Ever feel sluggish and tired without really knowing why? Or treat yourself to a big lunch, then head back to work to realize all you want to do it take a big nap?
What you eat has a huge impact on your mental health and clarity. Like all the other muscles in your body, your brain requires fuel. And the type of fuel you put in will change the outcome you get.
Your Gut and Your Mood
Your gut, believe it or not, is the key to a happy, healthy and clear mind. How is this possible?
Well, your gastrointestinal tract is the main producer of serotonin and home to millions of nerve cells that can carry that serotonin throughout your body.
Serotonin is responsible for regulating a lot of things in your body like sleep, mood, pain, and appetite. Your serotonin levels are dependant on bacteria in your intestines, which can either be good or bad. Bad bacteria impairs how well serotonin gets absorbed and moved throughout the body.
When you eat food that produces bad bacteria, it can lead to feeling sluggish, tired, and depressed, to name just a few.
Foods to Avoid
If you find yourself feeling tired, but cannot sleep well, agitated or depressed, consider switching up your diet. Here are five foods to avoid.
- Refined sugars: eating a lot of sugars spikes your glucose levels, most often thought of as a “sugar high.” The constant spikes in your glucose levels deplete your energy, requires your body to work overtime and has been linked to sleep disorders.
- Processed foods: much like refined sugars, processed foods cause a spike in your blood sugar much the same way refined sugars do. Carbohydrates found in cereal, pasta, and junk food, when consumed in excess, affect your mood, energy, and clarity.
- Artificial sweeteners: contain aspartame, which has been shown to block serotonin which is exactly what your body and mind need to stay focused.
- Dairy: often causes inflammation in the body and is harder to digest. As we age we lose the required stomach enzymes needed to properly digest milk and cheese.
- Wheat: While you might not have Celiacs Disease, 1 in 3 people have a gluten intolerance that can have a big impact on their digestive health.
Foods to Add
Consider replacing those foods to avoid these four foods that have been shown to improve mood and mental health.
1. Fatty Fish
You’ve heard it a million times before, but the omega-3s found in fish like Salmon have been shown to reduce depression, ADHD and a host of other mental diseases. Omega-3s also play an important role in the production of serotonin.
Yogurts are a fermented food that contains probiotics, which are those healthy bacteria that enable the production of serotonin.
3. Lean Protein
Proteins are made up of amino acids, these acids help facilitate the production of serotonin. Lean proteins are best since they contain much lower fat content and more nutrients. Lean proteins look like a chicken breast versus a chicken wing.
4. Leafy Green Vegetables
Leafy greens probably come as no surprise, but there really is some truth behind eating broccoli and spinach. Leafy green vegetables (and beets and lentils) are high in Vitamin B, among others, that fight depression, insomnia, and fatigue.
On Your Way to A Healthy Gut and Mental Clarity
Making adjustments to your diet isn’t always as easy as it seems. But keeping a food diary and logging how you feel after each meal will help you get a better sense of what foods affect you most.
Keep in mind it can take up to three months for some foods to totally clear your system, so give yourself enough time to eliminate foods before making any final judgments.