Despite Canada’s cautious economic restart, it’s clear that our country still remains in a pandemic. COVID-19 has not only threatened our health, but it has made a tremendous impact on the way we interact with others. It will certainly be quite some time before things return (if ever) to the way we once knew. There’s no doubt that COVID-19 has left many of us feeling anxious, isolated and uncertain about the future. Aside from getting some fresh air and exercise though, one of the best ways to care for our emotional health is through the foods we eat.
We all know eating whole foods packed with vitamins is key to a healthy lifestyle. But did you know what you put in your mouth can also affect your brain? Let’s explore this correlation.
Understanding the digestive system
Our gastrointestinal tract does a lot more than just break down what we eat. There’s a direct link between its overall efficiency and the way we feel. Our bodies produce an important hormone known as serotonin. This chemical helps regulate sleep and appetite -- it’s also an important contributor to feelings of happiness. 95% of serotonin is actually produced in our gastrointestinal tract, which explains why it’s incredibly important to keep this part of our body in good shape.
One of the best ways to maintain a strong digestive system is by nourishing it with wholesome foods. Greasy meals and sugary treats can cause inflammation and affect the way our bodies absorb nutrients. When you feel sluggish and unenergized, your gastrointestinal tracts can’t produce the serotonin you need.
The importance of a high-quality diet
Nutritious foods can certainly improve your overall quality of life. Our brains function best when we eat foods that are rich in fatty acids and antioxidants. That’s because they protect the brain from oxidative stress -- the waste that’s produced when the body uses oxygen. Too much oxygen can actually damage brain cells.
This is why processed and refined foods are always bad news, even in small doses. Because they’re usually low in fibre, these foods are digested very quickly -- causing major upswings in blood sugar levels. The body is then forced to work harder to regulate itself, making it difficult to fight off diabetes, high blood pressure and blood disease.
Cooking with a high-quality olive oil is a good way to get the fatty acids you need. And if you’re looking for a healthy snack, consider dark chocolate. Cacao contains flavonoids, a type of antioxidant that’s good for memory and learning.
Here are some other foods that can improve your overall emotional state:
- Fatty fish, including salmon, trout and sardines
- Kale, broccoli, and garlic
- Almonds, hazelnuts, and sunflower seeds
- Whole-grains, including brown rice, barley and bulgur wheat
Making the transition to healthier eating
When you cut out the processed foods -- you’ll quickly notice an improvement in not just your physical health, but also your mood. It’s never too late to identify the foods that make you feel down. It will usually take a few weeks using a process of elimination.
Start with a ‘clean’ diet
Cut out processed and sugary foods for 2 weeks. You may also go dairy-free or nut-free to pinpoint food sensitivities.
Slowly bring back the foods you love into your diet. Keep a food journal to take note of any changes in your mood. When reintroducing more nutritious options, pay close attention to any emotional improvements. You may see some patterns emerge.
Keep your goals realistic
Cutting out fast food entirely for the next year may not be realistic. Despite our best intentions, we all have slip-ups once in a while. Instead of beating yourself up, keep your goals realistic from the outset. By taking this approach, you’ll be much more successful in maintaining success long-term.
Physiomed: Healthier starts here
Everyone could use a bit of motivation and guidance on their quest to emotional well-being. At Physiomed, we can help you get off on the right foot. Nutritional counselling is just one of the many services we offer. Our healthcare practitioners can introduce you to a nutritious diet that addresses your unique concerns. We can also help you with:
During these uncertain times, it’s important to take care of your emotional health.
For more information on healthy eating or to book an assessment, contact us here.