There are several good reasons to become a vegan. First, a vegan diet essentially prohibits the consumption of any animal-derived products. This can be an excellent way to manage weight or achieve other positive health outcomes for many.
Although beneficial, a plant-based diet can cause brain fog – a general inability to think or have mental clarity. You can experience this feeling for multiple reasons, with diet being one of the many causes.
So how can you avoid vegan brain fog? Let’s discuss.
What is Brain Fog?
We have defined brain fog as a temporary lack of mental clarity. Sometimes, this phenomenon is quite normal, especially when your brain is overwhelmed. This can be caused by overworking, lack of sleep, stress, and spending too much time on the computer.
Your brain uses a lot of energy to run your body’s processes, and if it lacks some nutrients you may start experiencing issues with bodily functions. Brain fog can cause:
- Poor memory
- Difficulty learning and basic understanding concepts
- Incomprehensible thoughts and conversations
- Low motivation
- lack of ideas
Veteran vegans will typically have no problems with brain fog. Beginner vegans, however, may experience the effects of vegan brain fog if they haven’t yet learned how to monitor their dietary needs properly.
A balanced diet isn’t just about taking proteins, carbohydrates, and minerals. Other key nutrients linked to brain functioning that you should include in your diet to maintain your overall health. These include:
B12 is a crucial vitamin for your body – it helps make your DNA and red blood cells. The most common way to get this vitamin is by eating animal products or taking the vitamin as a supplement.
Vegans can get this vitamin naturally from plant-based sources such as fortified plant-based milk, breakfast cereals, meat substitutes, and nutritional yeast. Humans require 0.5mcg to 2.5mcg of B12 daily, depending on your age.
Having less than the recommended amount of B12 can cause fatigue, pale skin, depression, headaches, and mental impairment.
Iodine is an essential mineral primarily contained in seafood, fish, eggs, and dairy. Some manufacturers also fortify their salt with iodine. Iodine is necessary for producing thyroid hormones that control bone growth, cell production, fetal development, and metabolism.
Vegans are at risk of not getting enough iodine because their diet restricts animal-based foods. Some common signs of an iodine deficiency include weight gain, hair loss, depression, dry skin, goiters, and hypothyroidism.
The average adult needs about 150 mcg daily. Besides the animal sources, vegans can get their iodine from dried sea vegetables such as kelp and nori). Cranberries and strawberries are a good choice if you want to get your iodine from fruit. Vegetables such as green beans, potatoes, corn, watercress, and spring greens are also rich in iodine.
The Institute of Medicine has listed choline as a necessary nutrient in your daily diet. Although it’s an essential part of brain development, choline is neither a vitamin nor a mineral. The substance naturally occurs in trace amounts in our livers, but we have to supplement it in our diet.
Choline is essential mainly because of its role in acetylcholine production. Acetylcholine is a neurotransmitter that aids in muscle movement, memory retention, and heartbeat regulation.
Choline is primarily found in eggs, organ meats, fish, and beef. In addition, vegans can get this substance from shiitake mushrooms, soybeans, wheat germ, quinoa, sweet potatoes, spinach, and pasta.
Omega-3 fatty acids are essential for overall body health. These acids play a crucial role in many bodily functions, such as regulating the circulatory and immune systems.
Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) are among the most common omega-3 fats in fatty fish. Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) is found in nuts and seeds.
While vegans can’t get EPA and DHA from plants (only 5% of ALA is converted into EPA), they can get their omega-3s from other sources, like seaweed.
Iron deficiencies are pretty standard, even amongst meat-eaters. An adult should take about 8.7mg of iron daily. That average amount rises to 14.8mg daily for those who menstruate. The great thing about iron is that it is present in many plant foods, including chickpeas, beans, lentils, cashew nuts, chia seeds, hemp seeds, green leafy vegetables, raisins, quinoa, and fortified breakfast cereals.
Despite the prevalence of iron sources, your body may find it difficult to metabolize plant-based sources of iron. The best way to fix this problem is to eat an extra serving of these meals so the body can synthesize enough iron to meet its daily needs.
Other Possible Causes of Brain Fog
A vegan diet isn’t the only cause of brain fog. Vegan brain fog is not as common as you might think. So if you’ve recently gone vegan and are experiencing brain fog, here are some other factors that may be contributing to this issue.
Injuries such as concussions or excessive bleeding can cause brain fog. You can also experience brain fog if you have a fever or other serious illness.
Some medications cite confusion and anxiety as side effects, also symptoms of brain fog. In addition, medicines that treat mental illnesses and hormonal imbalance can also cause this side effect.
Mental illness ranks first among the causes of brain fog. When left untreated, it can lead to cognitive issues. While diet can affect our brain’s health, even seasoned vegans can still experience problems with mental health.
Prolonged Lack of Movement
A sedentary lifestyle and lack of exercise will significantly affect your mental clarity. In addition, prolonged lack of movement can contribute to brain fog.
Are you experiencing vegan brain fog? An unbalanced diet could be one of the causes. However, you can reduce these effects by preparing meals that include the vital nutrients necessary to support your cognitive function. You can also boost your mental health by exercising regularly and maintaining healthy sleep habits.
No one likes feeling unfocused and foggy. So give your diet a boost and take control of your health today!