No Brainer: 6 Foods That Are Bad for Your Brain Health

Kemper House WorthingtonFeeding your body also feeds your brain, but consuming certain foods can put you at risk for memory loss, dementia and Alzheimer’s.

Here are the tops foods and drinks you should restrict or eliminate from your diet.

Refined Carbohydrates

Processed grains can be found in food made from white flour. They have high glycemic indexes, meaning your body digests them quickly. They usually cause a spike in blood sugar and insulin, too, which affects memory formation in adults. The inflammation created by those spikes directly impacts your hippocampus, the area of your brain responsible for converting short-term memories to their long-term counterparts.

What to eat instead:

  • Whole-grain bread and pasta
  • Brown rice

Sugary Beverages

You should avoid sugary-sweet drinks, including soda, sports and energy drinks, and processed fruit juices. Consuming those beverages raises your blood sugar and increases your possibility of developing heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Both conditions have well-established links to poor brain health.

Excessive sugar consumption may also result in higher insulin resistance in your brain, negatively affecting cognitive function, learning and neuron formation.

What to eat instead:

  • Flat, sparkling or infused water
  • Fresh-squeezed fruit juices
  • Unsweetened tea or coffee

Trans Fat

This type of unsaturated fat occurs naturally in animals and is also processed in foods like frosting, margarine and hydrogenated vegetable oils. Trans fat has been linked to brain inflammation, which slows down its productivity and neuron activity.

You should eat foods high in omega-3 fatty acids, which are highly beneficial to brain function and cell generation.

What to eat instead:

  • Walnuts
  • Chia seeds
  • Flax seeds
  • Fish, such as salmon or mackerel

Fried or Highly Processed Foods

Consumption of pre-packaged snacks, sweets and fast food should be limited. Anything high in refined sugar, sodium and fat affects your brain’s ability to produce the brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a molecule essential for long-term memory formation and neuron growth.

Processed foods may also impact your blood-brain membrane, which prevents certain substances in your blood from entering your brain.

What to eat instead:

  • Fresh fruits: deep-colored berries, oranges, avocado and kiwi
  • Leafy green vegetables: kale, broccoli and spinach
  • Nuts and seeds: pumpkin seeds, peanuts, sunflower seeds, almonds and cashews
  • Legumes: peas and lentils

Artificial Sweeteners

Aspartame is usually found in diet sodas and other sugar-free food and drink. It contains phenylalanine, an amino acid that can cross the blood-brain barrier and disrupt your neurotransmitters. That makes your brain more susceptible to physiological stress caused by free radicals.

What to eat instead:

  • Stevia
  • Coconut palm sugar
  • Date sugar
  • Monk fruit sweetener


There’s nothing wrong with having a beer or a glass of wine now and then, but overconsumption of alcohol is bad for your physical and cognitive health. Chronic alcohol use creates a metabolic change in your brain that disrupts communication between neurotransmitters. Long-term exposure can result in memory loss, confusion and impaired vision. Non-alcoholic alternatives are available for beer, hard cider, tonic water and spirits.

Mental-Minded Meals at Kemper House Worthington

We’re committed to growing as much of our own food as possible to provide residents with a fresh, plant-based diet. We base our meals around the MIND diet, which emphasizes foods with nutrients that fight inflammation and oxidative stress in the brain.

Our freshly prepared meals are free of preservatives and additives that may adversely affect our resident’s cognitive abilities. We strive to provide food that tastes good and makes our residents feel good, too. Call 614-681-8330 to schedule a tour.