The effects of our diets on our health, our waistlines, and the planet are frequently on our minds. But they also have a huge impact on our minds.
It is my specialty as a “nutritional psychiatrist” to investigate the link between what we eat and how it affects our mental health.
Foods like leafy greens, colorful fruits and vegetables, shellfish, and nuts, beans, and seeds all support brain health.
But if you want to keep your mind clear and your memory intact, you should steer clear of these five meals. Obviously, it’s not possible to totally cut these out of your diet, so moderation is the key.
1. Products containing seed oils used in commercial processing
Many highly processed oils are high in omega-6 fatty acids and come from seeds like soybeans, corn, rapeseed (which is where canola oil comes from), cottonseed, sunflower, and safflower.
Getting too many omega-6s can cause your body to overproduce substances that can cause brain inflammation.
Try using some olive, coconut, or avocado oil next time you sauté some vegetables or grill some fish or meat.
2. Foods with added and refined sugars
Our brain requires energy in the form of glucose, a type of sugar, to fuel cellular activity. But an overly sweet diet might cause blood sugar levels in the brain to rise.
Because of this, the hippocampus, which is in charge of memories, may become less flexible.
Remember that many savory items, such as bottled salad dressings, ketchup, and even canned soups, contain hidden added sugars. Substitute homemade, whole-food alternatives for these.
3. Prepared meals
Shorter telomeres, or the “cap,” on our DNA may be a result of eating a diet high in ultra-processed foods. Healthy cellular ageing is associated with telomere length. Telomere shortening has been linked to an increased risk of age-related diseases.
A study from 2022 also found that people who ate and drank the most ultra-processed foods, like baked goods and sodas, were more likely to have moderate depression than those who ate and drank the least.
A good rule of thumb is to avoid ingredients you are unfamiliar with or that you cannot pronounce.
4. Artificially sweetened foods
Artificial sweeteners have little nutritional value and thus feed “bad” gut bacteria, which can have a negative impact on mood.
Saccharin, sucralose, and stevia are all examples of such sweeteners. Aspartame is particularly dangerous and has been linked in numerous studies to increased levels of anxiety. It leads to oxidation, which in turn raises levels of potentially dangerous free radicals within the brain.
Honey, monk fruit extract, and coconut sugar are other options.
Batter-, crust-, or deep-fried dishes may rank high on the comfort food list, but they’re actually bad for your brain.
A study of over 18,000 people found that a diet high in fried foods was linked to lower scores in memory and cognition.
Instead of frying or deep-frying your favorite meals, try baking, air-frying, or steaming them instead.