Eat Your Way Happy

 


Hey you! Feeling blue? I don’t mean to sound like your mother here, but I have to ask, what did you have for breakfast? Dinner last night? You’ve heard that there is a big link between your emotional state and your diet, but did you know your gut has its own nervous system? OR that most of the chemicals providing you with a sense of emotional well-being come from your digestive tract? With the national numbers of depression and anxiety on a rampant rise (studies from Mental Health America show 32.8% of American adults have reported symptoms of depression this year!), it’s essential we vamp up our diets to serve our mental well-being, so we are more equipped to meet the massive emotional challenges arising on a global scale. 


Sounds like a big job for a nut, I know, but hear me out.


Do you know about your second self? That’s what physicians and researchers are calling the community of trillions of microorganisms working hard hard to keep you functioning. They’re your microbiome, and they are vital to your immune health, organ function, and especially your brain health. Among their long list of responsibilities, these bacteria are in charge of creating neurotransmitters (brain chemicals that alter your psycho-emotional states) like dopamine, serotonin, GABA, and more. These helpful compounds give us mental clarity, happiness, energy, memory retention, and the desire to interact, all while decreasing our anxiety and stress levels. The amount of neurotransmitters running around in your bloodstream relies exclusively on your nutritional content. Are you eating to stimulate production of your happy chemicals, or cutting them off at the supply chain?


There are foods that synthesize neurotransmitters on overdrive, and others that completely sabotage your ability to produce them. When we are depleted of serotonin, dopamine, and GABA, we feel tired, lethargic, disengaged, overwhelmed, anxious, and depressed. If we want to experience life in our most optimal mental emotional states (who doesn’t?), we must bring our attention to our diets.


We all know sugar is the enemy of weight loss, but did you know that consuming the stuff on a regular basis causes depression, anxiety, and exacerbates countless other mental illnesses? It does this by sabotaging those gut buddies who are fueling your neurotransmitter supply. How does it sabotage them?  By feeding their enemies. There are good bacteria and bad bacteria, and sugar exclusively feeds the ones associated with diseases like diabetes, cancers, autoimmune disorders, and a whole host of others. Sugar is the bad bacteria steroid, it allows them to grow and overpopulate your gut, leaving your good bacteria to starve and fight for their lives.  Sugar lowers your immune defences, attacks your optimal organ function, and inhibits neurotransmitter production, so stretching your waistline is really the last thing you have to worry about when overconsuming this poison.


And we are. Studies at The American Heart Association show adults are disgusting six bowling balls of sugar per year, while kids are eating a whole bathtub full. Eliminating the bad and adding the good seems like a simple concept, but with our nutrition, things get personal. We take comfort in eating our junk food, heck we are in an abusive relationship with it! We have the craving for a little joyful dopamine hit, so we feed the craving with something that gives us a sense of satisfaction, meanwhile it is wreaking havoc on our health and robbing us of our best life. We’re poisoning our microbiomes and sabotaging our mental health with this highly addictive substance, and it has to stop. We need sugar rehab. Actual therapeutic techniques that will arm us with the strength to fight through cravings, and commit to the bigger picture of our well-being.


Sugar is proven by multiple studies to be as addictive as opiates, so giving it up will take a whole lot more than simple self-control. Many find professional help is necessary, and looking to the experts in behavioral science is also supportive (I suggest the Sugar-Brain Fix by Mike Dow). With any addiction the motivation to quit must be strong (find your WHY), and then act from there. Pleasure replacement techniques can be super beneficial; replace the harmful behavior with something enjoyable that isn’t harmful. For example; you’ve just had dinner and this is when you would normally head to the freezer for that creamy chocolatey satisfaction. The craving is strong, especially knowing you are breaking up with your long time lover (sugar) for good! So what do you do? Replace it with something that tastes just as good, but is actually arming your health army.


Positively Nutz nut butters are an EXCELLENT way to get that dessert flavor fix, minus the poison. Our answer? Monk Fruit. Monk Fruit is a favorite among physicians and the health nut community, as it has little to no effect on blood sugar, acts as an antioxidant fighting free radicals, is anti-inflammatory, and deliciously sweet. This superfood has so many benefits, and virtually none of the negative side effects of sugar. 


Foods rich in vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and fats are vital for boosting neurotransmitter production. Nuts are especially rich in each of these nutritional needs. One ounce of pecans or walnuts contains 3 grams of protein, about 18 grams of fat (the healthy kind), Vitamin E, and Magnesium. Pecans are also packed with thiamine, phosphorus, and zinc, and walnuts have all of the above with the added benefit of being rich in B vitamins. As a bonus, they are both proven to lower LDL cholesterol (the bad kind), and they act as antioxidants protecting cells from damage, reduce cancer risk, and support weight loss (thanks polyphenols).  The pecan-walnut combo is at the heart of each Positively Nutz decadent recipe, and you can feel free to indulge knowing you are ramping up your microbiome’s neurotransmitter factory, rather than bulldozing your workers. 


So to summarize: a healthy gut is essential to your emotional well-being. Your gut bacteria need foods rich in amino acids, fats, vitamins, and minerals in order to stimulate your neurotransmitter production, and more importantly, they need you to stop building an army of sugar-loving disease-causing bad guys. Quitting sugar addiction takes more than just self-control, and  Positively Nutz nut butters support your commitment to better health by giving you that sweet satisfaction, fueling your gut with power foods, and leaving out the poisonous stuff. 


Make the switch from your junk food of choice to something that will boost your entire sense of well-being. Life is anything but easy these days, and we need all the support we can get to feel truly happy. Don’t let sugar lie to you anymore, that ice cream may feel good for a moment, but it’s a tiny hit of dopamine that you will get back in dividends if your microbiome is well fed. 



Works Cited

Heid, Markham. “This Is Your Gut on Sugar.” elemental, https://elemental.medium.com/this-is-your-gut-on-sugar-166e1705f093.

Kabala, MS. RD, Jillian. 9 Heathy Nuts That Are Low in Carbs. healhline, 2021, https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/low-carb-nuts#TOC_TITLE_HDR_2.

Levy, Jillian. “Monk Fruit: Nature's Best Sweetener?” Dr. Axe`, https://draxe.com/nutrition/monk-fruit/.

Mental Health America. “The State of Mental Health in America.” MHA, https://mhanational.org/issues/state-mental-health-america.

Minich, Dr. Deanna. “Eating for your Neurotransmitters.” Dr.DeanaMinich, https://deannaminich.com/eating-for-your-neurotransmitters/.