Can food and drink really make you smarter, faster, better? Yes it can!
What and how you eat can dramatically impact your mood, emotions and memory. There are over 100 million neurons in our digestive tract that produce as many neurotransmitters as the brain. The gut alone produces two-thirds of the body’s serotonin – our happy neurotransmitters. Every time we eat, we feed the brain as well the body.
Chew on this
Digestion begins in the mouth when you chew your food - almost 60% of carbohydrates are digested by salivary enzymes! In the stomach, hydrochloric acid breaks down protein and initiates a cascade of digestive enzymes in the small intestines. Under periods of stress, our digestive enzymes are dramatically compromised, making even more important to take the time to chew your meals.
Gas or bloating? You can easily improve digestion through mindful eating. Sit while you eat (the car doesn’t count) and chew your food to the consistency of peanut butter. This increases surface area for improved absorption. Some may benefit from taking digestive enzymes for a few months to replenish supplies, or you can simply try 1 tsp of unfiltered/unpasteurized apple cider vinegar before each meal. It’s a natural way to support stomach acid, with additional health benefits.
Good quality protein
Amino acids are the building blocks of protein and some have shown more effective for combatting depression (tryptophan), anxiety (gaba) and improving mental and physical performance (tyrosine) than prescription medication. Aim for two to three servings of protein-rich foods daily (wild cold-water fish, organic meats, beans, lentils, quinoa, seeds, nuts, a good quality protein powder). Deli and other processed meats are stripped of quality amino acids and laden with chemicals than can negatively impact your beautiful brainpower.
Every neurotransmitter in the brain is covered in a phospholipid membrane known as myelin sheath and it helps the brain communicate with all parts of the body. Omega 3s are a key component of myelin and DHA. You can find omega 3s naturally in cold-water wild fish, seeds (flax, hemp, pumpkin, sunflower and sesame) and cold-pressed seed oils. Try adding 1 Tbsp of ground seeds and 1 Tbsp of seed oil to your daily diet and aim for cold-water fish two times a week.
Phospholipids take brain performance one-step beyond. “They enhance mood, mind and memory and protect us against age-related memory decline and Alzheimer’s,” (Patrick Holford). Organic, free-range eggs are the best source of phospholipids. You can also add 1 Tbsp of lecithin granules to your cereal or smoothie daily.
Low glycemic carbohydrates
Our brains run on glucose – found in carbohydrates. This is why low-carb diets often make us feel tired and foggy. However, refined carbohydrates and concentrated sources of sugar (breads, crackers, cookies, cakes, maltose, sugar, syrups) result in a rapid release of glucose into the blood stream. This initiates a stress response in the body with an insulin spike/crash, hormonal imbalances and intensified sugar cravings! Not so sweet. Without fibre, vitamins and minerals, your metabolism becomes inefficient and you experience poor energy, concentration and weight control. Choose low glycemic carbohydrates found in whole foods: whole grains in their natural form, lentils, beans, nuts, seeds, fresh fruit and vegetables.
Overall, remember to choose good quality, whole food sources – and take the time to chew. Just like a pair of shoes, quality over quantity will take you further AND keep you looking and feeling great.