March 7, 2017

Eat Right and Live Well

Eating healthy is something I get excited to talk about. When we discover foods that promote our well-being, it shows in our energy levels and productivity. As a leadership coach, one of the central topics I tackle first with my clients is diet. Believe it or not, what you choose to eat sets a precedent for your day. 

Will you feel alert, energized and ready to tackle problems? Or will you slog through the day battling blood sugar peaks and crashes from that donut you ate this morning? 

There’s an important misconception about eating healthy that we need to debunk right away. This is that eating is primarily for our entertaining our taste buds. When we eat only to entertain the senses, we can choose foods that are unhealthy. Let’s take a look at how we think about food and what foods are the best choice to include in our daily diet.

Think of the other important purposes of eating:

  • To give our bodies energy to do important work.
  • To enable our brain’s essential functions.
  • To give us strength to build muscles that support life’s activities.
  • To keep our blood sugar and mood balanced.
  • To build healthy heart and brain tissue.
  • A simple healthy eating tip I read in a book by Michael Pollan said this: “Shop the peripheries of the supermarket; stay out of the middle.”

Why is this so important? If we stay out of the middle aisles, we leave the store with the food our bodies actually need: fresh produce, fruits and vegetables, eggs, dairy and proteins. Everything else the store has to offer are shelf-stable ingredients, often lacking those live, immediately nourishing ingredients.

When we eat carb-loaded, high glycemic index foods, our bodies will not thank us. Processed foods make us feel sluggish and tired. Simple carbohydrates behave like sugar in the body, causing inflammation in the lining of our arteries. This is a leading factor in what some physicians believe causes heart disease. 

Vitamin-rich fruits and vegetables, protein-loaded snacks and whole grains are an excellent, fulfilling alternative to simple carbs. These contribute to our overall health and wellbeing, including our mood. 

I’d like to share a list of 5 foods that help me stay energized. 

1. Spinach

Don’t think of spinach just as eating handfuls of dry salad! If you aren’t the salad type, wilt some spinach in an omelet, blend it in a smoothie or buy a superfood powder to mix with your favorite juice. Spinach is rich in iron and folate, a B vitamin that helps ward off cancer and other degenerative diseases. When I remind myself that eating is not just about entertaining my taste buds but nourishing my body, I make much better choices.

2. Lean meats 

Tryptophan is an amino acid we’re most familiar with from that post-Thanksgiving nap it gives us. While it can make you a little sleepy, tryptophan has other important effects on our brains. Tryptophan helps the body synthesize serotonin, a feel-good neurotransmitter in the brain. And turkey isn’t the only food containing this powerhouse ingredient! It is prominent in egg whites, black beans, turkey, elk meat, almonds, walnuts and spirulina. Lots of good options here, even if you’re a vegetarian. 

3. Chocolate

Yes, you read that right. Chocolate contains valeric acid, a relaxant and tranquilizer. Chocolate spurs our brains to release endorphins, a natural opiate in the body that aids in boosting your mood. People who are depressed are often found to eat more chocolate because of its natural mood-boosting effects. (Tip: Choose a rich dark chocolate over a milk chocolate for more antioxidants.) If you’re not a dark chocolate eater, you don’t have to start with the 80 percent cocoa bar. Try something more like 60 percent and ease your way into it. Over time you may even develop a preference for dark chocolate!

4. Citrus Fruits

Through the long winters we experience here in the Northwest, citrus is a must-have fruit. Vitamin D found in the fruit is a natural chaser-away of the winter blues. Just a whiff of citrus can perk you up and remind you of summer. Oranges are an antioxidant power punch of vitamin C, fiber and flavonoids that are cancer-fighting agents. The fruit membranes and white pith contain the highest amount of flavonoids (reportedly 5 times greater than a glass of OJ), which is why it’s important to consume the whole fruit. 

5. Salmon

This one’s important because salmon contains loads of Omega-3-fatty acid which is not produced by the body and must be ingested through foods we eat. That means if we don’t eat it, we don’t get it. That’s where the importance of oily fishes like tuna, mackerel and halibut also come into play. Docosahexaenoic acid is the most abundant Omega-3 fatty acid found in the brain. And mood boosting is all about feeding our brains! Salmon acts as a natural anti-depressant, improving brain function. It also is a rich source of selenium which fights off mental decline that comes with age.
To eat for energy and a better mood, stay on the outside of the market when you shop, steer clear of refined ingredients that provide a temporary energy high, and be mindful to include foods that fuel the brain next time you go through the checkout!

To a healthier and better you,
Coach Greg