When your workdays feel like a constant battle between your to-do list and your ability to focus, it’s probably time to start taking a closer look at what’s causing that frustrating brain fog. And like many, many health issues, your diet could be one of the first areas to evaluate.

Poor nutrition, vitamin deficiencies, and certain foods all impact your brain health. And when left unchecked, brain fog can result in cases of low motivation, poor concentration, and lots of frustration. If you’re concerned about your brain fog, here’s everything you need to know about optimizing your diet for mental clarity.

Beat your brain fog with these diet changes

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Can changing your diet help brain fog?

“Brain fog” refers to a group of cognitive symptoms that all lead to an unfocused, unproductive day. If you’ve ever struggled with prolonged instances of fatigue, trouble concentrating, issues with memory recall, or irritability, you’ve dealt with brain fog.

Brain fog can be caused by a variety of factors, like a lack of sleep or even an underlying health condition. But many instances of brain fog could also be attributed to your diet quality.

Your brain is a powerful muscle that needs plenty of nutrients to stay firing on all cylinders. Your diet also influences your production of hormones, those chemical “messengers” that dictate many of your body’s essential tasks. For example, some common nutrient deficiencies that contribute to brain foginclude Vitamins A, B, C, and E.

Certain foods and dietary patterns are also linked to inflammation and oxidative stress, which can damage your brain cells and directly impact your cognitive abilities especially as you age.

So if you’re eating a diet that’s making you deficient in certain nutrients, or you’re eating too many foods that hurt your brain rather than help it, your food choices could be causing brain fog. Luckily, this is one of the simplest causes of brain fog to address: all you have to do is make some smart diet changes!

Are there specific foods that cause brain fog?

Some potentially brain-damaging foods that you may be better off avoiding if you deal with brain fog include simple sugars, artificial sweeteners, processed meats, and excess caffeine consumption.

Simple sugars

If you’re all too familiar with the 3pm “crash” during your workday, it could be due to your consumption of lower-quality carbohydrates during lunchtime. Simple sugars (like the kind that you would find in processed, sugary foods like sweets and sugary drinks, but also refined grains like white rice and pasta) are absorbed very, very quickly into your bloodstream. This leads to both extreme highs and lows in your blood sugar that can have you feeling wired and then tired, respectively.

Artificial sweeteners

Substituting your sugar with artificial sweeteners might not help, either. More specifically, aspartame, a common low-calorie artificial sweetener, has been linked to several behavioral and cognitive issueslike irritability, anxiety, depression, headaches, and learning problems.

Processed meats

Excessive salt intake, trans fats, and red meat are also potential culprits for brain fog. Unfortunately, many processed meats hit all three marks here. Processed meats like bacon, sausages, and salami that are preserved with sodium nitrates can introduce excess salt, trans fats, and inflammatory red meats that could be contributing to your brain fog when eaten too often.

Caffeine

This one might be hard to hear, but slamming cup after cup of coffee probably isn’t giving you the brain fog relief you’re after. Drinking too much coffee can lead to spikes in cortisol, your “stress hormone,” which can interfere with your normal cognitive abilities. When your cortisol levels are consistently high, it can also lead to burnout or “adrenal fatigue.”

In addition, coffee and other caffeinated drinks are diuretics, which means that excessive caffeine consumption could also be leading to some dehydration if you aren’t pairing each cup with ample amounts of water.

Besides these general recommendations, it’s also worth mentioning the possibility of food allergies, sensitivities, and intolerances. Eating foods that your body can’t handle can lead to a whole range of health consequences, and that includes lowered cognition. For example, some people who have celiac disease report experiencing brain fog after eating gluten.

Are there foods that you can eat to reduce brain fog?

No surprises here: the best diet changes you can make to reduce brain fog and protect your brain include whole, fresh food sources. Keep in mind that there’s no one food that will lead to a diet “cure” --- the right diet for you is personalized and needs to be evaluated holistically. But here are some additions that could help keep your brain sharp:

Fruits & vegetables

The power of fruits and vegetables really lie in the ample amounts of plant-based nutrients you can find in them. More specifically, eating a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables introduce a wide variety of antioxidants into your diet. Antioxidants help your body fight against cell damage, which can do a world of good for your brain as well as the rest of your body.

High-quality carbohydrates

Carbohydrates are actually your brain’s preferred source of energy! The secret is to eat high-quality carbs that take your body longer to metabolize, like whole grains, rather than simple sugars that can spike your blood sugar too quickly. And to time them correctly.

Healthy fats

Getting enough dietary fat is also crucial for a healthy brain. Omega-3 fatty acids in particular are essential for normal brain function and can have anti-inflammatory effects on your brain cells to keep them healthy for the long run.

How to begin making small dietary changes to see results

Brain fog can stem from a ton of different nutrition and hormone issues. So when it comes to brain fog and diet, It’s extremely helpful to keep track of relevant biomarkers throughout your journey to understand how they are affecting your cognition. Base’s at-home Energy Test can give you insights into levels of nutrients and hormones relevant to your brain fog like Vitamins D, B12, thyroid hormones, and cortisol.

Another good idea if you’re suffering from brain fog is to talk to your doctor to evaluate you for any underlying issues like allergies or food intolerances that could be contributing to your brain fog.

Once you’ve ruled out other issues, here’s how to start making small, consistent, and manageable changes to better protect your brain:

  • If your current diet includes a lot of processed and packaged foods, start by aiming for a couple of days of fresh, whole foods instead. You can make it easier for yourself by meal prepping so that you have foods that are ready to grab and go.

  • Prioritize plant-based foods on your plate. Start by making sure every meal has fresh produce in a variety of colors (fun fact: different colors in your fruits and vegetables represent different antioxidants and helpful plant-based compounds!).

  • Slowly wean yourself off the coffee and energy drinks. Gradually replace one cup with a low-caffeine herbal tea or adaptogenic blend instead.

  • Make healthy carbohydrate swaps by choosing whole grains over refined (think: more veggies and whole grains, less white rice, and pasta).

  • Use sodium-free seasonings, spices, and herbs to add flavor to foods that need a little zing with less salt.

  • Rethink your fat sources to make your foods both appetizing and brain-friendly. Choose healthy fats more often, like using olive oil for cooking instead of butter.

  • Take a supplement if necessary. If you’re still finding it hard to meet your dietary requirements, consider using a multivitamin to give your brain all the necessary nutrients it needs to function at its best.

Conclusion

Your food choices can either make or break your productivity on any given day. Making small and sustainable swaps is a great way to maintain your brain health and break through that brain fog once and for all.


STRUGGLING WITH BRAIN FOG?

Take our quiz to build a bespoke testing plan that will help you break through your brain fog.


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