06 Jul Mindful Eating
Over the past few years, the topic of mindset has gotten more attention, and rightfully so. Mindset is defined as “the established set of attitudes held by someone.” This means that our mindset is the habitual set and types of thoughts we think.
Essentially our whole life experience is created and affected by the thoughts we think, and the perspectives, attitudes, and behaviors that are established from these thoughts. While our mindset can be affected by a combination of influences, such as our upbringing, past experiences, our environment, etc., there’s one critical area that’s often undervalued in the “mindset” space and that is nutrition.
What we eat powerfully affects our brain and therefore our thoughts. Food can go a long way in preventing mental illnesses such as depression, anxiety, and ADHD, while also boosting cognitive function to help be more creative, focused, and happy. What we eat so strongly influences our mind that a whole field called “nutritional psychiatry” has emerged But, how does food have such a strong influence on our mindset?
Our brains are always working…we’re not thinking. This means that the 3-pound organ in our head needs a constant supply of fuel, which comes from our food. And, just like an expensive car runs best on premium fuel, our brain requires healthy food to function. If premium fuel is not used, the engine (aka brain) can be damaged. Healthy foods provide an abundance of vitamins, minerals, enzymes, fatty acids, amino acids, antioxidants, and other biochemical tools that allow us to create a positive mental state
When we supply our bodies with these essential nutrients, it’s able to produce ample amounts of brain chemicals called neurotransmitters. It’s these neurotransmitters that powerfully impact our thoughts, moods, and behaviors. Neurotransmitters are the chemicals that transfer information and signals between various parts of the brain and body.
Given that a thought can be explained as a “physical pattern of electricity generated by the neurons in our brains” and that there are roughly 100 billion neurons in our brains that exchange up to 1,000 electrical signals with each other every second, making sure that we supply our body with the physical tools it needs to support this process is essential.
When we eat whole foods, neurochemicals are produced that we rely upon to better create, choose, and manage our thoughts and attitudes. A particular neurotransmitter, GABA, helps give us the ability to control our thoughts. Because mindset is an “established” set of attitudes, we cannot optimally control our mindset if we don’t have the chemical makeup to do so.
While our body produces hundreds of neurochemicals there are four in particular that are vital for supporting our mindset, so much so in fact that they are often coined the “happy hormones.” These “happy hormones” are known as serotonin, dopamine, oxytocin, and endorphins. These chemicals work to help you to feel good, positive, and happy; they’re produced from amino acids and other compounds from our food.
Regularly consuming highly processed, poor quality, and even toxic foods become a significant mindset problem for two primary reasons. First, these foods are lacking in the vital nutrients that the body needs to synthesize the happy brain chemicals it needs to help us think positively and feel happy. Second, these processed foods often contain unhealthy, toxic ingredients that further diminish our mental states. These undesirable ingredients leach more of the needed nutrients from the body, kill neurons (nerve cells in the brain) and decrease mental functioning.
What’s important to understand is that if we don’t consistently give the body the foods it needs to produce plentiful amounts of neurochemicals, we simply cannot use mental willpower to make up for it. If we want to be positive, happy, creative, we have to have a diet that supports it. We have the power to sustainably control our mindset if we choose to fuel with the best.