Feeling Distracted? These Psychotherapist-Approved Snacks Will Stop Your Scatterbrain

Written by Mike Dow, PsyD

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Your phone lights up with a text just as your partner is asking your opinion on something. After trying to give both requests your attention simultaneously, you go back to what you were doing. You were just about to send an important email about something. What was it? Oh gosh, I hope it comes back to me. I think I was about to do something important.

If some version of this sounds familiar, you know what it's like to have scatterbrain. In The Brain Fog Fix, I reveal the best foods from around the world that have been clinically proven to prevent and fight scatterbrain (along with its relatives mommy brain and senior moments). Here are some delicious snacks to fight the "scatter" that robs you of the clarity and energy you need to get through the day:

1. Baby broccoli and red bell peppers with turmeric-dusted hummus.

This is one of my favorite scatter-fighting, brain-fog-busting snacks for many reasons. First, this is a great low-glycemic replacement for processed carbs like pretzels or chips. In the short term, those blood-sugar-spiking carbs have been linked to poor performance on memory tests. In the long term, they lead to a shrunken hippocampus, decreased brain volume overall, and more scatterbrain-inducing plaques as the years go by. On the other hand, the healthy fat in hummus made from chickpeas and olive oil preserves cognitive function, which keeps scatterbrain at bay. Steer clear of hummus that contains soybean oil since this oil leads to the inflammation that's been linked to scatter, depression, mommy brain, and brain fog.

Vitamin C, found in broccoli and red bell peppers, has been shown to keep cortisol spikes in check, which helps you recover from stress. When combined with the fat in hummus, the turmeric becomes bioavailable so your body and brain can take advantage of its benefits. Scatter-promoting plaques that rob you of focus and clarity are kept at bay with a snack like this.

2. Organic Greek yogurt with walnuts and organic berries.

If you eat dairy, go organic. Organic dairy products have higher levels of scatter-fighting, anti-inflammatory omega-3s. Conventionally raised, factory-farmed dairy has higher levels of scatter-inducing, pro-inflammatory omega-6s. Choose full-fat or low-fat organic Greek yogurt. It's counterintuitive, but high-fat dairy is more likely to keep you slim whereas nonfat versions have been linked to weight gain. Also, most of the omega-3s are found in the fat, and that fat also helps you to absorb brain-boosting vitamins. A daily serving of yogurt significantly reduces anxiety thanks to the probiotics that produce feel-good and stress-relieving neurotransmitters like serotonin, GABA, and acetylcholine.

All nuts are great, but walnut is the Superman or Wonder Woman of nuts due to the sky-high levels of the omega-3s it contains. Like other plant-based sources of omega-3s, it's converted mostly into the "feel good" omega-3 EPA, which helps to improve mood so you get through your busy day with a half-smile on your face (To get enough of the "think better" DHA, choose the wild salmon salad over the grilled chicken for lunch. If you're vegan, take an algae-based DHA supplement.)

Berries are chock-full of anti-inflammatory antioxidants that, unlike other antioxidants, make their way through the blood-brain barrier, which means they protect your most precious organ. Since berries are notoriously pesticide-laden, choose organic varieties. If you're vegan or are sensitive to dairy, a great alternative is a handful of berries paired with kombucha containing chia seeds. The former will give you the probiotics you need, and the latter will give you a hefty dose of omega-3s. Both berries and seeds contain fiber that give you sustainable energy to keep productivity high through your busy day.

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3. Half of a banana and a handful of pistachios with a cup of green tea (during the day) or chamomile tea (at night).

Bananas and pistachios both contain vitamin B6. This is a stress-relieving powerhouse that fights the frantic feeling of scatterbrain. Vitamin B6 is a cofactor for both serotonin and GABA, so the vitamin helps your body to take amino acids in your diet and convert them into feel-good hormones. It also is involved in the production of melatonin, which promotes restful sleep. Be sure to choose pistachios that aren't roasted in pro-inflammatory oils, but conventionally raised bananas are OK since their peels shield the edible portion from pesticides.

The caffeine in green tea and its antioxidants work synergistically to fight distraction and brain-fog-causing plaques. During the day, it gives you a hit of dopamine, which keeps energy levels up without the crash of coffee that has about three times more caffeine. Add a squeeze of lemon to help supercharge the antioxidants, but skip the milk that neutralizes them. (If you're not sure whether the type of salmon or other seafood you have for lunch has high or low levels of mercury, pair it with green tea. It binds to toxins and prevents your body from digesting some of them. Over time, these toxins can lead to serious scatterbrain.)

At night, have a cup of chamomile tea with your snack as you make a list of tomorrow's tasks. Both help to promote restful sleep. Your brain cells move apart when you sleep, allowing your brain to enter a "wash cycle" where scatter-causing plaques are hosed down. This is one reason why getting enough sleep is vital. Wake up feeling rested and scatterbrain-free for the busy day that lies ahead.

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