Thursday, January 24, 2013

what not to eat (if you want your brain to work)

This is Part Two of a rabbit trail on food consumption and its affect on mental processing. If you want your brain to work well this year, read on! What you don't know can hurt you...
According to the certified nutritionist who spoke to us after a recent PTA meeting, some foods actually kill your brain cells by altering brain chemistry and/or making cell membranes inflexible. Here are the worst culprits:

artificial colors
artificial flavors
artificial sweeteners
preservatives (e.g. nitrates and nitrites)
monosodium glutamate (MSG)
hydrogenated oils
trans fats

We've been avoiding most of these packaged-food villains at our house for several years now, but in the seminar I learned a lot about why it makes a difference. Leslie told us that studies show impaired IQ function within 30 minutes of consuming "excitotoxins" (an umbrella term for the first five no-no's on the list). Kids are FOUR TIMES more susceptible than adults to their brain-altering effects. [side note: This explains why in past years I could tell when someone in my child's class at school had a birthday before she told me. Cupcakes loaded with brightly colored icing leave more than a ring around the mouth. They impair our children's ability to focus in class and get the most out of their teacher's instruction. I was delighted when our elementary school outlawed birthday treats this year. Call me mean, but that's 20 fewer days each year that my children will come home hyper!]

Hydrogenated oils and trans fats make their way to our brains and replace the supple membranes around brain cells with stiff and inflexible ones incapable of responding to new stimuli. Some of the most common culprits are ostensibly healthy foods like peanut butter and refried beans, so start checking labels! Leslie recommended a book by her mentor, Dr. William Sears, entitled "The N.D.D. Book: How Nutrition Deficit Disorder Affects Your Child's Learning, Behavior, and Health, and What You Can Do About It—Without Drugs". It looks like a good read.

I love my readers, so I hope you all go out and load up a shopping cart with fresh, whole foods to eat!


  1. I've been trying to cut out artificial stuff but even more so after happening on to this blog: Very interesting info not only about what artificial stuff does to kids but to adults as well.
    But I have found that it is hard to find products without all the junk, especially when the junk is cheaper; and the junk is what other family members want since they could care less about whether it is bad or not.
    I think it would be very difficult to be a parent and try to protect them from all the artificial stuff, especially when they go to functions where other parents & leaders aren't as conscientious. I know, being one who deals with the kids when they are all together for church/parachurch activities, that I really wish more care was taken. Their behavior can be so bad sometimes that I feel I am talking to the air, since they are not listening.

  2. Jennifer,
    THANKS for this link! It's a fabulour website and I'm happy to be able to pass it on to others. We've had a virtually scent-free home for our whole marriage, because artificial scents give me an instant headache, and (confession time) I never use soap in public because my hands react to scented soaps, especially anti-bacterial soaps. I had just started thinking about toothpaste and wondering what other changes we needed to make. I'll start reading labels on our shampoos and soaps. Thanks again for the tip!

  3. Hi Carmen,
    We've been eating healthier for a few years now but have not completely stopped eating "junk" food. You mention that the effects were seen within 30 minutes of eating the junk. What I'm wondering is if she talked about any of the long term effects on the brain. If I eat doritos (which includes all the categories you listed) once a week will it have the same long term effects as they would if I ate them every day (like I did when I was a teenager).

    I don't know if I'll ever completely give up junk food, I assume it's fine in moderation...but maybe not.

    Also, you mentioned that you could always tell when there was a birthday party at school because your kids were hyper, etc. Another assumption on my part was that the behavior was caused by the sugar...but just plain simple sugar is not in your list of foods to avoid. How much of this change in behavior is caused by sugar vs the rest of the things on the list?