It’s wise to know the types of food that can improve cognitive function. Thankfully, the list of these “good foods” is long, varied and quite tasty. Getting these foods into your diet is a way you can take action to prevent brain inflammation and even attain higher cognitive test scores.
On the other end of the spectrum, however, are foods you should greatly reduce in your diet or eliminate altogether. For those who want to act in the battle against age-related cognitive decline, these five foods need to go on the “avoid” list.
High Sugar Drinks
People have known the dangers of high-sugar drinks for decades. And yet, sales remain strong. People buy about $80 billion in high-sugar drinks every year in the United States alone. At that high of a number, it’s not just kids drinking them.
Why they’re bad for your brain: High sugar drinks can lead to Type 2 diabetes, which studies have shown is a precursor for dementia. The high-fructose corn syrup in these drinks also can cause obesity, high blood pressure, high blood fats and arterial dysfunction, all of which may increase risk of dementia. Also, a study done with rats found that a high sugar diet can lead to brain inflammation.
Carbohydrates, the body’s main source of energy, are necessary for proper body function. However, refined carbohydrates have a high glycemic index (HGI) and high glycemic load (HGL), which means the body absorbs them fast, leading to blood sugar spikes. You will find refined carbohydrates in white bread, pizza dough, pasta, pastries, white rice, sweet desserts and many breakfast cereals.
Why they’re bad for your brain: The combination of HGI and HGL can impair memory. Studies down with both older and younger people have found a meal high with foods that have this combination can lead to memory loss. Some experts associate this with brain inflammation, particularly in the hippocampus, the region of the brain related to learning, memory and mood regulation.
Trans fats are a type of unsaturated fat that occurs naturally in some meat and dairy products. However, artificial trans fats can be found in shortening, margarine, frosting, snack foods and prepackaged cookies – at least, for now. These fats have been banned by some cities (such as New York City) and manufacturers must now get Food and Drug Administration approval to use them.
Why they’re bad for your brain: Trans fat can lead to reduction in the production of serotonin in the brain, which in turn can lead to depression and adversely impact memory function, according to Psychology Today.
Highly Processed Foods
Highly processed foods are everywhere in the grocery store – sometimes whole aisles are devoted to them! They include chips, microwave popcorn, sweets and candies, ready-made meals, bread and some types of noodles. Many meats are also highly processed, including bacon, ham and smoked meats.
Why they’re bad for the brain: These foods can lead to obesity, diabetes and associated brain function issues. Alzheimers.net also lists highly processed foods as linked to increased rates of Alzheimer’s disease.
Overuse of Alcohol
Everyone is aware that overusing alcohol can lead to myriad health problems involving weight, kidney function and even aggressive behavior. But it also can have a severe impact on the brain.
Why it’s bad for the brain: Alcohol has been linked to increased risk of developing dementia. Additionally, alcohol can interfere with neurotransmitters used by the brain for communication as well as cause reduction in brain volume.
A study published in the journal Science of Food offers encouragement for those who learn what foods are good and bad for brain health. Researchers found that diet has a significant impact on maintaining good brain function longer in life.
They wrote that their data show “attention to dietary composition is important for lasting impact beyond the metabolic and highlight the promising likelihood that we may improve our cognition throughout life and into the aging period with simple dietary interventions.”