We recently wrote a blog about foods that are great for brain health and can actually improve your overall brain health and decrease mental decline.
Some foods, however, can do the exact opposite, and you may not even realize that eating them could be contributing to the fogginess you’re feeling on a day-to-day basis.
What is brain fog, you ask? “Dr. Gary Kaplan told MindBodyGreen, ‘Brain fog is characterized by cognitive impairments to memory, attention, executive function, and the speed of cognitive processing.’ Though brain fog is not technically a medical condition, it can be symptomatic of some underlying condition that Kaplan says might range from ‘poor nutrition or illness to undiagnosed food sensitivities or sleep deprivation’” (Byrdie).
Staying sharp is tough, and we of course want to focus on keeping our brain as healthy as possible for as long as we can. These foods can hinder your mental sharpness and can make you significantly foggier throughout the day.
- Processed meats – Processed meats, such as bacon, lunch meat, and sausage, are loaded with sodium, preservatives, and sodium nitrite/sodium nitrate, all of which have been shown to cause many issues among the body. Some of these problems are related to the skin and respiratory system, but you guessed it, they also have been found to cause dizziness and brain fog.
Instead: For breakfast, instead of processed meats, try making a breakfast sandwich with a whole grain bagel, salmon, 1 egg, and 1 avocado. Or opt for a sweeter non-processed breakfast and make some oatmeal with berries, ground flax seed and honey. Instead of lunch meat on sandwiches, go for grilled chicken, cut-up steak, or cheese and veggies!
- Dairy – Dairy is a very common food allergy, but even those who aren’t allergic to it are often sensitive. If you’re one of these individuals, you might experience some brain fog or headaches when you eat dairy products. This happens because dairy affects the central nervous system.
Instead: Replace dairy products with plant based products such as almond milk or coconut milk. If that makes a difference in your brain fog, you just might have a sensitivity that you didn’t even realize you had.
- Alcohol – Alcohol has many properties that can cause sensitivity and brain fog, including (but certainly not limited to) sulfites, histamines, gluten, and ethanol.
Instead: Consider cutting out alcohol completely for a couple weeks (even if you typically have a glass of wine with dinner) and seeing if your brain fog improves.
- Artificial sweeteners and processed sugars – Artificial sweeteners like aspartame break down into multiple compounds that are able to cross the blood-brain barrier. When this happens, the brain cells get excited and die. Having too much of any of these (sugar-free foods often contain them) can lead to headaches, mental confusion, fatigue, balance issues, and even numbness.
Instead: In your morning coffee, opt for natural sugar instead. Or take the sugar out altogether and go for a natural sweetener like honey, agave nectar or maple syrup.
There are many healthy alternatives that won’t cause brain fog so don’t feel discouraged if your favorite food is on the list. If you tend to eat a lot of these foods, try cutting them out for a few weeks, and see if your mental acuity increases. You may find that you don’t even miss having a cold cut sandwich once you’ve tried a healthy alternative. Your brain and your heart will thank you!