If your mind wanders, your thoughts drag, and you can’t remember where you put your keys, brain fog might be affecting your concentration and cognition.
Underlying medical conditions can sometimes be responsible. But the cognitive lag of brain fog is often a warning sign that you need more sleep, exercise, or better nutrition. Taking vitamins for brain fog isn’t the whole answer, but some nutraceuticals can be essential puzzle pieces to improve your mental sharpness.
Here’s how certain nutrients can shine a light through the confusion.
The 7 Best Vitamins for Brain Fog
Getting enough vitamin D, C, A, B-complex, Magnesium, L-theanine, and omega-3 fatty acids may improve how you think and concentrate. It could even improve your memory. Supplementing these nutrients may help you rebalance your mental processes and reduce the impact of vitamin deficiencies.
Medical evidence suggests that taking vitamins for brain fog can help those with deficiencies or those managing certain medical conditions. If you fall into one of those two groups, the nutraceuticals below are the best vitamins to help with brain fog. Keep in mind, it’s best to speak to a doctor before supplementing any vitamin.
B vitamins support your body’s ability to release energy from the foods you eat. Vitamin B12 in particular plays a crucial role in developing and controlling the central nervous system. If you don’t get enough B12, brain fog symptoms like memory problems, tiredness, and concentration issues can result.
A 2017 study on older adults also found that low levels of vitamin B6 correlated with faster cognitive decline. In another study, getting enough folate or vitamin B9 was linked to significantly improved cognitive performance.
If you follow a vegan or vegetarian diet, you have a high risk of low B12 levels, because only animal foods provide B12. However, taking a B12 supplement can help reduce brain fog for vegans and vegetarians.
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2. Vitamin D
Studies have linked brain fog to vitamin D deficiency. Another small study found that postmenopausal women who took a daily vitamin D supplement for a year saw improvements in cognitive performance. The link between vitamin D and brain fog appears to go beyond correcting deficiency, although more research is needed.
Doctors will often order a blood panel to rule out vitamin D deficiency when diagnosing depression. If you’re short on vitamin D, brain fog symptoms can resemble depression symptoms.
You can get vitamin D from exposure to the sun, or from foods like salmon, tuna, fortified orange juice, and dairy. However, if you live in a place with less sun or you have darker skin, you face a higher risk of vitamin D deficiency. If that sounds like you, supplementation can help ensure optimum levels.
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3. Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 is one of the best nutrients for brain fog (though not technically a vitamin for brain fog) as it acts as an energy source and helps your glands produce hormones. This means they’re involved in many vital processes for maintaining balance, concentration, and focus.
One 2013 study of 176 omega-3-deficient adults found that taking a daily 1.16-gram (g) supplement for six months improved their memory. In another study, an EPA supplement improved attention and memory in young adults who didn’t have an omega-3 deficiency.
Omega-3s are abundant in:
Fish, krill, cod liver, and algal oil supplements are available in many doses and with various omega-3s.
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Magnesium is a vital mineral for nerve function, blood sugar and blood pressure management, and the production of protein and bone. In the U.S., up to 48% of us don’t get enough magnesium, and low magnesium levels may be closely linked to stress. Magnesium levels can drop in response to stress and can also make you more likely to experience a stress reaction — a vicious cycle.
Research has found that glucocorticoids — the primary stress hormone class — can worsen memory and cognitive function over time. Stress can cause memory and attention issues, too. Though stress is a complex process with many causes, addressing magnesium deficiency can reduce your risk of stress-related cognition problems.
You can get magnesium from:
Legumes such as beans
Green, leafy vegetables
Milk and yogurt
Magnesium is also available as a supplement and in multivitamins for those managing deficiency.
5. Vitamin C
You might think of vitamin C deficiency in terms of scurvy and immune problems (even though that’s rare in Western countries), but vitamin C also serves a crucial purpose in cognition. In fact, a vitamin C deficiency can result in brain fog.
A recent study of 80 healthy adults found that those with enough vitamin C in their blood did significantly better in memory, attention, reaction time, and focus tests than those with low levels. Another systematic review cited correcting vitamin C deficiency as an effective way to manage brain fog symptoms like impaired cognition.
Citrus fruits, red and green peppers, and kiwi are loaded with vitamin C, but certain cooking and storage methods can reduce the amount they provide.
Many multivitamins provide vitamin C, usually in the form of ascorbic acid. It’s also available in standalone supplements.
One of the less well-known vitamins for brain fog, L-theanine is found in green tea and other plant foods and does a lot of heavy lifting. One small study that focused on adults between 50 and 69 years old found that a single 100.6-mg L-theanine dose significantly improved their scores in reaction time and memory tests.
Research has also demonstrated L-theanine’s potential as a sleep-booster and a stress-buster — both helpful avenues for staying sharp and focused. You can break out the green tea to access L-theanine’s potential benefits as a vitamin for brain fog, but it’s also available in supplement form.
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7. Vitamin A
Vitamin A may play an important part in your mental processes because of your brain’s efficiency at turning it into retinoic acid (RA). That’s a compound heavily involved in the parts of the brain that control learning and memory. Over time, your brain gets less effective at using RA, which may contribute to increasing brain fog as you age.
The science around vitamin A’s impact on cognition is fairly recent. One study found that it improves memory and learning in rodents. Though more research is needed, the findings indicate the potential for vitamin A supplements to help reduce brain fog.
It’s probably best to get vitamin A from your diet instead of from supplements, since vitamin A deficiency is rare in the U.S. and isn’t yet universally recognized as a direct cause of brain fog.
Supplements Aren’t Always the Answer, But They Can Help
If you live with a groggy mind from a nutrient deficiency or imbalance, taking the right vitamins for brain fog can build an effective bridge between you, the nutrients you need, and the renewed focus they provide.
The FDA regulates supplements to ensure they’re not misbranded. If you choose to use supplements, research their manufacturing process to ensure product safety under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act.
Diet and Lifestyle Tips for Managing Brain Fog
Even the best vitamins for brain fog and memory are only part of the answer. A lifestyle that combines a wholesome, nutritious diet, regular physical activity, and enough sleep every night can help reduce brain fog and improve cognition.
Diet, Memory, and Focus
Food is fuel, so it should come as no surprise that diet is key when it comes to keeping your cognition in check. But no single menu item will help your brain fog on its own.
According to the Harvard School of Public Health, the food groups best for protecting your brain are:
Leafy greens. Spinach, broccoli, kale, and collards all provide plenty of brain-boosting nutrients like folate, vitamin K, and beta-carotene.
Fatty fish. These are teeming with omega-3 fatty acids, especially salmon, pollack, and cod.
Berries. Plant compounds in berries called flavonoids can help improve your memory.
Coffee and tea. Caffeine can perk you up in the moment, but several studies have shown that it has cognition and memory benefits beyond its short-term boost.
Walnuts. These are another great source of omega-3s, which have been linked to improved cognitive test scores in research.
A 2018 review found that eating a diet focusing on fruits, vegetables, seafood, legumes, and nuts but reducing dairy and red meat intake strongly correlates with better brain function. The Mediterranean Diet and DASH Diet are two well-researched examples.
The Power of Exercise for the Brain
On top of taking vitamins for brain fog, exercise can help your mind. The many mental benefits of exercise for brain fog include:
Increasing energy levels and reducing fatigue
Reducing feelings of stress and depression
Exercise also circulates a hormone called irisin, which has links to powerful cognitive benefits and may even reduce a person’s risk of Alzheimer’s disease by clearing out sticky proteins called amyloid and fighting inflammation. Working out also creates neurons in parts of the brain that process memory and cognitive function, making it more efficient.
Try to get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise every week and fit in at least two strength training sessions.
Sleep and Focus
Sleep lets you do so much by doing so little, especially in the fight against brain fog.
Sleep is strongly linked to memory consolidation and the ability to think with insight. Not getting enough sleep can also interfere with how your brain cells talk to one another, according to a 2017 study.
Understanding Brain Fog
Brain fog isn’t a disease. Instead, it’s a group of symptoms that may point to an underlying health problem, though the cause can be tricky to identify. Shortfalls in diet, exercise, and sleep may contribute to your brain fog.
Brain fog can also be your brain’s response to medication. One example is the so-called “chemo brain,” while another is hormonal shifts from life changes like pregnancy or menopause. Brain fog can also result from some diseases or conditions, like chronic fatigue syndrome, depression, neurodivergent disorders like ADHD, or the long-term effects of COVID.
Taking vitamins for memory and brain fog might not fix the problem, and this could be a sign you need medical treatment. Get a physician's opinion if your brain fog symptoms don’t improve after making lifestyle adjustments.
Brain fog can make your day feel muddy, unfocused, and confused. If you’re deficient in vitamins C and D, some B vitamins, or magnesium, it could be putting up cognitive barriers between you and peak performance.
Taking vitamins for brain fog can help in these circumstances as part of a wider lifestyle that prioritizes healthy eating, exercise, and regular sleep.
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This article was medically reviewed by:
Susan Grabowski, DO, ABAARM Board Certified in Anti-Aging and Regenerative Medicine