What is an unhealthy diet in general? A diet consisting of high refined carbohydrates-excess sugar, processed foods, trans(fake) fats, genetically modified grains/crops, and pesticide laden produce. Adding this to a diet low in healthy omega fats, adequate amounts of greens for minerals and vitamins, complex carbs, and quality protein sources(beef, beans, fish, bison, etc.) can create high inflammatory processes within the brain’s circuitry.
Most of all the food processed within America are nutrient deficient. Many engineered food producers have long known the science of addiction and reward within the brain. They have used this to increase revenue since the beginning of the 20th century. If we look into many manufacturers facilities we would find laboratories similar to those in university settings…all dedicated to creating the perfect mixture of artificial and organic to get us addicted. This is the land of food additives. The Journal of the American Medical Association stated that processed foods have increased “ALL-CAUSE MORTALITY” by 14%. Which means means they affect every system in the body-heart, lungs, digestive, lymph, detoxification, etc.
Scientific research has always been heavily focused on heart health, blood sugar, diabetes, and strokes. They are now finding that everything works together, and the effect on brain function from food is more severe than we thought.
The American diet has been engineered to produce cravings(dopamine release) and generate more money, and it is mostly based on sugar. Remember sugar stimulates the pleasure centers of our brains through dopamine. The centers of our brains that have dopamine receptors on them are the hippocampus, amygdala, pre-frontal cortex, and the nucleus accumbens.
Here is the REWARD CYCLE:
* Amygdala-makes a mental note that sugar makes you feel awesome!
* Hippocampus-remembers what actions you took to get the sugar…the pathway.
* Accumbens-is the voice on your shoulder telling you to indulge, “just one more bite.”
* Pre-frontal Cortex-helps you stay on task and make a PLAN to finish the sugary treat.
A 2016 University of North Carolina study concluded that out of 1.2 million foods sold in the US, almost 70% of them had added sugar. Subsidized crops such as corn, wheat, and soy are additives used with most of our processed foods. High fructose corn syrup(a common sweetener) is one of the additives added to everything from ketchup to beef sources.
Sugar and carbohydrates are not bad in themselves. The amounts we consume because of a stressful culture and social programming is what gives it a bad wrap. We were meant to eat fruits and sugar sources when they are ripe, and convert it to fat for the winter months when outside activity is at its lowest. It was a protective mechanism for our bodies to keep nutrients available during the cold seasons. Now we consume sugar and sweets everyday, all day. This leads to inflammation…remember, foods can help your body reduce inflammation or increase it. Inflammation can harm your DNA and damage the brains activity, especially in the pre-frontal cortex.
The foods we eat communicate with our DNA. Meaning, the type of diet we consume can alter the expression of our DNA and genes. The messages our DNA give to the rest of our body are directly related to food, because foods eventually become the building blocks of our entire system. You can actually change your genetic expression; you have this control!
When anything outside of our bodies can change our DNA expression, we call it EPIGENETICS. Almost 80-90% of our genes can be switched on and off just be outside forces, i.e. food being one of them. There is a protein coded in our DNA called the BDNF=brain derived neurotrophic factor. We need this protein to build our brain and nerves. Studies show that a high sugar/carb diet reduces this proteins activity. Point in case, excess sugars can reduce your brain activity.
Reduce and try to eliminate processed-refined sugars of any form. Cutting out all forms of carbs is not the best idea. But limit intake to 20-25 grams a day if possible, which is about 5-6 teaspoons a day. Some experts say that 5-6% of your diet should be sugar or carbs; so check the labels and see how much you consume. And remember, don’t just look at the grams of sugars, also look at the grams of carbs in whatever you eat. If you add them up, they shouldn’t exceed 25 grams a day. Some people say bring it down as low as 10 grams a day. Everyone is different, but overall, reducing sugars is a smart move to reduce brain inflammation.