Your Brain on Food: Whole Food Versus Junk

Many of us have heard of the effects of drugs on the brain. Countless commercials and preventative programs are dedicated to raising awareness on this issue. One neglected topic, however, has been that of what junk food does to the brain. We know of the physical implications, but are there mental ones as well?

Junk Food is Addictive

The reason that one chip can mindlessly turn into the entire bag in a matter of seconds is due to the addictive properties of junk food. Foods such as chips, cookies, and candies are actually master magicians. You may reason, “this one candy bar will surely hold me over until dinner.” You begin to indulge and 30 minutes later, you’ve eaten a candy bar, a bag of chips, and a honeybun.

Since junk food has no nutritional value, you will never truly remain full. Your mind will keep telling your body to eat more in order to fulfill that hunger. In addition, junk food is highly addictive. A breakthrough study conducted by researcher Nicole Avena from the University of Florida found that junk food is indeed addictive.

Through observing the effects of sugar on rats, they found that when sugar was removed from the rat’s regular diet, they began to exhibit withdrawal symptoms. Researchers have since performed additional studies that prove the addictive properties of junk food.

When surveying individuals with a desire for junk food, they noticed that when presented their junk of choice, certain chemicals are released that is similar to that of cocaine addicts being shown cocaine. Their inhibition is low and their ability to make wise decisions is altered.

Junk Food Negatively Impacts Your Cognition

The hippocampus is an important part of the brain that controls memory, information retention, and overall wellness. A study conducted by researchers at the Australian National University polled older people between the 60 and 65 years of age. Their findings were quite astonishing.

The adults who reported eating junk food on a regular basis actually had a smaller hippocampus when compared to the other adults who ate a healthy diet. Their hippocampus was significantly larger. The danger in having small hippocampus results in mental challenges such as anxiety or depression.

Learning may become increasingly difficult as well as retaining information to be recalled later. In some cases, excessive junk food consumption has contributed to early onset dementia.

The results of this research do not apply only to older people. Children and teenagers are also vulnerable to these effects. Children who consume large amounts of junk and processed foods are more likely to experience problems both socially and in the classroom.

Attention Deficit Disorder along with anxiety related symptoms are common. Body awareness is decreased which impacts their ability to make friends and develop normally.

How Whole Foods Impact the Brain

Whole foods are defined as foods in their natural state, free from processed chemicals, fake properties, and bleach. They are whole wheat, grains, fruits, vegetables, and lean proteins. Anything pre-packaged or altered in color does not fit the bill.

Whole foods are beneficial for healthy brain function. When we eat certain foods such as salmon or blueberries, those nutrients promote healthy brain function.

Probiotics like whole yogurt and kefir, work in conjunction with your digestive system to send anxiety destroying signals to the brain. Berries, kale, sweet potatoes, and even dark chocolate are all examples of “brain food” that assists with cognition and mental well-being.

When you choose to eat “clean” your brain is able to process information in an organized manner. You are able to assess your surroundings to adequately fight anxiety and social hiccups. In all, eating whole foods has an impact not only on your brain, but on your overall health.

There are no clear indications of the benefits of regularly eating junk food. While destroying the brain, it also destroys the body. Choosing to eat whole foods has lasting benefits that will keep you happy and able to retain information.