We know that omega 3s, antioxidants and B vitamins all play an essential role in keeping your top floor in top condition, but did you know there are a number of foods that skyrocket your risk for brain fog, cognitive decline and dementia? Here are the 3 worst offenders to give a wide berth.
With the average Aussie throwing back 17 teaspoons of added sugar a day, many of us are at a high risk for developing a range of dangerous health conditions, from obesity and heart disease to degenerative brain diseases like Alzheimer’s. That’s right – excess sugar consumption is believed to raise your chances of experiencing cognitive decline and dementia. One reason for this is that excess sugars can spike your chances of developing type 2 diabetes, which researchers have found to be a risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease. But that’s not the only reason – studies show even those without type 2 diabetes are at an increased risk for the cognitive disease. Excess sugar consumption – particularly fructose – can lead to obesity, high blood pressure and chronic inflammation. Some studies show that high amounts of fructose can result in insulin resistance in the brain, which research shows may further contribute to the cognitive degeneration that affects Alzheimer’s patients. High fructose intake may also result in impaired memory and learning function, with sugary drinks found to be particularly culpable and may have more damaging effects on the brain as opposed to other sources of added sugars. Either way, the verdict is in on excess fructose – and it’s not good. It’s worth noting that the sugar you find in fruits and veggies are safe and are not considered added sugars. Just make sure to avoid processed fruit products like juice or fruit-flavoured yoghurts as these lack the fibre and nutritional-density of whole produce.
Refined carbohydrates like white bread, white flour and white rice tend to have a far higher glycaemic index (GI) and a lower dose of fibre that their wholegrain counterparts. The issue here is that the sugars in these grains hit our blood much faster, spiking both our blood sugar and insulin levels. Research shows that a high-GI meal can impair brain and memory function – just from that one dish! While people will generally bounce back, a diet consistently high in these foods can cause dangerous health problems, with one study finding that older adults who got over 58% of their daily food intake from refined carbohydrates to be at a drastically increased risk for dementia. Young people are negatively affected too, with research on university students finding a diet high in sugar, refined carbs and fat left them with impaired memory function and less mental clarity. It’s believed to be a result of an inflamed hippocampus – this is a part of the brain that shares responsibility for maintaining memory function. While these grains can make up part of a healthy diet when consumed in moderation, it’s not hard to go over the limit – especially if you’re a lover of white rice! Whole grains are digested slower and provide slow-release energy to prevent energy slumps throughout the day. Some nutritious whole grains to swap your refined grains out for include brown rice, millet, quinoa and buckwheat.
Considering the excess sugars and preservatives that sneak into highly-processed foods – many of which are considered household staples – it’s no wonder that these are inflammatory and damaging to brain health. Take a look at some of the processed foods we’re talking about:
- Processed snacks like potato chips, biscuits and crackers
- Instant noodles, soups and frozen meals
- Hydrogenated vegetable oils
- Commercial baked goods
- Ultra-processed meats like salami and ham
The excess sugars and trans fats in these foods contribute to visceral fat development – this is the bad kind of fat that wraps around the abdominal organs – and this has been linked with brain damage in a number of studies. One study even shows a drastic loss of brain tissue as a result of metabolic syndrome, a condition which is defined by the presence of a number of factors like high blood pressure, high blood sugar levels and high cholesterol. And it’s not just the sugary stuff you have to watch out for – research found that long-term consumption of highly-processed meats and deep-fried foods were also linked with cognitive decline and chronic inflammation. To avoid these effects, homemade is always best – go for whole ingredients and prioritise healthy fats in foods like olive oil, avocado and nuts over trans fats, and go for sugars in whole fruits over added sugars in drinks, sweets and other ultra-processed foods.
If you’ve been having a little trouble keeping that sugar addiction at bay, we’re here to help. We know it can be hard to stick to your health goals – especially when you’re trying to manage it alone. Join us for the 8-Week Program where we’ll be quitting sugar and turning our health dreams into a reality. When you sign up with us, you’ll have access to clear-cut meal plans, community support and exclusive access to our sugar-free content. Here’s what’s on offer:
- 8 weeks of meal plans and shopping lists.
- 90+ member-only recipes.
- Community forums to share your journey.
- Support and guidance from the I Quit Sugar team.
- Exclusive content from our panel of experts.
So, if you’re ready to ditch sugar and the host of maladies that come with it, it’s not too late to join. We’d love to help you get started on your health journey. Sign up HERE today!