Does the saying “You are what you eat” sound familiar to you?
While you probably won’t end up looking like a burger if that’s your staple day in day out, what you eat can affect the function of your brain and your mood too.
So if you’re wondering what foods are dangerous to your health and brain, here are 10 foods you should avoid if you want optimum brain function.
#1. White rice
Let’s kick things off with this Asian staple — white rice. Whether you’re having Chinese, Malay or Indian food, you’ll find that white rice goes undeniably well with a variety of dishes. This makes it so hard to resist.
Unfortunately, white rice, as well as other refined grains (i.e. grains that have been chemically processed) such as bleached flour and white bread, can cause spikes in your energy level and lead to a crash several hours later, setting off a brain fog. This is why you struggle to retain what you’ve studied and feel tired and lethargic after a heavy lunch of banana leaf.
#2. Fast food
You probably don’t need us telling you that fast foods like burgers made with processed meat, fried chicken, french fries and other deep-fried goodies are oh-so-good but are unfortunately rich in trans fat, saturated fat, sodium, sugar, preservatives and a slew of other harmful ingredients — the perfect recipe for a stroke or heart attack!
Aside from causing heart diseases and obesity, there have been many studies indicating that regular consumption of fast food or junk food can cause memory and learning problems. This is because diets that are high in fat can affect the healthy production and functioning of brain synapses, which are responsible for memory formation.
A favourite beverage after water and coffee!
There’s no denying that sipping a beer or a tasty cocktail after a long week of classes can take the edge off, but a study has shown that even moderate alcohol consumption over a long period of time can damage your brain, especially your hippocampus (your brain’s memory bank). The more you drink, the higher the chances of this happening!
While there is no official guideline for alcohol consumption in Malaysia, most countries recommend a standard average of not more than 20 grams of alcohol a day (2 standard drinks).
#4. Soy sauce
Although dipping your sushi in soy sauce for a little bit of added flavour may seem harmless, did you know a mere 1 tablespoon of the stuff contains as much as 900 milligrams of sodium? That’s almost 40% of the recommended daily intake!
Why is too much salt bad? Well, aside from causing high blood pressure and increasing the risk of cardiovascular diseases (e.g. heart attack, stroke), it could also lead to disorientation and problems with memory and thinking — not great when you need to be cramming for exams.
It’s true that healthcare professionals recommend eating foods rich in omega-3 at least twice a week to reduce the likelihood of heart attack and stroke. This includes fish such as salmon, mackerel and tuna.
But beware, as too much could be dangerous for your brain! Fish like tuna, ahi, shark and swordfish contain high amounts of mercury that can cause as much as a 5% dip in cognitive function if taken in excess.
#6. Rib-eye steak
Say it isn’t so!
It’s perfectly fine to indulge in high-end steaks every once in a while, but did you know that the rib-eye steak is also the fattiest cut of beef? A portion of steak (about 251 grams) contains a whopping 48 grams of fat — that’s 73% of your recommended daily intake with just one meal!
Not only is having this much of fat in a single serving bad for your heart, but consuming that much saturated fat can contribute to the development of Alzheimer’s disease and affect your cognitive function too.
#7. Diet sodas
With the word “diet” in its name, diet sodas can’t be bad, right?
Most companies that produce diet soda often use artificial sweeteners so that their beverages still have a tinge of sweetness. However, artificial sweeteners, such as aspartame that’s found in most “sugar-free” drinks, can be even worse for you.
For example, aspartame has been shown to cause headaches and insomnia as well as compromise learning. So, just because the word “diet” is present doesn’t mean it’s good for you!
#8. Cured meats
Smoked beef, turkey cold cuts and breakfast bacon… there’s no denying that these foods are delicious but too much of cured meats can actually cloud your brain.
How? Well, because these meats have high salt content, your body has to draw water from your system to flush out excess salt. But if you’re not drinking enough water, your body will extract water from your cells, leaving you feeling dehydrated.
The problem with this is that even the mildest of dehydration can impair your brain function and working memory, which can impact your studies negatively.
#9. Frozen meals
A quick microwaveable meal after a long, tiring day of uni seems like a great idea, but did you know that consuming too much frozen dinners will not only lead you down the path of obesity, but it could also slow down your brain’s performance too?
This is due to the high amounts of hydrogenated oil or trans fat in these meals, which have been shown to diminish mental performance and cause cognitive decline. At the same time, it could also increase your risk of Alzheimer’s disease!
#10. Store-bought fruit juice
“Made with 100% real fruit juice” may be what’s written on your favourite go-to fruit juice in the supermarket. If you find that it tastes sweeter than fresh-pressed juices, that’s because it is!
Most store-bought juices have higher amounts of added sugar and preservatives, ensuring longer shelf life than fresh juices you get from restaurants. This is bad because too much sugar not only leads to diabetes but it can also restrict blood flow to the brain and slowly damage it. So don’t be fooled by “real fruit juice”!
Now that you know which foods to avoid, it may be time for you to start rethinking your diet. While we’re not saying to quit these foods cold turkey, it’s wise to cut down your consumption now that you know which foods are detrimental to your brain. Jamie Oliver would be proud!