Your weekly brain-changing content in under 5 minutes:
Hidden sources of sugar in drinks
Yoga for better body image – it’s a thing
Board games: bringing sexy back
Want More of This? Get Some Brain Food Every Week.
(DON'T) POUR SOME SUGAR ON ME
TL;DR: Reduce your sugary drink intake to increase brain health.
Sugar awareness is not a new concept. We’ve known for years that large amounts of sugar = bad for bods. But we now also have confirmation that sugar can hurt your brain, too.
The sneaky sugar in drinks
Cheeky sugar often goes by other names, including high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS). HFCS is 55% fructose and 45% glucose.
Studies in animals have linked high fructose intake with insulin resistance in the brain, and a reduction in brain function, memory, learning, and the formation of brain neurons. A study using rats discovered that eating a large amount of sugar increased brain inflammation and impaired memory. Rats that ate a diet with 11% HFCS had worse results than those who ate 11% regular sugar.
And the human research?
Yeah, further studies in humans are needed to confirm this hypothesis, but the results of the rat study suggest that a high intake of fructose from sugary drinks has negative effects on the brain, beyond the effects of sugar.
And… the good news?
The good news is that now that you have this info you can limit your sugary drink intake to reduce the negative effects on your brain.
Drink this, not that
Read the ingredients on your store-bought juice for hidden sources of sugar
Cut down on your soda habit and swap for carbonated water.
Try kombucha or water kefir for a fizzy, low-sugar alternative (but again, check the label as some brands will sneak some sugar in there).
Choose unsweetened dairy products.
You can still have your [soft drink of choice] and drink it too, just have it less often.
FOR THE NERDY: Sweet, sweet science [source: National Institute for Biotech]
GOOD BODY IMAGE? YOU BET YOUR ASS(ANA)
TL;DR: Yoga adds “body-image boosting” to its list of special skills.
As well as yoga’s myriad benefits around inflammation, flexibility, stress and anxiety, breathing and sleep, a study by Washington State University has shown that it can also improve appreciation for your body too.
Say what Boo Boo?
The study looked at 376 people taking part in a 16-week yoga course and measured mindfulness and body appreciation at different points throughout. What they found was that as the participants’ ability to be mindful grew, so did their appreciation for the unique functions and characteristics of their bodies. You can learn more about what that actually entailed here.
Social media - not always a pic-a-nic
Sorry, I promise I’ll stop with the Yogi Bear quotes now. But, srsly, in a world where your body image can take a hefty beating from the parade of perfection on the ‘gram (incidentally, you will find none of that sort of caper on @wearedawn), knowing that yoga will not only get you moving your body but actually feeling good about it too it is a pretty good way to show yourself some love.
Isn’t yoga only for the bendy (and rich)?
Totally get it. Those boutiquey studios are £££, and going in for the first time can be a bit daunting. But, there are some really good online classes that you can do quite happily in your pjs on your living room floor, and still get alllll the good stuff.
Yoga with Adriene - 100s of classes for every level and any reason you can think of; anxiety, runners, surfers… you name it. Plus, she has a dog and sometimes throws in a bit of sass.
Yoga with Tim - something for everyone too, and nice to have a guy instructor. Good for a 30-day series.
Mind Body Bowl - Annie Clarke’s teaching is all about mindful appreciation for where you are and what you’re doing. Loads of different length and style classes, all with a mellow, supportive vibe.
FOR THE NERDY: I can get down(ward dog) with that [source: Psychology Today]
SCIENCE-BACKED DATE NIGHT PLANS
TL;DR: Couples who create art or play board games together release oxytocin.
Board games. This activity doesn’t sound super sexy, but hear me (and science) out.
A recent study found that when couples play board games or take a painting class together, their bodies release oxytocin, aka the “hugging hormone”. Oxytocin is associated with bonding and family cohesiveness.
A significant environmental impact was also discovered. Couples in a novel setting and activity released more oxytocin than in a familiar place. So when planning your date, monopoly on the couch is out. Monopoly on a rooftop in a new country? Now we’re talking.
(Okay, those are two extreme examples, so aim to find a happy middle ground somewhere.)
How to increase your O factor
Get your board game or art-fueled oxytocin pumping with a game night, take an art class, or simply just go on a date somewhere new.
FOR THE NERDY: Checkmate [source: Neurosciencenews.com]
WHAT WE LOVE THIS WEEK
Watch: Why running at sunset is the best [BBC]
Listen: Vitamin popping: should we or shouldn’t we? [Science Weekly]
Read: Drive: the truth about what motivates us [Amazon]
And so your Sunday dose of brain food comes to an end - the same day as #mentalhealthawarenessweek comes to a close. But as you all know by now, every day should be about doing what’s best for your brain, and the magic dust inside it called the mind.
So be mindful, don’t be too hard on yourself, and have a low sugar, board-game rich week with lots of yoga if you get a chance.
PS: The theme of this week’s mental health awareness campaign was body image, and whilst I used Yogi Bear to lighten the mood - as a kid that grew up fat, like, really fat, I suffer from this as much as anyone I know. I’ve been too fat, too thin, and never considered myself ‘just right’.
See you next week friends - if you’ve got twitter - you can click this to share quickly: invite a friend and share the brain love. 🙏