This amazing guest post was written by Dr. Andreia Horta, ND and Dr. Emily Lipinski, ND, founders of Infusion Health! You can check out their website here!
Most of us have heard the phrase “you are what you eat”. New science is starting to prove that there may be some truth to this old motto.
We know that fatty fried foods and overly sugary diets are not great for the waistline. Research is now pointing to the fact that these foods may not just make us fat, but they also may affect our intelligence. Additionally, fruits and vegetables aren’t just important for their fiber content. They also may impact our IQ! If you are looking to maintain a healthy body and a healthy mind keep the following 5 dietary modifications in mind!
5 Dietary Changes That Could Make You Smarter
1. Avoid Processed and Packaged Foods that Contain Trans Fats, Refined Sugar, and other Chemicals.
There is evidence that a poor diet associated with high fat, sugar, and processed food (think fast food, chips, candy etc) content in early childhood may be associated with reductions in IQ in later childhood. On the other hand, a healthy diet, associated with high intakes of nutrient rich foods may be associated with increases in IQ. This means reducing or eliminating the consumption of fast foods, packaged foods, TV dinners, and junk foods.
Examples of nutrient rich foods include home cooked meals, fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains and high-quality protein sources (fish, beans, chicken and other lean meats).
2. Eat Your Fish
When male teenagers ate fish more than once a week their combined intelligence scores were on average 12 percent higher than those who ate fish less than once a week!!
But what about the mercury?
Many individuals have been concerned that a diet high in fish may increase exposure to heavy metals, such as mercury. There is concern that this exposure could actually lower IQ levels, especially in utero (pregnancy). Scientists recently conducted A Quantitative Assessment on Fetal Neurodevelopment from Eating Commercial Fish, measuring IQ and Early Age Verbal Development. The analysis suggests that pregnant women consuming two seafood meals (8-12 oz) per week could provide their child with an additional 3.3 IQ points by age 9!! To assess the net effects of eating commercial fish during pregnancy, researchers compared the consumption of select fish species necessary to achieve IQ benefits with the amount necessary to have adverse developmental effects due to mercury exposure. The study revealed that the number of servings necessary to reach mercury exposure to have an adverse effect was at least twice that the amount estimated to achieve peak developmental benefit. In other words, the benefit of fish consumption outweighs the risk.
It is still advisable to choose fish that are typically lower in mercury content. These fish include sardines, pacific salmon, pickerel, trout and some species of mackerel.
3. Find Your Fiber
Who would have thought that fiber could affect your intelligence?!
Results from a recent study demonstrate that children’s diet quality, specifically dietary fiber, is an important correlate of performance on a cognitive task requiring variable amounts of cognitive control. Cognitive control (also known as “executive control” or “executive function”) refers to “the ability to orchestrate thought and action in accord with internal goals”. Cognitive control, which consists of inhibition (resisting distractions or habits to maintain focus), working memory (mentally holding and manipulating information), and cognitive flexibility (multitasking), is thought to be vital to success in school, vocation, and life. Given that dietary fiber is a chronically under-consumed nutrient, the finding that low dietary fiber intake is associated with poorer childhood cognitive function raises important public health concerns.
Most health guidelines recommend about 30 grams of fiber a day. Some of our favorite sources of fiber include beans, bran, chia seeds, flax seeds, fruits, and vegetables.
4. Include Fruit, Vegetables, and 100% Juices in Your Diet
No surprise here- fruits and vegetables are really important. Not only to do they provide fiber, they are also loaded with vitamins and nutrients, important for your cognitive function and IQ!
Seventeen of 19 epidemiological studies and 3 intervention studies reported significant benefits of fruit, vegetable, or juice consumption (100% juice) for cognitive performance. The data suggests that chronic consumption of fruits, vegetables, and juices is beneficial for cognition in healthy older adults.
Typically, brightly colored fruits and veggies such as dark greens, bright red apples, and berries are vitamin and nutrient superstars.
5. Eat Your Breakfast
Breakfast is often referred to as “the most important meal of the day”, and studies show there may be good reason to eat this important meal.
Findings showed that children who regularly have breakfast on a mostly daily basis had considerably higher full-scale, verbal, and performance IQ test scores compared to children who “sometimes” have breakfast. This relationship persisted for VIQ (verbal IQ) and FIQ (full IQ) even after adjusting for gender, current living location, parental education, parental occupation, and primary child caregiver. Findings may reflect nutritional as well as social benefits of regular breakfast consumption on cognition.
We typically suggest having fiber and a healthy protein in the morning.
Remember that as difficult as some of these changes may be, your body and your mind will thank you!!
Here’s to a smarter you!
Are dietary patterns in childhood associated with IQ at 8 years of age? A population-based cohort study J Epidemiol Community Health jech.2010.111955Published Online First: 7 February 2011
Åberg, M. A., Åberg, N., Brisman, J., Sundberg, R., Winkvist, A. and Torén, K. (2009), Fish intake of Swedish male adolescents is a predictor of cognitive performance. Acta Pædiatrica, 98: 555–560.
McGuire J, Kaplan J, Lapolla J, Kleiner R. The 2014 FDA assessment of commercial fish: practical considerations for improved dietary guidance. Nutrition Journal. 2015;15:66. doi:10.1186/s12937-016-0182-9.
Khan NA, Raine LB, Drollette ES, Scudder MR, Kramer AF, Hillman CH. Dietary Fiber Is Positively Associated with Cognitive Control among Prepubertal Children. The Journal of Nutrition. 2015;145(1):143-149. doi:10.3945/jn.114.198457.
Fruits, vegetables, 100% juices, and cognitive function
Daniel J Lamport, Caroline Saunders, Laurie T Butler, Jeremy Pe Spencer
Nutrition Reviews Dec 2014, 72 (12) 774-789
Liu J, Hwang W-T, Dickerman B, Compher C. Regular breakfast consumption is associated with increased IQ in kindergarten children. Early human development. 2013;89(4):257-262. doi:10.1016/j.earlhumdev.2013.01.006.
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