Food is medicine…but sometimes it’s poison…
Eating a well-balanced, nutritious diet is critical for maintaining brain health. In the broadest terms, we recommend choosing organic, non-genetically modified (non-GMO) foods as much as possible in order to reduce your and your family’s exposure to pesticides and other chemicals. Speaking of other chemicals, we also recommend that you choose minimally processed foods and those that are low or no added sugar(s). The best way to avoid processed foods and added sugar is to eat raw fruits, vegetables, and meats that are USDA certified organic and non-GMO.
So what’s the problem with added sugars and sugar substitutes? Too much sugar in the diet has significant negative side effects – including increasing blood sugar, body fat, and weight, and (along with refined starches and saturated trans-fatty acids) promote chronic inflammation and reduce the body’s natural anti-inflammatory cells. Excess sugar in the diet encourages over consumption of sugary foods, which increases calorie intake with little or no nutritional value.
Excess and/or Refined Sugar:
- Is hard on the liver – too much sugar can lead to non-alcoholic fatty liver
- Interferes with learning, particularly in children
- Causes weight gain
- Encourages skin wrinkling
- Induces stress – rapidly increasing and decreasing blood sugar causes the release of stress hormones
- Mood swings can be caused by rapidly cycling blood sugar levels
- Sugar promotes the formation of yeasts and bacteria in the gut, which can lead to a lowered immune system
- Refined sugars cause the break down of tooth enamel more than any other foods
- Sugar is BAD for the heart – the bacteria that damages teeth can ruin your heart by spreading to your bloodstream and raising the risk of coronary artery disease
- Chronically high levels of blood sugar can lead to insulin resistance, which in turn leads to metabolic syndrome, which often leads to chronic obesity and failed attempts lose weight
Note: When checking food labels, remember that 4 grams of sugar = 1 teaspoon of sugar
There are about 39 grams of sugar in a 12 oz. can of soda and 65 grams of sugar in a 20 oz. bottle of soda – that’s 9.75 teaspoons of sugar per can or 16.25 teaspoons of sugar per bottle! Artificial sugars are not only as bad as sugar, they may be worse. Although artificial sweeteners do not increase blood sugar, insulin levels do increase, which is why appetite increases after eating or drinking artificially sweetened foods and beverages.
How do I repair my diet?
The main dietary strategies include:
- Adequate Omega-3 fatty acids intake, – 3 servings of fish weekly or 3000 IUs of Omega 3 supplements daily
- Reduction in refined sugars, added sugars, and artificial sweeteners
- Reduction of saturated and trans-fats
- Eat a diet high in fruits, vegetables, nuts, and whole grains and low in refined grains and refined sugars (just in case you missed it earlier)
Each of these strategies is associated with lower generation of inflammation. The whole diet approach seems particularly promising to reduce the inflammation associated with the metabolic syndrome. The choice of healthy sources of carbohydrate, fats, and proteins, associated with regular physical activity and avoidance of smoking and alcohol consumption, is critical to fighting the war against chronic disease, obesity, premature aging, and brain health issues. Western dietary patterns warm up inflammation, while healthy dietary patterns – such as the Mediterranean diet – cool it down.
If you’re struggling with making good dietary choices or you’re overwhelmed by all of the choices you’re confronted with, schedule a visit with one of our Brain Health Coaches (call us at 817-295-8708 or find us online at http://www.brainandbehaviorassociates.com . Our coaches can help you sort through all of the information and help you make brain-healthy choices where diet, exercise, and sleep habits are concerned.