Foods That Are Bad For The Brain And Why You Should Decrease Them While Recovering From A Stroke Or TBI.
When my husband Mark suffered a hemorrhagic stroke at the age of 46, due to an undiagnosed genetic disorder, he was in tip-top health. We were in the gym six days per week. He was 3% body fat. Our diet was on point.
Initially, when we got to the hospital, we were told this was “not survivable”. Then, when he did survive and start to recover, the neurologists, neurosurgeons, hematologists, and vascular specialists all agreed, he only survived because he was in such good health at the time of the event.
When we completed formal therapy and I brought him home, I knew that I was not going to stop working towards his recovery and maintaining the best possible health, despite his brain injury and other complications related to that event.
One of my nerdy passions is nutrition. I have done extensive reading, studying, and consuming as much content as I have been able to as I have worked the last seven years to give Mark the best shot at recovery. Here are some of the things I have learned!
While I have always understood the benefits of certain foods on brain health, recently there is new information coming out about the dangers of “ultra-processed foods” and our brain health.
During the 2022 Alzheimer’s Association International Conference, a study was introduced on the increase in consumption of ultra-processed foods around the world and the increased incidence of cognitive decline.
This study followed more than 10,000 participants, taking into account all aspects of their health, including their socioeconomic status (this includes individuals’ income, neighborhoods, education, and access to medical care).
The study found that those who consume ultra-processed foods for 20% of their diet, showed a cognitive decline (loss of brain function) 28 times faster!
Let’s put that into perspective for just one moment.
If you are eating a 2000-calorie per day diet and eat a bag of potato chips, you are at that 20%.
I do not want to be the bearer of bad news, but in the United States, our diets are up to 50% ultra-processed foods! OUCH.
Here is how these foods damage our brains.
The amount increased
Combined with the decreased amount of
Causes the following response in our body:
Body pain, joint pain
Always feel tired and have trouble sleeping
Depression, anxiety, and mood disorders
Digestive issues, like constipation, diarrhea, and acid reflux
Weight gain or weight loss
Feeling tired all the time
Muscle and joint pain
Headaches and sensitivity to noise
What foods are the biggest offenders of these issues?
Processed meats, including sausage, lunch meats, deli meats
Sweetened breakfast cereals
Healthline has a great article on the foods that are bad, and healthy swaps!
While this information may be tough to swallow, pun intended, there is good news.
This study also revealed that it is NEVER too late to make lifestyle changes to reverse the damage that has been caused by some of these foods.
The addition of exercise, quality sleep, and adding more healthy and whole food to your diet will help your body repair from damage and increase the likelihood that you will keep your brain healthy for longer.
The link to the study can be found here in the post on the National Library of Medicine:
I am not foolish enough to think that my feeding Mark good food will cure his brain injury. However, I do know that at the end of the day, I will know that I did all that I could to keep his quality of life the best that it can be.
The other thing I consider daily with our choices is my ability to maintain my health. I am probably a lot like you. I am an often overwhelmed caregiver, who works outside the home.
My only role in life is not just Mark’s caregiver. I am also a daughter of aging parents, a daughter-in-law, a mother, a grandmother, and a nurse practitioner.
There are days I am so exhausted I may just throw up my hands and make a box of mac and cheese. That is OK. We don’t have to be all or nothing.
The study presented at the International Conference for the Alzheimer’s Association also found that those who make one to two simple lifestyle changes did see benefits to their cognition (brain function) and decreased damage.
So if you can aim to just make a few adjustments a few days a week, you or the person you are caring for will gain benefit.
As always, I am here for any questions you may have or the support you may need. Just email me at: