Some foods help keep your brain sharp and some may actually increase your risk of cognitive decline and certain brain diseases. The MIND diet, just ranked as the number 2 overall diet by U.S. News & World Report, is supposed to be especially helpful for your brain. MIND stands for Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay. It's based on the Mediterranean diet and the DASH diet, but it focuses on foods that have been specifically shown to boost brain health.
These five foods are linked to poor cognitive performance and an increased risk for Alzheimer's disease and were identified by Martha Clare Morris, Sc.D., and her colleagues at Rush University Medical Center. They are likely bad for the brain for two reasons: Either they are rich in saturated fat, which can trigger inflammation and oxidative stress in your body, potentially damaging brain cells, or they are high in sugar. Eating sugar-laden foods interferes with insulin signaling, which is problematic because brain insulin plays an important role in learning and memory. Here's what to limit on the MIND diet:
Frequency: Fewer than 4 servings a week
Red meat has more saturated fat than other protein sources like poultry or tofu. One study also linked a buildup of iron in the brain to an increased risk of Alzheimer's and suggested that a high intake of red meat could be a factor.
Try instead: Healthy Seafood Recipes
Frequency: Less than 1 serving a week
Many fried foods contain unhealthy levels of saturated fat, as do many fast foods.
Try Instead: Healthier Fried Food Makeovers
Frequency: Less than 1 serving per week
Cheese is high in saturated fat. Although you may have heard that processed cheese may harbor the metal aluminum and that could raise your dementia risk, more recently it's been debunked that trace amounts of aluminum from food boost Alzheimer's risk.
Try Instead: Vegan Snacks
Frequency: Less than 1 tablespoon per day
Butter is rich in saturated fat, while margarine is made from vegetable oils, such as soybean oil, which deliver omega-6 fats. Eating too many omega-6s can increase inflammation.
Try Instead: Healthy Oils for Cooking
Frequency: Fewer than 5 servings per week
These treats are often rich in sugar and saturated fat. Sugar can also activate your body's reward system, making you hungry for more.
Try Instead: Healthy Sweet Treats with No Added Sugar