The human body has an internal communication system, which is facilitated through neurons and neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters are the chemical messengers neurons release to transfer information within the brain and from the nervous system to other parts of the body. They process sensory information and control behavior, including when and what to eat, and how to react physically and emotionally.
Why does healthy food matter? Healthy food provides our bodies nutrients, and nutrients are essential to manufacture neurotransmitters. Without key nutrients our neurotransmitters suffer and our mental and physical health are negatively affected. There are a number of food and mood factors to stay mindful of as you consider nutrient-dense food for a healthier lifestyle.
Fat is Fabulous
Healthy fat is incredibly important to your health. It is especially important for brain health, as the brain is composed of a minimum sixty percent fat cells. Healthy fat also slows digestion so the body can absorb nutrients. You can find healthy fat in both animal and plant proteins like meat, fish, dairy, nuts, beans, olives and avocados. Get to know your food sources and attempt to purchase organic, non-GMO, grass-fed, free-range, and hormone-free options.
An imbalance of sugar intake creates an imbalance of serotonin, which regulates blood sugar concentration. Next thing you know you are on the "food-mood roller coaster." Choose low-glycemic sugar sources when you want something a little sweet. Dark chocolate (seventy percent cacao or more is best) is a good substitute. Dark chocolate stimulates the nervous system to produce endorphins similar to those you feel when you're in love. For fruit lovers, berries with a clean protein such as nuts and seeds (to curb glucose spike) can be especially satisfying.
Our bodies are composed of sixty percent water. Keeping hydrated helps your body release toxins and keeps the gastrointestinal tract moving smoothly. The brain requires a delicate balance of water and other elements to function properly (which might explain that mid-day headache). Avoid soda, energy drinks, and juice, as they are full of sugar and chemicals. How much water you should drink depends on your level of activity. Plan on a minimum of sixty-four ounces a day (more if you are exercising). Water is the most essential element to our life, so drink up!
Food and mood have a direct connection with gut health. Many people do not understand how important a healthy gastrointestinal environment is. The gut has over one hundred million nerve cells and is considered our bodies "second brain." Gut illness has been linked to anxiety and depression, along with nutrient deficiencies which can lead to chronic disease. For gut health pay attention to what foods create gas, bloating, or constipation. If you are regularly experiencing these types of issues you may want to consider seeking professional assistance through a qualified health care professional like a naturopath. You can support gut health with quality probiotics, food enzymes and by incorporating fermented foods such as pickled vegetables, kombucha, and keifer into your diet.
Eat the Rainbow
Green: Asparagus, Swiss chard boost mood, contain anti-aging properties and nitric oxide for heart health. Any dark leafy greens will provide the body with an amazing amount of nutrients.
Red: Cherries act as an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory. Tomatoes have lycopene which protects against depression causing inflammation. Beets provide heart health support through vasodilation properties.
Blue/Purple: Blueberries, purple grapes, and eggplant neutralize free radicals that cause damage to our DNA. Blue and purple produce contain properties which act as anti-carcinogen, which can help battle against growth of cancer cells.
White: Cauliflower contains sulfur compounds associated with fighting cancer, strengthening bone tissue, and maintaining healthy blood vessels. Coconut has been shown to boost mood.
Yellow and Orange: The vitamin C in yellow produce creates collagen, which is essential for blood vessels, skin, and organ health. Potatoes, winter squash and apricots are foods high in potassium and assist with vasodilation for increased blood circulation.
Make nutrient dense food readily available in your home and office. Choose real and clean foods which build brain power, long-lasting energy, and make you feel super-charged! You may never fully understand how your health is changing for the better, but your mind and body will thank you with the gift of wellness.