Brain fog – it happens to the best of us. There are some days when it seems like you can’t produce a single coherent sentence, or remember anything from more than five minutes ago.
If brain fog happens every once in a while, it could just be from a couple of sleepless nights in a row or too much junk over the weekend. If it’s happening every day, though, that could be an early sign of nutritional deficiency. A lot of health advice is centered around being active and limiting sugary and fried foods, but not everyone will tell you what to add in to replace the stuff you’re cutting out.
For anyone who’s experiencing brain fog on a regular basis, the answer is probably closer than they think. There’s no need for exotic superfoods or pricey supplements – in fact, they could probably walk right into their kitchen and start fixing their brain fog in the next couple minutes. The foods that could help are easy to find and even easier to enjoy.
Choices like blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, and grapes (to name just a few) are high in compounds known as antioxidants. They’re important because of what they help us do – fight oxidative stress by getting rid of free radicals. Free radicals can come from all kinds of sources; they could be from eating a fast-food burger, breathing exhaust fumes, or spraying weed-killer without gloves. Once these free radicals are let loose, they cause all kinds of damage to cells throughout the body, in a process known as oxidative stress. This can result not only in rapid outward aging, but in cognitive decline as well.
And that’s where all the little berries come in. In order to fight oxidative stress, we unleash antioxidants to fight the good fight. The most potent types of antioxidants are found in the darker berries, like blackberries, blueberries, and grapes. There was actually a study done with blueberries, in which one group of senior citizens who consumed blueberries daily was compared to the control group, which didn’t eat the blueberries. When the time came to compare the cognitive sharpness of the two groups, the group that had the blueberries came out ahead.
Where would we be without avocados? They add joy to salads, they’re a must-have for tacos, and they take any sandwich to the next level. If you love avocados too, you’ll be delighted to learn that they’re packed with an antioxidant called lutein. This antioxidant comes in the form of carotenoids, and studies have already been done demonstrating that the higher your lutein levels are, the better off you’ll be in terms of brain development and overall cognitive performance.
If you ever feel like picking up some extra lutein from non-avocado sources, try some other options like leafy greens, corn, squash, or carrots.
Eggs and Meat
B vitamins are very closely associated with healthy cognitive function and a positive mood; if you feel like you could use more of both, increase your intake of eggs and meat. Egg yolks are high in several different B vitamins, notably B12, B9 (or folate), B7 (or biotin), and B6.
Meat is also high in several B vitamins; liver, in particular, packs a powerful B12 punch. So much, in fact, that you could eat just an ounce every other day and be able to tell a difference.
People who eat eggs and meat regularly will have lower homocysteine levels, an amino acid that’s strongly associated with dementia. For anyone following a plant-based diet, most of the B vitamins will be a bit more difficult to get through food; without eggs or meat, the best option is to supplement.
You’ll get all kinds of important nutrients by eating fish, but for the purposes of banishing brain fog, you’ll want to go for the varieties that are high in healthy fat. Once you’re getting enough beneficial fat to your brain, you’ll practically feel that imaginary lightbulb above your head switching on.
Healthy fats from fish are great because they’re high in a type of omega-3 called DHA, which is one of your brain’s favorite sources of fatty acid. If fish isn’t really your thing, it’s still easy to get those DHAs by supplementing with fish oil.
For anyone who’s cut fish out of their diet, an alternative could be chia seeds or flax seeds. Instead of DHA you’d be getting ALA, a plant-based omega-3.
Do you know your pseudo-hippie friend who makes her own kombucha? That’s not just a nice bubbly drink to have on hand; she’s also taking care of her gut health by regularly consuming a source of beneficial bacteria. Of all the organs that get talked about, the intestines don’t get nearly enough attention. Of course, they might not seem quite as exciting as the heart or liver, but if your gut health is in trouble, you’re going to be in trouble too. One of the first things to go will be the production of neurochemicals such as dopamine and serotonin. This last one is especially important for brain health, mainly in terms of not feeling constantly down in the dumps. Without enough of the “feel-good” hormone, serotonin, it’s impossible to feel like things are going your way.
The gut microbiome is a wild west show of bacteria, all fighting for dominance. A healthy microbiome will have the right balance of bacteria, but there are just too many things that can knock that balance way off. When this happens – which you can pretty much assume it has, to one degree or another – it’s time to reach for the probiotics. Yogurt, sauerkraut, kimchi, and kombucha are all great sources of probiotics, as long as they aren’t pasteurized. It doesn’t take much, either – just a heaping spoonful of cultured veggies or a serving of yogurt each day should do the trick.
The takeaway: eat the foods that’ll love you back
This could be a lot of new information to take in. There are so many factors involved in keeping the body in working order – neurochemicals, hormones, gut microbiomes, and more. One of the first things to take care of is to know where you’re starting from. Should you focus on your gut health first, or are you in dire need of upping your B12? With an at-home lab test from Base, you won’t have to feel like you’re taking shots in the dark. Once the test results come back, you’ll get personalized feedback and suggestions on what to do now that you understand where you’re at. Who can say where this could take you – the improved focus is a great place to start, but imagine what else you could end up fixing!