Food and how it affects your brain

Food. Humans need it to survive and to make sure the body and brain function properly. Exams are starting soon and some students are trying to cram for exams while struggling to eat properly in between study sessions.

Healthy eating is a way to boost the brain’s function, including memory, according to a study conducted by the University of California. Eating junk food does the opposite and it is very common among college students because it is fast, readily available and tastes delicious.

According to Statistics Canada, an average Canadian eats 110 grams of sugar daily. That is 26 teaspoons and about 420 calories and that’s just the sugar. According to Durham College nutritionist, Sylvia Emmorey, healthy foods can improve students’ quality of life and their brain function.

Tiredness and forgetfulness are two things that occur when junk food is the main staple in a diet, according to Emmorey. She said a diet consisting of mostly junk food could have repercussions on health such as diabetes, depression and later in life, Alzheimer’s disease.

When eating healthy food, dopamine levels spike but they will level out which allows the person to stop eating once they have fulfilled their nutrient requirements.

When eating junk food that is high in sugar, fats and carbohydrates, the dopamine spikes but instead of leveling out it continues to climb up higher, which is what causes the person to both overeat and become addicted to eating junk food.

“Studies show that diets high in unhealthy fats actually slow down your learning capabilities as well as it impairs your memory,” said Emmorey.

A diet high in sugar, fat and carbohydrates can also cause inflammation in your brain, which is what affects the way your brain functions causing you to be sluggish, unfocused and forgetful.

Unhealthy food such as chips, fried food, cake, margarine and candy bars should be avoided most of the time, according to Emmorey. Though some fat is bad for you such as trans fat, not all fat is bad.

“We are a fat phobic society. You need the [healthy] fat for proper brain function,” said Emmorey.

According to a study by the University of California, eating the right kind of fat will actually help you. Healthy fat can be found in foods such as salmon, sunflower seeds, nuts and avocados. The fat from these foods help your brain and can improve memory, fight mental disorders such as depression and dementia.

Keeping a balanced diet is a challenging thing to do as a college student in a fast-paced society. People often say they eat fast food because it is cheap and easy. This applies to college as well.

Durham College has a few healthy food options but they are often costly. For example, a pepperoni slice, a pop and dip costs five dollars and 75 cents plus tax whereas a salad costs seven dollars and 49 cents plus tax. There are also limited options on campus according to students.

“I feel choices are limited and with healthier options, students would be at ease when choosing to buy their food at school. We need options that are healthy and delicious not just boring salads that lack creativity,” said second year Early Childhood Education student, Kirsten Marcovitch.

Emmorey added that the easiest way to eat healthy at school is to pack a lunch, take a variety of healthy foods and make sure to change things up because if it’s boring and repetitive, there’s a higher chance of binging on junk food for the dopamine high.

She also encourages students to drink lots of water, it keeps the body and brain hydrated which is important for a properly functioning system.

According to Emmorey, eating healthy helps brain function and emotional health. The more healthy food that is in a person’s diet, the better that person will feel. That doesn’t mean that junk food is completely out of the equation.

“Junk food is a part of everybody’s life. It just shouldn’t be an everyday occurrence,” said Emmorey.