Have you ever had the moment when a thought is sitting on the tip of your tongue and no matter how much brain power you use – it just wont come out? How about when you are trying to meet a deadline or compose critical emails but you just cant seem to get the words on paper in a clear and concise manner. What about those recurring headaches and cravings getting in the way of just about everything?
I get it and it happens to the best of us. Brain fog, loss of words, thoughts get off track. It can be really frustrating especially when you are trying to get work done. Now with more and more of us trying to meet demands and expectations on limited time we are looking for things that boost our processing speed, clarity, and focus. Unfortunately, the shift tends to be towards a pharmaceutical resolution in which case only adds grease to the fire.
TOP 5 Nutrition Tips for Mental Clarity:
- DITCH THE “DIET” – We all know how much I dislike the term “diet”. If you don’t know, know ya know! But what I really mean by “Ditch the Diet” is to stop buying “diet” foods. If you want to increase your mental clarity and give your brain a boost avoid those packaged foods that say “low-fat” “diet” “sugar-free” etc. Why? Because in the manufacturing process of these foods, in order to remove the “fat” or the “sugar” the food company needs to replace that removed item with something else, i.e salt, sugar, artificial sweeteners. Just because something says that it is free of sugar does not make it a health food! Not to mention, those pesky artificial sweeteners actually mess with our brain signals, increase our cravings for more sweets and also increase our sweet taste threshold with some being 2000x more sweet than plain ol’ table sugar. Sugar and artificial sweeteners (sucralose, aspartame, equal etc) affect the way the brain perceives hunger actually playing a role in weight GAIN, they can affect the GI microbiota and can even increase the risk for developing diabetes. We are all entitled to our own opinions, and I understand the desire to reduce calorie / sugar intake for healthy weight loss, but going “diet” may actually be doing more harm to your brain and body in the long term than good.
- WATER– Agua, H20, hydration… call it what you want but just INCREASE it. We do not drink enough water people. We simply do not. PERIOD. We all like to say “yeah I drink water… I think I drink enough” but I can guarantee you are likely not getting the amount that your body needs. Especially living in South Florida, I have to really make a conscious effort to fill up my canteen before I get in the car or do anything because in our busy life it is so easy to focus on coffee coffee coffee and push water to the side. Water is needed for healthy cellular and organ system function. When our cells are hydrated they are functioning as they should, we can focus and perform our duties well. Think about what happens when someone is dehydrated, they can become fatigued, confused, we can get headaches and can even be linked to sleeping problems and mood disorders. My point here is that dehydration does not just happen from exercise or from being out in the sun. Dehydration can be chronic, on a daily basis and over time be an underlying cause for cognitive dysfunction.
- GREEN TEA – Oh green tea. Green tea and those powerful polyphenols, catechins and antioxidants. Green tea contains a strong antioxidant called EGCG. EGCG in so few words is a free-radical scavenger that helps to ease inflammatory processes in the brain and supports healthy cognitive function (but also does so much more). Drink it up! Green tea is a great coffee alternative that can also be a beneficial component of weight loss program. It has even been evaluated in support for decreasing symptoms of anxiety, benefiting memory and attention. Personally, I take a green tea supplement form for the cellular division/antioxidant benefits because I just do not find myself in the mood for green tea often. But I encourage you to drink more of the tea. Look for organic tea sources please!
- OMEGA- 3 – Our brain needs fat. YES, fat! An estimated 8% of our brain is fat. The essential fatty acids – EPA and DHA are most abundantly found in our marine sources (salmon, mackerel, sardines) but considering the over fishing of the seas and the mercury concerns it can be difficult to really get a significant daily amount. Omega 3 fatty acids have been shown to support many parts of our brain function including memory, processing and can even be a powerful tool against depression or mood disorders. Supplementation seems to be the most effective way to obtain these fats and please please DO! Some brands I suggest are Carlson, Nordic Naturals, Life Extension and Jarrow Formulas.
- CURCUMIN – NOT tumeric, even BETTER. With research beyond belief, I tend to suggest curcumin for nearly everyone regardless of health concerns. I take it myself everyday! The active component of tumeric, curcumin (KUR-KU-MIN) has been shown to help fight the accumulation of beta- amyloid plaque. Why is this so important? Well, beta-amyloid plaque build up is a contributing factor for the onset of Alzheimer’s Disease. We don’t want that now do we? Not only helpful against Alzheimer Disease but curcumin has been shown to be beneficial in guarding against stroke, neurological dysfunction/ Parkinson’s Disease, and even brain cancer.
I have only just scratched the surface with all the good things these nutrients can do for our brain, health and mental outlook and there is always more to learn! I love feedback and am looking for some new pressing nutrition questions YOU need answered. Leave some love and send questions my way 🙂
Written By: Sarah Allison RDN LD MBA