“Tell me what you eat and I’ll tell you who you are!” You may have heard this saying before… or maybe not! But what you put in your plate can tell a lot about you, because after all, you are what you eat.
Don’t worry, you are not about to read your horoscope on the NXT Level blog! But you have heard us mention this plenty of times before: a varied and balanced diet is key to your general well-being. And this means not only how you feel physically, but also mentally. Here are a few general guidelines to ensure your diet can put you in the best mood!
Enjoy a balanced, varied diet
The food that you eat should provide you with all the nutrients that you need: carbs, protein, healthy fats, vitamins and minerals. These are essential to brain health! Here’s why:
- Carbs: They are your body’s main energy source. This means you need them not only to stay physically active, but also mentally! Your brain uses the energy from carbs to function properly. Try to choose foods rich in complex carbs, such as wholewheat bread, whole grains (quinoa, oatmeal, brown rice…) and starchy vegetables (potato, sweet potato, corn…).
- Protein: Your brain also needs amino acids to synthesize neurotransmitters. Protein contains amino acids, so make sure your diet contains enough sources of it! Check our database to find protein sources you can add to your diet.
- Healthy fats: Fat may have a bad reputation most of the time, but fatty acids such as omega-3 and 6 are essential to ensure your brain can function properly. Sources of healthy fats include avocados, nuts, seeds, oily fish, eggs…
- B vitamins: Thiamine (B1), Niacin (B3), Biotin (B7), Folate (B9), B6 and B12. B vitamins play a key role in brain health: thiamine, biotin, folate, niacin and vitamin B12 and B6 all contribute to normal psychological function. Luckily, you can find B vitamins in lots of food. Try to vary your sources of B vitamins, to ensure you’re getting enough of each type. Sources of vitamin B include: milk, cheese, eggs, meat, fish, green vegetables, beans, nuts, fruits…
- Vitamin C: Vitamin C has a number of important functions in the brain and contributes to normal psychological function. You can find vitamin C in citrus fruits, peppers, blackcurrants, kale, papaya…
- Magnesium: Magnesium supports the proper function of the muscles, and also contributes to fighting fatigue and can help reduce stress levels. Studies have shown that magnesium in conjunction with vitamin B6 can help relieve stress. Good sources of magnesium include seeds (flaxseeds, sunflower, sesame), cocoa, nuts (Brazil nuts, almonds), etc.
As a rule of thumb, try to eat a wide variety of foods in the right proportions. You’ve heard it all by now: fresh fruits and veggies, whole grains, legumes, nuts, lean proteins, and healthy sources of fat. Try to favour wholefoods as much as possible, and don’t forget to eat your 5 a day! Fruits and veggies are an excellent source of vitamins and minerals, including folate, vitamin C and potassium, and provide you with dietary fibre, which helps maintain a healthy gut.
Take care of your gut
The gut is sometimes called the “second brain”. We all know the sensation: something happens, we feel stressed or anxious and suddenly it’s our whole digestive system that feels upset too. Did you know that gut bacteria produce hundreds of neurochemicals that the brain uses to regulate processes such as learning, memory and mood? The gut also plays a role in our response to stress, which can affect our mood. A healthy digestive system ensures the proper absorption of all the vitamins, minerals and nutrients that our brain needs.
You can improve your gut health by having a diet rich in fibre, drinking enough water and exercising regularly. As for food, try to eat the following gut-friendly foods: fruits, vegetables and whole grains that are rich in fibre; beans, legumes, fermented foods (yoghurt, kimchi, miso…) and probiotics.
Drink your water
Good hydration is essential for a lot of bodily function, and your brain needs it too! Generally, it is recommended that adults drink at least 1.5 to 2 litres of water every day, but this may vary depending on factors such as your gender, age, level of activity and environment. The adult human body is made up of up to 60% of water, and about 75% of the brain is made of water! This is why dehydration can cause fatigue, headaches, lack of mental clarity, stress and sleep issues. Conversely, being well-hydrated can contribute to your mood and productivity. Check out our tips to stay hydrated in summer and all year around.
Don’t skip meals!
Your brain needs energy to be able to function properly, concentrate and focus on tasks. Did you know that your brain consumes around 20% of your body’s energy? Our main energy source is carbs: when you eat food, your body converts it into glucose, which is then used as a fuel by your brain. If your brain does not get enough energy, it can make you feel irritable, tired, low, and unable to think clearly. To avoid this, you can eat regular meals and choose foods rich in complex carbs, which release energy slowly during longer periods of time. And of course, you should snack when you need to! These foods are rich in complex carbs: whole-grain pasta, rice, oats, wholegrain bread and cereals, nuts and seeds….
To sum it up…
A healthy, balanced diet can benefit you in more ways than one. Not only does it contribute to your physical health, it also ensures your brain can function at its best! Your brain requires a number of nutrients to function properly, so make sure your diets is suited to your needs to avoid any deficiencies that could affect your health. Make sure to follow a healthy lifestyle to stay on top of your game in all circumstances!