Want to think more clearly? Avoid this food.
“Fog” is not just a meteorological term. It is also used to describe cloudy thinking. And brain fog is something more and more people are talking about these days, let alone trying to avoid.
“Brain fog is not a mental state,” explains Courtney Barth, RDN, LD, registered dietitian at the Cleveland Clinic Center for Human Nutrition. “But it’s become a popular topic, especially because of the long-term symptoms of COVID-19.”
Whatever the source of brain fog, COVID or otherwise, Barth says it’s important to talk and fight.
“The constant feeling that you can’t focus or be productive can really affect your mental health, so talking about it can help with overall support,” Barth says. “Brain fog can also interfere with work, school, or just day-to-day life, which can be taxing.”
Believe it or not, diet can also play a role in brain fog. Barth explained why and which foods can increase your likelihood of experiencing brain fog.
Related: 6 habits to reduce long-term COVID risk
Why is diet important for brain fog?
You might be surprised that what you eat can affect how you think. But Barth says it’s possible, and research from 2021 cites nutrition as a factor in brain fog.
“Carbohydrates are our brain’s main source of energy,” says Barth. “A minimum of 130 grams of carbohydrates per day is recommended for optimal brain function, focusing on complex carbohydrates to provide additional vitamins, minerals, and fiber.”
Barth adds that other nutrients like vitamin B12 (found in animal protein) and omega-3 fatty acids (found in salmon, olive oil and avocado) can also help. An imbalanced blood sugar level can also be a cause, especially if brain fog appears as part of your “daily 3 p.m. slump.”
“Around this 2-3 p.m. time, many of us start to experience brain fog or fatigue, which could be due to low blood sugar levels. Instead of going for a coffee, try a snack that contains a pair of fiber-rich carbs with a source of protein,” recommends Barth.
Finally, dehydration can affect brain fog.
“Recommendations for fluids should be individualized, but in general, women need about nine cups of fluid per day and men need about 13 cups of fluid per day,” says Barth.
Related: What are the effects of a long COVID-19?
What is the worst food for brain fog?
Heavily processed foods are the worst foods for brain fog, according to Barth. These types of foods include chips, candies, chicken nuggets, hot dogs, and fries.
“These foods tend to be higher in saturated fat, sugar, and salt,” Barth says. “Overall, these foods offer little nutritional benefit because they lack essential vitamins and minerals to support brain health. mind and body.”
Limit these foods if brain fog is a problem or if you’re hoping to prevent it in the first place.
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What else to avoid if you’re battling brain fog
Food isn’t the only factor in your diet to assess. You’ll also want to keep tabs on what you’re drinking, especially alcohol.
“Alcohol itself does not provide any nutritional benefit to the body,” Barth says. “Alcohol consumption can limit cognitive focus and increase the risk of dehydration.”
Barth refers to CDC guidelines for alcohol consumption: one drink or less per day for women and two drinks or less per day for men.
Barth says limiting artificial sweeteners, especially aspartame, can also be a good idea.
“One study has recommended that aspartame use may be responsible for behavioral and cognitive problems, but more studies are needed,” Barth points out. “The FDA has declared artificial sweeteners to be safe for consumption, so I think more studies on how much and how often they should be consumed would be beneficial.”
What to do with brain fog
First, Barth says to focus on eating nutritious foods.
“Focus on foods that support brain health, such as fruits and vegetables high in antioxidants, whole grains high in fiber to support better blood sugar management, foods high in vitamin B12 such as lean meats , fish and poultry, and foods high in omega-3 fats like salmon, nuts or olive oil,” she says.
Some of her favorite snacks to combat the 3 p.m. slump include string cheese and fruit Greek yogurt. It’s not just about What you eat, however – it’s When you eat too.
“Skipping meals can cause blood sugar fluctuations, so it’s important not to skip meals,” says Barth. “Aim to eat every three to five hours and always pair your carb source with protein and fiber.”
It is also important to know the signs of brain fog so that you can modify or get help if needed. “Some signs may include fatigue, an inability to concentrate, or just feeling fuzzy or cloudy,” Barth says.
Finally, take a holistic approach to your life: focus on overall healthy lifestyle habits, such as aiming for seven to nine hours of sleep at night, limiting screen time before bed, exercising and manage stress levels,” says Barth.
Next up: The 11 best foods for your brain