Our bodies and brains need food to live and thrive. This means that any food you eat is good enough to nourish your body. Right?
In fact, you couldn’t be more wrong, because the wrong foods can harm our bodies and even our brains and lead to cognitive decline.
That’s right—certain foods can actually make you dumber! While the right foods can nourish our brain and improve cognitive function, the wrong foods can do the exact opposite. How does this happen?
When we eat food, that food is metabolized by our bodies—meaning it’s broken down and converted into usable energy. Our brains consume 20% of this energy!
It makes sense that our brains function poorly on bad foods but function optimally on whole foods.
So which foods should you avoid?
Here are the top 10 foods I suggest you to avoid.
Don’t be scared—these are likely things you’ve cut out of your diet anyway, but some foods on this list may surprise you!
Food Group #1: Soda
Not quite a food, but soda contains harmful additives such as dyes like “caramel coloring” and lots of sugar that can contribute to cognitive decline.
Instead of using traditional sugar, soda companies are saving money by using something called high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), which can negatively affect your brain.
According to studies, constantly consuming HFCS in some way for a period of only six weeks can hinder your thinking, especially when it comes to learning and memory.
Replace with: Kombucha, seltzer water, herbal soda, or water.
Food Group #2: Microwave Popcorn
Making microwave popcorn can feel too easy at times, right? Microwave manufacturers have made this process even easier by incorporating a “popcorn” button into their machines.
Making your own popcorn is way safer and more nutritious.
Microwave popcorn bags are pretty scary. They’re lined with the chemical perfluorooctanoic acid, or PFOA. This same chemical is used in non-stick cooking pans such as Teflon.
These chemicals enter our bloodstreams and can build up in the body, causing toxicity. This chemical has been linked to cancer and birth defects, according to the Environmental Working Group (EWG).
It gets even worse! The artificial butter flavoring (which is actually a fermented byproduct from butter called diacetyl) in your microwave popcorn has also been linked to Alzheimer’s.
This chemical can cross the blood-brain barrier and alter proteins in your brain to lead to Alzheimer’s. It’s much better to make your own popcorn combinations with healthy toppings!
Replace with: Homemade popcorn with beneficial spices such as turmeric, cumin, raw honey, and Himalayan pink sea salt.
Food Group #3: Sugar
Studies have shown that sugar consumption impairs our ability to think and solve problems, and can even hinder our memory. Dur? That’s right, even natural versions of the sweet stuff can lead to cognitive deficiencies.
Although our brains need glucose to function properly, they need the proper amount of glucose for optimal function.
Too little glucose leads to a poor attention span, while too much of it can impair memory, problem solving, and cause premature cell aging. Studies also show that diabetes plays a major role in brain aging, so management of your sugar intake is crucial.
It’s best to choose sugars that have a lower glycemic index and use them sparingly. Grab a piece of fruit if you want something sweet!
Replace with: Natural sugars with low glycemic indexes such as stevia, monk fruit, and raw honey.
Food Group #4: Trans Fats
The worst of all fats, trans fats can affect everything from your heart and arteries to increasing your chances for depression and leading to reduced memory function.
Partially hydrogenated oils, which fall under the category of trans fats, claim 30,000 lives each year and negatively affect your brain. Trans fats have been associated with obesity, heart disease, bad memory, and even aggressiveness.
On top of being connected to having a poor memory, trans fats increase your risk for stroke, diabetes, heart disease, and high cholesterol. Bad news all around, eh?
Replace with: Healthy fats such as coconut oil, wild-caught salmon, nuts, and seeds.
Food Group #5: Prepared Foods
Prepared foods contain many chemicals and preservatives that can have negative affects on your smarts! Some of the packaging of prepared foods, namely frozen pizzas, contain the same chemicals that are in your microwave popcorn bag. Ah!
In an effort to give these foods a longer shelf life, preservatives are added. These foods lack essential nutrients for your brain, but instead pack on the fat and salt, which can make you feel “good” after you eat the food, and even have you craving more.
It’s not easy to cook for yourself or your family during the week, but meal planning is a huge help! Make your own meals ahead of time and freeze to stop yourself from buying those evil prepared foods at the store.
Replace with: Home-cooked foods prepared in advance or easy-to-eat foods for snacks such as carrots, fruit, and nuts.
Food Group #6: Alcohol
Up for losing brain cells, anyone? Ok, so this isn’t technically a food, but alcohol affects your brain long after you stop drinking it.
Besides the obvious effects on your neurological system, alcohol has long-term effects on your cognitive abilities. Long-term drinking can have effects even after you become sober, and alcoholism can even shrink your brain.
Other cognitive impairments from drinkers include difficulty learning new information and decreased problem-solving skills.
This is because drinking alcohol can actually cause scar tissue to form in the brain, not to mention vitamin deficiencies and “wasting away” of brain tissue.
Replace with: Kombucha, water, tea, or freshly made veggie juice.
Food Group #7: Caffeine
There have been studies done that speculate that caffeine can actually cut your risk for cognitive decline from diseases like Alzheimer’s and increase your concentration.
Although caffeine drinkers may feel better and even experience short-term cognitive improvement while drinking caffeine, the effects are just that—short-term.
You would need to constantly consume caffeine in order to maintain this level of awareness and cognitive function.
Caffeine intake can disturb your sleep patterns. Without sleep, our brains couldn’t be dumber. Sleep is the price we pay for that big machine in our heads, and we need proper sleep to enhance our cognitive abilities. Put down the coffee!
Replace with: Herbal tea, water, kombucha, or low-caffeine teas such as white or oolong tea.
Food Group #8: Food Additives
These include monosodium glutamate (MSG) as well as a variety of dyes and preservatives. And let’s not forget those “flavor enhancers”. I don’t know about you, but anything that needs a “flavor enhancer” probably isn’t worth eating, am I right?
Food additives may also include the use of artificial sweeteners, which have been linked to serotonin disruption in the brain.
Artificial sweeteners can also affect hormones and nerve function. Yes, even memory loss! Nitrates, food dyes such as Yellow #5, and likely carcinogen butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) can also hinder brain function.
Replace with: Fresh foods like fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, and healthy fats.
Food Group #9: Meat
Meat is an interesting one to make this list because some research shows that meat could actually be responsible for the development of our large brains as well as our intelligence.
However, there are other studies done that show that meat consumption could actually hinder our intelligence—and not just red meat!
This has to do with unhealthy saturated fat and its effect on the brain—in one of the studies, women who consumed the most saturated fat had poorer cognitive function and memory.
Replace with: Vegetable proteins like beans, protein such as nuts, or other animal sources of protein like fish and eggs.
Food Group #10: Gum
Gum isn’t a food, so don’t eat it! Chewing gum may increase alertness, but it draws attention away from other tasks. Again, the research on this has gone from one end to the other.
Early studies showed that chewing gum increased concentrated and memory, but recent studies have shown that chewing gum actually impairs short-term memory. Gum should definitely not be considered a cognitive enhancer, according to the professionals!
Replace with: Kick the chewing habit, your jaw does enough work as it is!
Are you seeing a pattern with these foods? Many of them contain ingredients that are in the other foods!
Avoiding many of these foods won’t just lead to better smarts, but total wellness in your bod.
Would you like to be intelligenter? If so, remove these foods out of your diet, then beeline it to your local spelling bee. You’re bound to upstage everyone of those kids there!
Are there any other foods that you think should be on this list? Tell me!