The #1 WORST Food that HARMS Your Brain (avoid!)
Some foods you might be eating daily can actually DAMAGE your brain
over time. In this article, we'll explore foods that HARM your brain
vs foods that PROTECT your brain.
by Mike Geary - Certified Nutrition Specialist
First, the BAD NEWS...
Certain foods you eat can indeed harm your brain, both in impaired
learning ability as well as impaired memory. Even worse, the wrong
food and drink choices throughout your life can even lead to the
terrible and deadly disease of Alzheimers.
A friend of mine just told me that her dad died of Alzheimers
recently and it was just a terrible disease where he didn't even
know who she was anymore towards the end. It's time our society
starts taking degenerative diseases like Alzheimers, cancer, and
heart disease more seriously throughout our lives, and not just once
it's too late. Even in our 30's, 40's, and 50's, the choices we make
with our daily food can PREVENT these terrible diseases.
So let's dig in with the topic today of foods that harm your brain,
and what you can do about it...
Food #1 that HARMS your brain: Fructose
In a 2012 UCLA study published in the Journal of Physiology,
researchers found that a diet high in fructose over time can damage
your memory and learning ability.
Beyond the harm to your brain, it's well known in the research world
that a high fructose diet can also cause insulin resistance in your
body over time, and possibly lead to type-2 diabetes and extra body
fat. If that's not enough, a high fructose diet also detrimentally
affects your triglyceride levels in your blood as well as small
dense LDL particles that cause plaque in your arteries.
So what we have here is high-fructose intake = impaired memory and
learning in your brain, increased risk of diabetes, and increased
risk of heart disease. Oh, and we forgot to mention extra belly fat
too... Yum - who wants another can of soda pop or a large bowl of
corn syrup sweetened ice cream!
The average person eating a modern western diet of processed food
consumes a LARGE quantity of fructose without even thinking about it
from all of the soft drinks (high fructose corn syrup typically),
sweetened juice drinks, orange juice, processed junk foods such as
cakes and candies, as well as the HFCS that's added to store-bought
salad dressings, breads and cereals, and even condiments like
Note that many sports drinks, even though marketed as "healthy", can
have large amounts of corn syrup or even crystalline fructose as
their main sweetener. These sports drinks can be equally as bad as a
soda for your body and your brain. Don't be fooled by the clever
marketing showing pictures of pro athletes guzzling this stuff.
Also note that agave syrup (aka, agave nectar) which is marketed as
a "healthy" sweetener as well, is one of the most concentrated forms
of processed fructose in sweeteners as well. I personally stay away
from agave sweeteners as much as possible unless the amounts are
All of these fructose-laden foods and drinks are easy to avoid
though if you choose to eat consciously... for example, make
homemade salad dressings from your favorite olive oil and vinegar
with added spices, or choose to drink unsweetened iced tea with
lemon instead of sweetened drinks or juices. If you use a lot of
ketchup, try to reduce the quantity by mixing with mustard or hot
sauce, which typically don't contain HFCS sweetener in any
Last thing to note about fructose... Yes, natural whole fruits do
contain fructose, but generally contain MUCH smaller quantities of
fructose than you would consume in a sweetened juice drink, soft
drink or sweetened junk foods. Also, the phytonutrients,
antioxidants, and fiber that's contained in most whole fruits
counteracts any negative effects of fructose. I personally try to
keep fruit intake to no more than 1-2 pieces a day due to the sugar
and fructose content of larger amounts of fruit.
Here's a trick: Did you know that limes and lemons contain virtually
zero fructose, and only 3-4 grams of total carbs in a whole lemon or
lime, whereas a typical orange contains 6 grams of fructose and 25
grams of total sugar per fruit. I squeeze lemons and limes daily
into either water or teas for a healthy flavorful drink. Fresh lemon
juice has even been shown to control blood sugar response from a
Other Foods that HARM Your Brain:
You probably already know some of the harmful health effects of
these foods, but long term effects on your brain are yet another...
Trans fats -- strongly inflammatory in your entire body including
damage to cell membranes throughout your body. Avoid hydrogenated
oils in processed foods and deep fried foods.
Mercury -- studies show that mercury from pollution (coal burning
plants are the biggest source of mercury pollution to air and water)
and from fish that are high on the food chain such as tuna, shark,
swordfish, tilefish, etc can possibly cause long term negative
effects on your brain. Limit these types of fish to a couple times a
month and focus more on fish such as salmon, trout, and many other
types of smaller fish to reduce your mercury load.
Wheat-based foods -- In the groundbreaking book, Wheat Belly, Dr
William Davis makes a very convincing argument that wheat has
addictive properties in the brain. Wheat contains compounds termed
"exorphins" that have an effect in your brain similar to opiate
drugs. This explains why people have such a hard time giving up
their beloved breads, cereals, pasta, and muffins because these
foods are mildly addictive.
I know personally from past experience that if I have have a pasta
dinner, I'll go back for seconds and thirds as I just can't seem to
stop eating the stuff. And then hours after dinner, I'll get
cravings for more carb-based foods or sweets. But if I pass on the
pasta and just have meat, veggies, and salad, I find myself totally
satisfied after dinner with no cravings later at night.
The good news is...
There are plenty of superfoods, herbs, and spices that can protect
your brain and your other organs too!
In fact, did you know that turmeric is one of the highest
antioxidant spices that also exhibits brain-protecting effects? In
India, where curry containing turmeric and other spices is eaten
daily, rates of Alzheimers disease is among the lowest in the world,
proving some of the brain-protecting effects of turmeric.