“One cannot think well, love well or sleep well if one has not dined well.” Virginia Woolf
When it comes to your brain, you literally are what you eat. Your grocery list can have a direct impact on your can directly impact whether you cross things off of your to-do list.
Your brain is the biggest energy hog in your body. While, on average, it represents only 2% of the body’s weight, it uses about 20% of the energy produced by the body. Studies show that a person can be as much as 200% more productive just by making better eating choices. You can promote quicker thinking, better memory and concentration, improved balance and coordination, sharper senses, and the activation of your feel good hormones just by what you put on your plate.
On the flip side, it’s equally important to realize that certain foods can also diminish your brain power and help to make you the dullest knife in the drawer. I don’t know about you, but I want no help in that department.
A list of the worst brain foods would include: excessive alcohol, artificial food colorings, artificial sweeteners, sugars and corn syrup, hydrogenated fats, and nicotine. Basically, it’s safe to say that what’s bad for your heart isn’t going to help your brain either.
You brain runs primarily on blood sugar, using as much as 20% of the carbohydrates you ingest and performs best on a steady supply. Simple carbohydrates – processed flour and sugary foods – cause wild fluctuations in blood sugar. Riding the blood sugar roller coaster is just not good for any part of your body. While that chocolate covered, cream filled doughnut may taste sinfully delicious, it’s doing much more than making your pants tighter.
Since my brain injury, I’ve quit smoking and have become the obnoxious ex-smoker who gets offended when anyone pollutes “my” air. How dare they? And, I quit drinking alcohol. While I do miss the way red wine would just slide down my throat and give me a big, warm hug all over, I don’t want to chance canceling out all the other good things I am doing in my life and a brain injury and alcohol don’t mix well. So, as a general rule, I don’t indulge.
I’ve also cleaned up my daily diet immensely and have started eating things like almond milk, flax seed, nuts, and fresh fruits and veggies, and I don’t eat any diet foods or artificial sweeteners anymore. Stevia, a natural artificial sweetener that can be found at any grocery store, sweetens my coffee now. It took a brain injury to make me adopt healthier habits and believe me, I know it’s not easy to do with less motivation.
I’m not advocating that we give up every indulgent pleasure and become militant abstainers from almost everything labeled “bad-for-you.” I still love having dessert every once in a while. In my opinion, denying yourself only sets you up for failure and makes life boring and colorless. It’s not what you do occasionally that’s going to make a big difference. The choices we make every day on a regular basis are going to create our health and happiness. This philosophy works for me. You have to find what works for you.
I would encourage you to start by making a small, manageable change like switching your sweetener or limiting alcohol intake. My Dad cut out sodas and lost weight and noticed that he felt better. Look at your life and diet and decide what you can change or eliminate? Try the new habit for a couple of days and see what changes you notice in your energy level, thinking, moods or other.
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