Your brain health is heavily influenced by your lifestyle, and even the foods you eat can help or harm your brain and memory. Although there are many foods known to prevent memory loss, there are other foods that have been linked to an increased risk of memory impairment and Alzheimer’s disease.
Fortunately, you can change your risk of memory loss by avoiding these foods and adopting healthy eating habits.
Read on for the four worst eating habits for memory loss, and for more on how to eat healthy, don’t miss The Best Juice to Drink Every Day, Says Science.
This is a broad category that includes processed grains that have been stripped of their bran and, therefore, much of their fiber and nutrient content. Examples of refined carbohydrates include white flour and sugar, as well as common foods made with these ingredients, such as white bread, cereals and pasta.
A 2015 review indicates that higher consumption of simple sugar, such as the sugar found in sodas and candy, has been associated with poorer cognitive function. And, when you look at an older population, the the risk of mild cognitive impairment or dementia was increased in those who consumed a large portion of their calories from carbohydrates.
These types of carbs are also known to have a high glycemic index, which is a number assigned to a food based on how quickly and by how much it raises blood sugar. The more dramatic the rise in blood sugar, the higher the glycemic load. Studies even found it right a meal containing a high glycemic load may impair memory performance in healthy children and young adults.
Although it is possible to consume refined carbohydrates as part of a healthy balanced diet, it is best to consume “healthy” complex carbohydrates, such as whole grains, fruits, vegetables and legumes which have lower glycemic load.
You may have heard recommendations for avoiding mercury in fish specific to pregnant women, but research indicates that it’s best for everyone to be aware of how much mercury they’re consuming. This heavy metal is considered a neurotoxin and can disrupt the nervous system and brain development, and research indicates mercury poisoning can cause cerebral palsy and developmental delays.
Mercury can accumulate in water bodies and the fish that inhabit those waters. Larger fish with a longer lifespan, such as tuna, swordfish, and king mackerel, are more prone to mercury contamination and should be restricted in young children and pregnant women because they are more sensitive to the toxic effects of mercury.
While some populations are at higher risk for serious complications, adults can safely consume two to three servings of fish per week as part of a healthy diet. In fact, some varieties of fish, like tuna and salmon, contain essential omega-3 fatty acids, and all varieties of fish are high in protein and contain many important vitamins and minerals.
RELATED: Surprising Side Effects Of Eating Fish, According To Science
While sugar substitutes, like aspartame, have the benefit of providing zero-calorie sweetness, these sugar alternatives are controversial when it comes to health metrics, including brain health.
A study examined features of cognition, mood, and depression in people on a high-aspartame diet, and found these people are more irritable, have more depression and score lower on a cognitive test than when they follow a diet low in aspartame. Although this specific study did not observe an influence on working memory, another study conducted in mice observed impaired memory performance in mice given aspartame.
The researchers suggest that the negative memory results were likely due to increased oxidative stress and decreased glucose availability in the brain following repeated administration of aspartame.
You can pair artificial sweeteners with diet drinks, and it’s a dietary source of these sugar substitutes; However, you will also find aspartame and other sugar substitutes in flavored yogurts, sugar-free candies and other sweets, protein bars, and gum.
Unsaturated fats are generally considered the best source of dietary fat because of the health benefits they provide. While this is true for plant-based unsaturated fats found in foods like avocado, nuts, seeds, and olive oil, manufactured fats are a different story. Trans fat is a form of manufactured unsaturated fat that is thought to have negative effects on the body and brain.
Additionally, saturated fats, found primarily in animal products, can also have a disturbing impact on the brain. A study notes that higher intake of saturated and trans fats is associated with poor recall and poor recognition on a test of cognitive performance. Another one study found similar results noting a relationship between saturated and trans fat intake and the risk of cognitive impairment.
While saturated fats can be found naturally in animal products, such as beef, eggs, and cheese, trans fats are more often found in processed foods, such as margarine and shortening, and prepared foods. with such ingredients, such as baked goods.
While the impact of food on brain health and memory is still being researched, current data provides enough information to warrant caution when consuming the above foods.
Genetics and other factors probably also play a role in memory, but food choices are a concrete step you can manage to maximize your brain health and memory.
And for more, check out The Best Supplements for Memory Loss, Dietitians Say.