Note: If you enjoy this article, consider reading Brain Foods: List Of 50 Good Brain Foods.
What are “bad brain foods”?
Know and understand which foods impede brain development
Though it is very important and beneficial to know and understand which foods will help you boost your brain power, it is also great to understand which types of food groups will decrease brain power and potentially kill brain cells. It is obvious that most illicit drugs and alcoholic beverages kill brain cells quickly, but there are many other foods that limit or restrict brain power. Foods that provide both your brain and body with little or nutritional value are considered “bad brain foods.”
Some interesting facts about food vs. body vs. brain
Did you know: Foods that clog arteries will naturally also reduce blood flow to the brain? Foods with high glycemic indexes can also cause wild, detrimental blood-sugar swings that make both your body and brain weaker and less powerful. Foods that are bad for the development and health of your brain often have the following characteristics: high levels of refined sugar, white flour, trans fat and polyunsaturated fat, salt, and numerous food additives such as monosodium glutamate and tartrazine. They are also usually lacking in: proteins, fiber, vitamins, and other healthy attributes.
Foods that are bad for the health of your brain are also terrible for your body. Not only can certain foods cause mental health problems, they can manifest other health-related problems including: obesity, Type-2 diabetes, dental cavities and heart disease. Therefore, in order to heighten your awareness of the foods that are terrible for both the health and development of your body and brain, I’ve compiled a list. Below is a list consisting of what I refer to as “bad brain foods.”
A list of “Bad Brain Foods” and other unhealthy substances:
- Artificial flavoring
- Artificial food coloring
- Artificial sweeteners
- Cereal bars
- Corn syrup
- Energy drinks (i.e. Monster, Red Bull)
- Highly greasy foods
- High-sugar beverages
- Hydrogenated fats
- Junk sugars
- Processed food
- Rice cakes
- Sodas (diet and regular)
- White bread
- White rolls
Understanding “bad brain foods”:
Alcohol and nicotine harm the brain
Most types of alcohol have potential to kill brain cells. Any substances containing nicotine will cut-off or restrict blood flow to the brain. The restriction of blood flow due to nicotine reduces efficient delivery of healthy substances like oxygen and glucose. Nicotine also tightens capillaries, which plays a large role in obstructing the delivery of blood and healthy nutrients to neurotransmitters – messengers which allow neurons (brain cells) to interact and communicate with one another.
Cut hydrogenated fats from your diet
A substance that is absolutely terrible for your brain is hydrogenated fats. In general, most hydrogenated fats cause the body to suffer initially by causing your arteries to clog and your heart to weaken. Though the effects aren’t usually noticeable right away, in the long term, these fats have high potential to cause heart disease.
In comparison, the short term effects of nicotine are equivalent to the long term effects from ingesting hydrogenated fats. Due to the high likelihood that these fats can significantly endanger the health of your brain, it is a good idea to replace them in your diet. You can easily do this by making healthy food and beverage choices.
Stay away from artificial flavorings, artificial sweeteners, and artificial colorings
It is extremely wise to do yourself a favor and try to skip eating substances that contain “artificial” ingredients. Any substance with artificial flavorings, artificial sweeteners, or artificial colorings is a slight hazard to the health of your brain. The degree to which they harm the brain is actually intensified in younger children. Therefore, it may be wise [as a parent] to limit allowing your children to eat artificially-enhanced candies and foods.
Why certain foods were chosen for the list of “bad brain foods”
The other “bad brain foods” make the list because they cause a crash-and-burn effect. This crash-and-burn effect is caused by “bad brain foods” causing your blood sugar levels to rise high temporarily – putting high amounts of stress on the pancreas. Whereas healthy, “good brain foods” cause a steady, balanced absorption of blood sugars in the pancreas – thus preventing the crash-and-burn effect.
Use common sense to choose “good brain foods“
There is no need to memorize the complete list posted above. In fact, all you really need to know is to use common sense before shoving down your food. Be conscious about your food choices and eating habits. Here is a quick recap of what you should stay away from: refined sugar products, anything “artificial” [i.e. flavors, colors, sugars], refined flour products, all drugs, and most types of alcohol. Also, any substance [i.e. snickers bars, candies, etc.] that you know will give you a ton of initial energy, but cause you to crash-and-burn later, should be avoided.
The energy supply to your brain is from utilizing and breaking down blood sugars. Your brain uses at least 20% of all carbohydrates that you ingest. With that said, you brain prefers to intake the blood sugars in a certain way. It likes a constant, steady supply of blood sugars without interruptions or other extreme changes caused by substances on the list above.
Simple carbohydrates put stress on the pancreas, negatively affect blood sugar levels
Virtually all simple carbohydrates have potential to cause wild, uncontrollable shifts in the effective processing of your food by the brain. Simple carbohydrates such as: processed flour products and sugary foods usually cause uncontrollably wild changes in blood sugar levels. Any type of sugary food or processed flour generate an initial sugar-high in the bloodstream, which in turn will trigger an equally powerful rush of insulin shipped from the pancreas. Simple carbohydrates also have been linked to diabetes, so it is definitely wise to cut back or eliminate them from your diet.
Low blood sugar levels a.k.a. hypoglycemia
Because the body is manufacturing so much insulin from the pancreas, this leads to plummeting, low blood sugar levels – commonly dubbed with the term: hypoglycemia. Eventually, this will trigger the release of adrenals and adrenaline hormones like cortisol and epinephrine. Both of these have potential to kill brain cells and put stress on your liver.
A rollercoaster ride: “sugar lows” vs. “sugar highs”
Once you eat the unhealthy foods that cause your blood sugar levels go rapidly rise, you hop on an unexpected rollercoaster filled with “sugar lows” and “sugar highs.” The rapid-changing highs and lows in blood sugar levels can actually cause chemical [neurotransmitter] imbalances in the brain. You can shift from feeling happy and energetic on your “glucose high,” to feeling sleepy, irritable, unfocused (A.D.D.), or aggitated.
A healthy diet will improve your mental health
People must realize that diet plays an extremely huge role in the health of your brain. Certain individuals can even be labeled as having some sort of mental health problem [i.e. a disease or disorder] that is stemming from their diet. For most individuals, their diet is not 100% at fault for causing the effects of their disease. However, healthy dietary changes can help people improve their mood and / or reduce the overall intensity of their mental health problems.
For more in-depth information on brain foods, see the article: 5 Supercharged Brain Foods.