How Eating Too Much Junk Food Shrinks Your Brain and What to Do About It
Everyone knows they shouldn’t eat junk food. But the implications of bad health may have all been a myth until one recent study came out and made all your worst nightmares comes true.
According to a 2015 study published in Medical News Day, eating too much junk food can actually shrink your brain.
That’s right. You can now confidently tell your kids now that eating junk food will give them a small brain. It’s science.
How Does Junk Food Shrink the Brain?
According to the results of the study, older Australian adults who had unhealthy diets had smaller hippocampi, which is a part of the brain that affects learning, mental health and memory.
But it’s not enough to cut out the junk food alone. The study concluded that people with healthy diets have larger hippocampi, so you’ll need to replace that junk food with healthy food.
According to the lead researcher of the study, “"We've known for some time that components of diet, both healthy and unhealthy, have a rapid impact on aspects of the brain that affect hippocampal size and function, but up until now these studies have only been done in rats and mice. This is the first study to show that this also appears to be the case for humans."
What Does Eating Healthy Do For The Brain?
There are two hippocampi in the brain; the left and the right. The study found that adults who eat unhealthy foods including salty snacks, processed meats and sweet drinks had smaller left hippocampi.
Additionally, adults who ate healthy foods such as vegetables, fish and fruits had larger left hippocampi. They also have lower risk of developing dementia, depression and anxiety.
Healthy foods, such as fruits and vegetables, are high in antioxidants and phytonutrients that protect the body from disease. Plants contain protective properties to help ward off disease and predators in the wild. When we eat these foods, we obtain the same protective properties.
Fish is also high in omega 3 fatty acids, which have been shown to improve cognitive function and support memory, learning and mental health.
Simple Swaps for Turning Your Diet Around
Swapping out junk food for healthy food does not have to be hard. It is best done in simple steps to make sure you stick with it and don’t fall back into old habits.
For starters, replace two meat based dishes per week with wild caught fish, preferably salmon for its omega 3 fatty acid content. You can also get your omega 3 fatty acid fix by consuming plant based foods such as chia seeds and flaxseed oil.
- Add 1-2 tablespoons of chia seeds to your oats in the morning or atop a bowl full of fruit
- Substitute vegetable oil for flaxseed oil in cooking and in homemade salad dressing
- Chia seeds also go great in salads and can help absorb the fat soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K
Antioxidants in fruits and vegetables work by neutralizing free-radical toxins that build up in organs such as the brain and affect proper functioning. Powdered supplements are especially helpful in getting your daily needs of antioxidants because they are already broken down and are easily absorbed into the bloodstream.
Try these tips for replacing junk food for a healthy snack:
- Start the Day Prepared
The best way to prevent eating junk food is to give yourself good replacement options. That means planning ahead and making good choices available to you throughout the day. Keep a bottle of Spectrum Vibrance in your car and add a serving into your water or juice when you are feeling the need for cakes or sweets.
- Make it Easy on Yourself
If you have trouble getting superfoods into your diet because you don’t like the way they taste, start supplementing! There is no shame in popping a pill rather than eating a bowl of a food you don’t like. If it comes down to not getting the nutrition at all, you are much better off making it easy on yourself and supplementing.
If you have trouble getting in your greens, try supplementing with chlorella, which is rich in essential fatty acids, vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates, chlorophyll, enzymes, fiber, RNA/DNA and antioxidants.
- Herb it Up
If you have not heard of turmeric and want to increase your brain health, consider this your official introduction. Turmeric has been shown to be just as effective as Prozac when it comes to treating depression.
For most people, finding a high quality supplement is how they ensure they get the proper amount. Maximized Turmeric contains being anti-inflammatory, turmeric contains the following properties: antibacterial, antiviral, antitumor, anti-inflammatory, nephroprotective, antioxidant, antiseptic, hepatoprotective, radioprotective, cardioprotective and digestive support in one capsule per day.
- Hold Yourself Accountable
Finally, do what you need to do to hold yourself accountable.
This might mean giving your spouse or kids permission to pester you until you finally start making changes. Get your family on board by explaining to them you are no longer going to bring junk food into the house.
Set up a reward system that involves rewards other than food, such as a trip to the water park or beach when everyone has complied with your rules.
Show the study to your co-workers and buddy up with them to try to make a healthier work environment for everyone that includes fresh fruit and vegetables as snacks in place of junk food. Some great options are:
- Stock your desk drawer with apples, oranges and packages of raw nuts
- Make your meals ahead of time and leave no other junk food options for you to eat in the house
- Find other ways to distract yourself when you feel stressed and want a sweet treat, such as going for a drive, a walk or even calling a friend