Factors such as lack of sleep, stress, medications, and health conditions such as depression, anxiety, and COVID/long haul COVID impact our mental clarity. Many refer to this impaired ability to think clearly, impaired reaction time or ability to remember as brain fog. Whatever the cause and whatever you call it, there are food choices you can make to help improve and maintain your mental clarity.
Appropriate food choices are vital for mental clarity:
It is estimated that the brain consumes 20% of the body's energy.
If you’re not already drinking 48-64oz fluid daily:
Keep water bottle with water, tea or flavored water as accessible as possible (work station at work or a safe place that you frequently pass by; when not at work—keep with you or in a place that you frequent throughout the day; when running errands, keep in the vehicle with you).
Make it easy to track your fluids—
Drink out of a measured bottle (16, 24, or 32oz). If you fill up a 24oz bottle and take it to work with you and drink two bottles, then you know you’ve gotten 48oz fluid without having to do a lot of counting.
Keep fluids as accessible as possible; you’ll be more likely to drink them if they’re easy to get to.
Even if you can’t get at least 48oz/day at first, any increase is better than none.
Try to include vegetables and fruits with every snack/meal (these generally have more water content than other foods like meats, nuts and grains). It’s difficult and tedious to track the fluid from them but simply including a “juicy” food with a meal or snack adds some fluid to your diet and can help you feel less thirsty.
Don’t try to guzzle as much liquid as you can at one time or you may feel bloated and sluggish until the fluid moves through your system
If you’re already drinking 64oz water/fluids on work days and you still feel dehydrated, get a check-up to make sure there are no illnesses causing the dehydration. If everything looks good, then try to add strategies above.
The right food at the right time can promote mental clarity.
To make it simple and make sure I get both quick and sustained energy from my food, I focus on getting foods from each of these four nutrients:
Carbs to give quick energy and help clear brain fog
grains, fruit, vegetables, legumes, nuts and seeds
Protein for sustained satiety
meat, poultry, fish, eggs, dairy, nuts and seeds, legumes
Fat for sustained satiety
butter, oils, fatty meat
Fiber for sustained satiety and to promote blood sugar control.
non-starchy vegetables, fruit, legumes, nuts and seeds, whole grains
Foods with properties that support brain health and mental clarity.
Fruits and vegetables
Anti-oxidant & anti-inflammatory which are important for healthy circulatory system & long-term brain function. Many have other properties that have also been shown to promote brain function.
Anti-oxidant & anti-inflammatory; also has a compound called piperine that is being studied for its potential to reduce symptoms of degenerative brain diseases such as Alzheimers and Parkinsons.
Anti-inflammatory; supports blood glucose control and circulatory health; may help improve working memory.
Anti-oxidant & anti-inflammatory; smelling cinnamon oil may increase energy levels & focus.
May enhance memory and alertness; invigorating; less fatigue.
Anti-oxidant; also L-theanine an amino acid with anti-anxiety effects; increases dopamine which can help with memory and attention; caution--contains caffeine which is a stimulant and may affect sleep/rest.
Foods with properties that can promote a sense of calm
May lower blood sugar in people with diabetes, reduce inflammation, promote sleep and relaxation, reduce anxiety.
Lavender oil may help reduce anxiety; in tea may help with digestion; the scent of lavender can promote sleep quality and reduce pain from headaches.
Antioxidants & anti-inflammatory, may boost mood and promote sleep.
Antioxidants; rose water vapors may improve mood, in Traditional Chinese Medicine rose has been used for fatigue, sleep, digestion, and irritability; the aroma of rose tea may reduce stress and anxiety.