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The 5 food to avoid for optimal brain health

And this is according to a Harvard-trained nutritionist.

We all know that you are what you eat and this has just been further proved by Harvard Medical School faculty member, Dr Uma Naidoo, who, for her new book, studied how gut bacteria can trigger metabolic processes and brain inflammation that impact memory. Whats more, existing studies point to the idea that we may be able to reduce the possibility of dementia by avoiding foods that can compromise our gut bacteria and weaken our memory and focus put further focus on the idea that we are, what we eat. 

So, to be your best you, here is what to avoid.


Added Sugars

According to Naidoo, the brain uses energy in the form of glucose, a form of sugar, to fuel cellular activities. However, a high-sugar diet can lead to excess glucose in the brain, which studies have linked to memory impairments and less plasticity of the hippocampus — the part of the brain controlling memory. Consuming unhealthy processed foods like baked goods and soda, which are often loaded with refined and added sugars — often in the form of high-fructose corn syrup — floods the brain with too much glucose. To put this into perspective, the American Heart Association recommends that women consume no more than 25 grams of sugar per day and men stay under 36 grammes - seems ok right? Well, a can of coca cola has a whopping 39 grammes and one serving of Chendol has 44 grammes - watch out for that sweet stuff, it creeps up on you. 


Fried Food

Yes yes, fried is fabulous but it isn't so friendly - both to the waistline and the brain. Naidoo points out that one study one study including 18,080 people found that a diet high in fried foods was linked to lower scores in learning and memory with the likely reason being that these guilty pleasures cause inflammation, which can damage the blood vessels that supply the brain with blood. She also found a link to fried food and depression with another study showing that those who consumed more fried foods were more likely to develop depression at some point in their lifetime. 



There's a reason models just sniff the bread basket and dream of pasta- it's because sadly, even though it doesn't taste sweet, your body still processes them in the same way it does sugars. But don't despair yet as research shows that the type of carbohydrate you eat can make a difference, as Naidoo points out: “Better-quality” carbohydrates were defined as whole grains, foods high in fiber, and those ranked low on the glycemic index (GI). The GI is a measure of how quickly foods convert to glucose when broken down during digestion; the faster a food turns into glucose in the body, the higher its GI ranking. Researchers discovered that people who had the highest score on the carbohydrate-quality index, meaning they were eating better-quality carbs, were 30% less likely to develop depression than those who were eating high-GI carbs."



Ugh, there's nothing nice about the next-day regrets or as I often call it, the booze blues and it seems there might be something in my needing to hide for several days after a boozy brunch. According to Naidoo, Archana Singh-Manoux, a research professor and director at the French Institute of Health and Medical Research, and her colleagues followed 9,087 people over 23 years to see how alcohol related to the incidence of dementia. They reported that people who had abstained from alcohol completely or who consumed more than 14 drinks per week had a higher risk of dementia compared to those who drank alcohol in moderation.



What's a nitrate we hear you ask? Well, it's used as a preservative in foods and also used to enhance colours in things like certain deli and cured meats, salamis and sausages. A recent study Naidoo points out, links nitrates to depression and found that nitrates can alter gut bacteria to such a degree that depressional disorders like bipolar disorder. But all is not lost if you can't put those meats down as Naidoo suggests looking for salami and sausages with buckwheat flour as a filler instead as buckwheat contains important antioxidants that can counter some of the negative effects the meats have in.