05.13.14 Foods that HARM Foods that HEAL…Your Brain, that is! – Your Health Detective

The Not So Sweet Reality…

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 – is it any wonder that disorders like ADD/ADHD is now in epidemic proportions in both children and adults?

Beyond harm to your brain, the world’s best researchers’ know 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.

The Bottom Line…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…you know…that expanding or lost waistline we often call “middle-aged spread.” …click to continue reading…

The average person eating a standard American diet (SAD) of processed food consumes a LARGE quantity of fructose without even thinking about it. This health-depleting stuff is especially concentrated in sweetened juice drinks, orange juice, processed junk foods such as cakes/pastries and candies, as well as the HFCS that’s added to store-bought salad dressings, breads and cereals, and even condiments like ketchup, salad dressings and sauces.

Note that many sports drinks, even though marketed as “healthy”, can contain huge 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 – if they’re “food smart” they don’t consume the stuff, they just get paid the big bucks to promote it to others by using their celebrity status.

Also note that agave syrup (aka, agave nectar), which is marketed as a “healthy” sweetener, is one of the most concentrated forms of processed fructose in sweeteners. I personally stay away from agave sweeteners as much as possible unless the amounts are very small as in a home-made salad dressing.

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 or grape seed oil and vinegar with added spices and herbs, or choose to drink unsweetened iced tea or drinks with lemon instead of sweetened.  If you use a lot of ketchup (if you have inflammation you hopefully know to avoid any nightshade food), try to reduce the quantity by mixing with mustard, which typically don’t contain HFCS sweetener in any significant quantities.

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 or soft drink, or sweetened junk or processed foods.  Also, the phytonutrients, antioxidants, and fiber contained in most whole fruits counteract most negative effects of the fructose.  I personally try to keep fruit intake to no more than 1 piece a day due to the sugar and fructose content of larger amounts of fruit and how they affect blood sugar.

Foods & Ingredients that PROTECT & HEAL the Brain…  

There are plenty of super-foods, herbs, and spices that can protect your brain, organs, and help reduce inflammation all the while also assisting you to age without looking or feeling old, Naturally. The following are just a few:

  • Turmeric – one of the highest antioxidant spices that also exhibits brain-protecting effects. In India, where curry containing turmeric (usually in a blend called Garam Masala) and other spices is eaten daily, rates of Alzheimer’s disease is among the lowest in the world – validating some of the brain-protecting effects of turmeric.
  • Eat Oily Fish – because they contain powerful DHA and EPA omega-3 fats. Countless studies point to the protective properties of fish oil in protecting your brain from damage, especially as we age. Essential fatty acids (EFAs) cannot be made by the body and must be obtained through diet. The most effective omega-3 fats occur naturally in oily fish as EPA and DHA. Good sources include linseed (flaxseed) oil, soya bean oil, pumpkin seeds, walnut oil and soya beans. They are good for healthy brain function, the heart, joints and general wellbeing. Oily fish contains EPA and DHA in a ready-made form, which enables the body to use it easily. The main sources of oily fish include salmon, trout, mackerel, herring, sardines, pilchards and kippers. Low DHA levels have been linked to a higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease and memory loss.
  • B…Aware – certain B vitamins (B6, B12 and folic acid) are known to reduce levels of homocysteine in the blood – elevated levels are associated with increased risk of stroke, cognitive impairment and Alzheimer’s disease. A study of elderly patients with mild cognitive impairment found that after two years of intervention with high doses of B6, B12 and folic acid there was significantly less brain shrinkage compared to a subset given placebo treatment.
  • Zinc – important for overall body functions as well as enhancing memory and thinking skills. Supplementation can be as easy as eating a handful of pumpkin seeds daily – provides recommended daily amount.
  • Broccoli – a great source of vitamin K, known to enhance cognitive function and improve overall brain power.
  • Sage – centuries old reputation for improving memory, both in the form of essential oil and as an herb used in cooking.
  • Nuts – researchers validate what’s been echoed for years; vitamin E helps prevent cognitive decline, especially as we age. Nuts are a great source of vitamin E along with leafy green vegetables, asparagus, olives, seeds, eggs, brown rice and gluten-free whole grains.

Yes, all the advice on what’s healthy and what’s not can be confusing. That said, if you simply eat from nature (unprocessed fresh organic food) and supplement as indicated for longevity and specific “weak-links”, it’s not difficult….it’s easier, less painful and cost-effective to stay healthy than to get well, Naturally.

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