Ditch These 3 Foods to Avoid Brain Fog
Let’s face it. Healthy foods go out the window pretty fast when pizza hits the table. And it’s not just the mouthwatering taste of melted cheese and tomato sauce that suddenly makes healthier foods seem about as appetizing as a jellied-eel smoothie.
Fast foods like pizza are also appealing because, as the name implies, they’re fast!
As busy as life gets, pizza or microwave lasagna can certainly be a handy way to quickly get a meal on the table without spending hours in the kitchen.
Plus, foods like pizza are a guaranteed hit. When grocery budgets are tight, serving “strange” new healthy foods can seem a waste of money if family members turn up their noses and those foods (and hard-earned dollars) wind up in the trash.
But convenience foods typically have a tradeoff, and the price can be more than unwanted pounds caused by empty calories, bad fats and hidden sugars.
Those foods could be sapping your brain health, making it harder for you to think straight, to remember where you left your car keys or cellphone, or even just focus long enough to complete a crossword puzzle.
In fact, one of the foods I’m going to tell you about might actually be SHRINKING your brain!
But don’t worry.
You don’t need to clear out your cupboards and start a completely different diet to reduce the danger.
If all you do is omit the following three foods from your daily diet, you’ll go a long way in preventing brain fog and protecting your brain health for years to come.
1. Partially Hydrogenated Oils (The FDA Wants Them Gone!)
Partially hydrogenated oils (PHOs) aren’t just linked to unwanted weight gain and an increased risk of heart attack. Published studies by the American Academy of Neurology show that PHOs can lead to brain fog, impaired cognitive ability and even brain shrinkage later in life, and the FDA has ruled that all food makers must eliminate PHOs from their products by June 18, 2018.
As an artificial fat made by adding hydrogen to liquid vegetable oil, PHOs first appeared in 1911 when a German scientist showed Proctor & Gamble how to add hydrogen to cottonseed oil—and voila! Crisco was born, and the public gobbled it up (literally). In addition to being a cheap fat for frying and cooking, Crisco also made pie crusts flaky!
When PHOs evolved into margarine (a.k.a. “oleo”), many advertisers billed the new yellow product as healthier than butter. (I can’t believe it’s not butter!) And wow, was it conveniently spreadable right out of the fridge. If you’ve ever massacred a slice of toast by trying to spread it with chunk of frozen butter, you have some idea of why margarine become such a sensation.
Fortunately for health-conscious Americans, medical research begun in the 1990s has continued to show the link between PHOs and brain health, as well as other major health risks like heart disease, stroke and diabetes.
After thoroughly reviewing all the scientific evidence, the FDA ruled in 2015 that PHOs were not “generally recognized as safe” (or, GRAS) for human consumption, and gave food manufacturers until June, 2018 to get rid of them.
IMPORTANT HEALTH WARNING: Don’t wait until 2018 before removing PHOs from your diet.
PHOs are commonly found in baked goods (especially premade versions like cakes and pies), crackers and other packaged snacks, doughnuts and other fried foods, coffee creamers (both dairy and non-dairy), margarine and ready-to-use dough.
Other names for PHOs:
As for Crisco...
J.M. Smucker Co. (after buying Crisco in 2001) reformulated the Crisco shortening products in 2007 to contain zero grams of trans fat per serving.
2. MSG (The Flavor Enhancer That Dulls Your Brain)
Most people think of monosodium glutamate (MSG) as a flavor enhancer only found in Chinese food. The truth is, many common foods contain MSG (disguised under many different names), and while MSG jazzes up flavor, research shows that MSG is a toxin that kills brain cells.
According to neurologist/author Dr. Russell Blaylock (Excitotoxins: The Taste That Kills), your brain depends on a delicate balance of natural chemicals to operate smoothly. To protect that balance, your brain has a filtering mechanism called the blood-brain barrier, which blocks the passage of harmful bacteria, viruses and other harmful organisms. However, the barrier doesn’t keep out MSG.
Belonging to a class of chemicals called excitotoxins (which overstimulate brain cells), MSG crosses the blood-brain barrier as a non-essential amino acid chemically similar to glutamate, a natural chemical your brain uses for learning and memory. Once MSG floods your brain, chemical overstimulation wreaks havoc on brain functions, causing headaches and dizziness and causing brain cells to die.
According to Dr. Blaylock, MSG reaches peak concentrations in the brain 3 hours after ingestion, and can remain high for 24 hours. MSG can be especially damaging to people who’ve experienced some form of brain injury (including concussion) or have a genetic predisposition to brain disease.
Found in soups, chips and fast foods, MSG also comes in diet meals, frozen foods, ready-made dinners, frozen pizza and other products that wouldn’t taste like much without chemical enhancement. Trouble is, MSG isn’t easy to spot. Because the FDA doesn’t require food makers to put MSG on labels, food companies have come up with all kinds of sneaky code names, including:
As a basic rule of thumb, if some food tastes too salty, or has a staggering amount of flavor when ingredients are skimpy (e.g. many instant noodle bowl meals), carefully check the label for MSG.
Also, as general defense against MSG, try adding more Vitamin C-rich foods to your diet like oranges, strawberries, red peppers, Brussels sprouts or kiwifruit. Or take a Vitamin C supplement with meals. Studies show that Vitamin C provides protection against MSG toxicity.
3. Gluten (Are You Putting Your Brain In the Toaster?)
If you’re in the habit of popping a few slices of bread into the toaster every morning, you just might be toasting your brain in the process.
According to research, roughly a third of Americans have removed or want to remove gluten from their diet (meaning foods made from wheat, spelt, rye and other cereal grains). Consumers are more aware of gluten’s negative health effects (like celiac disease caused by gluten sensitivity), and data from the USDA shows that U.S. consumption of wheat products has steadily declined since 2000.
Despite this shift away from gluten:
While research by the Whole Grains Council shows a dramatic shift away from refined white flour products to “healthier” whole grains, renowned neurologist and author Dr. David Perlmutter (Grain Brain) maintains that gluten and grains in any form (refined or whole) amount to “a modern poison” that causes dementia, Alzheimer’s disease and other neurological problems.
The problem comes down to blood sugar.
When you eat bread (gluten or non-gluten), you’re eating carbohydrates. Your digestive system breaks down those carbs into sugar, which enters your bloodstream. On a diet that only includes small amounts of occasional carbs, blood-sugar levels don’t normally present too many health problems. But the average daily American diet roughly consists of 60% carbs, and evidence shows that sustained levels of high blood sugar can harm brain health.
Many nutritionists disagree with Dr. Perlmutter and his view that all carbs are bad for brain health. Yet American biologist and author Dr. Preston Estep has a significant point of agreement with Perlmutter in his book The Mindspan Diet.
Basing his brain-health diet on the eating patterns of Japan, Mediterranean France and Italy (countries with the lowest rates of dementia), Estep includes carbs in the diet, but they’re low Glycemic Index (GI) carbs (or, foods that don’t cause high blood sugar).
In other words, where a slice of whole wheat bread, Wonder bread or plain white bagel are all high GI foods, you can still enjoy your morning toast while protecting your brain health by swapping in lower GI grain foods like coarse barley bread, banana bread or an apple muffin made with rolled oats.
Okay, the last one might be hard to get into the toaster, but I think you get it.
Wishing you good health through wise nutrition,