Feeling confused and muddy-minded? You might want to check your plate. “For many people, brain fog is a symptom of a poor diet,” says New York psychiatrist Drew Ramsey.
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Here are three unexpected foods that can cloud your thinking. You don’t have to avoid them entirely, but work to move them over to your “eat on occasion” list.
1. Store-bought treats
Between the added sugar and the refined grains, there’s not a lot to love — from a nutritional standpoint — about grab-and-go desserts. Cynthia Thurlow, a nurse practitioner and nutrition counselor, says the processed carbs in store-bought baked goods are a top contributor to brain fog.
“They really have a profound negative impact on our health and wellness,” she says. Nibbling on dark chocolate, which contains compounds that may increase blood flow to the brain, is a better way to satisfy your sweet tooth.
2. Deli meat
Unlike their roasted or grilled counterparts, the ham, turkey, roast beef (and bacon!) you pick up at the deli counter can be filled with additives, preservatives and dyes that some studies have linked to an increased risk for Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases. Instead, look for meats that are made without antibiotics, growth hormones, artificial ingredients or chemical nitrites.
3. Conventional produce
Yes, even your local grocery store fruits and veggies can be bad for your brain. It all depends on the grower’s method-of-choice for keeping bugs away.
The research isn’t conclusive, but some studies point to synthetic pesticides as one factor that can up your risk of developing certain neurological conditions, such as Parkinson’s. Other reports have found that organic produce, which is grown without the aid of chemical pesticides, has more brain-boosting antioxidants than their regular counterparts.
If switching over to all-organic produce isn’t practical for you, Thurlow recommends focusing on foods like strawberries and spinach, which are known to have higher pesticide-residue concentrations.
Learn more about foods that may be sabotaging your brain’s health — and the foods that help — when you activate your access to AARP Staying Sharp! It’s easy to enroll and is included with your AARP membership.