Simple food swaps for a healthier lifestyle

It’s bad news for doughnut lovers – your favourite snack may not be doing your brain (or body) any favours. New study finds too much sugar and fat affects memory and learning.

A new study by researchers at Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia, has found that eating a diet high in saturated fat and sugar, commonly found in western cultures, can negatively impact your learning ability and memory in as little as one week. It also found that eating in this way makes cravings for snacks and sugar harder to resist, even after finishing a meal.

It’s well known that the western diet has been linked to health issues such as heart disease and obesity, and yet we find it a struggle to give up our vices. This study suggests why this may be the case.

High levels of saturated fat and sugar disrupt the hippocampus, the area of the brain responsible for learning and memory as well as regulating food intake. The research suggests that a western diet can impair the hippocampus region of the brain, and in turn, this can lead to a “vicious cycle of overeating”, one of the study’s authors, Richard Stevenson, told the Guardian.

The study found that after a week of eating a western diet even young, lean and healthy participants performed worse on memory tests than the control group.

It may be time to “do as the easterners do” and adopt a leaner lifestyle. 

Simple swaps

Here are three easy changes for a healthier lifestyle:

1. Add fresh juice to water

Put down the fizzy drinks and squeeze some citrus juice into sparkling water

2. Stop frying food

Steaming, boiling or grilling food instead of frying it eliminates the need to use oil, reducing your fat intake 

3. Swap crisps for nuts

Try snacking on nuts instead of crisps, which are high in preservatives, saturated fat and sugar