Food, Mood and Your Mental Power
Have you ever had a gut feeling, experience the butterflies or felt your stomach turn from a scary experience? That welling of feelings coming from deep within is the signal your gut is sending to your brain. Your gastrointestinal tract is quite sensitive to your emotions. From anxiety, stress, danger to love, happiness and elation, all of these can trigger a response in your digestive system that can be pleasant or cause an upset.
There are over 100 million nerve endings in your digestive system that make up what is called the enteric nervous system (ENS). The ENS may independently control your digestion without your conscious thought and is also known as your second brain, or gut brain.
Every day, your gut and your brain are chatting with one another. In fact, over 70% of that communication is coming from your gut to your brain. Your digestion and brain are interconnected and can be the cause OR the product of anxiety, stress, or depression. Much research is surfacing on the importance of what we consume on a daily basis and how it affects our mood and mental capacity.
A study published in the American Academy of Neurology looked at the differences in brain imaging of those following a Mediterranean-style diet versus those with a lower adherence to it. They found that the Mediterranean eating pattern that is rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, legumes, dairy and fish — but low in sugar — is associated with larger brain volume, and a healthy brain with aging.
The Western style eating patterns of the second group, which were higher in fast food, processed meat, refined sugar and low in fruits and vegetables, can result in a malnourished brain — an indicator of a loss in brain power.
Results showed that healthier eating could lead to up to three and a half years of increased protection from Alzheimer’s Disease.
The bottom line is that we need to focus on eating more nutrient-dense foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and beans in place of processed meats, fast food, and refined sugary treats. By focusing on cooking three healthy recipes every week, you will make a big impact on your brain health.
To start, here are a few great options that are in season now:
- Sprinkle them on a fresh bed of spring mix or enjoy as a simple snack.
- Rich in anthocyanins, which reduces oxidative stress on the brain.
- Slice and serve with a drizzle of high quality olive oil and balsamic vinegar or serve as tomato soup.
- High in brain-boosting lutein. Optimum levels in the body can improve cognitive health.
- Bell peppers:
- Enjoy raw or roasted as a garnish or blended into hummus.
- Full of antioxidants such as beta-carotene and vitamin C.
Performance Dietitian Eleanor Baker MS, RDN, LDN formed Elevated Nutrition and
Wellness so she could provide exceptional performance enhancement and preventative healthcare in a holistic manner, all with the understanding that exceptional healthcare is a progressive process and not a quick fix. She extended her wellness reach in 2017 via telehealth and has worked with clients such as The PGA Tour, Jacksonville Jaguars, Florida Institute of Technology athletics department and many more.
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