Work. Playdates. Housework. Social life (ha!). Exercise (double ha!). The list goes on and on. Now more than ever, our lives are go-go-go. Thanks(?) to technology, we answer emails in bed, shop with a few taps, socialize on FaceTime and search for our soulmate online. With all this crazy clutter, is work-life balance really a thing?
Unfortunately, you can’t always slow down, quit your day job or take a 10-day retreat. But you can choose what you eat—which directly affects the structure and function of your brain and, ultimately, your mood. Here are a few ways you can nosh your way to a healthier, happier you. (Not to mention all the other benefits you get when you eat healthy.)
THE BRAIN = THE BOSS
The brain, or head honcho (see what we did there?), is responsible for all your functions. Acting as a control center, it’s quite literally, the brains behind the operation. It consists of approximately 100 billion nerve cells. Not only does your brain put together thoughts and complex physical actions. It brain also regulates digestion, breathing, you name it.
Beyond that, the brain impacts how we think and feel: it shapes our personality, establishes our moral judgment, contributes to our insecurities, affects how we view the world and so on. Our brain is a big deal, so we need to treat it, er feed it, well. Highly processed or refined foods—we’re looking at you, fast food (darn)!—can actually harm certain brain functions, including memory and other forms of cognitive impairment. So drop the donuts, put down the bleached white bread, and step away from the soda.
BALANCE YOUR FOOD—AND MOOD
Since the brain is juggling a lot—that’s an understatement—it requires a steady supply of good-for-you nutrients to keep it running smoothly. From fish to fruit, there are countless foods that can help keep you healthy and happy, as it’s been proven that poor diet is a risk factor for depression. In an attempt to keep it simple, we’ve highlighted our top picks for multifunctional must-haves—besides our yummy supplements, that is! Embrace a healthy diet and get ready for a brighter, better day.
One way to keep the blahs away is to consume cold-water fish like salmon, sardines, and halibut that are rich in omega-3s. According to Psychology Today, “these fats, basic components of nerve cell membranes, facilitate all kinds of transactions in the brain, and one net effect is to keep depression at bay. It is through the fat-rich cell membrane that all nerve signals must pass—think of it as a kind of gatekeeper of the mind.” Not a fish fan? Nut a problem. Walnuts are one of the richest plant sources of omega-3 fatty acids.
This foodie favorite is rich in vitamins, minerals, and micronutrients—and makes a sweet treat. And according to some studies, filling up on fruit can help lower your risk of depression. Blueberries are a smart pick—besides being rich in healthy antioxidants, these blue bursts of goodness are associated with having a more positive mood and helping improve memory. And lest you forget, tomatoes are also an antioxidant-rich fruit and may have a beneficial effect on the prevention of depressive symptoms as well. If that’s the case, a tomato a day may truly keep the doctor away!
If you’re feeling blue, you may want to reach for some greens. Kale, spinach, chard, and other dark leafy greens are packed with vitamin K, a serious inflammation fighter. Why is inflammation a big deal? Well, recent studies have shown that major depression is associated with brain inflammation. Which may have you reaching for that second helping of saag paneer after all…
Gut bacteria is big. (Not literally of course, as they are itty-bitty.) Turns out, the 100 trillion or so “good” bacteria taking up residence has been making a lot of buzz in the health world lately. And for good reason. Paired with other itty-bitty organisms like viruses and fungi, they make up the microbiome and affect everything from our mood to our immune system. An estimated 90% of the body’s serotonin—often referred to as the feel-good hormone or happy chemical—is made in the digestive tract.
Because low serotonin has been linked with depression, upping your probiotics intake may have important benefits for preventing and treating it. To get the most bang for your probiotic buck, look for yogurt with live and active cultures. Greek yogurt is a safe bet—many types add Lactobacillus acidophilus and Lactobacillus casei, probiotics that may help increase the good bacteria in your gut. For an extra helping of happiness, toss in some mood-enhancing blueberries.
Another way to achieve more balance in your life is to chow down on foods that act as fuel. The key is to stay away from foods that spike your blood sugar, then leave you crashing, like donuts, pastries, candy, and so on. According to WedMD.com, “complex carbs, healthy fats, and protein take longer to digest, satisfy your hunger, and provide a slow, steady stream of energy.” So, although you may enjoy the initial sugar rush, the energy will be short-lived. Drawing a blank on better options? Here are some more multifunctional—and tasty—favorites to get you through the day.
The real breakfast of champions is a complex carb, which means it’s packed with filling fiber and healthy nutrients. Oatmeal is slower to digest and supplies energy evenly instead of all at once. Just make sure you avoid the instant, i.e. sugary, oatmeal. Steel cut oats are your best bet. Add fruit, nuts or almond butter for breakfast, or have a savory dinner with cheese, herbs, and even bacon!
The perfect food to take on the go (no utensil required)! This fan favorite is an excellent source of carbohydrates, potassium and vitamin B6—basically, the trifecta of energy!
There are so many types of beans that you’d be hard-pressed NOT to find one you love. They are excellent at maintaining a stable blood sugar level and are a balanced source of carbohydrates, fiber, and protein. Additionally, beans contain antioxidants that can help fight inflammation and promote energy. Tip: If you aren’t fond of “regular” beans, give lentils a go.
STRIKE A BALANCE
The quick and not-so-dirty guide to clean eating is to swap processed foods for a variety of healthy foods in the right proportions. And don’t forget to eat every few hours (no skipping meals) to maintain a normal blood sugar. Says WedMD.com: “Mixed meals that contain small amounts of healthy fats, along with protein and complex carbohydrates, are the foundation for an energizing diet.” Lastly, water helps your entire body achieve balance as it aids in digestion, absorption, circulation, transportation of nutrients, and more.
Of course, only eating the above foods is easier said than done. Life’s too short not to eat that salty carbonara pasta or decadent chocolate cake once in a while. Just be sure to chase it down with our yummy SmartyPants supplements to tilt the (nutritional) balance in your favor.*
*THESE STATEMENTS HAVE NOT BEEN EVALUATED BY THE FOOD AND DRUG ADMINISTRATION. THIS PRODUCT IS NOT INTENDED TO DIAGNOSE, TREAT, CURE, OR PREVENT ANY DISEASE.
Posted on July 11, 2018