You know that a good diet can help you stay mentally sharp, but there’s another side to the coin. The following brain fog foods rob you of mental clarity, make you forgetful, and kill your productivity.
These mind-numbing foods also lead to long-term memory problems. If memory loss, depression, dementia or Alzheimer’s disease are problems you’re trying to avoid, you will want to do what mentally sharp people do and limit or remove these 14 foods from your daily diet.
14 Foods That Cause Brain Fog
1. Trans Fats
Trans fats found in baked goods and fried foods cause an inflammatory response throughout your body that increases your risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
Sugar, which is a major ingredient in many of today’s packaged foods, may lead to a foggy brain in much the same way that a high sugar intake leads to diabetes.
Researchers now believe that overconsumption of sugar leads to insulin resistance in the brain as well as the body. This new understanding has prompted some scientists to refer to Alzheimer’s disease as “type 3 diabetes”.
Fructose, particularly high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) found in soft drinks, sweetened drinks and junk foods disrupts proper signaling within the brain leading to forgetfulness and the deterioration of brain cells.
Dr. Mercola recommends keeping your fructose intake below 25 grams per day, yet states that:
“One fourth of Americans are consuming more than 135 grams per day, largely in the form of soda.”
Fructose is the natural sugar found in fruit. Fruit sugar does not deliver the high fructose levels found in sweetened drinks and junk foods. The fiber, antioxidants, and nutrients in fruit also counter the effects of the sugar.
The following fruits provide less than 3 grams of fructose per 100 grams (about ½ cup): apricots, nectarines, peaches, cantaloupe, pineapple, oranges, raspberries, blackberries, strawberries, grapefruit, honeydew melon.
4. Saturated Fats
Saturated fats found in butter, palm oil, full-fat dairy foods, and greasy burgers and fries have been shown through animal research to impair learning and memory skills.
High salt foods like canned foods, cured meats, fast foods, ready-to-eat meals, and boxed snack foods negatively impact your cognitive abilities. In other words, too much salt impairs your ability to think.
There’s a lot of debate about the side effects of eating too many soy products, like tofu. A study published in the journal Dementia and Geriatric Cognitive Disorders, adds some fuel to this already hot debate.
The study found that elderly Indonesian people who had a high daily intake of tofu (i.e. two or more servings per day) had some clouding of memory. Studies on other soy-based foods, like tempeh, have been found to improve memory.
7. Fish That Are High in Mercury
Fish that are high in mercury, which includes shark, swordfish, orange roughy, and tuna could impair memory and brain function if eaten too often.
To be on the safe side, limit your consumption of these high-mercury fish to a few times a month and choose low-mercury fish or seafood like catfish, clams, crab, and Atlantic haddock. Here’s a complete list of fish low and high in mercury.
Researchers followed more than 5,000 middle-age male beer drinkers for 20 years and found that those who drank two pints of beer a day increased their risk of mental decline. Their symptoms included a decreased ability to recall information, a lower attention span, and diminished reasoning skills.
However, you might not have to give up on alcohol completely. Moderate alcohol intake, which means one glass of beer or wine a day, might be beneficial for both your heart and your brain.
9. Refined Carbohydrates
Refined carbs, including white bread, pasta, and low-fiber cereals lead to brain fog and reduced memory. A study published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease found that…
“People 70 and older who eat food high in carbohydrates have nearly four times the risk of developing mild cognitive impairment.”
10. Processed Proteins
Processed proteins, including cold cuts, hot dogs, smoked meats and processed cheese products (a.k.a. fake cheese) contain preservatives and advanced glycation endproducts (AGEs), which can damage and age your brain.
11. Artificial Sweeteners
Artificial sweeteners marketed under names like Equal and NutraSweet may contribute to brain fog. While the research linking artificial sweeteners with memory loss is not definitive, extended use of the sweeteners has been linked to a decline in mind health.
MSG (monosodium glutamate) is a flavor-enhancing ingredient often added to Chinese food. This compound is an excitotoxin, which overexcites nerve cells and may play a role in Alzheimer’s disease as well as other brain-related disorders, such as confusion and migraine headaches.
13. Microwave Popcorn
Microwave popcorn gets its buttery flavor from a chemical called diacetyl.
This chemical is thought to cause a buildup of amyloid plaques, which increases your risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
Margarine also contains diacetyl. Research has shown that this chemical may cause deposits in the brain that are the hallmark of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
What You Should Eat To Avoid Brain Fog
As you see from the list, many of the foods that mentally sharp people avoid are foods that have been refined, processed or man-made.
To strengthen your mental clarity and rid yourself of brain fog, focus your diet on real foods. Eat whole foods closest to their natural form. These foods contain healthy fats, vitamins, and minerals that keep your mind healthy.
The easiest way to get started on a brain-friendly diet is with my 4 daily habits.
About the Author
Dr. Becky Gillaspy, DC graduated Summa Cum Laude with research honors from Palmer College of Chiropractic in 1991.