To stave off inflammation and boost brain health, eat less refined bread and pasta, red meat, vegetable oils, cheese, and refined sugar.
*Eat more whole grains, beans, walnuts, avocados, and whole fruits.
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