We have been thinking a lot lately about how our diets shape our mental health. We have many questions – what should we be eating? What should we avoid?
We have been fortunate to have the opportunity to ask our questions to the Food Coach, Tzabia Segal, clinical nutritionist, life coach and weight loss specialist. Check out her answers and tips for healthy eating for a healthy brain!
1. How do our diets impact our brain function?
Consider the brain and the body is made up of air, food and water. If we don’t provide the right raw materials, it is not going to function well. Another thought to ponder: there is an entire nervous system in our gut called the enteric nervous system. It has been labeled 'the second brain'. More information travels to the brain from the gut than vice versa. So if we are not feeding our gut well, our brain will not be getting the right messages.
2. What foods do you recommend to keep our brains healthy?
Too many to name them all but in general, protein for the enzymes and raw materials for the neurotransmitters, vegetables for the vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, good fats, particularly the ones from fish for nerve transmission. Eat as close to nature as possible.
a. What should we avoid?
Manufactured foods in general (which lack nutrition and have been negatively altered by the processing), cheap oils (ones in clear plastic bottles and margarine are examples), excessive sugar and baked products, chemical sweeteners, excessive alcohol.
3. What foods can we eat to help stimulate focus and concentration?
Protein is key. Vegetables, lots of colours. Good fats from fish, flax, chia and hemp. Also make sure you eat every 3-4 hours including the foods just mentioned.
4. When I am feeling anxious, are there any foods that will help?
Same as number 3. Best to avoid stimulants such as sugar and caffeine which will make anxiousness worse.
5. What are your thoughts on caffeine?
Caffeine has it’s benefits - a freshly roasted, ground and brewed cup or loose leaf tea is loaded with antioxidants. And of course it can offer the stimulation and alertness that so many people look for in the morning or later in day. The issue is when someone is addicted to it and needs it for energy. That is a sign of some underlying issues that need to be addressed.
6. What are some tips for eating healthy at work?
Be prepared. If you are buying your lunch look for protein, vegetables and a good fat such as fish, nuts, seeds, coconut, avocado, olives or olive oil. Buy an extra little meal for your mid-afternoon snack. Or have a snack ready that is based on the same principles (plain yogurt with fruit instead of veggies, with nuts and seeds or hummus and veg). Eat that snack about 2.5 or 3 hours after your lunch to ensure more energy and focus late in the day.
7. Are there any common misconceptions around healthy food for the brain?
There is a lot of confusion about nutrition in general. One thing to watch out for is manufactured foods that are abundantly advertised to tell you that it is, in some way, healthy for you. The food industry is a massive global money driver looking towards profit, not health. If it is heavily marketed it is generally going to have less nutritional value because most of the money that went into that product, went towards advertising, not natural and healthy raw materials.
Thank you Tzabia! This was extremely informative! What did you learn? Still have questions? Contact us or Tzabia for more information. Stay tuned for an upcoming post about how to pack healthy lunches for work!