You’ve heard it time and time again: it’s important to eat healthily and exercise regularly if you want to stay sharp. But, while it’s true that a healthy lifestyle can help you maintain better cognitive function as you age, that doesn’t mean that you can eat whatever you want and expect the same results. There are certain foods and drinks that can actually impair your brain function, and it’s important to know what those are so that you can avoid them.
Here Are the Worst Foods for Your Brain:
- Highly Processed Foods
The foods that you eat affect more than just your waistline. Excess sugar can harm your brain. And a diet high in processed foods puts you at risk of a host of other brain-related health problems.
- Sugary Foods and Drinks
Sugary foods and drinks are perhaps the worst foods you can eat if you want to preserve your brain function. Not only are they full of empty calories, but high fructose corn syrup, in particular, can interfere with the production of acetylcholine. This neurotransmitter plays a key role in cognition and memory. What you may not realize, though, is that it’s not just sugary drinks that can affect your brain function — any food with too much sugar, fat, or salt can actually do damage.
- Refined Carbs
We tend to think of our brain as a supercomputer, but it’s actually more like a relay race. The further the runners are apart, the slower the pace. Similarly, the more electrical activity that passes through every nerve cell, the more sluggish the neural signal. Since the brain controls everything we do—from basic movements to thinking—it’s critical that we use it wisely. While not all foods are created equal, too many refined carbs (which occur naturally in foods such as bread, pasta, rice, and potatoes) will slow our mental performance by shutting down our ability to think.
Aspartame, an artificial sweetener found in diet sodas, is controversial because it has been linked to neurological and behavioral problems. The FDA says aspartame is safe, but studies show otherwise. The problem? Aspartame is 200 times sweeter than sugar and tastes less sweet. That can lead to a craving for artificial sweeteners. There’s even a correlation between the number of people who consume aspartame daily and reports of mood swings, depression, and even seizures.
- Foods High in Trans Fats
Did you know that what you eat affects your brain? It’s true. Eating foods high in trans fats can affect your mental performance. A study from the Boston University School of Medicine found a link between eating foods high in trans fats and decreased cognitive abilities. The study followed 1,765 people over 50 who ate 6 meals a week for 7 years. The participants had MRI scans at the beginning and end of the study, and overall, the older adults who ate trans-fatty foods performed worse on cognitive tests after 6 years than those who ate lower trans-fatty foods.
- Fish High in Mercury
Although fish is a healthy part of a diet, many fish contain high levels of mercury, which can cause neurological problems like impaired memory, slowed thinking, and decreased attention span.
If you’re looking to improve your mental health, focus on your diet. Feeding your brain well is critical for overall wellness and mental health. Certain foods can actually damage your mental well-being, and not all of them are made equal. Eating foods high in saturated fats, trans fats, and cholesterol can contribute to inflammation and damage the body. Eating foods high in sugar can cause spikes in blood sugar which can contribute to the development of insulin resistance.