How Nutrition Affects the BrainWhat if I told you that brain health does not start in the brain, but rather in the gut? In fact, research has supported the connection between mental health disorders and gut health for years! Which means that we each have an opportunity to help support our own brain health simply by better managing what we put in our stomachs. And what exactly should we be putting in our stomachs? I’ll tell you below! There are different approaches people take when dealing with mental health issues. Issues that vary from long-term mental disorders, or short-term anxieties and sadness. These approaches include exercise, the use of essential oils and other aromatic therapies, alcohol, and of course food. While these approaches may bring positive results in the short-term, they fail to provide long-term change and some of the side effects may actually exasperate the cycle of mental problems. When it comes to long-term results, researchers have found that nutrition is key. The reason being is that the gut acts as a neurotransmitter, meaning that a healthy gut produces positive mood responses in the brain and and an unhealthy gut produces negative responses. In fact, the brain has been found to be responsible for only 1% of serotonin in the body while the gut accounts for over 95%. No wonder people say, “you are what you eat!” What your body really needs are NUTRIENTS.To begin with, complex carbohydrates are essential to supplying your body with the energy it needs. Healthy complex carbohydrates include PEAS, BEANS, QUINOA, and GREEN LEAFY VEGGIES. Many of the complex carbohydrates you find in your local grocery store include Genetically Modified Foods (GMO) and so to be sure that the gut is receiving proper nourishment for optimal brain health, the foods should be organic and free from the use of pesticides. Fatty acids are also essential to ensuring a healthy brain and gut. Omega-3 and Omega-6 are the only fatty acids the body is incapable of producing naturally and so it is important to intentionally add them to your diet. Foods that contain these fatty acids are HEMP, FLAX, WALNUTS, EGGS, and DARK LEAFY GREENS. There are also supplements or vitamins that can be taken; however, it is best that they be whole-food based. Otherwise, they are not fully absorbed into the body and are instead excreted. Studies have shown that lacking these two fatty acids can increase feelings of depression. Amino acids are another important nutrient that comes from the foods we consume such as SPIRULINA, LEAFY GREEN VEGGIES, BUTTER, and SUNFLOWER SEEDS. Many of us have already experienced those moments where we eat something unhealthy and feel lethargic and disappointed afterwards. We’ve also experienced moments of eating fresh fruits or vegetables and feeling the energy that accompanies such nutrition. In fact, I bet there are countless times you have craved those leafy greens or bright colored fruits which is a signal that your body is in need of such nutrients. So between our own experiences of feeling better after clean eating, and research that supports the connection between the gut and brain, the importance of nutrition in supporting improved mood and brain health is a bit of a no brainer!
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