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Avoid These Foods if You Want a Sharp Mind

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There are many guidelines promoting the foods you should be eating to support memory health, but did you know that there are also foods that have been proven to harm your memory? Find out more about foods that harm memory below.

You know you should be eating foods that support brain health, like vegetables and quality protein, but did you also know that certain foods that Americans eat on a regular basis can cause your cognitive function to plummet? Research suggests that certain foods cause massive strain on your brain health, leading to a wide range of memory problems and an increased risk for developing Alzheimer's disease and dementia. If you want to protect your brain health as you age, remove these foods from your diet ASAP.

Foods that Harm Memory

These foods have been shown in studies to slow brain power, increase the effective "age" of your brain, and have been linked with memory problems, memory loss, and dementia. Avoid these foods to keep your brain sharp as you get older.


You may think you are helping your body by exchanging real sugar for artificial sugar, but there is no such thing as a free lunch (or in this case, a free sweet food). Artificial sugars, particularly aspartame, have been linked with side effects including memory loss.

According to a 2014 study published in Research in Nursing and Health, although a small amount of aspartame daily will likely not cause short-term memory impairments in working memory, the study authors cautioned adults to pay careful attention to their consumption of aspartame, as large consumption of the chemical has been linked with memory problems, particularly with repeated exposure over several decades.

Over time, research suggests that the effects of aspartame become more and more damaging to the body.

Processed Grain and Sugar

White junk foods, like white rice, white bread, and white sugar have been linked with memory problems. These foods cause huge spikes in insulin levels when consumed, which can send toxins to the brain. An overabundance of white junk foods in the diet has been linked with memory problems and even Alzheimer's disease.

Over time, the body becomes resistant to insulin, which not only leads to problems like diabetes, but it also lowers brain activity. Glucose is essential for brain health, and a study from 2012 conducted by the University of Pennsylvania found that insulin resistance in the brain was the number one risk factor for Alzheimer's disease.

Processed Cheese and Meats

Processed cheese and meats contain nitrosamines (often called "nitrates") which are difficult to process in the body. Over time, over-consumption of these nitrates causes an excessive build-up of unnecessary proteins in the body which can lead to the development of plaque in the brain associated with the increased risk of developing Alzheimer's disease.

Trans Fat

Trans fats are bad news anywhere in the body and are linked with a whole host of health problems. Trans fats raise cholesterol, cause plaque buildup in blood vessels, increase blood pressure, and cause inflammation. Trans fats are also bad for the brain. A study published in Neurology in 2011 found that trans fats actually lower your brain's ability to adapt to environmental and psychological triggers. The study found that a diet high in trans fats "shrinks" the brain similarly to what happens for individuals who have Alzheimer's disease. Trans fats are definitely bad news and should be at the top of the list of foods to avoid.

Fake Butter

Anything butter-flavored could increase your risk of developing memory problems. According to a study from 2005, fake butter flavor contains a chemical known as diacetyl, which has been linked with the development of plaque in the brain. Eating a lot of fake butter flavor could increase your chances of developing memory problems, so just say no to movie theater popcorn.


Consuming fish is usually positive for the brain, but not when it is canned or farmed tuna. Tuna is notoriously high in mercury and it is possible to get mercury poisoning just from eating tuna regularly. Researchers from the University of Florida found that individuals who have high levels of mercury in their blood have a reduction in cognitive function of about five percent. Still eat fish, but exchange tuna for salmon or mackerel.


Tofu may not be very healthy. Although soybeans contain a lot of healthy ingredients, it turns out that the processed form of soy is just as bad for you as any other processed food. A study from 2008 found that individuals who consume a lot of tofu had the worst memory scores. Researchers theorize that the high levels of phytoestrogens in tofu lower memory function and increase a person's risk for developing memory-related diseases like dementia.

High Levels of Salt

Salt is necessary for health, but eating too much can be bad for you. A study published in the journal Neurobiology of Aging in 2011 found that study participants with the highest salt intake in their diet scored progressively lower on cognitive tests over a three-year period. The researchers concluded that consuming a lot of salt slowly reduces cognitive function over time.

What Will Improve Cognitive Health?

If you avoid all the foods listed above, you will certainly improve your health. However, it may not be enough to prevent cognitive decline as you age. Rather than simply avoid foods, create a plan to replace the memory-damaging foods with memory-supporting foods and habits.

Implement these memory-boosting tips for a strong mind and a reduction of risk for memory-related diseases.

Foods that Support Memory

You can add foods to your diet that have been proven to improve memory. These foods are not simply one-hit-wonders, however, most of these foods carry a host of benefits that will make you think clearer and be healthier overall.

Foods that Support Memory
  • Green veggies
  • Olive oil
  • Blueberries
  • Salmon
  • Mackerel
  • Coffee
  • Coconut oil
  • Dark chocolate
  • Cinnamon
  • Oatmeal
  • Walnuts
  • Apples
  • Tomatoes
  • Pumpkin seeds

Vitamins and Supplements

Certain vitamins and supplements are important for maintaining proper cognitive function. Without these nutrients, your brain does not have the tools it needs to stay sharp and clear. Add these vitamins and nutrients to your diet through foods or in supplement form to ensure you are giving your brain the fuel it needs to stay healthy.

B12: Vitamin B12 is known as the brain vitamin due to its support for brain functioning and the prevention of memory loss. B12 is found in fish, poultry, and meat, so adding plenty of protein to your diet should help prevent vitamin B12 deficiency. However, a B12 supplement can also help fill in any missing nutrient gaps.

Ginkgo Biloba: Ginkgo biloba is a natural herb shown to support brain health and mental clarity. Numerous studies suggest that supplementing with ginkgo biloba has positive effects on mental clarity and brain health.

Iodine: Iodine is an essential part of a healthy diet. It is necessary for hormone regulation and chemical processing. Without enough iodine, memory decline can occur. In 1996, researchers from John Hopkins University tested the memory-boosting power of iodine on teen girls. At the end of the study, the girls who took iodine supplements for 8 weeks performed better on memory tests and school assignments.

Vitamin E: Vitamin E is beneficial for memory and mental clarity. A study from 2014 published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that taking high doses of vitamin E helped reverse the effects of Alzheimer's disease in patients with mild to moderate Alzheimer's disease. 

Exercise and Lifestyle

The life you live will influence your mental clarity as you age. In addition to diet, your activity level is incredibly important in sporting your memory as you get older. Individuals who exercise regularly keep blood circulating, which boosts the amount of oxygen that gets to the brain, making it easier to think clearly. Keeping mentally active is equally important.

Studies show that elderly individuals who play games, engage with friends and family, and learn new skills are more likely to have strong, healthy brains in their later years. Keeping your brain mentally sharp is important for preventing memory problems as you age.

Avoid Problem Foods for Healthy Memory

In the quest for a strong memory and brain health, it is just as important to avoid foods that cause problems as it is to add foods that boost memory health. It doesn't make much sense to eat a lot of blueberries, for example, but also consume a lot of trans fats. The best way to support your memory is to combine memory-boosting nutrients while avoiding memory-harming foods. This multi-step approach will drastically reduce your chances of developing dangerous mental diseases as you age.





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