4 Harmful Foods That Hurt Your Brain

Tim Ebl

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Cut down inflammation and stay sharp

You are what you eat. Certain foods leave your whole body gummed up with nasty metabolic byproducts that damage you. Chronic inflammation can set in, and that will age your brain faster.

Your body is like a car. If you dump any old fuel in the gas tank, the fuel filter gets plugged. The spark plugs, cylinders and exhaust system corrode and fail. It will sputter and stall in intersections.

Unlike owning a car, though, you only get one body. You can’t just drop it off at the junkyard and hop in a brand-new model right off the showroom floor. Maintenance is important!

As we age, we need to take care of ourselves. It’s up to us to make good choices and support our own health.

No one can do this for you. If you want to have a fully functioning top-shelf brain, you need to take charge and give it good groceries.

What is chronic inflammation?

Inflammation is part of your body’s defence mechanisms. When there is a sickness or injury, the area gets sent fluids from the lymph and circulatory system.

White blood cells, also called leukocytes, get dispatched like soldiers to take care of invaders. Inflammation causes heat, pain, redness and swelling in an injury as it sets about fixing the problem.

Inflammation is necessary to do repairs. The problem occurs when your body enters an inflamed state and can’t get out of it. Those white blood cells go looking for enemies and can’t find the problem, so your healthy tissues get attacked too.

It causes a ton of problems for us as we age. Inflammation increases the odds of you suffering from conditions like diabetes, heart disease and arthritis.

That’s not all. It also hurts your brain and causes neurological disorders. Your chances of getting depression, dementia, and Alzheimer’s disease all rise when you’re in a chronic state of inflammation.

Here are 5 foods that you should try to cut back on if you want to avoid a chronically inflamed, unhealthy brain.

1. Red meat

Red meat contains AGE’s: Red meat is most often cooked by grilling or browning, which creates a lot of Advanced Glycation End Products (AGEs). When we eat too much red meat, we are loading up on AGEs. Sounds yummy, right?

When you have a high level of AGEs in your blood, you will have higher levels of free radicals. You age faster.

Here is a study at AHA Journals which talks extensively about the mechanism of AGEs and what they do in the body.

Red meat is high in saturated fat: There’s solid evidence that even one meal high in saturated fat causes inflammation and an increase in blood pressure due to blood vessel restriction. Imagine what a steady diet of red meat or other saturated fats will do to your body.

You can read a bit about it here, at the National Library of Medicine.

Red meat contains dietary carnitine: Our own bodies produce carnitine, so we don’t need to get it from outside sources.

When we eat an abundance of it, we break it down into trimethylamine oxide. This molecule has been linked to high levels of inflammation.

Red meat isn’t brain food. Too much meat actually hurts your thinking parts.

2. White bread and pasta

Most of us love bread. I’m a toast addict, so I understand completely if you like to hit the bread hard.

The culprit here is refined white flour, which had all the nutrients stripped out of it. Since there’s no fiber left, it quickly spikes the blood sugar levels and raises the insulin levels.

High insulin in the bloodstream creates insulin resistance as well as inflammation.

Here’s what one study had to say concerning refined grains:

“Type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease are widely recognized as conditions of chronic inflammation” — The Journal of Nutrition

White flour isn’t brain-friendly. Support your mind by eating something else.

3. Vegetable oil

Not all cooking oils are created equal. Canola oil in particular is loaded with inflammatory omega-6’s. Filling your body with these fatty acids throws the omega-3 to omega-6 ratio out of balance, too.

McDonald’s uses a canola oil blend for their frying, as do most fast-food chains. Vegetable oil use is widespread, with a jug of it in many North American homes.

“Omega-6 polyunsaturated fat linoleic acid promotes oxidative stress, oxidised LDL, chronic low-grade inflammation and atherosclerosis” — BMJ Journals, Open Heart

Healthier alternatives to vegetable oil include olive oil and coconut oil. These are better choices for avoiding inflammation and keeping your brain in top shape.

4. Refined Sugar

The average American will cram in almost 60 pounds of sugar in a year. As you can imagine, this is not good.

It’s found in all kinds of drinks like sweetened coffee, fruit juice and soda. Candy and sweets are loaded with it as well.

But it’s also hiding in plain sight. You eat a lot of sugar without even knowing.

Here are just a few of sugar’s hidden locations: crackers, ketchup, peanut butter, yogurt, salad dressing, barbecue sauce, fruit juice, sport or “energy” drinks, chocolate milk, iced tea, canned baked beans, and granola bars. The list is huge.

Food manufacturers try to add it to everything!

Sugar affects the body the same way as white flour does. It spikes your blood sugar level, causing insulin to release at high levels. Eat enough sugar and you will be pre-diabetic in no time.

You’re making it hard for your brain when you get too much sugar in the bloodstream. It isn’t functioning at a high level of efficiency under these circumstances.

Highly processed foods don’t do your brain any favors

Slow brain function, dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and several other neurological conditions can be the result of chronic inflammation caused by processed foods.

Everything on this list is a highly processed food item.

  • Grilled, browned red meat just underwent some major processing. Let's not even get into bacon, sausages, sandwich meat slices or Spam.
  • White flour, vegetable oil and refined sugar all started out as plants. They took them and puréed, pressed, cooked or baked all the goodness out of those plants, leaving us with some dead products to eat.

These processed foods had all the fiber and nutrients stripped out, leaving empty calories. The side effects of empty foods are inflammation and rapid ageing of our bodies.

Your brain needs good nutrition and a healthy environment in the skull cavity. Processed foods give it the exact opposite.

What can we do about it?

Moderation is the key. Changing your whole diet in a day will be unsustainable. Take one step at a time to address the problem.

Substitute fish or chicken for red meats. You could experiment with vegetarian dishes as well. It’s easy to get enough protein in your food without eating red meat every day.

Choose whole-grain bread and pasta. There are plenty of options at the supermarket. Just walk right past the white bread.

Cook with olive oil instead of vegetable oil. Don’t eat fries from a drive-through on a daily basis.

Cut back on the sugar. If soda is your thing, try some sparkling water products like Bubly to soothe your cravings. Check labels for ingredients when you shop to see exactly how much sugar you are eating.

Take care of your brain

We only get one. We have to do our best to keep it in good shape, so we can do important things like talk, read and think. Diet is a major factor in making sure we keep all of our mental functions in later years.

Don’t wait until it’s too late to make healthy choices. Start today!

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I'm an author, yoga enthusiast, and meditation instructor. I spend a lot of time outdoors with activities like running, hiking and camping. My writing is all about the humorous side of life and personal growth, habits ,mindfulness, and outdoor adventures.

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