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> Monday, September 26th, 2011 > Lifestyles > Cheeseburgers and loneliness are a dangerous mix
Cheeseburgers and loneliness are a dangerous mix
Click here to read more Interrobang articles written by Bobby Foley
Published: Monday, September 26th, 2011
A good diet is crucial to mental strength, indicated Mary-Anne MacPherson, a Registered Holistic Nutritionist and Nutritional Consulting Practitioner based in London. Healthy eating can have a direct impact on a student's mental performance, and the results can be seen each day.
"You're your own best science experiment," said MacPherson. "Some days you'll have a great breakfast, a nice omelet or something, and you'll have great energy all day without craving any junk food. The next day you're in a hurry and you have a donut, and you'll feel sluggish and like your brain isn't working. You need to eat an hour or two later, whereas the day before, you didn't."
The effect she refers to as the bloodsugar swing is all too common in the North American diet — that sense of energy or focus derived from consuming large amounts of sugar or caffeine. While energy is a result of such consumption, it is always short-lived — the path to consistent energy lies in different thinking altogether.
"People say, 'Let me get a coffee, and that will wake me up. Let me get something sugary,'" explained MacPherson. "If they just got a green tea — which helps brain health but doesn't do the bloodsugar swing — and had some nuts or seeds as a snack with that ... instead of two detrimentals, they've opted for two things that are beneficial. That's four steps in a better direction."
The chemistry of the situation lies in the brain's primal need for two essential fatty acids: omega-3 (linolenic fatty acids) and omega-6 (linoleic fatty acids). Not only do these work to build and strengthen brain cells, they also enable them to better store and transport essential nutrients through the brain.
The problem is that most of us get too many omega-6 fatty acids — much more than the omega-3s. The optimal ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids is about 4:1, but the average person consumes more along the lines of 10:1 or worse.
Drastic imbalance between these essential fatty acids can have adverse effects on your health. Brain cells attempt to replicate the acids they need, but such faulty fatty acids have been linked to mental conditions like depression and attention deficit disorder. Increasing one's intake of omega-3 fatty acids not only provides nutrition to the brain, but has been found to lower the level of harmful cells, even to reverse the negative effects of excess trans fats in the blood.
The exercise then becomes to increase the amount of the beneficial natural fats that we need, which is where nuts, seeds and healthy oils and protein come in, according to MacPherson. Our body is water first and protein second, so you want to be able to put a lot of good, healthy protein into your system. It builds the muscle mass and it's good for brain health."
"So you couple the protein with the healthy fats and now you've got a double whammy, because now it's really beneficial for brain health. The thing is that because it is high in fat, if people are going to eat it by the handful, they still may not lose weight, or they might gain weight if they go overboard."
The solution? Making small changes in the foods you eat to balance out the nutrients you need, like eating some healthier foods along with some other choices you make at mealtimes. The change can be as simple as introducing trail mixes into your diet, or salads tossed with balsamic vinegar or salsa.
"I believe in the 80/20 rule, which is if 80 percent of the time I eat on track, the 20 percent probably won't matter," MacPherson said. "For the average person, if you did 80 percent good things, you're still tipping the scales more towards health than illness."
It's not the practicality of the effort but the psychology of the situation that often prevents us from taking steps to change our eating, added MacPherson. Once we do, the benefits of having more energy and less weight become clear, as do our minds.
"We have about 20 meals that we live on as our favourites, so it's the emotional connection we have to the meals we're used to having," she affirmed. "It might be the same amount of work, the change is what's going into the fridge, the change is how we're putting the meals together."