The Worst Foods for Memory: What to Avoid for a Healthy Brain

When it comes to keeping your brain healthy and functioning optimally, it's important to be mindful of what you eat. Eating too much of certain foods can have a negative impact on your memory and cognitive abilities.


, processed meats, added sugars, fried foods, and foods high in omega-6 fatty acids are some of the worst foods for memory. Nitrates are often added to processed meats like bacon and hot dogs to preserve them and give them flavor.

Unfortunately, they can also cause an increase in fat in the liver, which can be toxic to the brain. Eating too much processed meat may also increase the risk of dementia. The American Heart Association recommends that women consume no more than 25 grams of added sugar per day and that men do not consume less than 36 grams. To find out if a packaged food contains added sugars and in what quantity, check the line on added sugars in the nutrition information panel. A study published in The Journal of Nutritional Science found that a diet rich in fried foods (and processed meats) is associated with lower cognitive scores in memory and learning.

To avoid these unhealthy foods, focus on eating mostly fresh, whole foods such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes, meat and fish. Carbohydrates are another food group to watch out for. Eating carbohydrates with a high glycemic index (GI) can lead to depression over time. GI is a measure of how quickly food is converted to glucose when broken down during digestion; the faster a food is converted to glucose in the body, the higher its ranking on the glycemic index. People who had the highest score on the carbohydrate quality index (meaning they ate better quality carbohydrates) were 30% less likely to develop depression than those who ate carbohydrates with a high glycemic index. Alcohol consumption is also linked to an increased risk of dementia.

Archana Singh-Manoux, research professor and director of the French Institute for Health and Medical Research, and her colleagues followed 9,087 people over 23 years to see how alcohol was related to the incidence of dementia. In general, men who consume more than 14 drinks a week or more than four drinks in a single day at least once a month are considered heavy drinkers, as are women who drink more than seven drinks a week or three drinks a day. Finally, eating too many foods high in omega-6 fatty acids can nullify the brain benefits of omega-3 fatty acids (those found in foods such as salmon, sardines, and walnuts). To keep your brain functioning at its best and protect it from damage caused by unhealthy eating habits, it's important to be aware of which foods are bad for memory and avoid them.