Did you know that a healthy diet can help improve brain health? It’s true! My research shows that all the hormones that keep your brain in balance: serotonin, epinephrine, norepinephrine, etc. are connected to the types of foods you eat. It is very important to eat enough calories and consume enough nutrients to support a healthy body and brain.
So if you eat a balanced diet, you are directly supporting your brain health, which in turn can improve your moods, give you more energy, improve concentration, and help your brain.
For me, improving my diet and eating better foods helped me feel a lot better, and I noticed I started to have more energy, I was able to concentrate better in class, and most importantly– my moods didn’t drop as low because I wasn’t skipping meals anymore and starving my body and brain of nutrients.
I’ve made a quick guide for you with 4 tips to eating a well-balanced meal that supports brain and body health.
(Note: These are general diet guidelines based on published research that have also worked for me, however everyone has different medical needs and should not be substituted for the option of a medical professional. It’s always important to consult a medical professional!)
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Let’s get started! Here are the 4 simple habits that I use to balance my blood sugar:
1.) Every time you eat, make sure to include a good source of protein, fat, and carbs with every snack or meal.
You need all three of these for each meal or snack because including a protein, fat, and carb will ensure that your blood sugar won’t spike when you eat all three together. This will allow you to keep a steady blood sugar level, as well as a steady mood, throughout the course of a day.
Here’s how your plate should look:
Picture of balancing a meal: (Harvard Healthy Eating Plate Picture)
For meal time, here are healthy options for each:
Protein — Chicken, eggs, seafood, pork, tofu, beans, nuts and legumes, steak, hamburger meat, yogurt, etc.
Fat — Avocados, a small slice of cheese, a tablespoon of olive oil or coconut oil, (nuts also have a healthy amount of fat and can count for both protein and fat), a small square of butter used in cooking, yogurt, etc.
Carbs — Any fruit, vegetable, or whole grain such a brown rice, quinoa, rolled oats, whole-grain toast and crackers, etc.
For snack time, here are some ideas:
Yogurt with nuts and fruit, a pear with a slice of turkey on the side, celery with peanut butter, and an avocado with whole-wheat crackers and a slice of lunch meat or tofu.
(Some things, such as yogurt and nuts, have both a good source of fat and protein, so you can use one for both categories for snacks.)
2.) Water! Drink water, and then drink some more!
We all know this one, but it’s good to repeat it: make sure your get your eight glasses of water each day, and drink more if you are exercising or spending a lot of time outside. Water not only helps your body function properly, it is also what your brain needs to function well. If you are unsure about your recommended daily intake of water, check out this handy calculator:
3.) Avoid the “Blood Sugar Bullies.”
Ok, these are the foods I like to call Blood Sugar Bullies because they do just that- they push your blood sugar levels around and leave you feeling lethargic and down after you eat them.
These foods include anything that is highly processed or contains a lot of sugar. Sodas, bagels, pizza, breads, cookies, cake, ice cream, brownies, chips, pretty much anything processes or sugary.
But don’ t worry, you can still have them in moderation! I love to have a cookie or a soda with my meal 🙂 In fact, it’s perfectly fine to enjoy these things in moderation. The most important thing to remember is that: 1) Do so in moderation, so have only one serving with your meal. For example, choose between a small soda, or a cookie, or one brownie, or a serving of chips, etc. 2) The next and most important guideline for these types of foods is to eat the one serving with a balanced meal. A balanced meal is anything that includes a healthy source of fat, protein, and carbs– preferable with whole grains and a fruit or vegetable. (See #1 for tips how to balanced a meal). When you eat any of these fast-burning foods or “blood sugar bullies” with a balanced meal, it prevents you from getting what is called a blood sugar spike (that happens when you eat one of these high-sugar foods by themselves all the glucose (sugar) in the foods will rush into your bloodstream causing a blood sugar spike, then a blood sugar crash occurs that is accompanied usually by a mood crash as well. Eating a “blood sugar bully” in a small serving with a balanced meal will prevent a blood sugar and mood crash. Yay!)
An example of Blood Sugar Bullies are:
– Processed grains such as crackers, white bread, and pretzels
– Junk food such as chips, pizza, french fries
– Any high-sugar soda, juice, or energy drink
If you have questions about what could be considered a Blood Sugar Bully, there is a handy index you can check out called the “glycemic index.” This shows you how quickly food is turned into sugar in your body. (The closer a number is to 0, the better it is for you. As the numbers get closer to 100, these types of foods will cause your blood sugar to spike and leave you feeling lethargic. I’d say only eat foods above 70 on special occasions, and make sure you include healthy, low glycemic foods with your meals.)
Harvard, more info on Glycemic Index (and more types of foods are included in this site)
Picture of balancing a meal:
(Harvard Healthy Eating Plate Picture)