Ever notice how you can’t help but smile when you see a Rainbow? Now imagine a Rainbow on your plate. Many chefs say we first begin to enjoy a meal visually, practically eating with our eyes. A rainbow of brightly colored, whole foods (not artificially colored) will naturally improve mood. In the converse, meals that are bland in color and flavor, browns, beiges and white, or off white, often do not leave us feeling all warm and fuzzy inside.
As a mental health counselor for over 10 years, I have seen overwhelming evidence that what we eat (or don’t eat) has significant effects on how we think, feel and act.
When we explore our thought processes, even food conscious adults may not be aware of what they need to add to their nutritional and emotional diets, in order to help them pay attention/focus. Many foods and super foods provide essential vitamins and minerals that allow our bodies and minds to focus throughout the day. There are also many “foods” that contribute to our lack of focus and help to distract us.
Foods that help us to focus by supplying us with energy, we like to call brain food and can be found in Fats and Carbohydrates. Some such foods are Walnuts, Olive Oil, Pumpkin seeds, Fish, Broccoli, Blueberries, Whole Grains and Tomatoes. Herbs like Sage, Basil, Rosemary and Lemon can be used internally or externally to support concentration, memory and focus. Super foods such as Chia seeds are a good addition to smoothies, water or salads to offer Omega-3 essential fatty acids to your diet.
Take notice to the foods listed above. A balance of carbohydrates and fats is essential… because, well, balance is essential. If we are not balanced, we tip over. Too often, the clients I work with are eating diets full of Simple Carbohydrates with little to No Complex Carbohydrates (found in fruits, veggies and whole grains) in their meals. Too many simple carbohydrates weigh us down, putting us off balance and tipping us to one side… The DOWN side. Especially when those carbs come Fried, saturated with Partially Hydrogenated oils, refined and artificial sweeteners and alcohol.
So, not only are too many unhealthy carbs depleting our ability to think, they can also make us feel sad or depressed. Typically, when we have increased our energy levels, we start to feel good. Looking at foods that help us to feel better, elevate our mood, and promote happiness, are Dark Chocolate (enhances endorphins), Foods rich in Vitamin D (egg yolks, cheese, fatty fish or a Day in the Sun), Beans, Nuts & seeds again, and lots of fruits and vegetables. It is particularly important to increase the consumption of Green Leafy vegetables -the food most often missing from the American diet. Some herbs that offer mood enhancement are Lavender, Rose, Ylang Ylang and Orange. Super foods such as Cashews have been found to elevate mood similar to the effects offered by Prozac.
Once we are feeling betting and thinking better, we will begin to act better. That’s just the way we work. The same holds true in reverse. When we start to feel and think poorly, we behave poorly.
In essence, when examining how we feel and think, we can explore what foods and nutrients we are consuming. Are we balanced? Are we eating the Rainbow? Are we drinking more Water than Alcohol? And what Super Foods can we add to help tip us in the right direction? All good questions… How will you answer?