The Importance of a Healthy Nutritional Intake for Brain Health
Taking care of your mind and body isn’t always easy. However, it is necessary to maximize our cognitive performance. And, it is essential that we pay attention to what we put into our body. Today, I want to focus on the importance of a healthy nutritional intake for your brain health and physical well-being. Feed your body in a way that helps it rather than harming it. Not all foods are created equal!
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How to Select Food
To start, I want to go over a basic helpful tip to remind you what to look for when selecting your food. Whether you buy your food on Amazon, through a grocery shopping app, or while walking down the grocery store aisle, keep these tips in mind. If you must buy packaged food, you should always look into the ingredients. There are a million different products out there packaged to appear healthy that claim to be “good” for you. So, how do you know what isn’t good for you?
It’s All in the Labels
It’s all in the labels. The label on the back of the package should be read to find out what is inside. The ingredients list goes from top to bottom. For example, juice would have water as it’s the first ingredient because it is predominantly made of water. If the first ingredient is sugar or another questionable ingredient, that’s most likely a choice you should skip. Try to pick those foods lowest in “sugar grams” per serving and with low oil content. A few years ago, in 2015, Dr. Esselstyn from UC Davis noted that “monounsaturated and saturated fats contained in oils are harmful to the endothelium, the innermost lining of the artery, and that injury is the gateway to vascular disease. It doesn’t matter whether it’s olive oil, corn oil, coconut oil, canola oil, or any other kind. Avoid ALL oil.”
Look for the ”No GMO” and organic labels on your foods! Make sure that your food is coming from a reliable source if its food that is grown or farmed, such as vegetables, meats, and fruits. You should be able to trust that food that is labeled to be free from pesticides, hormones, and preservatives really are. It’s also a good idea to stay away from processed food. You’ll mostly find these in the middle aisles of the grocery store.
Speaking of Grocery Store Aisles…
Think about it. Usually, the produce, meats, and other fresh foods are along the outer rim of the store. The inside aisles are usually the more processed foods, such as chips, candies, and cookies. Of course, moderation is key. I never want someone to deprive himself or herself of something, because that can just make it more tempting to partake in. Think of the 80/20 rule in eating healthy and fresh, and aim to eat whole foods as the majority of your diet.
How Often to Eat
This question can’t be answered through a broad blog post and will depend heavily on the individual person. I’ve read and researched this topic and still have not been able to find a conclusive or blanket answer for the entire population. The debate, I find, is often between eating many small meals throughout the day versus eating three large meals. Research has implied that going about eating smaller, more frequent meals can increase metabolism and keep insulin levels better, amongst other positives. However, other research has shown that making this switch in meal amounts doesn’t actually boost fat loss as much as some would think. I personally believe, through research, that the smaller meals are the more optimal choice because it can also help with indigestion after meals.
Calories In Versus Calories Out
What it all boils down to is calories taken in versus calories put out. Adding in more exercise and keeping your body moving increases the number of calories put out, which in turn can lead to feeling better. If you’re not able to engage in physical activity, for whatever reason, you’ll need to learn how to lessen your calorie intake so that it can balance out more. I’d recommend smaller servings and being in tune with your body when it tells you that it is full. It’s also important to make sure that your meals are balanced and contain a variety of whole foods and not a lot of processed food. Another important thing to remember is that not all calories are created equal. Different molecules go through biochemical metabolism on different pathways. As an example, carbohydrates (often called “carbs”) are converted into fat if consumed in excess. They’re not all equal, and they don’t all affect your body in the same way.
Next week, I’ll dive into more detailed recommendations for your best health and nutritional intake. This week, focus on eating as many whole foods as possible. Focus on feeding your body the “good stuff.”
Take care of your body so it can take care of you.