Your brain is the most important organ in your body. It keeps your heart beating, lungs breathing and all the systems in your body functioning. That’s why it’s essential to keep your brain working in optimum condition with a healthy diet. Some foods have negative effects on the brain, impacting your memory and mood and increasing your risk of dementia. Estimates predict that dementia will affect more than 65 million people worldwide by 2030. Luckily, you can help reduce your risk of the disease by cutting certain foods out of your diet.

Sugary Drinks
A high intake of sugary drinks not only expands your waistline and boosts your risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease — it also has a negative effect on your brain. Try substituting water for sugary drinks.

Refined Carbs
These include sugars and highly processed grains, such as white flour. These types of carbs generally have a high glycemic index (GI). This means your body digests them quickly, causing a spike in your blood sugar and insulin levels. Also, when eaten in larger quantities, these foods often have a high glycemic load (GL). The GL refers to how much a food raises your blood sugar levels, based on the serving size. Foods that are high-GI and high-GL have been found to impair brain function.

Foods High in Trans Fats
Trans fats are a type of unsaturated fat that can have a detrimental effect on brain health. While trans fats occur naturally in animal products like meat and dairy, these are not a major concern. It’s industrially produced trans fats, also known as hydrogenated vegetable oils, that are a problem. These artificial trans fats can be found in shortening, margarine, frosting, snack foods, ready-made cakes and pre-packaged cookies. Some studies have found that when people consume higher amounts of trans fats, they tend to have an increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease, poorer memory, lower brain volume and cognitive decline.

Highly Processed Foods
Highly processed foods tend to be high in sugar, added fats and salt. They include foods such as chips, sweets, instant noodles, microwave popcorn, store-bought sauces and ready-made meals. These foods are usually high in calories and low in other nutrients. They’re exactly the kinds of foods that cause weight gain, which can have a negative effect on your brain health. You can avoid processed foods by eating mostly fresh, whole foods such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes, meat and fish. A Mediterranean-style diet has been shown to protect against cognitive decline.

When consumed in moderation, alcohol can be an enjoyable addition to a nice meal. However, excessive consumption can have serious effects on the brain. Chronic alcohol use results in a reduction in brain volume, metabolic changes and disruption of neurotransmitters, which are chemicals the brain uses to communicate. People with alcoholism often have a deficiency in vitamin B1. This can lead to a brain disorder called Wernicke’s encephalopathy, which in turn can develop into Korsakoff’s syndrome. This syndrome is distinguished by severe damage to the brain, including memory loss, disturbances in eyesight, confusion and unsteadiness. Heavy one-off drinking episodes are known as “binge drinking” can cause the brain to interpret emotional cues differently than normal.  Alcohol consumption during pregnancy can have devastating effects on the fetus. Given that its brain is still developing, the toxic effects of alcohol can result in developmental disorders like Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. The effect of alcohol abuse in teenagers can also be particularly damaging, as the brain is still developing. Teenagers who drink alcohol have abnormalities in brain structure, function and behaviour, compared to those who don’t. Overall, you should avoid excessive alcohol consumption, especially if you’re a teenager or young adult, and avoid binge drinking entirely.