Eating to Combat Brain Fog
Eating to Combat Brain Fog
If you’ve ever experienced brain fog, you know it’s difficult to pinpoint—slow thinking, haziness, difficulty focusing, confusion, lack of concentration, forgetfulness, cloudiness in thought processes, and difficulty communicating. These symptoms can, over time, result in reduced cognition and short- and long-term memory loss. Yet because the symptoms are subjective and brain fog is not a medical condition, getting the appropriate care can be difficult.
What causes brain fog is not clear, but some studies suggest it’s likely associated with inflammation in and blood flow to the brain. According to nutritional psychiatrist Uma Naidoo, MD, eating excess sugar, caffeine, and alcohol contributes to its symptoms. “Consistently eating a balanced diet with lots of nutrient-dense and antioxidant-rich foods can help,” Naidoo says. Nutrients fuel our brains and antioxidants help get rid of toxic compounds and counter inflammation: “Eating the colors of the rainbow to get the array of nutrients and antioxidants your brain needs is a great place to start.”
Fruits, vegetables, and legumes have a variety of antioxidants and nutrients. Their color can indicate the presence of certain antioxidants (flavonoids) that give them their pigment: red for lycopene (cherry tomatoes); orange or yellow for carotenoids (carrots); green for chlorophyll (spinach, dandelion greens); blue or purple for anthocyanins (blueberries); white for anthoxanthins (onions). Eating the full range can help your brain get the antioxidant support it needs.
Naidoo also recommends getting plenty of folate (vitamin B9), found in leafy-green vegetables—low levels are associated with symptoms of brain fog and feelings of fatigue. And she suggests swapping out a dairy-based yogurt for a coconut-based yogurt, eating chia pudding with berries and nuts, and adding veggies (especially leafy green vegetables) to as many meals as possible, including your breakfast.
Eating the Rainbow: Recipe Picks
“Regularly incorporating fermented foods and spices—black pepper, turmeric, chili pepper, and black cumin (as a spice or a tea)—into your meals can help add antioxidants and flavor, too,” says Naidoo. “And developing research suggests that eating foods rich in the antioxidant luteolin can particularly help with brain fog over time.”
Researchers propose that luteolin, a flavonoid, may help decrease brain fog by reducing inflammation in the brain, limiting oxidative stress, inhibiting the activity of viruses, and reducing cognitive decline. You can find luteolin in foods such as celery, broccoli, artichokes, peppermint, green pepper, parsley, thyme, olives, and carrots.
Incorporating Spices, Herbs, and Luteolin: Recipe Picks
Uma Naidoo, MD, is a nutritional psychiatrist who serves as the director of nutritional and lifestyle psychiatry at Massachusetts General Hospital. She is also on the faculty at Harvard Medical School and is a professional chef. She is the author of This Is Your Brain on Food.
This article is for informational purposes only. It is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice. To the extent that this article features the advice of physicians or medical practitioners, the views expressed are the views of the cited expert and do not necessarily represent the views of goop.
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