Many people eat light during the summer months to stay beach-body ready, but a person doesn’t have to starve themselves to stay trim and avoid bloating. If you are eating light, there’s a smart way to do it, to maintain mental wellness and focus.
Get your fatty fish
The human brain is made up of 60 percent fat. Interestingly, human bodies do not produce fatty acids to nourish fatty brains. Supplementing with a diet rich in these acids, called omega-3s, improves brain function. Omega-3s, consumed on an empty stomach, reduce symptoms of schizophrenia, depression and other mental illnesses. Scientists believe omega-3s promote the production of neurotransmitters, such as dopamine and serotonin, which, in turn, assist with mood, memory and learning. Cold water fish—salmon, herring, sardines, mackerel—are rich in omega-3s, as are seaweed and poultry raised on flaxseed and walnuts.
Don’t hold the grains
According to the Whole Grains Council, many whole grains are rich in the amino acid tryptophan. This acid is instrumental in producing the aforementioned serotonin, as well as melatonin, which helps regulate the sleep cycle. Whole grains contain complex carbohydrates that stabilize blood sugars. When blood sugar spikes or drops, it affects mood. Generally, low blood sugar causes a person to become irritated. A diet that includes whole grains can help stabilize mood and ward off hunger associated with fluctuating blood sugars.
Lean protein is another food source for producing serotonin. Like whole grains, lean protein—fish, turkey, chicken, eggs, beans—contains tryptophan. But not all protein provides the nutrients required to improve mood. Fast food, as demonstrated in the documentary “Supersize Me,” can supply protein; however, the nutritional benefits are cancelled out by additives and other chemicals whose sole purpose is to make the food addictive.
Studies prove leafy greens slow mental decline. Researchers discovered that foods rich in vitamin K, lutein, folate and beta-carotene help keep the brain healthy and sharp. These nutrients also help protect against Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. Spinach, turnips, mustard greens, beets and broccoli contain high levels of folic acid, help the body reduce fatigue and stave off insomnia. Broccoli is also rich in selenium. Selenium is a mineral that assists the immune and reproductive systems; facilitates thyroid hormone metabolism; and reduces anxiety while improving mood.
It’s all about culture
Probiotics are healthy bacteria that reduce digestive problems, among other benefits. These include irritable bowel syndrome and diarrhea. Probiotics come in a variety of foods and not all of them terrible to eat. Fermented foods such as yogurt, particularly Greek yogurt, are rich in active cultures. Kimchi, tempeh and some pickled vegetables contain probiotics. In addition to assisting with digestion, probiotics have been shown to help in reducing stress and anxiety.
You say tomatoes
Tomatoes are rich in the antioxidant lypocene, which combats free radicals that damage brain cells. Healthy brain cells can mean a healthy brain — robust memory, longer attention span and sharp problem-solving abilities and logic skills.
Pumpkins are gourd for you
Pumpkin seeds, actually. They’re rich in zinc and zinc can increase mental speed. They also contain niacin which reduces LDL cholesterol — the bad one — and enhances the activity of the neurotransmitter GABA. Active GABA normally reduces anxiety.
Caffeine has perks
According to an analysis of three comprehensive studies on coffee consumption, an adult who drinks two to four cups of caffeinated coffee a day is 50 percent less likely to commit suicide. Another benefit of drinking coffee is it increases the metabolic rate. A person who drinks a couple of cups of coffee two hours before working out is less likely to incur post-workout pain than a person who goes without caffeine. The caveat here is only organic coffee can be relied on to supply these perks. Non-organic coffee — what most of the planet consumes — is heavily treated with pesticides, which mitigates the coffee benefits. Organic coffee is grown using at least 95 percent organic fertilizers for at least three years. No chemical pesticides are involved in the growing process.
Just the mention of guacamole puts most people in a good mood. But in case further proof is warranted, avocados are high in fiber and contain no salt or cholesterol. They contain all the usual suspects — omega-3s, vitamin K, niacin, folate — which nourish the brain and enrich the mind.
Hydrate at all costs
In a study to measure reaction time, participants who drank three cups of water before taking a test performed better than participants who had no water. Researchers believe that hydration can free up mental processes. However, it should be noted that drinking water actually decreases performance in some cognitive tests, such as rule learning. But since scientists consistently point out the physical benefits from drinking at least eight glasses of water a day, it is a safe bet that drinking water won’t hurt you.
White River Academy is a boarding school for boys located at the edge of the beautiful Great Basin in Utah. We specialize in holistic education for young men ages 12 to 17 who are struggling with mental illnesses, substance abuse and behavioral challenges. We offer therapeutic treatment modalities, engaging curriculum, plenty of outdoor activities, healthy food and lots of water.to learn more about our programs feel free to contact a member of our team over the phone.