When we think of improving our brain health, we often think of mind-stimulating activities like crossword puzzles, Sudoku, or Wordle. But there’s more to a sharp mind than mind games: Daily habits play a huge role in brain health, too, starting with your diet.

While it’s okay to occasionally indulge in certain foods that aren’t good for your brain, there are popular (and admittedly delicious) foods and drinks that people who specialize in brain health—like neurologists and neuroscientists—do their best to avoid. Here are seven of them.

protein powder

Are you in the habit of adding a scoop of protein powder to your daily smoothie? You might want to stop by, or at least check out the ingredients. While protein powder is often marketed as a healthy, low-calorie option for people trying to lose or maintain weight, many are full of artificial sweeteners, according to neuroscientist Frederick Fabritius.

“These additives are the ones that give me pause when it comes to protein powders because they wreak havoc on our gastrointestinal microbiome,” Fabritius said. “A healthy and strong internal microbiome is very important to good brain health because most of our neurotransmitters are produced in the gut.”


Sorry, soda drinkers. neurologist Your favorite champagne is very bad for your brain, says Dr. Shaheen Lakhan. “Soda is one of the worst foods for brain health because of the high concentration of simple sugars that damage the blood vessels that supply the brain,” he said. “Over time, this deprives the brain of the fuel it needs to function, leading to early dementia and strokes. Acutely, sugar also causes encephalitis, irritability, poor moods and sleep disturbances.”

Plus, constant highs and lows (such as sugar “rushes” and “crashes”) can also create an addictive state with cravings that withdraw — and diet soda is no better. “Even diet or soda-free versions have negative effects, because the calorie-free addition stresses the brain and tricks it into consuming more calories and craving real sugar,” he said.

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Watch the margarine label and avoid any that contain trans fats.


Down with the fake butter! Dr.. Data teaA neurologist and co-director of the Langone Concussion Center at New York University, said she avoids margarine as much as possible because it contains trans fats. (Although it should be noted that there are alternatives to butter without trans fats, so take a closer look at the ingredient list.)

We often hear that trans fats are not good for the heart and blood vessels. She said the same applies to the vessels of the brain. “a Stady from the journal Neurology found that older adults with the highest levels of elaidic acid (a common type of trans fat) in their blood were more likely to develop dementia. It’s best to stick to olive oil and real butter.”

Hemp-infused foods

With the advent of CBD and the legalization of marijuana in most states, this might come as a little surprising. But just because cannabis is legal and can help you relax doesn’t mean it does great things for your brain.

“Besides the short-term cognitive-impairing effects of cannabis, tetrahydrocannabinol (also known as THC, or its ‘high’) appears to constrict arteries in the brain,” he said. Dr. Lester LeungHe’s a neurologist and director of the Comprehensive Stroke Center at Tufts Medical Center. “This can be very dangerous when used in large amounts by people with migraines, a very common headache condition that, combined with excessive cannabis use, can lead to stroke, even in young, otherwise healthy people.”


This summer, you might want to skip the beer at your neighborhood barbecue. “Beer consists entirely of empty calories and has no nutritional value,” he said. doctor. Byron isNeurologist and director of the Movement Disorders Program at Tufts Medical Center. “Alcohol is a neurotoxin that can affect both the central and peripheral nervous systems, even if ingested in moderate amounts.”


If you’re a decaf fan, Sean Callan, neuroscientist and CEO of Ellipse analyticsAnd He recommends that you skip this shake-free drink unless you are sure the decaffeination process is solvent-free.

“Solvents, the chemicals used to decaffeinate coffee, are generally toxic to humans,” he said. Many of them are associated with an increased risk of cancer or neurological harm, especially in large or frequent doses. Furthermore, solvents such as methylene chloride (a commonly used solvent in the decaffeination process) are known to cross the placenta, meaning that a pregnant woman risks exposing her unborn child to the solvent.”

If you still want to enjoy decaf, Callan recommends visiting the site checkyourdecaf.orgwhere you can see what chemicals are in any caffeine-free brands you drink.

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Dr. Pedram Navab said that fatty foods can “damage the blood vessels that supply the brain, and cause cognitive impairment.”

French fries

Here’s another catch: French fries are one of the staple foods for neurologists doctor. Pedram Nawab Avoids. “A diet that contains fatty foods such as french fries can damage the blood vessels that supply the brain, causing cognitive impairment,” he said. “It reduces the integrity of the blood-brain barrier (BBB) ​​and leads to damage to neurons of the hippocampus, a part of the brain useful for learning and memory.”

While some of these foods may be easier to cut—looking at you, protein powder and decaf coffee—some may be a little trickier. So remember to consume any favorite foods and drinks that may harm brain health in moderation and, if possible, choose a healthier version of them.

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