The eating habits of the majority of the U.S. include consuming an unbelievable amount of highly processed, high-in carbohydrates (carbs) and the wrong fats (canola, vegetable, and palm oils). It’s making us obese and highly susceptible to depression, anxiety, diabetes, heart disease, certain cancers, and more.
Nutrition for Better WEll-Being
Food. We love it. We hate to love it. We have to have it.
Processed Foods Are:
- those that typically come in a box or bag containing several ingredients.
- mostly live in the center isles and refrigerated sections of grocery stores and at the checkout aisles.
- produced by combining numerous high-carb ingredients (white flour, corn, rice, sweeteners) with chemicals and other ingredients to create a flavor profile.
- often include potentially harmful chemicals to give them a long shelf life.
- contain high sugar and overall carb content, making them highly addictive by stimulating the brain’s dopamine centers, which are associated with pleasure and reward. This is also why we reach for them when we’re stressed, anxious, or depressed.
- typically have little nutritional value. As a result, the brain and the body tell us we’re still hungry, so we eat more without ever nourishing either. As a result, the brain and the body tell us we’re still hungry, so we eat more without ever really nourishing either one.
Facts About Fat
- We’ve been led to believe a “low-fat diet” is somehow healthier and will help us lose weight. One of the challenges posed by “low-fat foods” is they don’t have a lot of flavor … until sugar, salt, flour, thickeners, and other ingredients are added that … wait for it … lead to weight gain!!!
- We need the right fats to survive, like those found in avocados, nuts, whole eggs, salmon, olive and coconut oils, certain nuts and seeds, grass-fed beef, and even some dark chocolates!
- Fats give us energy.
- Fat makes us feel full quicker and often with fewer calories than low-fat foods.
- Many critical nutrients like vitamins A, D, E, and K can’t be absorbed efficiently without fat.
- YOUR BRAIN NEEDS FAT TO FUNCTION!!!
We’re not overweight because of the fats we eat. We’re overweight because we’re eating the wrong foods!
How Your Diet Impacts Your Brain Health
Maintaining a healthy brain is a key part of living a balanced life. When your brain is healthy, you’re better able to solve problems, communicate, think logically, manage stress, and regulate emotions. What you eat directly impacts the health of your brain. Eating large amounts of junk and processed foods can lead to brain fog, fatigue, poor mental health, reduced impulse control, and more. On the contrary, following a nutrient-rich eating plan can help boost your mood, improve concentration, and reduce symptoms of depression.
Simply put, the foods you eat on a daily basis can strengthen or weaken your brain, which ultimately determines how you think and feel and how well your body functions.
Why Paying Attention to What You Eat Matters
Paying attention to how you feel when you eat and what you eat is one of the first steps to ensuring you’re getting well-balanced meals and snacks.
- Since many of us don’t pay close attention to our eating habits, nutritionists recommend keeping a food journal. Documenting what, where and when you eat is a great way to gain insight into your eating patterns. You will likely be surprised by how many of the wrong foods you actually eat every day.
- If you find you overeat when stressed, anxious or depressed, it may be helpful to stop what you’re doing when the urge to eat arises and to write down your feelings. By doing this, you may discover what’s really bothering you. If you undereat, it may help to schedule five or six smaller meals instead of three large ones.
- Pay attention to your gut! Our guts and brain are physically linked via the vagus nerve, and the two are able to send messages to one another. While the gut is able to influence emotional behavior in the brain, the brain can also alter the type of bacteria living in the gut.
- It is believed that 95 percent of the body’s supply of serotonin, a mood stabilizer, is produced by gut bacteria. If your gut is out of balance, you will feel out of balance.
- Stress is thought to suppress beneficial gut bacteria.
Sugar By Any Other Name…
If you read the labels of many “healthy foods,” we are led to believe that things like pure cane sugar, honey, coconut sugar, agave, evaporated cane juice, dextrose, malt syrup, molasses, and other “natural” sweeters, like corn syrup, are somehow more healthy.
THEY’RE NOT! They are all one thing — SUGAR!
Eating Right Means Behavior Change
(It Also Means Feeling Better!)
“Change” can be a scary word. Still, if you are truly committed to losing weight and keeping it off, and if you really want to feel physically and emotionally better, you’ve got to change your relationship with food!
Here are some tips for making the changes you need to help you begin a healthier relationship with food:
- Start keeping a food journal. Keep track of everything you eat and when you eat every day. It will likely surprise you how many of the wrong foods you actually consume throughout the day.
- Pay attention to triggers. What is happening and what are you feeling when you reach for a snack or take a detour through a drive-thru?
Once you begin to understand more about what you eat and why you eat (or overeat), you will likely be more receptive to changing your eating habits.
A Word of Caution About
While the lure of zero-calorie/sugar-free soft drinks and other low-calorie foods seem appealing or will help you lose weight, APPROACH WITH CAUTION!
When it comes to losing weight, artificial sweeteners provide no sense of fullness or satisfaction, yet they simultaneously retrain the taste buds to require more and more sweetness. As a result, you are more likely to continue on the “sugar wheel” that leads to weight gain.
How a President’s Heart Attack Led to America’s Obesity
When President Dwight D. Eisenhower suffered a massive heart attack in 1955, his physician, Dr. Paul Dudley White, a cardiologist, claimed the president’s diet was too high in fat and cholesterol, leading to his heart attack. The fact that the president smoked several packs of cigarettes a day was never mentioned as a contributing factor!
Dr. White’s crusade for reducing fat by reducing meat, butter, eggs, cheese, and other fatty foods from the diet would give rise to a healthier America. It didn’t. In fact, it made it worse as more and more low-fat foods became the norm. Foods that were packed full of sugar and other unhealthy ingredients led to a fatter, more unhealthy America.
What You Should be Eating to Begin Feeling Better
(Physically and Emotionally)
- Complex Carbohydrates (for energy): Brown rice, steamed white rice, quinoa, millet, beets, and sweet potatoes have more nutritional value and will keep you satisfied longer than the simple carbohydrates found in sugar and candy.
- Certain Fruits (for nutrition & fiber): apples, blueberries, strawberries, citrus fruits (oranges and grapefruit), bananas (in moderation – they are high in sugar!)
- Lean Proteins: Chicken (preferably fresh), lean pork and beef, fish, and whole eggs.
- Healthy Fats: Fish high in omega fatty acids (salmon, tuna, sardines), avocados, olives (be careful with these if you have high blood pressure due to the salt content), nuts and seeds, olive coconut oil, hard cheeses, grass-fed beef, and edamame.
- What About My Sweet Tooth? Once you start eating healthier foods and feeling better, you will likely see a drop off in your cravings for unhealthy foods.
Healthy Eating & Shopping Tips
- Steer clear of processed snack foods for obvious reasons.
- Pass up sugar-filled snacks, such as candy and soft drinks, which lead to ups and downs in energy levels.
- Consume plenty of healthy fats, such as olive oil, coconut oil, and avocado. This will support your brain function.
- When hunger strikes, have a healthy snack such as fruit, nuts, hard-boiled eggs, baked sweet potatoes, or edamame., such as fruit, nuts, hard-boiled eggs, baked sweet potatoes or edamame. This will give you more energy than packaged products.
- Develop a healthy shopping list and stick to it (and don’t shop when you’re hungry!)
- Read the labels: If you buy healthy foods, they likely don’t have a label! But if there are multiple ingredients, like sweeteners, or you can’t pronounce them, put them back.
- Stay out of the center aisles. Bad things live there!
- Think about where and when you eat. Don’t eat in front of the television, which can be distracting and cause you to overeat. Instead, find a place to sit, relax and really notice what you’re eating. Chew slowly. Savor the taste and texture.
- Begin to think of food as nutrition, not a crutch.
The Bottom Line
If you’re reading this, you’re likely in a place where you want to make a change. Whether you’re wanting to lose weight or get a handle on your emotional health (or both!), we’re here to help! From helping you better your emotional health through managing medication and therapy to exercising to eating right, it’s a package deal and part of the integrated care we offer to our patients to improve their WEll Being!