Multiple studies have found a correlation between impaired brain function and a less-than-ideal diet. Can eating a lot of French fries and burgers really be bad for your brain?
Growing research says yes. It indicates that the link between your diet and your mental health is more directly impactful than previously understood. A healthy diet has a substantial effect on the health of your body, providing quality fuel for your body from the inside-out. If you consume saturated animal fats (such as red meat or poultry) and white sugar (such as cookies and pastries) on a regular basis, you are filling your body with poor quality fuel. Saturated animal fats have been shown to raise cholesterol levels and increase the risk of heart disease and stroke. Sugar increases the risk of obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. It accelerates aging and causes tooth decay. Your body functions best with a high-quality diet that fuels your body with an abundance of naturally occurring vitamins, minerals, and other critical nutrients as found in organic vegetables and fruits.
To test what foods are best for yourself, you can start by paying attention to how different foods make you feel. Do you feel sluggish or tired after a high-fat, processed meal such as a hamburger and milkshake? Sugar-laden, processed foods can cause rapid spikes in blood sugar, can clog your arteries, and cause inflammation in your gut. The worst part? Processed foods which are full of sugar, refined carbohydrates, and saturated animal fats – deliver only empty calories that can cause your waistline to swell, your immune function to suffer, and your mental health to decline.
So, what type of diet is best for optimal neurologic function? Studies have compared a traditional Mediterranean diet and Japanese diet to a typical "Western" diet. For those who eat their own native, traditional diet, researchers found that the risk of depression is 25% to 35% lower than the general population. Scientists believe this may be because the composition of their traditional diets are generally high in vegetables, fruits, unprocessed grains, fish, and seafood, and contain only modest amounts of lean meat and dairy. In contrast to red meat or poultry, wild-caught fish contain low amounts of saturated fat, no trans fat and are high in beneficial Omega-3 fatty acids. A the traditional diet also avoids unhealthy staples found in the Western diet, such as processed foods loaded with refined sugar, salt and oil.
Designing a delicious, plant-based diet can help upgrade your mood and mental health. Kick sugar and processed foods completely out of your diet. Instead, fill your meals with a wide array of organic fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes, unprocessed grains and wild caught fish, twice per week. To preserve the natural, unprocessed vitamins and nutrients, avoid heating fruits and vegetables over the boiling point (212°F) to better retain their beneficial nutrients as much as possible. Yes, fried foods and oven-baked foods (heated at temperatures far above 212°F) are out. Also, go dairy-free and avoid its undesirable cow hormones and high saturated fat. Foods such as avocados, blueberries, wild-caught fish, turmeric, and broccoli are all great examples of foods to eat often to keep your brain healthy and happy.
The importance of proper nutrition to whole-body health is massive. Your immune system, brain health, cardiovascular function, and waistline all depend on the quality of the foods you eat. Ultimately, it’s up to you to upgrade your mind and body by fueling them with delicious, whole, unprocessed foods.
- Li, Ye, et al. “Dietary Patterns and Depression Risk: A Meta-Analysis.” Psychiatry Research, Elsevier, 11 Apr. 2017, www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0165178117301981.
- DeYoung, Darren. “The Critical Role Nutrition Plays in Mental Health.” World of Psychology, 8 July 2018, psychcentral.com/blog/the-critical-role-nutrition-plays-in-mental-health/.
- Gunnars, Kris. “Processed Foods: Health Risks and Dangers.” Medical News Today, MediLexicon International, 1 Aug. 2017, www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/318630#takeaway.
- Selhub, Eva. “Nutritional Psychiatry: Your Brain on Food.” Harvard Health Blog, 31 Mar. 2020, www.health.harvard.edu/blog/nutritional-psychiatry-your-brain-on-food-201511168626.