How do you feel in the mornings, afternoons, and throughout your busy days? Energetic, motivated, and ready to take on the next challenge? Or, dreading yet another day where you hit the ground running—albeit reluctantly and feeling fatigued—and keep running, despite feeling slow, cloudy, and unmotivated… Like you’re trudging through mud with the windows fogged up?
If the second description sounds more like your days, then you, like so many, are likely struggling with some degree of “brain fog,” uncomfortable feelings of lack of mental clarity and inability to concentrate. And sadly, it can interfere with your health and happiness by leading to forgetfulness along with difficulty focusing, thinking, and even communicating. It can leave you feeling fatigued, irritability, and even anxious. Yuck! Who could possibly be motivated and productive feeling like that?!
Before you decide to just give up and head back to bed for the rest of the week, there are some simple lifestyle solutions (one of which is most certainly getting enough quality sleep) to combat brain fog. Of course, diet plays a tremendous role, and what you do and don’t eat can either help clear the fog or contribute to making the it more dense. To help you get back to feeling human again, here are 5 brain foods that have been shown to support health and mental acuity—with motivation and energy to spare.
The Top 5 Brain Foods
1. Salmon: Salmon is high in taste, essential fatty acids (especially the brain-healthy omega-3 called docosahexaenoic acid, or DHA), protein, and vitamins and minerals (such as vitamin B12 and potassium), making it a powerful brain-boosting food. Believe it or not, the human brain is made up of nearly 60% fat, and DHA is the predominant type of fat found in the brain. Simply put, when it comes to brain health, DHA is “king,” and studies have shown that increasing consumption of DHA (through fatty fish or supplements) can improve memory, reaction time, and cognitive function.
Look for wild varieties and try to include salmon or other fatty fish into your nutrition plan at least twice a week. In addition to salmon, other good DHA-rich brain food choices are anchovies, herring, sardines, and trout.
2. Nuts & Seeds: Convenient, delicious, and nutritious, nuts and seeds provide healthy fats (including omega-3s), fiber (which supports healthy blood sugar, a key to banishing brain fog), numerous vitamins and minerals (such as vitamin E, manganese, and copper), amino acids, and polyphenols (which slow down the aging process in the brain by combating free radicals)—all shown to help support cognitive function.
Walnuts may be particularly friendly brain foods. One study found that cognitive function was consistently better in folks who regularly consumed walnuts. What’s more, walnuts are a natural source of melatonin, a sleep-inducing hormone that plays an intricate role regulating circadian rhythms. Interestingly, during sleep, the brain clears out potentially “neurotoxic” waste that builds up during the day. Enjoy an ounce of your favorite nuts or seeds, like walnuts, macadamia nuts, pistachios, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, or flaxseeds every day for the potential brain benefits.
3. Blueberries: Low in calories and super high in nutrients, blueberries make the list because they’re also wildly wonderful and delicious. They’re convenient and provide fiber, vitamins (especially C and K), and manganese.
Perhaps most impressive are the exceptionally high levels of antioxidants and flavonoids found in blueberries, which may directly lead to their suggested benefits for the brain. In fact, blueberries repeatedly rank as having one of the highest antioxidant capacities among all fruits, vegetables, spices, and seasonings. In one six-year study, 16,010 participants who regularly consumed berries (specifically blueberries and strawberries), enjoyed cognitive aging delays by as much as 2.5 years.
In his book The Brain Diet, Dr. Alan Logan refers to blueberries as the “WD40® of the nerve cells” due their capacity to improve communication between cells of the nervous system. Fresh or frozen, enjoying a handful of blueberries daily is delicious and may help your brain function at its best.
4. Green Leafy Veggies: Rich in antioxidants and carotenoids (which give vegetables their wide array of colors) including lutein, leafy greens such as spinach, Swiss chard, kale, and even mustard greens are known for providing high amounts of folate and Vitamin K, nutrients that may help improve focus, memory, and overall brain power.
While lutein is commonly recognized for its eye health benefits, it (along with zeaxanthin) also accumulates in the brain, and recent studies show that this powerful carotenoid plays a key role in brain health and cognitive function. Folate is also a very important brain nutrient, and it helps protect the brain by aiding in the elimination of potentially toxic compounds that contribute to brain fog. One study demonstrated that folks who enjoyed one or two servings of leafy greens per day enjoyed the thinking ability of folks who were up to 11 years younger.
Go ahead and indulge with that “big salad” every day (topped with some of #5 of course).
5. Avocados: Commonly regarded as a fantastic source of healthy fats (namely oleic acid), avocados are also very high in a variety of other nutrients—they provide 7 grams of fiber, have more potassium than bananas, and also provide plenty of vitamins (such as K, C, E, and folate) and antioxidants as well as small amounts of minerals (including magnesium, iron, and zinc).
When it comes to brain foods, avocados score well because they provide monounsaturated fats, which support healthy blood flow to the brain. One study showed that these healthy fats help protect nerve cells known as “astrocytes,” which carry information throughout the nervous system.
Feel free to dip into some guacamole or add a quarter of an avocado to your salad daily.
Best Brain Fog Foods
Eating the above brain foods alone won’t completely eliminate brain fog. It’s also important to ensure you’re getting enough quality sleep, staying hydrated, exercising regularly, and reducing simple carbs and sugars, which contribute to brain fog. But these delicious foods will help fill your nutritional toolbox with the nutrients your brain needs to function optimally—helping to banish brain fog and leading you closer to the motivated, productive, and energetic mind you long for.