“Be the kind of person who takes supplements, then save your money.”
Many studies show most supplements are not well-absorbed, and people who take them already tend to eat well. If you do take supplements, try the food-based version. You will have to take three or four pills to get the same amount of the vitamin, but your body will actually recognize it as food. As we age, supplements can help since we lose the ability to absorb nutrients. Read up and consult the true experts. I recommend PrecisionNutrition.com for pragmatic, well-researched and entertaining articles.
If you are female, you probably need more of the following nutrients than you are consuming, look them up: Omega 3, vitamin D, Calcium, Magnesium, B complex. If you have anxiety related issues, depression, PMS or PTSD, there are a number of other well-documented supplements to look into like Rhodiola, Phosphetidal Serine (PS) and L-theanine.
When we don’t get enough magnesium, vitamin D, or omega 3s, we are more likely to get pissed off, lost, yell at our kids, start arguments and forget important things. Of course if you eat a lot of high quality veggies, you won’t need very many supplements, if any.
Here are some specifics:
Omega 3 and beneficial Fatty Acids
Omega 3 is the queen bee of mental and cognitive health, especially if you have anxiety, PTSD or sleep issues. Find a good, clean Omega 3 supplement. Add small, wild caught fish, flax, hemp and chia seeds to your diet. You can sprinkle hemp hearts or chia seeds on almost anything, even icecream, they are nature’s sprinkles. Eat grass-fed butter and meats, nuts and cold pressed oils.
Beneficial fats reduce anxiety by calming your sympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for your fight or flight response. When this system becomes overactive, no amount of therapy will help you feel better. Lack of important fatty acids causes depression, anxiety, sleep disorders, memory malfunctions and a number of other issues we often erroneously consider solely emotional or psychological.
There are many studies on Omega 3s and there doesn’t seem to be much of a downside. There has been evidence of people affected by bipolar disorder cutting medications drastically and experiencing improved lifestyles through high doses of Omega 3s. Which begs the question, are we emotionally ill or malnourished. Another study found violent outbreaks among inmates were reduced by up to thirty percent when the inmates took high doses of Omega 3s. Perhaps if everyone took Omega 3’s, we wouldn’t need this magazine.
Watch out for Omega 6s and even 9s, we tend to get too many of those and they can counter crucial Omega 3s.
Get the sugar out
Get sugar and synthetic sweeteners out of your diet as much as possible. Sugar feeds fat and cancer cells. Some chemical sweeteners are actually banned in Europe for causing symptoms that mimic multiple sclerosis. Some of them stimulate areas of the brain that increase appetite, so they make you fatter even though there are fewer calories. Try coconut sugar, dates, lucuma, raw honey and maple syrup. There are so many more options than there used to be. If you are often wired and over-reactive, or you are diabetic or close to it, you want a sweetener that doesn’t affect blood sugar and has almost no calories, try Stevia, Erythritol or Monk Fruit. Use one for a week to get use it and move on until you find one you are happy with. Tastebuds can change and regrow in one to two weeks.
Different body types need different amounts of protein and it can take some trial and error to figure it out for yourself. In my experience as a personal trainer, most women don’t get enough protein. It just isn’t a priority. Both in literature and studies I’ve read, women especially who increased their intake of clean protein gained strength and lost weight with more ease. And they reported sleeping better, feeling sharper and having fewer cravings for sweets.
The science suggests taking in a minimum of 1 gram of clean protein for every 2 pounds of body weight if you are sedentary. So, if you weigh 140 lbs, you need a minimum of 70 grams per day, if you’re 110, you need 55. This is actually low. If you enjoy exercise, especially the weight bearing kind, you need more, all the way up to 1 gram per pound if you run often or engage in sports regularly.
By clean protein I mean protein from the best possible source. Organic, local, grass-fed meats and wild-caught fish aside, you can get your protein from Greek Yogurt (always organic please, since dairy is not to be trifled with), tempeh, eggs and mixed foods that create full chain proteins through combination. Ultimately look for at least 25 to 30 percent of your caloric intake to be protein regardless of grams.
Watch the ratio of carbohydrate to protein. For some people bean and seed carbs don’t affect health (or weight), for others it will. There is more carbohydrate in these foods than protein, so keep track of what you are eating and see what happens over weeks and months. A diet high in carbohydrates seems to adversely affect sleep, mental acuity and general health for many people. The theory is that we did not evolve to eat these things and our digestive systems are still figuring them out.
In general, worry less about calories and more about what is in your calories. A calorie of celery carbohydrate is not equal to a calorie of sugar carbohydrate. And a lean or regularly exercised body uses calories differently.
Caffeine, Alcohol, Grains and Dairy
There is a big difference in how people respond to caffeine, alcohol, grains and dairy, though there are plenty of other low-level allergens. If we have been consuming them most of our lives, we don’t really know which of our common issues may be food related.
Caffeine does wonders for some, and is disastrous for others. It has been documented to augment energy, but it can also have adverse effects on mood and behavior. Caffeine is a powerful and unregulated drug and you should be aware of the effect it has on you.
We often think of alcohol as a relaxant when it is really a stimulant of sorts. The high sugar content revs the system and often causes anxiety. Alcohol is a regular bedtime go-to, but sometimes it makes us toss and turn rather than relax.
Try nixing any of these common foods for at least week or two to see what happens. Detoxing from regular caffeine intake is almost guaranteed to give you a headache until you get it out of your system, so have the aspirin ready just in case. Try going to half decaf and then full and then no coffee at all for a bit. Become British, try some tea for a while – caf, then decaf or herbal.
Reintroduction of any potential allergen makes it pretty obvious whether or not there is an issue. With caffeine you may get a headache when you start up again, or you may just feel wired in a bad way. With other things like gluten and dairy, you may find you have unwanted digestive issues after eating.
The Take Away
Our bodies perform some alchemy every day, but there is a limit. We take in garbage and expect gold medals. We think we are healthy while we are young, but really our bodies are simply better able to mask the results of poor dietary choices. It all catches up with us somewhere between our late thirties and late forties. It’s simple science. If you put garbage in, you get garbage out.
Try keeping a food diary for a week or more. There are lots of apps for this purpose. You might be surprised at what you find out about your eating habits. Keeping track makes it easier to spot both effective and ineffective eating and will help you replicate the effective habits. Log or write down what you eat and how you feel at the end of the days and weeks.
If you observe a few of these rules you are likely to wake up rested on less sleep, have fewer muscle aches and pains, raise your energy level, stop yelling at your kids so much, have better sex, get into fewer arguments, remember names and regulate your menstrual cycle (if you have one).
In my experience, nutrition can make an enormous difference in quality of life, so it is an easy place to start, probably easier to do than say, finding a therapist or even getting into a regular exercise habit. Nutrition is a great place to start de-stressing and getting mentally and physically healthy and ready to combat zombies.
Food Rules by Michael Pollan is one of my favorite books. It is very short. You can just read the chapter headings if you like and get lots out of it. It is the most concise, easy to read, book on eating healthy ever written. Just keeping it on your counter will make you healthier. If you have the inclination to delve further into nutrition, read The Omnivore’s dilemma also by Pollan. At one point the author creates an entire meal from foraged resources just to see if he can. Great stuff.
If you are female, look into The Hormone Cure and the Hormone Reset Diet by Dr. Sara Gottfried, a Harvard educated gynecologist who has dedicated herself to helping women overcome, brainfog, anxiety, depression, mood swings and sleep and weight disorders stemming from hormone imbalances. It’s about time.
Murray Carpenter wrote a book called Caffeinated: How Our Daily Habit Helps, Hurts and Hooks Us, if want to learn more about the caffeine in your life.
Check out www.PrecisionNutrition.com for everything nutrition related.