You are what you eat: Food options that can also fuel your brain

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Friday, October 18, 2019
You are what you eat: Food options that can also fuel your brain
You are what you eat: Food options that can also fuel your brain: Sharrie Williams reports during Action News at 5pm on October 18, 2019.

We always talk about fueling our muscles through our diets. But what about fueling our brains? It turns out our food and our moods are more closely linked than you think.

Dietitian Kelly Jones says most people don't make the connection between what we eat and how we feel, so they're not feeding their brains the right food at the right time.

"The standard american diet tends to be very erratic," she said.

Take breakfast, for example.

"It's really common to just grab breakfast as a cereal or a cereal bar, or skip breakfast altogether," said Jones.

The carbohydrates in cereal give us energy by releasing insulin and they help release dopamine and serotonin - 2 "feel good" hormones.

But there's a catch.

"If we end up having our blood sugar rise too quickly, we release a lot of those all at once, and then we end up seeing our blood sugar levels drop really quickly," said Jones.

That dip then starts the flow of epinephrine and cortisol, the so-called "stress hormones."

"Your gut's stressed, your brain might feel more stressed," said Jones.

Jones says the body needs 3 things - fiber, protein, and healthy fats - to even out blood sugar swings and stay energized longer.

Start with high-fiber cereal like oatmeal, then cook it with milk or soy milk for protein, and adds nuts or seeds on top. Seeds not only add more fiber for blood sugar control, they feed the bacteria in our digestive tract.

Mid-morning and late afternoon snacks also a must to keep our thinking sharp. Nuts provide both protein and healthy fats.

"Almonds and pistachios have some research showing that they can benefit your gut bacteria," said Jones.

And science is revealing just how much a healthy digestive tract means for good mental health.

"90% of your serotonin production is dependent on your gut health," said Jones.

Jones urges everyone to read the labels, especially on trendy foods, like the nut milks. Some have very low protein, or are very low in good fats.