There are countless dietary approaches and philosophies that people may follow and new ones seem to be constantly emerging. A 2020 survey of 2,000 British citizens found that the average adult will try 126 diets over the course of their life. This is almost unbelievable! This means at least two new diets each and every year.
Many people do not realise one simple truth – you can achieve sustainable and beneficial changes by improving your general mindset when it comes to food, without trying an entirely new diet.
We collected pieces of nutrition advice from the book ‘Keep Sharp: Build a Better Brain at Any Age‘ by Dr. Sanjay Gupta. In this work, he shares some habits and positive mentalities regarding food with a focus on benefits for the brain.
General mindset for healthy eating
‘You are what you eat’ and how you eat it! Check these nine pillars of clever eating and implement them into your daily routine. Your body and brain will thank you later.
1Forget about strict dieting
Adopting an extreme diet by abstaining from specific food groups or cutting out particular foods will not lead to a healthier lifestyle. Finding the ideal food that energizes you without causing digestive issues or allergies is critical to optimal health. If you emphasize what nourishing meals to include in your diet, rather than obsessing over food that should be excluded, it will become effortless for you to enjoy wholesome calories and steer clear of the unhealthy ones.
2Do not feel guilty about eating food
If you are overly concerned about what to eat, your anxiety levels can skyrocket and cause a rise in cortisol. This could be more damaging than the potential benefits of eating “right.” While food should always provide adequate nutrition, it can also be a source of joy. It is perfectly acceptable to stray from your diet occasionally and savor the experience without feeling guilty. Too much guilt has an adverse effect on your mind, reducing its sharpness and clarity.
3If it is good for the heart than it is good for the brain
Poor dietary choices can lead to a group of diseases, including high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol, and diabetes which can harm both cardiovascular and cognitive health. Recent research that studied the prevalence of dementia across a large demographic over multiple decades has uncovered declining rates of this condition along with improvement in cardiovascular health. It is safe to conclude that an optimal diet for the heart will also benefit the brain.
4Supplements cannot compete with real food
It may be tempting to take a pill containing all of the necessary micronutrients, but unfortunately, this is neither possible nor effective. The facts demonstrate that vitamins and minerals play a vital role in health, but they work most effectively when ingested alongside other healthy foods. This is due to the presence of complementary compounds which facilitate improved absorption of micronutrients into the body, allowing them to reach their full potential.
5Aim for seven different-colored foods
This tip is easy to remember – try to include in your diet all seven colors of food every day. And that means naturally colored food, not a rainbow cake. Doing this will provide you with every essential macro and micronutrient your body needs because different colored foods often contain different types and amounts of beneficial nutrients. Although it may pose a greater challenge, the effect is worth the effort.
Here are some examples of colorful foods.
6Do not eat foods that a gardener would not recognise
While strict dieting is a no-no, It is highly recommended to reduce your consumption of sugar-filled drinks, quickly prepared dishes from fast food restaurants, salty snacks, and sweets. All of these launch an external attack on your brain. Dr. Gupta puts it this way: refrain from eating foods that your great-grandmother or a farmer would not recognize.
7Spice it up
Enhance the flavor of your food without compromising on the sodium content – which affects your blood pressure – by adding vinegar, lemon, fragrant herbs, and spices to your dishes. Some spices, like turmeric, can also be beneficial for your brain. Its main active component – curcumin – is currently undergoing intense scientific research with regard to its effects on the brain. One study found that people with mild memory issues who ingested 90 milligrams of curcumin twice daily for 18 months experienced noticeable improvements in their memorization skills and focus abilities.
8Avoid trans fats
To stay healthy and avoid potential health risks, be sure to steer clear of partially hydrogenated oils – a term that is essentially code for trans fats. High trans fat intake increases the risk of death from any cause by 34%, coronary heart disease deaths by 28%, and coronary heart disease by 21%.
Trans fats are gradually being eliminated from the food supply but still manage to sneak into many processed foods such as frozen pizza, baked goods (cookies and cakes), fried items (doughnuts) and margarine or other spreads. Trans fats can have a negative effect on your cholesterol, raising levels of unhealthy LDL while decreasing the healthy HDL.
Consuming trans fats can be detrimental to your cardiovascular health, as it heightens the risk of developing illnesses such as heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes. What’s worse is that these diseases have been linked to cognitive decline; meaning they could compromise not only your physical well-being but also your mental functions.
Healthhack from Healthypedia
To obtain the most beneficial dietary fats, use mono- and polyunsaturated oils in your cooking. These include extra virgin olive oil, canola oil, safflower oil or sesame oil – perfect for those low to medium-heat recipes. If you are looking for something that is more appropriate for higher-temperature cooking then avocado oil should be your go-to choice!
9You don’t have to hop on the gluten-free trend
The gluten-free trend has gained a lot of attention in the latest years, but it is not necessary for everyone. Unless you have celiac disease, there is no need to switch to gluten-free meals. Such a diet can be nutritionally inadequate if it is not carefully planned, as gluten-containing grains are a source of important nutrients, including fiber and B vitamins.
However, to reap the most benefits from gluten-containing foods, it is critical to carefully select your options. Refined flours such as those found in white breads, crackers, chips, and pastries should be avoided due to their lack of nutritional value. Instead, opt for more fibrous whole-grain alternatives that can aid both heart and brain health.
Change your eating mindset for sustainable benefits
Eating has a tremendous impact on your body and mind, both in the present and for years to come. Diets may seem confusing, but the food is not – focus on what nourishing meals to include in your diet, rather than obsessing over food that should be excluded. The best nutrition secrets are: aim for seven different-colored foods, do not eat foods that a gardener wouldn’t recognise, don’t be afraid to spice up your meals, avoid trans fats, and do not look for a ‘gluten-free’ label unless you have celiac disease. And remember, real food is always better than supplement pills.
Hungry for knowledge?
Changing routines is always scary and overwhelming but remember, you do not have to start big. Watch this short video to get the perfect advice on how to improve your dieting habits in small steps. A physician, and research scientist, Gil Carvalho, MD PhD shared his journey on changing his eating style, which helped him feel energized and look younger (he’s 42 in this video!).
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