Likely, you’ve experienced it: You’re sitting down to write a simple email when suddenly the words screech to a halt and you struggle to grasp your own thoughts. Or perhaps you’ve had the irritation of “drawing a blank” in conversation when trying to name something obvious, such as the store at which you frequently shop. Maybe you’ve even walked into another room, only to forget why you went in there in the first place. Known as “brain fog,” this kind of temporary cognitive impairment or lapse in fluid thinking can be enormously frustrating, and it’s a common complaint amongst everyone from stressed students to busy professionals to retired people.
Many lifestyle factors can be responsible for the mental sluggishness we’ve come to dread in our demanding, high-performance schedules. Stress, lack of adequate sleep, and exposure to environmental chemicals and toxins are among the most common culprits. Beneficial habits, including practicing small amounts of mediation regularly, setting a reasonable bedtime, using more natural body care and cleaning products, and checking living and working environments for mold, are just a few of the ways we can alleviate some of these external negative influences.
In addition to the factors in your surroundings, diet plays a paramount role in either hindering or dramatically helping brain function. Consuming large amounts of sugar; highly inflammatory ingredients, such as dairy or alcohol; artificial additives, including dyes, chemical sweeteners, and MSG; or pesticide-prone, non-organic foods can greatly diminish the amount of energy your brain has. This impairs how well your neurons are able to communicate with one another. The good news is that there is a plethora of truly brain-healthy ingredients to enjoy that can alleviate brain fog, and even prevent it from happening in the first place.
Small Additions for a Bigger Impact
To easily boost your mind through your diet, try to include plenty of the “FAMs:” fats, antioxidants, and micronutrients. Consider that your brain tissue is composed of at least 60 percent fat, and in order to feed these cells — as well as protect, repair, and build new ones — consuming quality fat is imperative. Although there are many forms of brain-healthy fats, some simple, thought-enhancing ingredients you can start with are omega-3s (including those found in flaxseeds), monounsaturated fats (such as those found in olive oil), and medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs), which are often sourced from coconuts.
Antioxidants are also wonderful tools to help reduce damaging stress in the brain, which can hinder your ability to think clearly. For example, the polyphenols in berries have been well-proven to improve memory; turmeric’s curcumin content is widely lauded for its inflammation-reducing abilities; and green tea and matcha contain an antioxidant compound called EGCG, which may enhance learning and the ability to process information.
Lastly, many vitamin and mineral micronutrients can optimize brain performance, from the choline found in cauliflower to the magnesium found in cacao, all of which can greatly influence your brain function, mood, and ability to think clearly.
A final note: If you’re a coffee devotee, you may want to reconsider your habit. While the large dose of caffeine in coffee can temporarily stimulate brain activity, it also leaves your neurotransmitters depleted as soon as the initial wave of “energy” wears off. That means, ultimately, your brain has to work on repairing itself instead of consistently functioning in a balanced manner. Try to wean yourself onto smaller, less-frequent doses of coffee to avoid addiction, and boost your brain activity with truly supportive FAM-packed drinks instead, such as the Spiced Turmeric Latte. By integrating a few of these new habits into your daily diet, you can beat the mental fog once and for all, and enjoy the excitingly productive potential that only a happy, well-functioning brain can offer.
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Julie Morris has energy all day long thanks to nature’s most amazing foods. She is the author of five cookbooks about superfoods, and you can find more of her recipes and tips at www.JulieMorris.net.