Resilience for Women: Eating for Energy and a Healthy Brain
Do you frequently fatigue part-way through your day? Are you increasingly frustrated, or quick to anger at times? Do you sometimes find yourself unable to come to a decision with confidence? Are you craving or reaching for sugary foods, 'quick carbs' or stimulants to get yourself going?
These could be signs that you are not eating for energy and the well of your resilience is going to run dry.
According to the Harvard Health Blog, the brain can be harmed by the 'waste' produced by 'low-premium' foods such as highly processed and refined foods. These types of foods lower your body's regulation of insulin, promote inflammation and increase oxidative stress. Studies are showing that having a diet high in sugars strongly correlates with impaired brain functions and worsens symptoms of mood disorders.
The short-term impact is variable mood, low energy and poor cognition.
The long-term impacts are brain tissue injury, decreased mental health and increased risk of diabetes and other diseases.
That's the scary news!
Support Your Brain with Nutrient Rich Foods
The positive news is that many of us are in a position to control our nutrition.
Eating for energy simply involves feeding your body foods that sustain your physical and cognitive energy, avoiding energy crashes and ensuring your blood glucose levels and serotonin remain balanced through out your day.
Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that affects your mood, cognitive functioning, regulates sleep and inhibits pain, so we think of serotonin as being something that is produced in the brain. However, serotonin is actually produced in your gastrointestinal tract, which is lined with millions of neurons. The functioning of these neurons, and your body's ability to produce serotonin, is highly influenced by beneficial bacteria in your gut. Beneficial bacteria is the bacteria your body requires to support your body's functioning well. If you've heard the term intestinal micro biome, this is what it means – the diversity of bacteria that populate your intestinal tract.
Why is this important?
Those who eat ‘traditional’ diets (Mediterranean, Japanese, etc) as compared to those who eat a typical ‘western’ style diet have significantly lower incidences of disease, mental health issues and cognitive decline.
This information is coming from a variety of scientific disciplines – neuroscience, psychiatry, nutritional science, epidemiology, cancer research, and cardiology. So, regardless of the various fad diets on the market, it seems the wisest choice is to lean more into 'traditional' diets which are all high in vegetables, fish, seafood, healthy oils/fats (olive, coconut, avocado, nut oils), medium-chain fatty acids, and are low in processed grains, legumes, endocrine disrupting foods (such as soy) and inflammatory foods (such as sugars and lectin containing foods).
To set yourself up for a great day that includes sustained clear thinking, a calm and positive attitude, physical endurance and the ability to face challenges with energy and optimism pay attention to how you nourish yourself.
Choose foods that will provide you with a slow burn of energy for longer periods of time.
Choose foods rich in vitamins and minerals – eat more vegetables – eat a rainbow - the fresher the better.
Consider adding fermented foods (yoghurts – dairy or non-dairy - Kimchi, sauerkraut, kombucha, miso and others) to your diet to promote good bacteria and gut health, which in turn reduces inflammation (an underlying cause of many diseases) and promotes adequate serotonin production and improves nutrient absorption. A little goes a long way.
Consider that there is a cost to not eating enough, not eating regularly and not eating quality food.
Starting your day:
In the morning your body needs nourishment to both kick-start the day and sustain your energy into your day. I know some of you will argue with me on this, but, caffeine is not nourishment, it's just a kick.
Consider that when you wake up in the morning you have been fasting for 8-10 hours. Your blood-glucose levels are at their lowest at this point of the day. Eating a quality breakfast is important to increase your blood-glucose levels so that your cognition and hormonal functions can get fired up. It also jump-starts your metabolism (this is how your body produces energy).
Foods lower on the glycemic index will support a slower release of energy to sustain you through your morning. Considering trading in that bagel and juice for some protein, whole-grains and low-glycemic fruits.
Less reactive, more calm you
Improved cognitive endurance
Improved problem-solving and decision-making
Increased clear thinking and judgment
Decrease risk of disease
Bolstered mood and sense of wellness
Sustaining your energy throughout the day by eating quality foods at intervals will go along way to helping you avoid the impact of blood-sugar crashes and the 'hangries'. This, in turn, will keep your well of resilience deep so you can thrive.