Are you looking for ways to boost your memory and focus? As it turns out, what you eat can make a huge difference. Harvard nutritionist and brain expert Dr. Sara Gottfried has identified five foods that you should avoid if you want to keep your memory and focus sharp. In this blog post, we’ll look at the five foods to avoid and why they can have a negative impact on your cognitive health.
1- Processed Meats
Processed meats such as deli slices, bacon, hot dogs, and sausages can be an occasional indulgence, but they’re not part of a healthy diet. According to the USDA’s MyPlate dietary guidelines, these foods are considered part of the protein group and should be consumed in moderation. Research published in the journal Nature Reviews Neuroscience has linked processed meats to a decline in cognitive performance, including memory and focus.
In order to make better dietary choices, it’s important to understand exactly what we’re putting into our bodies. A quick Google Scholar search will provide numerous scholarly articles with citations that discuss the health impacts of processed meats. For example, a study conducted at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health found that regular consumption of processed meats was associated with poorer cognitive performance among adults aged 45-70.
When it comes to snacks, healthy options are the way to go. Instead of reaching for a processed meat-filled sandwich, try making a snack plate full of nutritious choices. A simple plate could include hummus, carrots, celery, and whole-grain crackers. If you’re eating out, there are healthier options available at most fast-food restaurants. For example, Chick-Fil-A offers grilled chicken nuggets as a healthier alternative to fried chicken.
So next time you’re looking for a snack or a meal, consider reaching for something from the USDA’s MyPlate guidelines instead of processed meats. Your brain will thank you!
2- Refined Grains
When it comes to improving our memory and focus, some foods are better left avoided. Refined grains are one of these. Refined grains, such as white flour and white rice, are grains that have had the bran and germ removed during processing. The result is a product that has a much longer shelf life and a lighter texture, but that lacks the essential vitamins, minerals, and fiber found in whole grains.
Eating too many refined grains can lead to a decrease in cognitive performance. Research from Google Scholar indicates that diets high in refined grains have been associated with decreased executive function and memory recall. It’s best to stick to whole-grain options instead, like brown rice, quinoa, and oats.
When it comes to snacks, avoid refined grains as much as possible. Opt for healthier options, such as fresh fruits and vegetables or whole grain crackers. To make sure you’re choosing healthy snacks, consult the My Plate guide from the USDA or check out the nutrition facts of your favorite restaurant items (for example, Chick-fil-A offers nutritional facts on their website).
Eating smarter can help you feel more energized and focused throughout your day, so consider avoiding refined grains when you’re looking for a snack.
3- Artificial Sweeteners
Artificial sweeteners have become increasingly popular in recent years. However, Harvard nutritionist and brain expert Dr. Rocio Salas-Whalen advise against the use of these artificial sweeteners for memory and focus. She cites several studies from Google Scholar and Citation Machine, which have linked artificial sweeteners to increased risks of obesity, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and other health issues.
In particular, one study found that people who consumed large amounts of artificial sweeteners experienced a decrease in cognitive functioning, including memory and focus. This makes sense since these artificial sweeteners tend to increase blood sugar levels, leading to a decrease in mental clarity.
Dr. Salas-Whalen recommends avoiding foods that contain artificial sweeteners and instead focusing on healthy snacks, such as those recommended by My Plate or Chick-fil-A Nutrition guidelines. Eating a balanced diet of nutritious, healthy foods is essential for brain health, so make sure to include plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins in your diet.
4- Diet and Low-Fat Foods
It’s no secret that our diets can have a significant effect on our mental health. That’s why it’s important to take a closer look at the foods we eat and how they might be impacting our brains, particularly our ability to focus and remember. Harvard nutritionist and brain expert Dr. Julia Rucklidge has identified five foods that she says should be avoided in order to keep your memory and focus sharp.
Dr. Rucklidge believes that healthy eating habits and avoiding foods high in unhealthy fat, sugar, and salt are key to optimizing your brain power. While all of us should strive to eat healthy snacks like fruits, nuts, and vegetables, here are five specific foods that Dr. Rucklidge.
5- Too Much Alcohol
Alcohol is one of the five foods Harvard nutritionist and brain expert Dr. Medha Raj recommends avoiding to keep your memory and focus sharp. While moderate drinking may have some benefits, it’s important to note that the consumption of alcohol can interfere with the functioning of our brains and long-term, can lead to permanent damage.
The primary risks associated with drinking too much alcohol include difficulty concentrating and impaired judgment. Alcohol is a depressant and can also worsen existing mental health problems, as depression and anxiety. Additionally, heavy drinking has been linked to an increased risk of developing dementia, even in those who are otherwise healthy.
If you want to maintain a sharp memory and focus, it’s best to avoid excessive drinking or cut it out altogether. Instead, focus on eating plenty of healthy snacks like fruits, vegetables, nuts, and whole grains. If you find yourself craving fast food, check out the Chick Fil A nutrition guide so you can make healthier choices. For more detailed information on the benefits of healthy eating, visit My Plate or do a quick Google Scholar search. You can also use citation machines to find reputable scientific sources that back up the claims you read online.