Brain Food

BBQ

‘We are what we eat’ is certainly a very old saying and one that has been used by many people to denigrate all sorts of diet theories over the years.  Well I think the best one is ‘if you eat rubbish then you’ll be rubbish’.

I’ve just watched the BBC 3 documentary which follows Zoe Salmon as she eats a diet of only low-fat pre-packaged meals for 30 days.  It’s a good summary of what’s bad about processed meals labelled as ‘diet’ and a reminder that low fat meals actually mean:

  • High in sugar – leads to mood swings and feeling lethargic
  • Low fat – which means you never feel satisfied so you’re hungry again quickly.  Also your brain needs fat to function properly.
  • High in salt – not only most of your daily intake but also the unhealthy processed salt
  • Low in fibre – makes you constipated and feeling bloated
  • Gain body weight  – all this leads to putting on weight, NOT losing weight

Plus it seems from a newly released study by the Bristol University (& mentioned in The Sunday Times article, Every Bite is Eating Away at her Future, dated 13 Feb 2011) that it’s not just our bodies and health that suffer from bad diet but our brain development may also be stunted by eating junk food from an early age!  Apparently our brain grows fastest during the first three years of life, and a diet high in processed foods reduces IQ development.

This leads me to review the theories on what helped our brains to develop in the first place.  Richard Wrangham, the primatologist who worked with Jane Goodall, believes the reason for our large brains is that we learnt to cook food.   His book, Catching Fire, and the articles in Beyond Veg explain the theory that cooking helps make the nutrients in food more easily digestible.  Hence our gut needs less energy to get the nutrients out of our food (and has consequently reduced in size) and more energy can go to the brain to help it develop.  This applies to cooked meat and vegetables.  Compared to primates our gut is much smaller and our brain is much bigger!

Of course the other theories regarding encephalization (brain growth) include that adding eggs and fish to our diet were the catalysts for brain development.

I tend to think that all these factors have helped along the way!

Bon appétit…

 

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