2020 has been a whirlwind – it’s safe to assume that everyone has undergone some form of stress. It is what we do and how we react to stress, that defines us.
Starting with a clear mindset and making good choices, we will essentially pave the way to mindful food choices and therefore live a happier and healthier life.
On some level, we already know that fast food is unhealthy, yet we still choose it over healthier options.
One of the reasons is that many of us don’t know the real damage it can cause. And we’re not just talking about our physical appearance, it’s our mental health that suffers too.
How do the foods we eat affect how we feel?
Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that helps regulate sleep and appetite, as well as mediate moods and inhibit pain. Since almost all of your serotonin is produced in your gastrointestinal tract, it makes sense that the inner workings of your digestive system don’t just help you digest food, but also guide your emotions.
The functions of these neurons are also highly influenced by the billions of “good” bacteria that make up your intestinal microbiome. They also protect the lining of our
guts, against bad bacteria. They limit inflammation, improve how we absorb our food and they activate neural pathways that travel directly between the gut and the brain. This is important as this is directly affecting our mental health and the choices we make.
The biology of it all can seem quite daunting. However, if you picture it like this, it may make more sense: You have a car. You love your car.
To ensure you’re travelling safely in it every day, you feed it the best fuel on the market, so it doesn’t “choke” on the roads.
Now picture your body as the car, and your brain is the engine, running the car. The food you choose to put into your body directly impacts your energy levels. So you feed your car premium petrol and oil, why are we not feeding our bodies the best food that there is?
Has the food industry made it too easy to order in?
The food industry has provided us with convenient tools, such as home delivery services. They’ve also included all available options to us, including the healthy ones.
According to research published in Statista, the food delivery industry in the UK is estimated at a value of 8.5 billion pounds, and there’s been a 39% increase in people using food delivery services, over just three short years.
So, what have we learned?
Diets that are high in refined sugars, for example, are harmful to the brain. In addition to worsening your body’s regulation of insulin, they promote inflammation and oxidative stress. Multiple studies have found a connection between a diet high in refined sugars and impaired brain function – and even symptoms of mood disorders, such as depression.
What we want to expand on, are these studies and proof, supporting our research, so that you can see just how foods affect your mental health.
1. Foods that improve overall mood and general feelings of happiness include fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains and lean proteins. Studies have shown that these also reduce the symptoms of depression.
2. Credible evidence shows that a ketogenic diet, which is a diet that cuts back on carbohydrates and focuses on calories from protein and fat, reduces the frequency of seizures in children with epilepsy. The ketogenic diet can also improve the symptoms of some mental health disorders.
3. Did you know that not getting the right amount of vitamin B12 leads to depression, poor memory, lethargy and fatigue?
Pregnant women that don’t consume enough folic acid in their diets may lead to children who develop depression as adults.
And not enough niacin in your diet can lead to diarrhoea, itchy skin and dementia.
4. Diets that focus on whole foods, lean proteins and cut out processed foods and sugars, also known as the “Mediterranean diet” – is associated with higher levels of cognitive function later in life. On the other hand, diets high in sugar and fat lead to cardiometabolic diseases, which hurts your cognition.
Even with all these healthy options that are readily available to us, we’re still reluctant to choose them over foods higher in sugar. According to research done by Western University – when we eat sweet foods, the brain’s reward system – called the mesolimbic dopamine system – gets activated. Dopamine is a brain chemical released by neurons and can signal that an event was positive.
Unfortunately, our brain is still functionally very similar to that of our ancestors, and it really likes sugar. It means that we have to work extra hard at being mindful and conscious of the choices we make when it comes to food.
There is an affordable way to consciously help us be more mindful when it comes to making decisions, and not just when it comes to food.
Mindful eating is the ability to consciously choose what you are eating. And knowing that opting for a more nutritious meal is going to leave you feeling satisfied, happy and feeling much healthier.
Everyone finds making these decisions difficult. One of the best methods for achieving mindful eating is meditation.
Becoming mindful or engaging in daily meditations is not easy. Many people find it too challenging or simply ineffective.
Michael Burich, the co-founder of the mindfulness app, Synctuition, believes one of the most effective ways to relax and reduce stress is binaural beats technology.
Binaural beats form when diverse modified sounds are sent to each ear. In response, the brain produces a third imaginary sound compensating for the difference between the original two.
“Binaural beats stimulate rapid and effective communication between the opposite sides of the brain,” says Burich. “When combined with mindfulness practices, the effects are extraordinary, helping the person cope with stress and anxiety, which are often the main causes of us ordering processed foods high in sodium. Research also suggests that binaural beats can promote better sleep, focus and motivation.”
Although such methods cannot completely eliminate stress, Burich believes they are making a significant difference by helping people focusing on the positive and on things that they can control. Like making good food choices.
During uncertain times like these, successfully managing stress is essential to help us preserve our mental and physical health. Practical tips, mindfulness practices and binaural beats are some of the ways to help you cope with the effects of stress.
Synctuition is an Estonian born start-up offering unparalleled relaxation experience technology. By the power of 3D sound and binaural beats, Synctuition goes far beyond meditative relaxation providing an immersive mind travel experience that cannot be compared to any other audio mediation in the world.
Just a few months after the app’s official launch, it was one of the world’s leading mindfulness apps with over four million users in Europe, the U.S., and Asia. In 2019, Synctuition was also selected by Google as one of the Top 10 fastest-growing companies in Europe.