Blog · Mar 23, 2021
March is National Nutrition Month. After a year of tumult and homemade sourdough bread there has never been a better time to pause and consider the relationship between diet and resilience. In the past year, changes to routines and unprecedented circumstances have led many of us to seek solace in more baked goods, pasta dishes, and salty snacks than we might normally indulge. While it’s human nature to turn to creature comforts in trying times, research is showing an increasing connection between our mood and the diets we consume. This week, we’ll explore the emerging science behind mood and food connections and learn why it’s a good idea to harness the power of nutrition to bolster immunity, focus, and productivity.
Let’s look at two scenarios. In the first scenario, we’ll pretend that breakfast consists of a coffee and doughnut on the go. The sugar and caffeine keep us going for a short while, but before long, we’re experiencing distracting hunger pangs and seeking out more sugar and simple carbohydrates to get through the busy morning. When it’s time to have lunch, our tired bodies crave another dose of rich food, laden with more sugar and simple carbohydrates, such as a few slices of pizza. The afternoon feels long, and concentrating is a challenge. After some chips, a soda, and a handful of candy, we manage to get through to the end of the workday. Exhausted, we once again turn to a dinner high in calories and unhealthy fats and low in vitamins and minerals.
Now let’s look at an alternative scenario. We start the day with a nutrient-dense green smoothie, brimming with protein, vitamins, and minerals. We feel fresh and invigorated and breeze through a productive morning, snacking briefly on a handful of almonds. For lunch, we opt for a meal of lean protein and complex carbohydrates like a turkey sandwich or a salad topped with grilled chicken. After an afternoon of slaying our to-do lists, we head home for a healthy dinner of broiled fish and rice with a salad. Sleep comes easily in the comfort of knowing how many things were accomplished today.
The brain and body function best when fueled by nutrient-dense whole foods. Eating high quality foods nourishes the brain and body and protects from the burden and stress of processing harmful fats, high amounts of sugar, and simple carbohydrates.
Recent research has shown that adherence to nutrient dense, whole foods diets are associated with a reduction in depression.
In recent years, the relationship between nutrition and mental health have gained considerable interest. Recent research has shown that adherence to nutrient dense, whole foods diets are associated with a reduction in depression. The connections between brain health, mood, and the foods we eat are greatly influenced by the synergies between brain function and gut health as mood boosting neurotransmitter production is increased by a healthy gastrointestinal tract. One of the strongest of these mood influencing chemicals is the neurotransmitter, serotonin. Serotonin helps regulate our sleep, appetite, and mood. Approximately 95% of serotonin is produced in the gastrointestinal tract. When our guts are healthy, the good bacteria increases production of neurotransmitters like serotonin, increasing our ability to focus and regulate our emotions. The best way to influence a healthy and productive gastrointestinal tract is by consuming a diet rich in a variety of healthy whole foods.
Try starting each day with a Green Smoothie made from romaine lettuce, celery, pear, apple and spinach. Reflect on the impact a clean start to the day has on your energy levels, productivity and food cravings. Starting the day with whole foods is a great way to influence healthy eating throughout the day, as a diet high in nutrient dense whole foods tends to leave us craving more of the same. Conversely, when we start the day with processed foods low in nutrients and high in calories, we tend to continue gravitating towards more of those foods throughout the day.
Healthy eating is an investment that will pay dividends for your body, mind, and energy levels. Try starting tomorrow off with a vitamin-rich healthy food choice and see how that good start influences your choices for lunch and dinner. When you feel your energy, focus, and patience waning, turn to a nutrient dense whole food meal for an infusion of mood-boosting vitamins and minerals. Fuel your strength from the inside out.