Monday, 17 October 2016

10 Ingredient Swaps for Better Mental Health

There are many harmful foods, household products, and ingredients that may be affecting your memory and brain health. Many of these substances are found in common, everyday places.

It's time to learn how to spot them, why you should avoid them, and how minimizing your exposure to them can significantly improve your brain health. And, of course, these simple substitutions mean you won't miss your favorite foods or products. Follow all of the tips here for the best brain health benefits.

1. Make the switch to stevia

Discover the brain health–friendly sweetener that prevents blood sugar fluctuations and weight gain.

If I told you that there is a white powdery substance that is extremely damaging to your brain, you probably wouldn't think I was talking about sugar. But shocking new research from the School of Medical Sciences at the University of New South Wales, Australia, found that eating a high-sugar diet for just 1 week is enough to cause memory impairment and brain inflammation.

In this excessive amount, sugar is linked to inflammation throughout the body, including the brain. Excessive sugar consumption is linked with a decline in mental capacity and an increase in alpha, delta, and theta brain waves, which alters your mind's ability to think clearly. It has also been linked to learning disorders, poor memory formation, and depression.

Stevia, or Stevia rebaudiana, is a natural herb that tastes sweet but doesn't actually contain sugar molecules. As a result, it doesn't affect blood sugar levels or cause inflammation in the body, and it is therefore a healthy option for a healthy brain. It is naturally between 300 and 1,000 times sweeter than sugar, depending on whether you're using the whole herb or the liquid extract.

2. Pass on the aspartame-laden foods and beverages

Eliminate the artificial sweetener that has been linked to brain tumors and other brain health issues.

Aspartame has been linked to higher risks of seizures, brain tumors, heart attacks, depression, and has even been found to worsen hangovers. If you absolutely must have soda, choose a stevia-sweetened one instead of the many aspartame-laden sodas on the market. One good choice is Zevia. Most "diet" foods and products contain aspartame or other types of artificial sweeteners, so they are best left at the store. Choose unsweetened foods and beverages, and add a few drops of the naturally sweet herbal extract stevia.

3. Remove the brain toxin MSG

Eliminate the food additive that excites brain and nerve cells until they die.

MSG by any other name would still be as harmful. When most people hear the name monosodium glutamate, or MSG, they immediately think of Chinese food. And while the chemical is used in many Chinese food restaurants, this brain and nervous system toxin masquerades under many different guises and even within many food additives.

MSG is almost always found in processed, prepared, and packaged foods. Even when there is no sign of it on the label, it is still frequently hidden in many prepared foods.

4. Replace trans fats with brain-healthy choices

Switch from fats that cause brain inflammation to ones that protect your brain from damage.

Trans fats are harmful to every cell in your body, and especially to your brain. They do not occur naturally, but rather are made in laboratories and manufacturing plants in which these oils are heavily processed. Trans fats are incorporated into cellular membranes, including brain and nerve cell membranes, by standing in for healthy fats. The result is impaired brain cells. Brain cell membranes need to be pliable to allow their fluid-like properties to function properly.

And if that's not bad enough, what's worse is that people who are deficient in omega-3 fatty acids will absorb up to twice as many trans fats when they eat them, making their brains even more vulnerable to these fats.

If you think you're not eating trans fats or hydrogenated fats, here's just a sampling of the places they lurk: margarine, crackers, cookies, pies, vegetable shortening, snack foods, prepared and packaged salad dressings, doughnuts, and French fries, as well as most restaurant foods.

Switching from cookies, crackers, pies, French fries, and snack foods that contain trans fats to ones made with healthier oils will go a long way toward improving your brain and mental health. Better yet, reduce your consumption of these less-than-healthy foods. It's easy to bake French fries that have been made with olive oil rather than eat trans fat–laden ones out of a package or at a fast-food restaurant. Try eating more homemade food without any margarine or other sources of trans fats.

5. Reduce meat consumption to reduce inflammation

Simply reducing your intake of meat will help to reduce brain-damaging inflammation.

The link between meat consumption and inflammation isn't exactly news to most people, but it's always great when research backs up our understanding: Eating more meat spells higher inflammation levels in your body.

That's the conclusion of scientists at the Department of Nutrition and Food Sciences, Nutritional Epidemiology, at the University of Bonn in Germany. They examined 46 studies to assess markers of inflammation, focusing on a substance known as C-reactive protein. Other research has shown C-reactive protein to be a precursor to serious, chronic diseases such as heart disease.

That's good news for anyone striving to eat a plant-based diet focused on more fruits and vegetables. Fruits and vegetables are nutritional powerhouses, thanks to their macronutrient content, which includes amino acids, natural sugars for energy, and fatty acids, as well as their micronutrient content, which includes vitamins and minerals.

There are many health benefits of eating less meat. The increase in fiber in your diet helps ward off colon cancer, and the ramped-up phytonutrient intake helps prevent heart disease, most types of cancer, and diabetes.

6. Remove heavy metals from your life

Discover the surprising everyday sources of brain-toxic heavy metals.

When you think of metals, you might think of pots and pans, cars and trucks, or the structural beams for your home, but the last thing you'd probably consider is metals in your brain. And when it comes to metals, the last place you want them is in your brain.

Heavy metal is a serious threat to the health of your body and brain. Avoid these: aluminum, cadamium, copper, lead, and mercury.

Iron and steel manufacturing distributes cadmium into the environment and our water supply, but an inexpensive water filter can remove the brain-damaging heavy metal in only seconds. When you're selecting a water filtration pitcher or system, be sure to obtain a third-party laboratory analysis showing whether the system removes aluminum, cadmium, lead, and mercury.

7. Skip the antacids to avoid brain-damaging aluminum

Eliminate one of the main sources of metals that have been linked to Alzheimer's disease.

Before you grab that antacid tablet to cope with indigestion, consider that most antacids contain excessively high amounts of aluminum. Aluminum is not actually a heavy metal, but it is a potentially brain-damaging metal. While the link between aluminum and brain diseases is still controversial, several studies note abnormally high concentrations of aluminum in people diagnosed with Alzheimer's. Some even note 30 times the level of aluminum as their healthy counterparts.

More: How Medications Make Your Autoimmune Symptoms Worse

While researchers continue to assess aluminum's connection to brain dis- eases, it is important to reduce your exposure to the toxic metal. One of the easiest ways to reduce your exposure is to stop using antacids. Most antacid preparations used for indigestion contain excessive amounts of aluminum.

8. Eliminate chemical scents for a sensational brain

You brain may be affected much more than you imagine when you spritz that perfume or cologne.

More than 500 chemicals can potentially be used while listing the single word "fragrance" on a label. Fragrances are found in many products, not just perfumes and colognes: "air fresheners," room deodorizers, cosmetics, fabric softeners, laundry detergents, candles, and many other places. Manufacturers are not required to list ingredients on the labels of these products, nor do they have to reveal to regulating authorities the specific ingredients that qualify as "fragrance," because they are protected as trade secrets.

Not all scented products are created equal. Commercial brands of perfumes and colognes are primarily made from synthetic chemicals. Even many natural products contain synthetic fragrance ingredients, so it's important to start reading labels on personal care products. If there's no ingredients list, the manufacturer may have something to hide.

9. Switch fabric softeners for superb mental functions

Discover the shocking source of common brain toxins—fabric softeners—and how you can reduce your exposure.

o before you run for the rinse cycle with fabric softener in tow or toss a dryer sheet into your laundry, you may be surprised to learn that fabric softeners contain some of the worst brain toxins to which you're exposed, including chloroform, ethanol, and ethyl acetate.

Skip the commercial fabric softeners and dryer sheets, as they tend to contain the above brain- and nervous system-damaging chemicals. So what are the alternatives? Most health food stores sell healthy, environmentally friendly fabric softeners. They also sell dryer balls that help reduce static and wrinkling. One-half cup of baking soda added to the washing machine and dissolved prior to adding clothes softens clothes; 1/2 cup of white vinegar in the wash water also works well. You can also keep clothes containing synthetic materials away from natural fabrics, since the synthetics cause static.

10. Omit the "air fresheners" and deodorizers for better brain balance

Before you spritz that furniture or plug in that air "purifier," you'll want to know more about the ingredients and their effects on your brain.

Before you spray Febreze, plug in a Glade PlugIn, light a scented candle, or use some so-called air "freshening" wick, mist, aerosol, or other car or room deodorizer, think twice. You'll be shocked to learn their ingredients and the harmful brain effects they can cause.

The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC)--an international environmental organization--conducted a study called Clearing the Air: Hidden Hazards of Air Fresheners, in which they found that 86 percent of air fresheners tested contained dangerous phthalates. Phthalates are used as plastic softeners, as antifoaming agents in aerosols, in vinyl found in children's toys, and in automobiles, paints, pesticides, cosmetics, and fragrances. Phthalates are well-established hormone disruptors that can cause reproductive abnormalities, but research also shows that they impact memory, learning, and brain health.

Stop using "air fresheners," "air sanitizers," and "air deodorizers." Even many "natural" or "unscented" products simply use extra ingredients to mask the scents. And don't be duped by the ridiculous advertisements that show unscientific "studies" proving the so-called effectiveness of these products. They are best kept out of your home and, if you are able, out of your office, as well.

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