Most of us don't realize that a healthy gut supports a more clear mind.
I get it. If you're like most, it's hard to meal plan, cook, make the kids' practices, and maintain a clean house. If not, and you're killing it at parenthood, I commend you! Unfortunately, that isn't the life most of us live.
Being honest, we would admit to quick stops at fast foods restaurants and light snacking on greasy potato chips (and the like) just to hold us off until we can make it home. More often than not, we rely on sugary caffeinated drinks just to make it to the end of the day.
So here's the question: In the midst of busyness and while being jacked up on coffee, why do we find it hard to think clearly? Is it just me or have you also gotten up to accomplish a quick task only to pause and realize you don't remember what it is you needed to do? I have, for sure and to my detriment. I have found myself with "brain fog" multiple times after choosing to have a "cheat" day with co-workers during lunch only to watch my productive be cut in half for the remainder of the day. Why is this?
The simple answer: Junk food not only changes our waistlines but it also negatively affects our memory and cognition. Microbes in our guts produce a chemical in our bodies called serotonin that helps regulate mood and social behavior, appetite and digestion, sleep, memory, and sexual desire and function.
While there are head-healthy foods that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants, certain junk foods play a very active role in bringing your brain and body down. Here are a few food types to avoid when you need the most out of your brain.
Foods That Fog Your Brain
Several sweet, mass-produced drinks contain high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) which can seriously harmful. It has been linked to brain inflammation, impairment of memory and learning. Not to mention, it has become a focal point of causes for childhood obesity and diabetes. Sugary drinks also increase the risk of dementia.
Refined carbs that are high on the glycemic index (GI) and glycemic load (GL) may create brain fog, impair your memory, and momentarily dampen your intelligence (yikes). A high intake of refined carbs can also increase your risk of dementia. These include highly processed grains like white flour. If you're like me and life seems better when enjoyed with tacos, kick white flour tortillas and try these tortillas made with almond flour by Siete Family Foods. They are delicious!
Trans fats that naturally occur in certain animal products like meat and dairy are not as big a concern as their industrially produced counterparts -- and they are in nearly everything as "hydrogenated oils" (soy, corn, cottonseed. Don't let "partially hydrogenated" fool you either. Food producers use partially hydrogenated oils to give foods a longer shelf life. These types of fats are the source of trans fats in the diet, are considered unhealthy fats because of their effect on heart health and may be associated with impaired memory and Alzheimer's.
If you need a safe bet for meat or dairy that hasn't been tampered with, try our Flank Steak or Boston Pork Butt from our friends at K Bar K Farms. All of their meats are 100% grass-fed and pasture-raised. (Notice, both of these meats can be used to make tacos... not war.)
Sweeteners Like Aspartame
Many sugar-free products contain artificial sweeteners that have been linked to adverse effects on your brain. Aspartame has been directly connected to increased problems in behavioral and cognitive problems. In short, ditch the diet soda, please!
How to Get Your Brain Back
If you pay attention, you will begin to see how the bad foods above affect your ability to think clearly. Here are a few immediate steps to make:
1. Try replacing heavily processed and mass-produced foods with fruits and vegetables. All natural fruits and vegetables contain antioxidants that fight inflammation, which helps keep the brain clear and your emotions level.
2. Switch out the heat lamp burger at the fast food joint and replace it with oily fish which are rich in omega-3 fatty acids that boost neurogenesis rather than hinder it.
3. Next, take a shot at eating "clean" for two weeks. Now, hold on... Don't close... the browser window. Clean eating is now SO MUCH EASIER than it ever has been in the past.
If you need a place to start, sign up for a FREE membership with ROCK Farmers Market & Buyer's Club to get some of the most trusted, farm fresh foods in DFW. We vet every single one of our farmers to ensure you're shopping the cleanest foods from farmers/vendors with the best practices.
With a VIP membership, you get access to farm fresh eggs (which are tied to increasing serotonin levels for healthy cognition) produced by pasture-raised chickens.
Reclaim your brain by taking steps to eat clean, farm fresh foods that support healthy cognition, neurogenesis, and empower you to think clearly.
If you need guidance on a more personalized journey, be sure to reach out to Amy with The Holistic Dietitian.
Trust me, you are a better version of yourself when you're using your entire brain.