There is no getting around it. What you put in your body affects your mental clarity as well as your physical health. This, of course, will directly affect your mindfulness practice. Food and mood – it’s for real.
I could probably write volumes about diet and mind, but I’d like to stick to a few key nutrients that the body can’t adequately make on its own without proper nutrition. Likewise, many chemicals and junk foods we consume can have an adverse effect on the body’s ability to produce these mind-enhancing chemicals.
Let’s take a look at four key brain-boosting nutrients:
Serotonin – Thanks to the aggressive marketing of the newest class of antidepressants (SSRIs), most of us are familiar with neurotransmitter serotonin. In a sentence, serotonin works to help us feel happy. Many factors affect the amount of serotonin in the body, including diet, stress, chemical additives, and our genetic ability to regulate the amount of serotonin in the brain. The body needs certain nutrients from food to make serotonin. That’s why dieters who restrict or eliminate certain types of food, like carbohydrates, will often experience low mood. So healthy carbs, like those found in whole grains, sweet potatoes, and other starchy veggies should be a part of every diet.
L-theanine – Sometimes called theanine, helps you feel calm and focused. That’s a rare combo, is it not? Food and supplements that contain theanine have been proven to create a sense of calm without making you feel drowsy. Feeling calm without feeling drowsy is my main goal in life, so I’m all for more L-theanine. Drinking green tea is an easy way to add more theanine to your diet.
Dopamine – helps you get focused and motivated. Dopamine is associated with the reward center in the brain. No dopamine – no motivation to change or stay focused on a project. Unfortunately, many of us turn to addictive substances and behavior to get a dopamine boost. This may be fun in the short-term, but in the long run your body’s dopamine production will start to depend on these substances. Reach for foods rich in tyrosine to lift dopamine levels. These foods include cheese, eggs, turkey, fish, and chicken, as well as almonds, sesame and pumpkin seeds.
GABA – short for gamma-aminobutyric acid, helps calm the mind. Mindfulness practices have been shown to increase GABA, but diet can also aid in the production of GABA. Many of the foods that increase dopamine also increase GABA.
That’s enough to chew on for now, don’t you think?
wish you twenty minutes of mindfulness every day!