How does nutrition affect brain health?

Your brain needs a sufficient amount of nutrients in order to function normally. Proper nutrition is essential for normal cognition or thinking skills. A healthy diet that is low in fat and high in essential nutrients reduces the risk of memory loss, helps prevent strokes and boosts alertness.

Your brain is the central organ in the human body. It is responsible for keeping your heart beating, lungs breathing as well as all of the systems in your body functioning.  That’s why it’s so important to keep your brain working at its optimum by eating a healthy diet as well as sticking to good nutrition principles.

Some of the foods out there have negative effects on the brain, impacting your memory and mood in addition to upping your risk of dementia.  Predictions are that dementia will affect more than 65 million people globally by the year 2030. Luckily, you can assist with reducing your risk of the disease by cutting certain foods out of your diet.

What is dementia?

Dementia is not one single disease. Rather, this term refers to a set of conditions as ‘heart disease’ does and includes conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease. Disorders clustered under the general term “dementia” are caused by abnormal changes in a patient’s brain. These alterations trigger a decline in cognitive abilities, which is severe enough to impair daily life and independent function. They also affect behaviour, feelings and relationships.

Three of the worst foods for the health of your brain

  1. Sugary Drinks

The term ‘sugary drinks’ incorporates beverages such as soda, sports drinks, energy drinks and fruit juice. An elevated intake of sugary drinks not only can cause you to put on weight and boost your risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease but this  also has a negative effect on the functioning of your brain. This is because an excessive intake of sugary drinks is responsible for increasing the odds of developing type 2 diabetes, which has been shown to increase the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

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  1. Refined Carbohydrates

The class of refined carbohydrates includes sugars as well as highly processed grains, such as white flour. These types of carbohydrates generally have a high glycaemic index (GI). Which means your body digests them quickly to cause a spike in your blood sugar and insulin levels.

In addition, when eaten in larger quantities refined carbohydrates often have a high glycaemic load (GL). The ‘GL’ denotes how much a food is responsible for raising your blood sugar levels on the basis of the serving size. Foods which are high-GI and high-GL have been found to impair the functioning of the brain.

  1. Foods Which are High in Trans Fats

The term ‘trans fats’ refers to a type of unsaturated fats which can have a detrimental effect on brain health. While trans fats can be found naturally in animal products, such as meat and dairy, these are not a major concern. It’s industrially produced trans fats, which are also known as hydrogenated vegetable oils, that are a problem because. (These artificial trans fats are to be found in shortening, margarine, frosting, snack foods, ready-made cakes as well as pre-packaged cookies.)

Studies have found that when people eat higher volumes of trans fats, they tend to have an increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease, poorer memory, lower brain volume as well as cognitive decline. However, some experts have not found an association between trans-fat intake and brain health. This being said, trans fats should be avoided as they have a negative effect on many other aspects of health, including heart health as well as inflammation.

Your diet certainly has a significant impact on the health of your brain.  Inflammatory diet patterns – which are high in sugar, refined carbohydrates and unhealthy fats – can contribute to impaired memory and learning in addition to increasing your risk of diseases such as Alzheimer’s and dementia.

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