Brain fog, memory loss, forgetfulness and Alzheimer’s are all scary topics to consider, but they are a reality for many people. I, for one, want to do whatever I can to preserve my (somewhat) healthy brain. I’ve heard a lot about memory boosting foods, but not a whole lot about what foods to avoid. I knew that there had to be some – and there are. Most are common sense, but there were a couple of foods I would have never considered would wreak havoc on my brain health.
Foods to Avoid for a Healthy Brain
Trans Fat – Processed Food
This one should pretty much be a no-brainer these days. Trans fat is the dangerous fat that can clog your arteries and raise your blood pressure (among other things), so much so that it has been removed and even banned for any amount over 0.5 grams per serving. Even with these protections in place, trans fat can still sneak into your food as long as the manufacturers can get their product to state that it has less than that magical 0.5 grams. They can play around with portion sizes or additives to get the product to where it needs to be. Trans fat can damage your memory by causing brain inflammation and/or shrinkage, as well as causing issues with nerve communications. Try to avoid processed packaged foods in general and always check labels on packaged food. Also avoid buttery or fake buttery products, including margarine, liquid butters (like movie theater popcorn) and baked goods, especially the ones that have flakey layers.
Sugar – Especially Sugary Drinks
We all know that too much sugar in our diets isn’t good for us, but sugary drinks can be especially damaging to a healthy brain. Sugary drinks can lead to brain shrinkage that result in memory loss. Sugary drinks can also mess with your body’s ability to know when it is full, hampering your ability to keep your weight in check, which is not good for your brain health, or your overall health for that matter. Avoid the soda and fruit juice and reach for water or sparkling water instead.
If you just read the above and are thinking that you’ll just go with diet soda instead, you may want to rethink your strategy. Artificial sweeteners also trick your body into thinking that you are hungrier than you are. They also change your gut bacteria in a way that can predispose you to type 2 diabetes by making your body less sensitive to insulin. People with type 2 diabetes have a much greater risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. Reach for naturally sweet food that has fiber (like fruit) and unsweetened beverages instead.
Fish That is High in Mercury
Mercury is a toxic poison that is found in larger fish that eat smaller fish and live longer, thus accumulating more mercury. Mercury can affect your cognition, as well as your coordination, balance and vision. We’ve all heard the stories of people that eat too much sushi and end up with mercury poisoning. Limit your large mercury containing fish consumption to no more than once a week, or stick to smaller, lower mercury containing fish and seafood like salmon, shrimp or sardines. Also permanently steer clear of shark, king mackerel, tilefish, and swordfish since they contain the most mercury.
This recommendation is to be considered on a person-to-person basis. A lot of people who remove gluten from their diet report clearer thinking, a better functioning immune system and a brighter mood. Gluten is the substance that gives grains an elastic texture, especially found in wheat. It can cause sever illness in people with celiac disease, but in those people that find themselves gluten intolerant or just feel better when they are off gluten, giving it up can make a world of difference in their overall brain health. Giving up everything containing flour can be challenging, but by trying it out for a few weeks to see how your body and brain react could be worth the effort.
If you’re looking to keep your healthy brain in tact, try giving up the five foods above. Most of them are pretty easy and will make a world of difference, not only for your brain health, but for your overall health as well. (Also check out my post Want to Live Longer? These are the 6 Healthy Foods to Eat Now).
Disclaimer: Please note that some of the links in this post are affiliate links and I will earn a commission if you purchase through those links. I recommend these products because they are products that I personally use or companies that I have found trustworthy.