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By: Jane E. Shersher, LSW & Founder of Counselors Autonomous
How to Eat so That You Are Productive & Performing at Your Best:
What you eat is how you feel. While it’s debatable whether you are what you eat, research suggests that certain foods affect how you feel. Bonnie Taub-Dix, a registered dietician and spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association explains, “Food really does have a lot of power. Use it properly and you can really improve your mood.” According to the National Institutes of Health, the increasing rate of mood disorders and depression parallel the rise of obesity in America. Could there be a correlation?
Most researchers agree that there is no coincidence here- they believe there is a strong relationship between mood and food. Below are some tips on how to brighten your mindset with some thoughtful consumption:
Adding fiber to your meal will inevitably transform the health of your gastrointestinal system, which is #1 for helping you to feel healthy and spry. The benefits of an efficient bowel are enormous. The case for a high-fiber diet is so significant that Northwestern Medicine studies have linked it to a reduction in risk for heart disease. The Journal of Nutrition has gone on record as linking a diet lacking in fiber with “stroke, hypertension, gastrointestinal disorders, obesity, and a continuum of metabolic dysfunctions including pre-diabetes and type 2 diabetes.”
2. Omega-3 fatty acids
Don’t be frightened by the word “fatty”- these acids are guaranteed to do more good than bad. Found in fatty fish, omega-3 fatty acids can help to ease depressive symptoms. They’re the good kind of fat that your body loves. To lighten your mood, try to fit fish meals in at least twice a week. Some fish loaded with omega-3 are salmon, herring, sardines, and tuna.
Sugar causes inflammation in your body and is the cause of many a hyper then a crash moment throughout the workday. While you are encouraged to stay away from the donuts and Pepsi, you can still ease up on your guilt for consuming chocolate- it’s not as bad as you think. In the right dosage, chocolate can be extremely beneficial to your mood and health overall. Research has shown cocoa beans to be rich in a variety of mood-lifting ingredients. According to George Pratt, a clinical psychologist at Scripps Memorial Hospital, both sex and dark chocolate activate the same parts of the brain. Just make sure it’s as dark as you can get and has no milk, soy lecithin, palm oil, and as little sugar as possible, and you are good to go. Better yet, put some cocoa nibs in your morning smoothie and you will be bound to have pumped up energy for hours with this superfood.
4. Dairy-free Milk
Just as important as the solid foods you put into your body are the liquids you use to wash it all down with. However, the go-to Hood or grocery store brand diary milk is often not the best thing to put into your body. According to New York Time’s best selling author and health advocate Kris Carr, dairy products are generally high in acidity, and chronic diseases love an acidic environment. Getting in the habit of substituting traditional dairy milk with other forms of milk could drastically improve your health and mood. A healthier alternative to dairy milk is almond milk. Almond milk is a good source of vitamins A and D and is also low in calories. Other good alternatives include cashew, coconut, hazelnut, pistachio, and flax seed milks. However, be sure to check the ingredients on the label before purchasing any of these. According to nutritionist Chris Kresser, some non-dairy milks may contain carrageenan, an additive chemical which is considered harmful for the health of the consumer. Prior to popular belief, soymilk is actually not a healthy alternative to dairy milk. Soy milk is GMO central and also loaded with lecithin, which will make you think you’re hungry when you’re not, could lead to insulin resistance, and cut you off from minerals your body needs like zinc, calcium, iron, and magnesium.
Caffeine sometimes gets a bad rap because we overuse it as a caffeine-addicted nation. However, caffeine can induce feelings of happiness and euphoria within the brain after consumption. In small amounts, coffee can help you to feel more energized and alert. However, too much can backfire and leave you stressed and jittery. Because coffee is both acidic and addicting, finding alternative beverages to give you the same boost will prove to be more beneficial to your mood and overall health. Replacing your morning cup of coffee with a warm cup of tea will give you the same amount of caffeine, minus all the unwanted chemicals. Many teas are a well-known source of antioxidants, B vitamins, and minerals. All teas (but especially green tea) are loaded with antioxidants to give your body a boost. But different kinds of tea do different things to your body. Kombucha tea is said to help treat memory loss, regulate bowel movements, and help with high blood pressure. Oolong tea activates enzymes, black tea can reduce your risk of stroke, white tea reduces your risk of cancer according to the American Cancer Society, and Echinacea tea helps boost your immune system. However, it is important to be vigilant of added chemicals in these teas. This is why an organic tea will be more beneficial to you than a regular one; organic teas taste better, are safer for your health, and are better for the environment. These boosters will help to brighten your mood and start your day off on the right foot. They even help your brain to make more neurons (neurogenesis) over time.
Spirulina is a highly alkalizing powdered dark green algae that balances your brain chemistry and reinforces the quality of your blood by supporting the function of your liver and pancreas. It offers a mega dose of chlorophyll, iron, sulfur, and fatty acids. This blue-green algae also boosts your immune system and helps to speed up healing as well as ridding your tissues of toxins. And most importantly, it provides you with clean energy that doesn’t make you crash like coffee does in the mornings- we suggest taking either a couple of tablets or better yet, adding it into your morning raw, vegan, and gluten free smoothie. If you don’t feel enough of an energy lifter with spirulina, try maca powder, a white dried and powdered root that helps to balance out hormones and also helps to avoid that caffeine crash. Many people don’t know that both coffee and dairy are acidic, which is not helpful for your body’s wellness long term, so try these alternatives and see if you can kick the latte addiction while still being a super productive machine during the day.
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