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The 5 worst foods for memory

What are the 5 worst foods for memory? How to hang onto your memories and stay mentally sharp.

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September 16, 2022
6 min read

What you put in your body will have an impact on your brain—that's what Heights is all about. When it comes to memory, there isn't a miracle diet that will automatically prevent cognitive decline. However, there are certain foods to avoid that are bad for your brain—so what are the worst 5 foods for memory, and why should you avoid them?

Article breakdown

What foods are harmful to the brain?

Processed meat

Processed meats such as chicken nuggets, bacon, sausages, and ham are known to cause inflammation in the body, which has been linked to a decrease in brain size. Processed meat has also been linked to an increased risk of developing dementia in later life.

Studies have found that, for every 50 grams of processed meat (two slices of bacon) eaten daily, the risk of developing dementia rises by 18%. The reason for this is that processed meat contains high levels of nitrites and nitrates, which are chemicals that have been linked to increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.

Processed meats also contain high levels of fat, which can increase your risk of developing dementia. One study found that people who ate the most saturated fats had a 10% greater risk of developing dementia than those who ate the least.

Refined carbohydrates

Refined carbohydrates like white rice, white bread, pasta, and cookies have been processed and stripped of its fibre, vitamins, minerals and other nutrients—so basically, all the good stuff. A 2016 study found that people who ate a diet high in refined carbohydrates were more likely to have poorer memory and brain function than those whose diets included whole grains. This is because refined carbohydrates can increase inflammation and oxidative stress, which can damage brain cells.

Refined carbohydrates also spike your blood sugar and insulin levels, which can lead to a number of health problems. One of these is dementia—a progressive neurological disease that affects memory, language, thinking and orientation. Refined carbohydrates generally lack the nutrients required by our bodies to stay healthy and maintain an optimal level of brain function, so it's better to opt for whole grains instead.

Ready meals

Ready-made meals are another food category to be wary of if you're looking to hang onto your memory. They're often high in salt, fat and sugar, all of which can have damaging effects on your brain.

Salt can cause high blood pressure which damages the brain by causing it to swell and lose its ability to form new connections between cells (neurogenesis). Fatty foods cause inflammation in the body which also destroys nerve connections in the hippocampus region of your brain, and sugar can cause a spike in blood sugar levels, which can lead to hypoglycaemia and memory loss.

Processed foods may contain other harmful substances that are not listed on their labels such as artificial sweeteners like sucralose, benzoate preservatives like potassium benzoate, modified starch containing acrylamide, or monosodium glutamate (MSG). These chemicals can cause damage to your brain cells and can lead to memory loss, so it’s important to eat a diet rich in fruits, vegetables and whole grains, which will help keep your blood sugar levels stable and improve your brain function.

Sugary drinks

The worst thing you can do to your body is to drink a lot of sugary drinks—they're high in calories, and low in nutritional value. They also contain large amounts of refined sugars that have been linked to reduced brain function, which can cause problems with memory and focus.

One 20-ounce bottle of a regular fizzy drink contains about 160 calories and 39 grams of sugar—that's almost as much sugar as you'd find in five chocolate bars. Consuming this much sugar affects your memory and makes you feel tired, irritable, and distracted.

A study from UCLA even found that when rats were given a diet high in sugar, they performed worse on memory tests than those who ate healthier foods. So to preserve your memory and halt cognitive decline, swap out your fizzy drinks for plenty of water—you could opt for the odd tea or fruit juice too.

Trans fats

Trans fats are a type of unsaturated fat that has been processed to make it more solid, so it can be used in margarines and other spreads, as well as some cheeses, cakes, biscuits, and pastries. Trans fats have been proven to raise your ‘bad’ cholesterol levels, which can increase your risk of heart disease.

When it comes to memory, trans fats are some of the most damaging foods you can eat. A new study from UCLA has shown that eating high amounts of trans fats may cause brain damage that could lead to memory loss. The study, published in the journal Nature Neuroscience, found that trans fats can cause inflammation and oxidative stress in the brain. This leads to a loss of synapses, which are vital for learning and memory.

You can avoid trans fats by checking food labels and selecting products that contain no partially hydrogenated oils or shortening. You can also avoid foods with words like “hydrogenated” or “partially hydrogenated” on their ingredient list.

What foods cause brain fog?

Foods that cause brain fog can be very different for everyone. However, the most common culprits include alcohol, caffeine and refined sugars. Alcohol can suppress your ability to think clearly, while large amounts of caffeine may also cause you to feel jittery or anxious. Refined sugars are quickly absorbed into the bloodstream and provide quick energy—but they don’t offer any lasting benefits.

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What is the best food to improve memory?

The best food to improve memory is a balanced diet. Fruits and vegetables contain many nutrients that help support your brain, including antioxidants and vitamins A, C and E. Whole grains are also good sources of B-vitamins and magnesium—both important for healthy brain cells. Lean proteins like fish, poultry and low-fat dairy products have omega-3 fatty acids that may help protect against cognitive decline as you age.

What are the 3 foods that fight memory loss?

There’s plenty of foods you should be eating to preserve your memory, but these 3 are by far the best at nourishing your memory-making skills:

Oily fish: Salmon and mackerel are some of the best sources of omega-3 fatty acids, which help to protect against inflammation in the brain.

Dark green vegetables: Green vegetables such as broccoli and spinach contain vitamin K, which is essential for healthy brain function.

Walnuts: These humble nuts contain nutrients such as magnesium, zinc and vitamin E which can help to boost your memory power.

Maintaining a healthy diet is crucial for maintaining a healthy brain, and a robust memory. The Smart Supplement contains 20 brain-friendly vitamins and minerals that are specially designed to keep your brain healthy and your memory sharp.

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