Written by Kacie Carter
It’s a balancing act
The most important way to nourish the gut-brain axis is to focus on balancing our gut bacteria, as we are far more bacteria than we are human. Rebuilding our so called “good” digestive bacteria is the best way to strengthen the immune system, quench and reduce inflammation and mentally perform at the highest level.
Do it with these brain foods…
Fermented foods are living sources of probiotic beneficial bacteria. Adding in supplemental probiotics can also help- look for the refrigerated strains a local health food store—the more billion, the better. You should especially take probiotic supplements after a round of antibiotics, as antibiotics kill off both good and the bad bacteria in your body.
Examples: Yogurt, Kefir, Kombucha, Apple Cider Vinegar, Sauerkraut, Kimchee, Real Pickles
Prebiotic foods are also important as they nourish our existing microbiome, allowing them to repopulate and grow.
Examples: Artichokes, Leeks, Garlic & Onion, Asparagus, Tigernuts
Vegetables are high fiber, vitamin and mineral packed sources of nutrients.
A great rule of thumb: Picture your plate. Now divide it into four quarters. Half of your plate should be fibrous vegetables- dark, leafy greens, purples, yellows, oranges and reds, both raw and cooked.
Now, the next quarter of your plate should be starchy vegetables. This could be a sprouted whole grain like quinoa, or starchy veggies like sweet potato, zucchini or squash. The final quarter of your plate should be a high-quality protein, like grass fed or pastured meat or wild caught fish.
4. Healthy fats
Our brains are made primarily of fat, and fat—not sugar—is the brain’s preferred fuel source. Low fat diets can actually be dangerous. Nutrition and health are not a simple “calories in, calories out” equation. 100 calories of a donut and 100 calories of coconut oil are not the same thing!
Cholesterol is not the enemy—it is the wrong kind of cholesterol is dangerous. Avoid processed vegetable oils like canola, corn and sunflower oil.
Examples: Grass Fed Butter, Ghee, Pastured Eggs, Salmon & Fatty Fish, Olive Oil & Olives, Avocado, Nuts & Nut Butters, Seeds, Flax & Chia, Coconut, Cheese
Whole eggs, low mercury fish (salmon in particular), shellfish, grass-fed meat and pastured poultry products are excellent sources of protein. If you are avoiding meat for any reason, eat pastured eggs, fish and yogurt, or if you are a vegan, consume sprouted or fermented grains and beans so that their nutrients are absorbable to the body.
6. Low-sugar fruits
Low-sugar fruits like berries, green apples—and choosing fruits while they are in season—are a great way to get valuable antioxidants and vitamins into your diet which will support brain health.
Foods to avoid
Lowering your refined carbohydrate and gluten intake is one of the most important things you can do to nourish your brain and digestion.
Sugar is the fuel for many pathogenic diseases and bacteria, and carbohydrates turn into sugar when you digest them. Just eat real food. Food that you recognize the ingredients, food that doesn’t come in a package. Food that goes bad if you leave it out on the counter, or if it sits for too many days in the fridge.
Shop the periphery of the grocery store. You don’t need to take a million multivitamins and supplements. Food, when consumed correctly, should provide all of the nutrients that your body needs to thrive.
[Check out this post: 15 Sleep Superfoods For Better Health & Zzz’s]
The last thing I want to touch on is the importance of lifestyle in this whole equation.
You can eat the cleanest, most nutrient-dense diet under the sun; but if you aren’t managing your stress, sleeping adequately, practicing some form of self care and relaxation, meditation or exercising regularly, your brain is not going to function at its highest level.
When we look at the body as a bunch of non-cooperative organs and try to tackle them all independently, we are missing the bigger picture: Everything is connected. Our bodily systems work in synergy and not in a vacuum. As Hippocrates said over 2,000 years ago,
“All disease begins in the gut.”
When it comes to brain health, it’s now clear that nourishing our digestive system is the first place to start.
Hopefully this post will make it easier to add brain foods to your diet! ~ Ed.
Listen to this Green Divas Foodie-philes podcast episode discussing Vegan pressure cooking with JL Fields!
Asst. Ed. Green Diva Grace / Image via ShutterStock