This article originally appeared on Live in the Now.
While on my own personal journey to learn more about the pros and cons of consuming gluten, I ran across a common theme: clouding of the mind, also known conventionally as mental fog or “brain fog,” due to the consumption of foods containing gluten. Conversely, I found that many who were omitting gluten from their diets, either voluntarily or on a physician’s recommendation, noted improvements in memory and mental clarity. If you’ve ever put your car keys in the freezer by mistake, looked for your car in the wrong section of the parking lot or simply couldn’t think clearly for seemingly no reason at all, you may be able to relate.
Often chalked up to a “normal part of getting older,” symptoms of brain fog include mild confusion, forgetfulness and/or the inability to think clearly. But this doesn’t have to be your fate!
Certain foods such as artificial sweeteners and dairy have been linked to mental fog, but more and more physicians are discovering that mental fog is quite strongly linked to gluten intolerance. Within weeks of eliminating gluten from my own diet, I noticed an ability to think more clearly.
Luckily, there are several foods that have been associated with improved cognitive performance that are naturally gluten free. Tired of losing your keys? Here are six foods you can reach for to clear up mental fog and boost your brain health:
#1: Avocados. Avocado is high in oleic acid, a fatty acid that plays a role in protecting neurons. Along with other omega fatty acids, oleic acid helps make up the myelin sheath, a lining on neurons that helps information in your brain travel at speeds of up to 200 miles per hour. Avocados also increase healthy blood flow, which promotes increased brain function and improved heart health.
#2: Blueberries. Also called “brainberries” by Dr. Steven Platt, MD, author of Superfoods Rx: Fourteen Foods Proven to Change Your Life, blueberries have one of the highest antioxidant capacities of all fruits and vegetables and are known to improve memory and cognitive function. They have memory-protecting properties and have even been associated with the prevention of Alzheimer’s disease.
#3: Beans. Not only are beans wallet-friendly, they also help stabilize blood sugar levels by slowing how your body processes carbohydrates. Our brains need a steady stream of energy, and beans do the job. By adding more beans to your diet, you add some carb-like texture to your meals without consuming any gluten.
#4: Nuts and Seeds. One ounce a day can reduce inflammation, provide you with a great source of protein and satisfy your appetite. In addition to having a high fiber content, nuts and seeds are packed with vitamins, minerals and brain-boosting omega fats, having a positive impact on your brain and heart health. For an easy snack on-the-go, reach for almonds, walnuts, pistachios, sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds — pumpkin seeds are specifically beneficial for men.
#5: Wild Salmon. High levels of omega-3 fatty acids, in addition to astaxanthin, B vitamins and amino acids, make wild salmon a winner for improving cognitive function. There is a wealth of research supporting omega-3’s role in brain health preservation, while B vitamins and amino acids boost everyday brain function.
#6: Dark Chocolate. The powerful antioxidant properties of dark chocolate and natural stimulants help enhance focus, improve concentration and stimulate the production of endorphins, helping to not only support brain health, but improve mood, too. One to two Hershey Kiss-size pieces of dark chocolate a day will provide all the benefits you need.