How to Improve Your Diet without Giving up the Foods You Love

Eating a healthy and having a balanced diet are one of the most important components of good brain functioning and high performance. Up to 80% of premature heart disease and stroke can be prevented through your life choices and habits, such as having a healthy diet.

In this article, you’ll read 10 practical tips which cover the basics of healthy eating and can help you make healthier choices. You’ll also find a recipe for improving your brain functioning that you can apply immediately.

Start small

As I mentioned in the article about “Building habits”, making major changes to your daily routine can sometimes seem very overwhelming. Instead of making big changes, it may be better to start with a few smaller ones. And it’s likely more manageable to start with just one thing, rather than all of them at once.

Therefore I gathered for you 10 small changes that you can make to improve your diet which lead to brain functioning performance. Just remember you don’t need to try to do them all at once. Instead, you may want to add these changes into your life over time.

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1. Include fruits and vegetables in your meals daily

I am sure you’ve heard that many times. And the reason is that this is one of the most important ingredients in your meal. Vegetables and fruits are packed with nutrients (antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and fiber) and help you maintain a healthy weight by keeping you full longer.

Because fruits contain fiber and various plant compounds, their natural sugars are generally digested very slowly and don’t cause major spikes in blood sugar levels.

However, the same doesn’t apply to fruit juices, therefore avoid them as much as you can.

2. Choosе whole grain foods

Refined grains have been associated with many health issues. Whole grains, on the other hand, have been linked to a variety of health benefits, including a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.

Whole-grain foods include:

  • Whole-grain bread and crackers;
  • Brown or wild rice;
  • Quinoa;
  • Oatmeal;
  • Hulled barley

They are prepared using the entire grain. Whole-grain foods have fiber, protein, and B vitamins to help you stay healthy and full longer.

3. Increase your protein intake

Protein helps you retain muscle mass and may also slightly increase the number of calories you burn per day. It’s also important for preventing the loss of muscle mass that can occur with weight loss and as you age.

If you’re trying to lose weight, aim to add a source of protein to each meal and snack. It will help you feel fuller for longer, curb cravings, and make you less likely to overeat.

Good sources of protein are dairy products, nuts, eggs, beans, and lean meat.

4. Eat more fish

Fish is a good source of protein and contains many vitamins and minerals. Aim to eat at least 2 portions of fish a week, including at least 1 portion of oily fish. Oily fish are high in omega-3 fats, which may help prevent heart disease.

Oily fish include salmon, trout, herring, sardines, pilchards, mackerel. Or you can substitute with fish oil supplements.

5. Bake or roast instead of grilling or frying

The way you prepare your food can drastically change its effects on your health. For example, during grilling, frying, and deep-frying, several potentially toxic compounds are formed.

Healthier cooking methods include baking, broiling, poaching, slow cooking, and stewing. Although you can still enjoy the occasional grilled or deep-fried dish, it’s best to use those methods sparingly.

6. Cut down on saturated fat

You need some fat in your diet, but it’s important to pay attention to the amount and type of fat you’re eating.

There are 2 main types of fat: saturated and unsaturated. Too much saturated fat can increase the amount of cholesterol in the blood, which increases your risk of developing heart disease. It directly slows down your brain functioning.

On average, men should have no more than 30g of saturated fat a day. On average, women should have no more than 20g of saturated fat a day. Try to cut down on your saturated fat intake and choose foods that contain unsaturated fats instead, such as vegetable oils and spreads, oily fish and avocados.

For a healthier choice, use a small amount of vegetable or olive oil, or reduced-fat spread instead of butter, lard or ghee. When you’re having meat, choose lean cuts and cut off any visible fat. All types of fat are high in energy, so they should only be eaten in small amounts.

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7. Cut down on sugar

Regularly consuming foods and drinks high in sugar increases your risk of obesity and tooth decay.
Sugary foods and drinks are often high in energy (measured in kilojoules or calories), and if consumed too often can contribute to weight gain. They can also cause tooth decay, especially if eaten between meals.

Free sugars are any sugars added to foods or drinks or found naturally in honey, syrups and unsweetened fruit juices and smoothies. This is the type of sugar you should be cutting down on, rather than the sugar found in fruit and milk.

Many packaged foods and drinks contain surprisingly high amounts of free sugars, therefore check regularly food labels. Try to avoid having energy drinks, snacks and candy before or during a high-intense work – both physical or mental.

8. Eat less salt

Even if you do not add salt to your food, you may still be eating too much. About three-quarters of the salt you eat is already in the food when you buy it, such as breakfast cereals, soups, bread and sauces. Therefore, preparing your own food, instead of ordering one which is quick and easy is something you can implement in your daily routine.

Use food labels to help you cut down salt. More than 1.5g of salt per 100g means the food is high in salt. Adults and children aged 11 and over should eat no more than 6g of salt (about a teaspoonful) a day.

9. Drink enough water

Drinking enough water is important for your health. What does enough mean? Well, that’s something you should find for yourself. Less amount can cause unusual tiredness, headaches, dryness in the skin and eyes, impaired vision, loss of focus, changes in your kidney functioning, etc.

Many studies have shown that drinking water increases weight loss and promotes weight maintenance, and it may even slightly increase the number of calories you burn each day. Studies also show that drinking water before meals can reduce your appetite and food intake during the following meal.

That said, the most important thing is to drink water instead of other beverages. This may drastically reduce your intake of sugar and calories. Doing it regularly may also be linked to improved diet quality and could decrease your calorie intake from beverages.

10. Eat from smaller plates

It has been proven that the size of your dinnerware can affect how much you eat. Eating from a large plate can make your portion look smaller while eating from a small plate can make it look bigger.

According to one study, eating from a smaller plate was associated with increased feelings of satiety and reduced energy intake among participants with healthy body weight.

Also, if you don’t realize that you’re eating more than usual, you won’t compensate by eating less at the next meal. By eating from smaller dinnerware, you can trick your brain into thinking that you’re eating more, making yourself less likely to overeat.

Find what’s best for your body and brain

The key to a healthy diet is to eat the right amount of calories for how active you are so you balance the energy you consume with the energy you use. By “being active”, I include any activity that is energy-consuming: walking, running, exercising, or performing difficult mental tasks. In fact, activities that include intense brain work sometimes consume more of our energy compared to pure physical ones.

If you eat or drink more than your body needs, you’ll put on weight because the energy you do not use is stored as fat. If you eat and drink too little, you’ll lose weight and your brain will “suffer”.

What is important when talking about food is to try to eat a wide range of foods to make sure you’re getting a balanced diet and your body is receiving all the nutrients it needs. It’s recommended that men have around 2,500 calories a day (10,500 kilojoules). Women should have around 2,000 calories a day (8,400 kilojoules).

Try different diets and routines to find what’s best for your body and brain. Experiment to understand the optimal conditions that help you perform your hich-intensive work.

How to Optimize Your Brain-Body Function & Health

A recent neuroscience study from the Stanford University School of Medicine shows that people having a couple of servings of fermented food improves the function of their gut, immune system, and brain. The scientists used the following foods in the study – sauerkraut, kimchi, and fermented cottage cheese.

Basically, the results from the study showed that people who are omnivores (having a balanced diet of plants and meat) and include fermented foods in their diet have better results. Their ability to focus improved, as well as their sleep and brain performance. Plus, they had a more positive mindset.

Stomach – empty or full?

Another thing that tremendously helps is to raise your awareness about the emptiness and fullness of your stomach.

Let’s try it together 🙂 Try and concentrate on sensing your body and stomach for 10-20 secs and how full you are. Doing this quick exercise before or after a meal, you can very quickly develop a sense of how full or empty you are and learn how to override the signals your brain gives to you.

It’s essential to learn to distinguish between “my stomach needs food” and my “brain is hungry”. The latter speaks for a signal that your stomach is empty but you still have enough nutrients. You are not really hungry. So try to learn how to distinguish both and eat when you need nutrients.

How to deal with sugar cravings? A neuroscience hack

Sugar cravings are a very common issue. Neuroscientists’ advice is to replace simple sugar foods with foods full of omega-3 or amino acids. But if you have a severe need for sugar, the solution is to ingest a small amount, a tablespoon of glutamine (amino acid). And you drink that every time you have such cravings.

Your brain doesn’t know what taste is. It only knows how to recognize nutrients. Therefore, your diet should include rich amounts of nutrients that support the healthy functioning of your gut which directly affects your brain performance.

A quick recipe for fermentation of vegetables

fermented veggies

You can prepare your own fermented foods from cabbage, carrots, cucumbers, zucchini… pretty much everything that you like.

And here is the recipe… 🙂

Wash and cut the vegetables into strips or circles. Carrots are whole but peeled, so they can release water more easily. Cucumbers, not gherkins.

Arrange them in jars and add as many herbs and spices as you like. You can add, for example, dill blossom, black peppercorns, poppy seeds, and mustard seeds.

Boil water and add rock or sea salt in crystals. To 1 liter of water add 30 g of salt or 2 tbsp. Stir enough to dissolve the salt and then allow the water to cool.

When the water is at room temperature, pour it over the vegetables until you cover them completely. There should be no visible vegetables because they will start to develop mold!

Put some weight over them to keep them underwater. A good option is a cabbage leaf or a small bag full of water. Cover the jar so that no dust gets into it, but not tightly.

Arrange the jars on a tray, because in the process of fermentation water may start to come out of them and leave them somewhere at room temperature to ferment. After the 3rd day, start tasting them to decide when you like them the most. Approximately 7 days is enough.

When you decide that the fermentation should be over, close them tightly with a lid and store in the cold – in the refrigerator, basement or cold garage.

Next Steps

What you eat and what is your attitude toward food in general greatly impact your body functioning and brain performance. However, how do you know where to start with this optimization?

When I look at the discussions of our members at Mindset Design, I notice that they all have improved tremendously after joining our community as Start members. If you are in such a moment, looking for ways to improve your diet and brain-body performance, become a Mindset Design member for FREE. You’ll get access to our community where we discuss different ideas for mastering our mindset.

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