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Mental Junk Food

"Eat right for mental health"
By: Stef dela Cruz, MDMental Junk Food

Nutrition is mental as much as it is physical. Both the mental and physical aspects of the person feed off each other. So, saying that a malnourished mind can adversely affect your physical health is an understatement. Think back and ask yourself how many times you’ve reached for a bag of greasy potato chips whenever you felt depressed. Try to remember how many times you’ve skipped exercise not because you felt physically tired but because you weren’t mentally motivated. The way you nourish your body depends on how well you’ve nourished your mind, and vice versa.

If you’re a junk food junkie, you’re not only giving malnourishment to your body, but also to your brain. There is so much you can feed your brain that will compromise its function. Sugarcoating aside, eating junk is dumb—and it also makes you dumber.

Before you snack on your favorite potato chips, think of how much salt it contains. Alexandra Fiocco and her team found out in a 2011 study, to be published in Neurobiology of Aging, that excessive salt can lead to mental decline, especially among the elderly.

And put down that bag of chicharon before someone gets hurt! Saturated fats can harm not only your blood vessels, but also your cognition. In a study by Matthew Parrott and colleagues published in the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences in 2007, people who indulged in foods rich in saturated fat—which you can identify as “hard” fats—were more at risk for dementia in later life.

There’s also the new “evil food” of the decade: carbs. Carbs have received a lot of bad rap lately because of their adverse effects on health. Excessive intake of high-carbohydrate food even messes up the brain’s functions, according to a study by Rahul Agrawal and Fernando Gomez-Pinilla published in the Journal of Physiology in 2012.

The study revealed that a diet rich in simple carbohydrates, coupled with low intake of omega-3 fatty acids, led to considerable memory deficit. So, if you’re preparing for an important exam, forget stocking up on candy bars and sweet pastries. You’re better off eating a healthy meal of brown rice, grilled salmon, and a side dish of vegetables in olive oil.
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