Is Your Diet Making You 'Brain Fat?'

A new study has confirmed what we've long suspected - your diet can impact how your brain functions, which in turn may up your obesity risk. The animal study conducted by scientists at the University of Washington in Seattle looked at the short and long term effects on the brains of rodents fed a typical American diet. Within the first three days the rats downed nearly double their usual daily calorie intakes, and not only did the animals gain weight, they also developed inflammation in the hypothalamus, the part of the brain that regulates body weight. And they experienced changes typically associated with brain injuries such as stroke and multiple sclerosis.

Scientists say the study points to the notion that the overconsumption of a classic western diet can lead to brain changes that create a domino effect that may impact weight regulation. So how do you undo (or prevent) the damage? Ditch the processed stuff loaded with refined carbs, added sugar and salt, fried stuff and fatty animal products, and load up on fruits, veggies, whole grains, lean proteins and plant based fats. Even if you don't eat less, it's quality that counts!

Here are three ways to transform your plate while enjoying your usual summer activities.

Grill Night

Grill up Portobello mushrooms, chill and use as the "bun" for a super lean turkey or veggie burger, or fire up some salmon burgers, dressed with pesto and wrapped in crisp lettuce leaves. And try making your own potato chips from thinly sliced skin-on whole potatoes misted with extra virgin olive oil and garnished with rosemary grilled in foil.

Beach Party

Pack your cooler with raw veggies and whole grain crackers served with hummus for dipping, vinegar based coleslaw, fresh grapes or melon and mixed nuts or olives for snacking.

Movie Night

When you're popping in a DVD or signing into Netflix serve up old fashioned popcorn (1/4 cup kernels and 1 Tbsp sunflower oil makes about 3-4 cups popped) dressed with a salt free seasoning mix like Italian herbs with a little Parmesan cheese or chipotle. Or plan some frozen treats in advance like popsicle molds filled with smoothie mixes made from summer fruits (peaches, berries, pitted cherries), milk (organic skim or soy, coconut or almond milk), almond butter and a handful of dark chocolate chips.

Cynthia Sass is a registered dietitian with master's degrees in both nutrition science and public health. Frequently seen on national TV she's a SHAPE contributing editor and nutrition consultant to the New York Rangers and Tampa Bay Rays. Her latest New York Times best seller is Cinch! Conquer Cravings, Drop Pounds and Lose Inches.

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