We’ve all experienced it. It’s 3 p.m. (or 3 a.m.), the lines have blurred, nothing is really registering, and telling someone your name—much less answering the question your employer just posed—would be difficult. It’s not a hangover, you’re not sick or suffering from low blood sugar, and you slept for eight hours the night before. So, what’s the deal? Most likely, you’re suffering from a minor case of brain fog, which is a rather frequent symptom that people experience without a specific cause.
“Brain fog” is a term that describes a feeling of not being able to think as sharply and clearly as usual, according to Samantha Cassetty, RD. “Sometimes women report feeling fuzzy or hazy, which is linked to peri-menopause and menopause.” Cassetty does note, however, that brain fog frequently occurs in the absence of an identified cause.
In accord, Keri Gans, RDN, states, “Brain fog is not a medical condition, but rather a symptom.” “Many causes may be involved, including a lack of sleep, excessive sleep, sadness, certain medications or illnesses, dehydration, or a poor diet.”
While many of these factors are difficult to manage, there are specific foods that may exacerbate some of the symptoms of brain fog. We spoke with Cassetty and Gans to understand more about the meals that might be making us feel a little drowsy and a bit less sharp—in other words, somewhere south of our regular mental clarity and focus levels.
According to RDs, there are three foods that lead to brain fog.
1. Foods that have been heavily processed, such as processed meat and sweetened beverages
According to Cassetty, “heavily processed diets high in refined carbohydrates, added sugars, and sodium are potential perpetrators of brain fog.” “Brain fog may also be connected to processed meats and artificial sweeteners.” These classifications can be applied to that lovely late-afternoon cappuccino you hoped would give you a mental boost.
Cassetty claims that those who replace overly processed diets with whole or less processed plant foods have more mental clarity and energy. “Sometimes people aren’t aware of how foggy they are until they begin to feel sharper after making certain lifestyle changes,” she says.
Maya Feller, MS, RD, recommends mixing fresh fruit with lean protein or fat, as well as drinking enough of water, when it comes to choosing a snack that will help you focus. She previously told Well+Good, “I advocate afternoon snacks that provide prolonged energy, rather than excessively processed, sugary ones that give a spike followed by a crash.” “Combine nutrient-rich fruits or vegetables that provide fast energy and hydration with a lean protein or fat for lasting power,” she says.
2. Alcoholic beverages
Yes, alcohol can occasionally be the source of your fuzzy sensation. As a result, doctors advise avoiding excessive drinking on a daily basis. “It is a good idea to limit your alcohol intake to no more than one drink per day for ladies and two drinks per day for men,” Cassetty advises. While occasional celebrations are normal, excessive alcohol intake is harmful and has been related to an increased risk of chronic illness, liver disease, and insomnia, among other major health issues.
Try this tasty (and invigorating) herbal tea brewed with cacao, rosemary, and other nootropics if you’re looking for a beverage that will improve your brain health. Nootropics, according to herbalist Rachelle Robinett, are a terrific way to improve energy and clarity. Because these herbs don’t contain caffeine, you can drink the tea instead of a nightcap in the evening, and they may help you feel “more balanced, which eventually results in improved energy,” according to her.
Here’s the recipe, along with all of its brain-boosting benefits:
3. An insufficient supply of fruits and vegetables
If you want to reduce your intake of processed foods, choosing fruits and vegetables in their natural state is a simple method to do it. Cassetty suggests that you fill half of your plate with veggies or fruits, or a combination of the two. “Don’t worry if you’re not yet ready to eat this manner. Start with one meal or snack and work your way up. This eating pattern has been shown in numerous studies to increase thinking, memory, and cognitive skills.”
Feller agrees, stating that vegetables plus a protein-rich dip (such as hummus) or fruit are two excellent brain-boosting snacks. “In the afternoon, fruit is a fantastic choice if you balance it up with protein and fat, such as a serving of nuts and one ounce of cheese.” You may also increase your fruit intake by making a heart-healthy trail mix by combining dried fruit like raisins with nuts.
Tips and foods from a registered dietitian to help you avoid brain fog.
Experts suggest there are additional ways to prevent brain fog besides avoiding processed foods, alcohol, and a lack of fresh fruit in your diet. According to Cassetty, “antioxidant and anti-inflammatory-rich plant diets help lower oxidative stress and inflammation, which can cause the sense of brain fog.” That means whole-grain toast should be used instead of white toast. Replace white rice with brown rice or quinoa, and move from sugary cereals to whole-grain, low-sugar alternatives. The fibre in these less-refined meals can help you maintain a stable blood sugar level, which will improve your attention and mental clarity.
Furthermore, the source of fat in your diet should be considered. When feasible, substitute healthier unsaturated fats like extra virgin olive oil and avocado oil for saturated fats, and snack on avocados, walnuts, and chia seeds.
Both Gans and Cassetty emphasise the importance of brain-boosting practises such as resting, exercising, and reducing stress. “Aim for 7-9 hours of sleep each night,” Gans recommends. “Exercise, sleep, and finding healthy ways to cope with stress are all helpful to your brain health and can help you avoid brain fog,” Cassetty says.
Aside from that, it’s important to note that brain fog can be caused by more serious medical disorders. If you’re suffering from severe or persistent brain fog, seek medical help right away. Experts believe that all foods in moderation are fine; the most important point here is to change your habits in a way that feels helpful and appropriate for your lifestyle (and your noggin).
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