No matter how old you are, it’s never too late to start eating in a way that gives you the best possible chance of staving off dementia as you age and making sure that you feel focused and sharp every day. The gut bacteria can trigger metabolic processes and brain inflammation that impact memory. Existing studies point to the idea that we may be able to reduce the possibility of dementia by avoiding foods that can compromise our gut bacteria and weaken our memory and focus.
Here are the foods you should avoid or cut back on to fight inflammation and promote brain health, sharp thinking and good decision-making.
The brain uses energy in the form of glucose, a form of sugar, to fuel cellular activities. However, a high-sugar diet can lead to excess glucose in the brain, which studies have linked to memory impairments and less plasticity of the hippocampus – the part of the brain controlling memory. Consuming unhealthy processed foods like baked goods and soda, which are often loaded with refined and added sugars – often in the form of high-fructose corn syrup – floods the brain with too much glucose. Although each body has different needs, it’s recommended that women consume no more than 25 grams of added sugar per day, and men stay under 36 grams added sugar per day. (To figure out if a packaged food contains added sugars, and how much, check the ‘added sugars’ line in the Nutrition Facts panel).
2. Fried foods
French fries, tempura, samosas, fish and chips and chicken-fried steak, are mouth watering. Still, when it comes to brain health, it pays to reduce the amount of fried foods you eat. Studies have found out that a diet high in fried foods was linked to lower scores in learning and memory. The likely reason: These guilty pleasures cause inflammation, which can damage the blood vessels that supply the brain with blood.
There’s correlation between levels of fried food consumption and levels of depression and mental resilience. People who consume more fried foods are more likely to develop depression in their lifetime. If you’re eating fried foods daily, switch to weekly. If it’s a weekly habit, try enjoying them just once a month. If you don’t eat fried foods, you’re already on your way to happier times.
3. High-glycemic-load carbohydrates
Even if high-carbohydrate foods – for example, bread, pasta, and anything else made from refined flour – don’t taste sweet, your body still processes them in much the same way it does with sugar. That means they can also raise your risk for depression. Don’t panic, there’s no need of eliminating carbs from your diet completely. But the quality of the carbs you eat matters. Researchers who sought to evaluate which particular carbohydrates, if any, had an association with depression, administered a questionnaire called the “carbohydrate-quality index” to the participants. “Better-quality” carbohydrates were defined as whole grains, foods high in fiber, and those ranked low on the glycemic index (GI).
The GI is a measure of how quickly foods convert to glucose when broken down during digestion; the faster a food turns into glucose in the body, the higher its GI ranking. Researchers discovered that people who had the highest score on the carbohydrate-quality index, meaning they were eating better-quality carbs, were 30% less likely to develop depression than those who were eating high-GI carbs. High-GI carbs include potatoes, white bread and white rice. Honey, orange juice and whole-meal breads are medium-GI foods. Low-GI foods include green vegetables, most fruits, raw carrots, kidney beans, chickpeas and lentils.
The “work hard, play hard” mindset often leads to heavy drinking on weekends as a way to relieve stress. While drinking might make people relax in the moment, they pay for it the next morning, when they wake up jittery with brain fog. People who have abstained from alcohol completely or who consume more than 14 drinks per week have a higher risk of dementia compared to those who drink alcohol in moderation. In general, men who consume more than 14 drinks per week or more than four drinks in a single day at least once a month are considered to be heavy drinkers, as are women who drink more than seven drinks per week or three drinks per day. But different people (and their brains) respond differently to alcohol abuse.
Used as a preservative and to enhance color in deli slices and cured meats like bacon, salami and sausage, nitrates may be connected with depression. Studies even suggests that nitrates can alter gut bacteria in such a way as to tip the scales toward bipolar disorder. If you simply can’t live without salami and sausages, seek out those containing buckwheat flour, which is used as a filler. Buckwheat flour contains important antioxidants that can counter some of the negative health effects of these meats.