Five Things in Food That Are Bad for Your Brain
You know that too much red meat can raise your cholesterol, that pregnant women shouldn’t eat foods with high levels of mercury, and that consuming too many pints of Ben and Jerry’s will show up in the form of tight pants. But do you know the top consumption culprits that will harm your brain? Here are five items to watch out for when reading your labels.
1. Fructose/High Fructose Corn Syrup
Known by a variety of different names, high fructose corn syrup is harder to spot if you don’t know to look for it in things like ketchup, salad dressing, and even bread.
EXAMPLES: Soda, juice “drinks,” processed junk foods, and cereals.
WHAT IT DOES: Large quantities of fructose can damage your memory and learning ability.
2. Trans Fats
Also known as trans fatty acids or partially hydrogenated oils, trans fats don’t typically occur in nature, but rather are made by adding hydrogen to liquid vegetable oils to make them solid.
EXAMPLES: Margarine, French fries, and processed baked goods.
WHAT IT DOES: Trans fats can increase your risk for obesity, heart-related issues, type 2 diabetes, and stroke, all of which affect your brain negatively. They can also make your brain sluggish in the short term, and in the long term they can damage the arteries in your brain.
3. Saturated Fat
Unlike its “brother,” trans fats, saturated fats occur naturally.
EXAMPLES: High-fat cheese, meat, whole milk, cream cheese, and butter.
WHAT IT DOES: Saturated fats can clog your arteries, causing a host of problems, including decreased brain function due to lack of oxygen and nutrients.
4. Food Dye
The Center for Science in the Public Interest reports that 15 million pounds of petroleum-based food dyes are used in the U.S. each year.
EXAMPLES: Food dyes are especially common in foods that are marketed to children, including cereals, candy, yogurt and flavored drinks.
WHAT IT DOES: Artificial dyes have been linked to a variety of brain-related problems, the most common being ADHD, brain cancer, nerve and cell damage and birth defects.
A study from the University of Toronto found that elderly people who do little exercise and have a high-salt diet not only “dulled their minds” but also increased their risk for Alzheimer’s.
EXAMPLES: In addition to adding salt to foods, high-salt snack and meal items include potato chips, prepared ready meals, biscuits, and cereal.
WHAT IT DOES: Salt reduces your kidneys’ ability to remove extra water from your blood. This can cause high blood pressure, which can starve the brain of important nutrients and oxygen by damaging the arteries that lead to the brain.