Memory and focus can be affected by what you eat and drink, just as moderate amounts of caffeine can increase alertness, energy and the ability to concentrate, there are other substances that are not favorable.
5 foods to avoid to maintain good memory and focus
1. Highly processed foods
A diet rich in ultra-processed foods is related to the accelerated shortening of telomeres and cell aging. “Shortening our telomeres may mean we are at risk of degenerative disease earlier in life,” Dr. Uma Naido, a nutritional psychiatrist and faculty member at Harvard Medical School, shares with CNBC.
Highly processed foods tend to be low in nutrients (vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants) and often contain high levels of salt, sugar, and fat; additives such as artificial colors and flavors or stabilizers.
Prepackaged soups, hot dogs, luncheon meats, frozen pizza, soft drinks, packaged cookies and snacks, fast food, and frozen meals are some examples of highly processed foods.
2. Foods and drinks high in added sugars
High consumption of added sugars can lead to decreased plasticity of the hippocampus, the part of the brain that controls memory.
Added sugars are sugars that are added to foods and beverages when they are processed or prepared. Sugary drinks are the largest source of calories and added sugar in the American diet.
Consuming just one beer or glass of wine a day can age your brain by two years , according to a study published in 2022 in the journal Nature.
With aging, parts of the brain die off naturally, but drinking a drink or more a day could speed up that effect.
The study using imaging data from 36,678 adults found that even moderate alcohol consumption can affect gray matter volume and white matter microstructure.
4. Foods and drinks with artificial sweeteners
Dr. Gary Kaplan, founder and medical director of the Kaplan Center for Integrative Medicine, notes that in the body, aspartame is broken down into compounds that can cross the blood-brain barrier, excite brain cells, and cause them to die.
Diet sodas are also associated with up to 3 times the risk of dementia.
Additionally, Dr. Naido notes that artificial sweeteners, such as saccharin, sucralose, and stevia, can increase “bad” gut bacteria that can negatively affect mood. The nutritional psychiatrist mentions other alternatives to consider, such as honey, monk fruit extract or coconut sugar.
5. Foods made with highly processed oils
Highly processed oils such as those derived from soybean, corn, canola, and sunflower seeds and safflower seeds contain high amounts of omega-6 fatty acids.
Dr. Naido points out that excessive omega-6 consumption can cause the body to produce chemicals that can lead to inflammation in the brain . The nutrition and brain expert recommends opting for olive or avocado oil.