Rule 1: Eat smart carbs.
Eat carbohydrates that do not spike your blood sugar and are high in fiber, such as those found in vegetables and fruits, like blueberries and apples. Carbohydrates are not the enemy; they are essential to your health. Bad carbohydrates — ones that have been stripped of nutritional value, such as sugar and simple carbs — are the problem.
Sugar is not your friend. It increases inflammation in your body (which leads to inflammation in the brain, as well) and erratic brain cell firing. Sugar gets you hooked, and perhaps plays a role in aggression. In a recent study, children who were given sugar every day showed a significantly higher risk for violence later in life. The less sugar in your life, the better your life will be.
Get to know the Glycemic Index (GI). It rates carbohydrates according to their effects on blood sugar. Carbs are ranked on a scale of one to 100+ (glucose is 100). Low-glycemic foods, as you would imagine, have a lower number. This means they do not spike your blood sugar, and are generally healthier for you. High-glycemic foods have a higher number; they quickly elevate your blood sugar, and are not as healthy for you. In general, I like to stay with foods that have a GI rating under 60.
Eating a diet that is filled with low-glycemic foods will lower your blood glucose levels, decrease cravings, and help you focus.
When eating carbs, choose those that are high in fiber. Experts recommend eating 25 to 35 grams of fiber a day, but studies suggest that most people fall short of that. Boost your fiber by eating lots of vegetables and a little fruit. Think of legumes as you would a condiment. You can add fiber to smoothies, but don’t use grain-based fiber. My favorite types of fiber supplements are inulin or glucomannan. When reading a food label, you want to look for more than 5 grams of fiber and fewer than 5 grams of sugar per serving.
Rule 2: Focus on healthy fats.
Good fats are essential to your health. Essential fatty acids are called “essential” for a reason. The solid weight of your brain is 60 percent fat (after all the water is removed). When the medical establishment recommended that we eliminate fat from our diets, we got fat.
You want to eliminate bad fats from your meals — trans fats, fried fats, and fat from cheaply raised, industrially farmed animals that are fed corn and soy. Fats found in pizza, ice cream, and cheeseburgers fool the brain into ignoring the signals that tell your brain that you are full. They disrupt the hormones that send those signals to your brain. Focus on healthy fats, especially those that contain omega-3 fatty acids, found in foods like salmon, sardines, avocados, walnuts, chia seeds, and dark green leafy vegetables.
Rule 3: Eat from the rainbow.
Eat foods that reflect the colors of the rainbow, such as blueberries, pomegranates, yellow squash, and red bell peppers. They boost the antioxidant levels in your body and help keep your brain young.
I’m not talking about Skittles, jelly beans, or M&Ms. Nor do I mean grape jelly, mustard (which contains food dye and sometimes gluten), or ketchup, which is loaded with sugar. These highly processed, sugar-filled foods have no place in your pantry if you are trying to use food to heal your brain.