How to Maintain Your Brain Health: Avoid These ‘Unhealthy’ Brain Foods

, Sunrise VP of Memory Care Services  |  March 18, 2013

Whether Alzheimer’s disease is preventable is a commonly asked question, and the answer has yet to be scientifically determined. Researchers are focusing enormous efforts on finding a cure along with investigating preventative strategies, many of which consider how nutrition affects the brain.

There are a number of reports available that discuss brain healthy foods, but what about foods that we should all avoid? In this post, I’ll explore a couple of nutrition tips to help make sure our diets don’t negatively impact our brain health as well.  

1.    Cut back on sugar and simple carbohydrates

Simple carbohydrates are foods such as pasta, bread and white rice that quickly turn into sugars when digested as a result of their high glycemic index. When consumed in excess, these types of carbohydrates have an unhealthy effect on the body and brain, including increasing insulin resistance and contributing to obesity, which we know may lead to a number of health issues.  In fact, obesity is a major risk factor for developing Type II Diabetes, and people with diabetes are 1.5 to 2.5 times more likely to get Alzheimer’s disease. 

Some researchers even refer to Alzheimer’s disease as Type III Diabetes as studies have shown that there are low levels of insulin in the brains of those with Alzheimer’s. Insulin is necessary for brain cells to absorb glucose, a form of sugar that is considered fuel for the brain. Without enough insulin, the brain cells can be affected resulting in cognitive impairment. 

Consuming high amounts of sugar can also cause increased cellular inflammation in the blood vessels as well as contribute to the formation of a beta amyloid plaque in the brain. This plaque is a hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease and is found in the brains of those that develop the disease. 

2.    Just say ‘no’ to fatty foods

By reducing your intake of foods high in fat and cholesterol, you are actually helping to protect your blood vessels. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, a high intake of saturated fat and cholesterol clogs the arteries and is associated with higher risk for Alzheimer’s disease. Current research indicates that there is a correlation between heart health and brain health. With each heartbeat, our brains receive up to 20 percent of the blood’s oxygen and nutrients. And, a heart healthy diet is also a brain healthy diet. When the heart and blood vessels show signs of damage, the brain’s vascular system and blood supply can be adversely affected as well. In fact, vascular dementia is the second leading cause of memory loss.

Living in such a fast paced world, it’s easy to make that quick stop at the closest fast food restaurant. Next time you are in a hurry, go for the healthier option and order a salad filled with nutritious green leafy vegetables known to be good for the brain rather than fattening fried foods. You also might want to consider using olive oil instead of other forms of oil in your diet because it contains a compound that has been found to be beneficial to neurons in the brain.

Avoiding unhealthy brain foods and eating a well-balanced diet will help you ensure future brain health as well as make your mind feel sharper and your body feel better today.

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