Our minds are best suited to prehistoric foods that were a part of their evolution. On the other hand, modern diet is nowhere near what our ancestors ate. For centuries, food gatherers and hunters thrived on wild greens, game, fruits, roots of plants and berries. Today’s common diet includes huge quantities of fast food and processed foods.
Jean Carper wrote in her book “Your Miracle Brain” about what we eat as compared to a diet from the Stone Age:
v 1/10th of the fiber
v A similar amount of carbohydrates but only one quarter of the vegetables and fruits. Most of our modern diet consists of empty calories.
v 1/3rd of the potassium but about 7 times more the sodium. This means we get a1:2 potassium to sodium ratio rather than the preferred 10:1.
With further studies, it has been found out that today’s dietary choices hinder mental performance and can easily lead to serious decline in our brain quality. The 2 main culprits in this mental decline are very less antioxidants and too much sugar.
The effects of sugar on the brain
Sugar breaks down into glucose which is then absorbed by the blood and is necessary for proper brain functioning. This means that your brain’s basic fuel is glucose. When there is an inadequate supply of glucose, the brain malfunctions and lags. This blood glucose is derived from the foods we eat, mostly from carbohydrates like starch and sugar.
The trick to this is to produce just the right amount of glucose that fits in with the brain’s demand. For instance, it has been proven that the brain burns more glucose when we are trying to work on an issue or solve a problem. This means, in some cases a boost in the glucose level would help your brain remain active. Unfortunately, the main issue for most westerners is not inadequate glucose but an excess of it!
Most westerners have a diet that contains excessive carbohydrates which in turn are converted into glucose quite rapidly. This constant high levels of glucose speeds up the production of insulin whose job it is to allow the glucose to move from the blood and into cells that require it. If the glucose levels are very high, too much insulin may be produced to work well on the job. With time, our body’s cells retaliate by reducing sensitivity to insulin, thereby placing an increased stress on the pancreas for production of more insulin. This is a vicious circle and sadly, ends with the emergence of Type II diabetes in adults. Similarly it may lead to a number of situations where the cognitive functions are affected like the thickening of the arteria carotis that goes to the brain as well as causing hypertension. It is believed that this increased glucose and insulin combination has an impact on memory, IQ level, learning and basic brain functions.
How to get the accurate amount of glucose
So what is the way to stop this excessive glucose? One of the key ways to do this is to choose foods that are turned to glucose gradually allowing your pancreas to keep up with the requirements of insulin and reduce the body’s insulin resistance. This means you need to be cautious of the carbohydrates you consume. All of the carbs you eat are certainly not high risk. There are some of them that produce a sudden increase in blood sugar while there are others that break down slowly and help to regulate the glucose flow to your brain. Undoubtedly, the carbohydrates with high glycemic index include foods like cookies and those that contain refined sugar. Infact, there is no obvious list of foods that are high glycemic and these include several breads, boxed cereals, rice and potatoes. You can get a regulated amount of glucose for your body’s cells with foods like legumes, pasta, nuts and dairy products with low fat, vegetables and fruits.