4 ultra-processed foods to avoid that affect memory, energy and metabolism

This post has been updated since it was originally published on 12/8/2022 to include more insights from the experts.

As you may already know, eating nutrient-dense foods is essential to a healthy lifestyle. In addition to staying hydrated, exercising regularly, and getting enough sleep, it’s important to feed your body the proper vitamins and nutrients it needs. What you consume greatly affects how your body works, so you should always be mindful of what you eat.

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With that in mind, it helps to understand the downside of ultra-processed foods. While they may be delicious, some of these processed foods are actually bad for your health in more ways than one. According to an article by CNN CheersEating more ultra-processed foods may contribute to overall cognitive decline, including areas of the brain involved in executive functioning, the ability to process information and make decisions, a new study has revealed. Rudy Tanzi, professor of neurology at Harvard Medical School and director of the Genetics and Aging Research Unit of Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston shared with Cnn that ultra-processed foods are usually very high in sugar, salt and fat, all of which promote systemic inflammation, perhaps the biggest threat to healthy aging in the body and brain. Several experts reveal that they are not only bad for the brain but also affect metabolism and energy levels.

So, what kind of ultra-processed foods exactly should you avoid? We asked Lisa Richards, nutritionist and creator of the Candida Diet, Registered Dietitian Katelyn Brockmiller, Krutika Nanavati, Registered Dietitian and Nutritionist at ClinicSpots, and Dr. Amy Lee, Board Certified Doctor of Internal Medicine, Medical Nutrition and Obesity Medicine and partner with Nucific to find out. Read on to learn more.

Refined carbohydrates

According to Richards, «refined carbohydrates create a low-level state of inflammation in the body that causes a variety of health problems, including decline in cognitive function.» He notes that white bread in particular is a food you should steer clear of because «it’s made with refined carbohydrates and free from fiber and other beneficial nutrients.» As a result, refined carbohydrates «quickly turn into sugar, causing your glucose to rise rapidly» and then make you «feel tired and brain fog due to the inflammatory nature of these ingredients.»

Fried food

Furthermore, CNBC reports, «A study involving 18,080 people found that a diet high in fried foods was linked to lower scores in learning and memory. The likely reason: These guilty pleasures cause inflammation, which can damage the blood vessels that supply blood to the brain».

Brockmiller explains: Not only are fried foods high in calories and low on filling, they’re also loaded with sodium. Sodium can increase bloating and water retention which can limit weight loss.


Dr. Lee points out, «If you look at the calorie density of a serving of alcohol, the calories range from 70 to 160 calories, which is actually not that high. [But when we put alcohol into the body]the immune system kicks in to try and get rid of it altogether by slowing down other metabolic pathways (like burning calories).»

Diet drink

«Many are turning to diet sodas to reduce their calorie intake and thus hopefully lead to weight loss. Unfortunately, these drinks can often lead to unwanted bloating, undoing any weight loss that may be occurring,» says Richards.

He continues, «Carbonation is known to lead to bloating, but diet sodas contain another component that leads to bloating; artificial sweeteners. Sucralose is the most common culprit of gas and bloating. Sucralose causes gastrointestinal irritation and bloating in addition to reducing Healthy Gut Bacteria This bacteria helps prevent bloating by improving overall gut health. Another side effect of artificial sweeteners is the likelihood that the consumer will overeat at the next meal. Artificial sweeteners are linked to overeating, a other act that causes swelling.

Another threat is that beverages such as sodas and other sugary drinks contain excessive amounts of sugar. Nanavati says «high sugar intake can cause inflammation in the brain, which has been linked to learning disabilities and memory problems and a higher risk of developing conditions like dementia.» Normally, even drinks with high amounts of sugar can be heavily processed, causing blood sugar levels to spike and then crash.

Nanavati gave us alternative drinks that we could drink other than diet sodas and other sugary drinks. «Opt for healthier beverages like herbal tea, coffee, green tea, etc. to protect brain function and overall cognitive well-being.»

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