October 10 is World Mental Health Day. Let’s talk about the novelty of the MYTH – the book “Diet for the Mind”, namely, about substances harmful to the brain that make up food.
Just as there are special diets for those seeking to lose weight or participate in the triathlon championship, their own diet is necessary to maintain thinking abilities throughout life, because the brain has its own – special – requests.
In fact, our future is in our hands, or rather, in our menu.
Trans fats and hydrogenation
We’ve all heard about saturated trans fats and their damaging effects on our bodies. Most doctors agree that these are the worst of fats. Moreover, they are the real enemies of the brain. Even minute amounts of trans fats in the diet can lead to mental deterioration. There are a number of studies showing that people who consume as little as 2 grams of trans fats per day have a double risk of dementia compared to those who eat less than 2 grams. at least twice as much.
But what are these trans fats and where are they hiding?
Trans fats are obtained as a result of industrial processing of products, which is called “hydrogenation”: hydrogen atoms attach to molecules of healthy unsaturated vegetable fats and in this way “saturate” them in a chemical way. The resulting product remains substantially solid at room temperature and melts when baked or roasted. For example, canola and safflower oils are artificially hydrogenated in the production of margarines and spreads. These so-called partially hydrogenated oils last longer, do not become rancid, that is, they have a marketable appearance.
Chefs in some restaurants use them for deep-fried cooking because they don’t have to be changed as often as other healthier ones. Plus, trans fats are available and very cheap.
However, unfortunately, trans fats are extremely negative for health. The consequences can be very serious – from high levels of cholesterol and triglycerides in the blood to severe inflammation throughout the body. The likelihood of developing cardiovascular disease, stroke and dementia increases. Now even partially hydrogenated oils are not included in the list of substances that are not hazardous to humans. Many countries, including Denmark, Switzerland and Canada, have banned the use of these fats in food service establishments. It is hoped that ongoing research will lead to a permanent and irrevocable phase-out of all trans fats.
Where are trans fats found
In the meantime, we need to take care of ourselves and protect the brain from any foods containing trans fats. Tracking them down is pretty straightforward. First of all, they are present in almost all processed foods for long-term storage. Processed refers to foods packed in boxes, jars and bags, and canned food. At the same time, they retain their presentation for a suspiciously long time. There are canned soups with a shelf life of four years. Does this bother you?
Read the ingredients on the label carefully. The list should not include hydrogenated fats, partially hydrogenated oils, and vegetable cooking oil (or just fat). The most popular options are partially hydrogenated soybean oil, hydrogenated cottonseed oil, hydrogenated vegetable oil.
If you see one of these components, return the product to the shelf.
Typical processed foods, especially those rich in trans fats, are baked goods such as donuts, pies, brushwood, biscuits and frozen pizza, as well as cookies and crackers. This also includes margarine and spreads, which by definition contain hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated fats. Trans fats are also added to coffee cream. In addition, trans fats are found in all frozen convenience foods (including cakes), so be very careful and careful.
Cholesterol: friend or foe?
Cholesterol has become the object of such a fierce debate that it’s time for its participants to split into warring parties. Is it good or bad? You might be surprised to learn that the cholesterol found in the brain is not the same as the one we used to argue about. When your doctor says you have high cholesterol, he is referring to your blood level, which is at least partly determined by the amount of cholesterol-rich foods you eat.
The brain, unlike other organs in your body, produces its own cholesterol.
Most of it is produced literally in the first weeks of life, when our neurons grow easily and quickly and need a special supporting structure. This process is not so active during puberty, at the end of which it is almost completely completed. Thus, by adulthood, the brain has already produced sufficient cholesterol for itself. To preserve it, the brain shields it from other organs. That is why dietary cholesterol (supplied with food) is not included in the list of substances that pass through the blood-brain barrier. It never gets to the brain.
Accordingly, there is no connection between the amount of cholesterol received from food and your mental abilities.
It doesn’t matter how many eggs or bacon you ingest, the cholesterol from these foods won’t make your mind any less sharp, although it can easily clog your arteries. However, cholesterol from food does affect the brain, but indirectly – through the heart. When the heart is out of order, the brain suffers in the same way.
This is the point. Cholesterol needs help to move through the body. It comes in the form of lipoproteins, the personal drivers of the fat transport system. They are divided into two groups: low-density lipoproteins (LDL) and high-density lipoproteins (HDL). When a doctor talks about “bad” and “good” cholesterol, he is referring to these very molecules.
LDL cholesterol delivers cholesterol to the desired organs. Sometimes this process does not go so smoothly. Due to heredity or health problems, LDL is sometimes dropped off in the wrong place, such as on the walls of arteries. As a result, thickenings are formed, which are called atherosclerotic plaques. When these plaques grow, they can block an artery and lead, for example, to a heart attack or stroke.
On the contrary, HDL picks up cholesterol and delivers it to the liver, from where it is then excreted (it can also be converted into hormones). This is why LDL is the best pest to get rid of, and HDL is the superhero of our time. To protect your heart, and thus your brain, it is very important to keep your cholesterol low by raising your HDL and lowering your LDL.
What should you do to keep your cholesterol levels normal? Traditionally, the doctor, upon finding high cholesterol, advises to eat less foods rich in it, such as eggs and cheese. However, recent evidence suggests that dietary cholesterol does not raise blood cholesterol levels that much. In general, 75% of the cholesterol in your body is produced by the body itself and only 25% is obtained from food. The fact is that the body monitors the level of cholesterol in the blood through a system of direct internal control so as not to absorb too much cholesterol from food.
In other words, you will not have an instant heart attack from the cholesterol you eat. However, there are substances from which cholesterol levels can skyrocket. These are saturated fats and trans fats.
It turns out, paradoxically, they affect cholesterol levels more than cholesterol itself.
Therefore, if you need to lower your blood levels, skip other fats. Trans fats should be eliminated from your diet anyway. Eating foods rich in saturated fat should also be limited. The catch is that a significant portion of our cholesterol comes from foods that are high in saturated fat: fatty meats, pork, chicken, and dairy.
Fish, seafood and eggs are the exception to this rule: they are high in cholesterol, but low in saturated fat, which means they are not as harmful as previously thought. For example, clinical studies have not found an association between the number of eggs consumed and the risk of cardiovascular disease. Isn’t there a reason to give up protein omelets and rehabilitate the yolk?
However, if this news prompted you to cook ten eggs, you have misunderstood something. You need to eat no more than two eggs per week. Remember that everything is good in moderation.
Prepared from the book “Diet for the mind”.