The quality of your life now and in the future depends on how well your brain functions, so it only makes sense to eat for your brain instead of for convenience, your taste buds, your waistline, or your wallet.
It’s not just the kinds of foods you eat, it’s the quality of those foods that makes the difference between helping or harming your brain.
I’ve already written about how most of the so-called extra virgin olive oils sold isn’t extra virgin, and may not even be olive oil and what’s wrong with buying your meat at the supermarket.
Now, I want to warn you about a few more food scams and myths you need to watch out for and how to be sure you are buying quality foods.
The “Atlantic Salmon” Scam
Fish is widely touted as being “brain food” because it can be one of the few dietary sources of brain-essential omega-3 fatty acids. But only fatty fish like salmon that are wild-caught contain this nutrient in significant amounts.
The nutrient quality of fish varies tremendously and fish fraud runs rampant. (1) You often don’t get what you think you are buying.
According to the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), most salmon sold in US is farm-raised then incorrectly labeled “Atlantic salmon”. (Wild Atlantic salmon is endangered so it can’t be caught commercially.) This goes for salmon you buy at stores or eat in restaurants.
Farmed salmon doesn’t contain omega-3′s, one of the main the reasons you are eating it! There are other serious problems with eating farm-raised fish.
Since it takes up to 15 pounds of “fish feed” (made from “undesirable” fish and “chicken pellets”) to grow one pound of farmed fish, contaminants get concentrated. (3)
You don’t even want to know what’s in “chicken pellets”, but I’m going to tell you anyway. Not just chicken parts of all kinds (like feathers and beaks) but even chicken poop.
Farm-raised fish are fed antibiotics to help them survive their crowded and contaminated environment.
Stores have figured out that customers won’t buy salmon if it’s not pink, so farm-raised salmon is dyed to match a desired shade. Pharmaceutical giant Hoffman-La Roche provides the dyes, and the color swatches.
The EDF recommends eating only Alaskan wild salmon — either fresh or canned — as this is the only kind that is low in contaminants and high in omega-3s. (4)
One of the few reliable sources of wild Alaskan salmon is Vital Choice Wild Seafood and Organics. They are a leading source of pure and sustainable seafood of exceptional quality and have received endorsements from notable health experts like doctors Andrew Weil, Christiane Northrup, Nicholas Perricone, and Joseph Mercola.
The Bitter Truth About “Healthy” Sweeteners
White sugar is inexpensive and unhealthy, no big surprise here. High fructose corn syrup is even cheaper, which is why it’s the sweetener of choice of many food manufacturers.
But it’s disappointing to learn that more expensive, supposedly higher quality sweeteners like agave syrup or honey aren’t healthy either. (I’m really bummed about agave — I live in the southwest and thought I was eating healthy and locally.)
Honey is just as high in fructose as white sugar and agave is actually much higher. Fructose has been promoted as a healthy sweetener because it doesn’t raise blood sugar levels. Instead it raises blood fructose levels, which is possibly worse.
High fructose diets increase all the markers for cardiovascular disease and increase the risk for diabetes, obesity, and fatty liver disease.
High fructose diets reduce the production of BDNF, a brain chemical that promotes formation of new brain cells. Low levels of BDNF lead to depression, dementia, and possibly Alzheimer’s.
Proponents of honey will point out that it contains trace enzymes, minerals, amino acids, and B vitamins making it healthier than white sugar. (5) This is true but only if you are eating raw, unfiltered honey.
A shocking study by Food Safety News found that 75% of honey carried by major stores is so ultra-filtered that it no longer contains any pollen. By FDA standards, it shouldn’t even be considered honey! (6)
If you’re going to buy honey for health benefits, pick some up at your local farmers’ market or natural food store; otherwise you are wasting your money. Look specifically for raw honey since pasteurized honey’s enzymes are destroyed by heat.
The best sweeteners that don’t wreak havoc on your brain are rice syrup and stevia. Rice syrup is made from sprouted rice and contains no fructose. An excellent brand is Lundberg Family Farms, a California grower of organic rice. If you can’t find it at your local health food store, you can order it from Amazon here. Rice syrup makes a great substitute for honey and can be used interchangeably in recipes.
Stevia is an herb that gets its sweetness from a non-caloric protein found in its leaves. But even stevia is not immune to adulteration. Some brands contain sugar, other sweeteners, or even silica (sand)!
I use SweetLeaf Stevia which tastes great, dissolves easily, and doesn’t have any ingredients you don’t want. But whatever stevia you try, be sure to thoroughly read the label.
Everything You Need Is at Your Fingertips
You could drive all over town looking for these brain-healthy foods, and maybe you’ll find them. Or you can order them online.
You can order seafood from Vital Choice online. Click the link below to browse through their fantastic selection of healthy seafood you can have shipped directly to your home. It’s much better tasting, and better for you, than seafood you’ll pick up at your local supermarket.
If you are in the market for healthy seafood and grass-fed beef, poultry, pork or lamb, check out US Wellness Meats.
Get the highest quality rice syrup and stevia from one convenient place — Amazon. I love online shopping on Amazon — the prices are great and you certainly can’t beat the selection or convenience! (See links below).
Browse through our Amazon Store Nutrition Department. Here you’ll find other delicious brain-smart foods like chemical-free microwave popcorn, the “world’s best” dark chocolate, and gourmet olive oils.
In general, you can put more trust in smaller specialty food producers like Lundberg Family Farms or Vital Choice Seafood that have a clear-cut mission to provide quality, but you still must do your homework.
We’re always on the lookout for food scams, so sign up for our Brain Builder newsletter and like a good friend, we can help you “do your homework”.
Our Best Recommendations for Brain Health
Vital Choice Wild Seafood & Organics
Wild seafood & organic foods
Certified pure, premium quality wild salmon and seafood. Excellent source of quality omega-3 fatty acids for brain health. Endorsed by top doctors you know.
US Wellness Meats
Grass-fed beef & meats
Large variety of meats from animals raised as nature intended. No hormones, antibiotics, or steroids. Rich in high-quality omega-3 fatty acids, CLA and more - valuable nutrients missing in supermarket meat and modern diets. Always free shipping.
Stonesoup Tired & Hungry Cook's Companion
Digital cookbook with video option
Featured in Tim Ferriss's The 4-Hour Chef
No more wondering "What's for dinner?" 120 delicious, healthy, fast, 5-ingredient recipes. Each recipe contains 4+ variations for over 480 ideas. If you aren't confident in the kitchen, step-by-step videos demonstrate exactly how to make each recipe.
Stonesoup Love Your Waistline and Your Food
Digital cookbook with video option
If you love to eat and want to lose weight, this will teach you how to reach your ideal weight and stay there by eating real food that's tasty, delicious, and easy to prepare. Most recipes have 5 ingredients or less and can be made in under 15 minutes! If you like watching cooking programs, you'll love the accompanying videos that demonstrate how to make each dish.
All-natural, non-caloric sweetener