You might not realize it, but some of the foods you eat regularly could be harming your brain health.
Here are five types of foods that you should avoid or limit to keep your brain healthy, along with some better options to choose instead:
Trans fats are a type of artificially-created fat that is often used in industrially manufactured foods. It’s common in baked goods, fried foods, and processed snacks.
You might see it listed as “partially hydrogenated oil” on food labels. They are used in food manufacturing because they can make foods solid at room temperature and extend their shelf life.
Trans fats generally provide no health benefits and many potential risks. Some countries have already eliminated them from their food supply.
In addition to being linked to heart disease, trans fats have also been shown to increase the development of beta-amyloid plaques in the brain, a characteristic sign of Alzheimer’s disease.
A better option: Look for food labels that say “no trans fat” or “zero grams of trans fat.” If you see “partially hydrogenated oil” listed as an ingredient, put the food back on the shelf.
Saturated fats are found in animal products like meat, eggs, and dairy. Many studies have linked a high intake of saturated fats to an increased risk of heart disease.
Some clinical research demonstrates that a high intake of saturated fat can potentially double your risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. This could be related to how saturated fatty acids can increase cholesterol levels and inflammation.
A better option: Choose plant-based fat sources such as fish, vegetable oils, nuts, seeds, and avocados. While saturated fats appear to increase dementia risk, the unsaturated fats in these foods could protect your brain health and reduce your risk.
You might already know that overeating sugar can lead to weight gain and cavities. High sugar intake can also be destructive to your brain health in several ways.
Excessive amounts of sugar can negatively affect your hippocampus, the part of your brain responsible for memory. A high sugar diet can also potentially lead to insulin spikes and inflammation, damaging your nervous tissues.
A better option: Instead of candy and sugary treats, satisfy your sweet tooth with fruit, which can give you a flavorful sweetness without overloading your system with sugar. You’ll also get fiber, vitamins, and minerals that foods with added sugars generally don’t have.
Tuna is a popular food because it’s high in protein and low in calories. However, it also contains mercury, which can harm your brain health.
Mercury exposure can cause neurological problems and learning disabilities. Limiting tuna intake if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding is important, as mercury exposure can be especially harmful to developing brains.
A better option: Choose seafood options like salmon, cod, catfish, shrimp, and whitefish, which contain all sorts of great nutrients but generally have lower levels of mercury.
Cookies, chips, candy, and other processed snacks might be quick and easy, but they’re not doing your brain any favors.
These types of foods are often high in unhealthy fats, added sugars, and refined carbs, which can lead to insulin resistance, inflammation, and weight gain. All of these things can have negative effects on your brain health.
A better option: If you’re looking for a quick snack, reach for some fruit, nuts, or seeds instead. These foods are packed with nutrients that can actually benefit your brain health and reduce the risks associated with age-related cognitive decline.