Your brain is the most energy hungry organ in the human body. And the brain requires the highestquality, most energy rich fuel when it is learning something new. The types of foods you eat when you are studying have a direct impact on the amount of information you will be able to retain.
The common wisdom is true—you are what you eat! Highly processed foods that are full of sugar (both real and fake), man-made ingredients, or chemical compounds that take a PhD to decipher are not brainfood. In fact, nutrient deficient, calorie rich foods rob a great deal of energy from the brain. It takes energy to make energy and, generally speaking, the more chemically complex a food is, the more energy it takes to break it down to create energy for the cells in your body and brain. A whole food, such as an apple, provides much quicker and efficient energy for the brain than a bag of chips. Typically, the farther away a food is from the original whole food source due to processing, the worse a fuel source it is.
3 Types of Food To Avoid
Here are 3 categories of foods you should avoid when you are trying to enrich your brain through learning and study.
- Sugary food and drinks. Sugar (glucose) is necessary for brain function and survival of nerve cells. The problem is too many foods are loaded with highly refined and processed sugars that have a negative impact on our insulin response and blood sugar handling over time. This could lead to Type II Diabetes, or in many cases, pre-diabetes. Because our brain is energy hungry, an inability to handle blood sugar often results first in disruptions to our learning processes. It is also known that many of these sugars never even reach the blood-brain barrier; therefore never making it to the brain. Many experts agree that we should consume no more than 40 grams of added sugar per day in our diet, roughly the equivalent of one 12-ounce soda (many will consume several of these in a single study session!).
- Processed foods and fast foods. As noted, it takes energy to make energy. When your body is overwhelmed with the demands of breaking down chemically complex, overly processed foods, it steals much needed energy from the learning process. Fast foods and most foods that come in bags, boxes, or cans are also loaded with chemical compounds such as preservatives, colorings, stabilizers, and artificial flavors; many of which have shown to have negative effects on the nervous system.
- Foods made with trans-fats. By now many of us have heard the dangers of trans-fats, or man-made hydrogenated oils that were invented to improve stability in foods. The list continues to grow, but one of the primary risks of ongoing consumption of these fats, found in fried foods, crackers, microwave popcorn, and other study treats, is cardiovascular disease. Trans-fats damage arteries in your body, the smallest of which are affected first (i.e. the ones in your brain). Further, consumption of these fats likely means that you are not eating the good kinds of fats that promote brain cell health and mental clarity.
Real Brain Food
If you want your brain to perform best at test time, or you simply want to gain as much as you can from that book you’re reading or that photography class you’re taking, eat whole foods in abundance. Do eat fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and lean proteins in their natural form, free from the excessive processing which dominates our food market in this country today. In addition, there are options for metabolic or nutritional therapies that can supplement diets deficient in the resources necessary for a proper functioning brain. Consult a doctor well versed in functional medicine to learn how medical foods and other supplements can increase your brain power.
About the Author:
Dr. Michael Trayford is a board certified Chiropractic Neurologist and founder of APEX Brain Centers. APEX Brain Centers use cutting edge techniques and technology to optimize brain function. Their program is safe, effective, research-backed and offers hope to people who are having neurological issues. Dr. Michael Trayford and his team offer help for people suffering from concussions, memory loss, Alzheimers and ADD Brain Training at APEX Brain Centers. Learn more about Brain Training at the APEX Brain Centers website.