Fuel Your Body and Mind During Culinary Arts Month
By Annie Edgecombe
During the month of July, foodies all over the nation will celebrate Culinary Arts Month. While renowned restaurants and chefs celebrate the latest culinary creations and trends this month, all of us can embrace the art of food and its impact on our bodies and minds.
As the country begins to re-open and we return to our favorite dining establishments, now is the perfect time to take notice of how we’re fueling our body and our mind for optimal performance. A nutritious diet will help keep your body fit and strong; but it can also help support a healthy mind.
Our brains are always on the move, never taking a break, even when we’re sleeping. It’s important to support your brain so that it has the energy to respond to stress, process memories and power all the thinking you do throughout the day.
Have you ever been hangry? The combination of hungry and angry is a real, physiological reaction to not having enough energy (calories) for your brain to properly function. Your body begins to run on stress hormones that rob stored energy from your muscles to feed your brain, which can put you in “fight or flight” mode.
Everyone fuels their body differently, and there is no one style of eating that works for everyone. Whether you’re a traditional “three meals a day” eater, someone who partakes in intermittent fasting with a rigid schedule, or follow a philosophy of simply eating when your body tells you it’s ready for food, here are some general tips for eating to support mental health and brain function:
- Fiber, fat, and protein work well together. Eat these three core nutrients at every meal and snack, as balanced meals and snacks help keep you full longer and will help keep you out of hangry mode.
- Fat is your friend. Fear around fat started in the 1980-90s due to makers of highly processed foods marketing “diet” foods and products that, while often expensive, were not rich in nutrients. The majority of your brain (70%) is made of fat, and fat is an essential nutrient for proper brain function. Healthy sources of fat can include milk, yogurt, cheese, butter, nuts and seeds, fish or animal protein.
- Stick with one cup of java. While coffee and tea have antioxidants that support brain health, too much caffeine can lead to increased anxiety and restlessness. Savor your morning coffee, then switch to herbal tea or a cup of hot water with lemon.
And of course, hydrate! And then hydrate some more. Drinking adequate amounts of water during the day delivers oxygen throughout the body, flushes body waste and toxins, and helps keep kidneys healthy. Dehydration can impact your overall mood and ability to concentrate and reason, while also causing headaches. Keeping a bottle of water with you throughout the day will not only help keep you from eating (when you think you’re hungry but are really just thirsty), but will help your brain do the work it needs to do to get you through your day.
Annie Edgecombe is a program coordinator with Mind Springs Health, the largest provider of counseling and therapy for mental wellness in Western Colorado. Annie holds a master’s degree in nutrition from National University of Natural Medicine.
Coming Up Next . . .
July 15 – Not Enough Cooks in the Kitchen? Cooking as a family – Using time together to stimulate meaningful conversation.
July 22 – Why do We Crave Comfort Foods? Becoming more mindful eaters
July 29 – Cooking as a Stress Reliever