“Let food be thy medicine,” said Hippocrates a very long time ago. It’s not so difficult to see his point.
We all have to eat anyway and if you don’t choose your meals with utmost care, you can certainly throw
your “organism” out of balance, if not actually heal it magically.
A bad diet can obviously lead to obesity and diabetes. Although most people prefer not to think about it when making their daily pilgrimage to the Golden Arches, other likely results include everything from an inflamed digestive tract to bad skin. Finally, and of major significance to all of us, poor nutrition can easily lead to decreased focus, emotional volatility, and mental health problems. Once things have deteriorated to this point, professional help will almost certainly be necessary. Even in extreme cases
such as clinical depression, though, food can be at least a part of your medicine.
Calories and Insulin
Your brain makes up less than 2% of your body mass, and yet consumes 20% or more of your energy.
Think about those numbers for a moment. To spell it out: Without adequate and appropriate fuel, you
won’t be able to think straight.
The amount of energy available to your brain depends entirely on your blood sugar levels. These, in
turn, depend on what’s in your alimentary tract and how sensitive your body is to insulin. The latter
factor rests on many things, including your genes and your eating habits over the past few years. What
you put inside your body today is entirely under your control and can yield immediate effects on your
state of mind.
If you eat meals or snacks that are digested very rapidly – sweets, refined carbs, and fruit – the amount of glucose in your blood surges at first, producing an energized feeling and even a kind of euphoria. Soon afterward, though, sugar levels drop precipitously, leaving you mentally dull and craving another snack weighted down with sugar.
On the other hand, eating complex carbohydrates such as whole grains or including a source of fiber
with every meal, will slow down digestion. It keeps glucose levels stable and provides sustained energy.
Keep Your Heart Happy
Given the amount of oxygenated and nutrient-rich blood your brain needs, it’s no surprise that a healthy
cardiovascular system is a key to maintaining your mental drive. One of the best ways in keeping your
arteries clear and in good condition is exercise, but eating right also has a role to play.
Getting some of your protein from healthy nuts instead of red meat is a good first step. Not only does this cut down on the amount of unhealthy cholesterol and fat you take in. It also provides your heart with a wealth of antioxidants and other essential nutrients. In addition, eating more vegetables provide better nutrition, more fiber and replace the calorie-rich foods in your diet. Finally, choosing unsaturated fats will control bad cholesterol and prevent the build-up of plaque in your arteries. In general, solid fats like butter and shortening are saturated, while oils like olive and canola are better for you in
Love Your Gut
Although the actual nature of the connection is not quite clear, scientists are now convinced that there
is a link between sound mental health and having a healthy amount of gut bacteria. A healthy diet,
avoiding unnecessary medication, and limiting the amount of stress you’re exposed to should
automatically restore the balance in your belly. If you need a little extra help, then, adding probiotic
fermented products like yogurt and sauerkraut to your meals and increasing the amount of fiber you
consume should take care of things.
Grabbing Enough Micronutrients
One of the main problems with dietary supplements in pill form (a largely unregulated type of
medication) is that they tend to contain headline nutrients only. It is not in a form that the body can effectively absorb. The only way to get all the chemicals your brain need, including some lesser-known compounds that your brain requires in tiny quantities, is to consume natural products.
While “superfoods” have their place, there is also an easier and cheaper way of ingesting micronutrients: Regularly drinking a variety of herbal teas. These have a wide variety of subtle, but powerful mental health benefits, from increasing alertness to curing insomnia. Furthermore, many people are chronically dehydrated, which has an extremely negative effect on concentration and memory. Replacing coffee and soda with tea is a simple lifestyle change that can have major benefits.