In the Art of War, Sun Tzu said, “The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting”. If you’ve ever fought anxiety, depression, ADD or other mental illnesses, you know it’s a war! But it’s one you can win- starting with food. Food is medicine, or it is poison. Food is not just fuel for the well-oiled machine of your body, it’s also information. Without key nutrients your army will become disorganized, confused, exhausted and much less effective. On top of this, your body is constantly replacing fallen soldiers, or older cells, with fresh ones and the only materials it has to use are the ones you supply it with, the foods you eat- good or bad. Food even has the ability to alter your genetic expression, making it more likely you will be healthy or sick. But for purposes of our blog, we will stick to brain function.
What if I told you your brain is an energy hog? The 2.5 pound mass between your ears uses twenty to thirty percent of the calories you consume. The amount of work your brain, or command center, does to keep the rest of the troops in line is impressive. When you supply your brain with high quality fuel, it performs like a victorious warrior. When you don’t, you feel lousy and make bad decisions, and may end of feeling like a prisoner of war. Yet that is what our society has been relying on.
The Standard American Diet, or S.A.D as it is appropriately called, high in sugars, gluten, processed foods, and corn might be just about the worst thing to be feeding your brain. In America over the past few decades, we have seen explosions in ADD, depression, anxiety, and other mental disorders, not to mention physical disorders like obesity, heart disease, cancer and diabetes. We now know this is directly related to our S.A.D. diet. What’s bad for your heart and body is bad for your brain and performance!
Foods known to damage the gut and kill good gut bacteria- gluten, alcohol, artificial sweeteners and sugar- have also been implicated in depression and anxiety. Why? Because up to 90% of the serotonin in your body is made in your gut. And if you can’t absorb nutrients like vitamin D and B vitamins, you will be more vulnerable to being attacked by depression and anxiety.
Sugar and simple carbs are not only addictive, but they decrease the activity in your frontal lobes and increase slow brain waves, leading you to feel foggy and make more bad decisions. Additionally, sugar has been shown to activate MORE cells in the pleasure center of your brain associated with addiction than cocaine and morphine.
MSG can literally make some people crazy.
Being dehydrated decreases cognitive function and diminishes physical power by 19%.
Let me ask you? Were you groggy waking up this morning, or energized? Did you find it hard to focus, or were you unstoppable? Were you in a bad mood, or did you feel joyful?
Now, try and remember: what did you have to eat yesterday?
While in the moment, if I had asked you why you were so groggy this morning, or were in such a bad mood I’m sure you could give me a million reasons, and they probably all play a role. However, do you think you would have said your mood had anything to do with what you ate?
Probably not. But, if we know the foods you eat are not only supplies for your army, but contain instructions and provide reinforcements as well, isn’t it logical to think they affect your mood and decision making? In fact, it goes beyond logic, it is scientific.
If we are at a war for our health, they say the history books are written by the victors. If you want to write your own history, you cannot lose this war, especially to a 12 oz. can of soda and a few chips. Giving your soldiers the tools and instructions they need is a massive step on your path to victory and will strengthen your brain and body should your army ever be called upon. For now, let’s focus on building the reserves and avoiding battles.