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Posts Tagged ‘High-fructose corn syrup’

Does what we eat affect how we think? Yes, according to recent research—especially as we grow older. We may joke about “senior moments,” but for most of us, it’s no laughing matter. We fear dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Who among us is more likely to be a target for decreased mental abilities?

Specific nutrients affect memory and learning. A diet with lots of sugar-rich foods has a negative impact. As one study noted, sugar makes you dumber. Rats fed extra fructose in their drinking water lacked the ability to think clearly and to recall the route of a maze they had learned several weeks earlier. However, even with the fructose, omega-3 fatty acids added to their regular diets caused them to remember the route faster.

Researchers theorized that high amounts of fructose blocks insulin’s ability to regulate the cell’s use and storage for energy that’s required to process thoughts and emotions. Thus, they concluded that high-fructose harmed the brain and the body.

Likewise, saturated fats may decrease memory and reduce brain function while unsaturated fats may improve it. Total fat doesn’t seem to affect mental tasks, but the type does. Even slight negative changes in cognitive skill increases the risk of developing dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

Another study noted how omega-3 fatty acids protect the aging brain. Researchers tested 1,500 people with an average age of sixty-seven. Those who ate diets lacking omega-3 fatty acids aged faster and lost memory and thinking ability. Researchers did MRI brain scans, measured mental function, body mass, and omega-3 fatty acid in the red blood cells. Those who scored in the lower twenty-five percent of omega-3 fatty acid levels in their blood had smaller brains and scored lower on memory and abstract reasoning. They mentally appeared two years older than the remaining seventy-five percent.

How can you improve the way your brain works? High-sugar and high-saturated fat in the diet seem to do harm. Foods high in omega-3 fatty acids, such as fish, improve memory. Also, berries have nutrients that contribute to brain health. Berries contain high levels of phytochemicals. Although berries differ in their combination of these substances, each contributes antioxidant effects that may help prevent age-related brain degeneration and changes in cognition and motor function. For best results, try a serving of berries—blueberries, strawberries, blackberries— each day.

Your memory may not be as sharp as in years past, but by careful selection of what you eat, you can keep your mind more alert and improve recall. What do you have to lose—except your mind?

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March is National Nutrition Month. Sponsored annually by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (formerly the American Dietetic Association), the theme for 2012 is “Get Your Plate in Shape.” What does that mean?

The Academy adapted guidelines from the USDA brochure “Let’s Eat for the Health of It.” Those standards emphasized five areas:

  • Build a healthy plate. Cover half your plate with brightly colored fruits and vegetables. Choose fruits and unsalted nuts for healthy snacks.
  • Cut back on foods high in solid fats, added sugars, and salt. To help you do that, remove visible fat from meats, and choose those lower in fat content. Select drinks and foods with little or no added sugars. A 12-ounce can of cola has about ten packets of sugar. Check labels for sodium content in items like soups, breads, and frozen meals.
  • Eat the right amount of calories for you. To do that, 1) enjoy what you eat, but eat less, 2) stop eating when you become full, and 3) use smaller plates and bowls to help limit portion sizes. Before eating calorie-laden foods, ask yourself if the taste is worth those extra calories.
  • Be physically active your way. Choose your own type of exercise whether walking, swimming, cycling, or some other activity. If you can’t exercise for thirty minutes or an hour, ten minute cycles of exercise several times daily will pay dividends.
  • Learn to read food labels. Labels have ingredients listed in descending order of quantity in the product. Ingredients such as sugar may be listed in several forms: sucrose, glucose, high fructose corn syrup, and others. Watch for sodium content and the types of fats.

Improve your foods choices this month and every day. Get your plate in shape by following the above guidelines. Find more information about healthy eating at the links below.

 http://www.eatright.org/NNM/content.aspx?id=5342

 http://www.choosemyplate.gov/

 http://www.choosemyplate.gov/food-groups/downloads/MyPlate/DG2010Brochure.pdf

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