Most of us know how much better we feel when we are eating healthy foods, compared to that dreaded feeling of eating too much in one sitting, or eating junky processed and sugary foods. The end result is that sluggish, tired feeling that is a glaring reminder of the negative health effects happening inside our bodies.
But what is more insidious is that beyond the perceived physical effects, are the silent effects via inflammation, that impact the body 24/7 – including our brain. Food is like a pharmaceutical drug that alters the brain. The types of foods eaten or the excess of food, is not just ruining our health, it is literally and powerfully, impacting our brain which is the command and control center for all things healthy and slim.
Simply eating the wrong foods will sap any brain power or motivation to exercise and conversely nutritious eating will fortify the brain, strengthen willpower, mood, promote energy and motivation.
“Adequate nutrition can raise your productivity levels by 20% on average.” ~World Health Organization
I had a client where every day was a challenge for her. She said that even brushing her teeth wasn’t an easy task. She had depression, a negative outlook, irritability, moodiness, weight gain and a few health problems. Why? Simply because she did not have the necessary nutrients critical for optimal brain functioning and mood.
Once she stopped her everyday (chronic) use of sugar, processed foods and other unhealthy choices and began making healthier choices, her life changed. She had more energy, clarity, an upbeat mood, less frustration and irritation in her life, she lost weight and her health concerns disappeared! This is why it is of paramount importance and why I predominantly focus on nutrition to enable one to give their very best to the world.
Your brain requires specific nutrients to function optimally and that means better thinking skills, better learning, better memory and mood. Your brain is also critical for your optimal physical health and energy. Research shows that exercise can lead to neurogenesis—the creation of new brain cells. Healthful choices in our diet are a smart strategy for increasing cognition and protecting our brain.
The area of the brain called the hippocampus is where our learning and memory take place. By eating foods such as sugar or refined grains such as white flour, white rice and any type of zero-nutrient foods, we shrink our hippocampus and thus our learning and memory. Add to this, the critical issue of obesity which shrinks this area of the brain as well and the hippocampus receives a double whammy.
An individual’s cognitive function is influenced by obesity. We may very well be heading in the direction of a society that is obese combined with poor cognition. As it stands now, 68% of our nation is either overweight or obese. In fact, the most obese profession is our first line defenders – policeman, firefighters and security guards, whose obesity stands at 80% right now, whose physicality has deteriorated and even more deleterious, the necessary cognitive processing needed during a crisis slows down.
While the brain thrives on glucose (sugar), excess dietary sugar creates inflammation that leads to a shrinking brain, Type 3 diabetes or Alzheimer’s disease and other serious health effects. Low level inflammation is the core cause of most illness and disease.
A shrinking hippocampus also affects the serotonin level, your feel-good neurotransmitter, which also affects depression; depression rises as serotonin drops. Depression or low mood, affects cognition, and behavior including mindless activities such as mindless eating that results in weight gain. The lack of motivation or energy to exercise, to make healthful choices can all be traced back to inadequate nutrition.
The top foods to increase brain power and optimal health are veggies, whole fruits, nuts, seeds, legumes and fatty fish such as wild salmon or sardines. Fish oil supplements are a powerful means of ensuring your daily intake. Omega 3 fats (the most abundant fatty acid in brain cell membranes) are particularly beneficial and found in foods such as: fatty fish, flax seeds, chia seeds, wild rice, grass fed meat and dairy, help to reduce and reverse low level inflammation in the body and brain.
Our diet and exercise has a profound effect not just on our overall health, but our emotions as well. When the brain is functioning at a peak level, you will have the motivation, determination and energy necessary to create optimal health — you can’t put that in a pill.