What to eat to clear your headspace.
Lately, I’ve been drawing blanks when asked “Remember that time when we…?” I’m notorious for forgetting names and faces, but recently my brain fogs up whenever I try to recall where I was just a week ago.
Blame the pandemic or how we’ve been staring at the same four walls all year, but I couldn’t help but feel like my mind was beginning to slow down. That’s when my sister brought me a book called How Not to Die by Dr. Michael Greger and Gene Stone. This literary gem breaks down all the foods we consume and how they create or heal diseases. Did you know that the United States’ number one cause of premature death and disability is diet related? Crazy, I know. The foods we eat can heal just about any health issue we know of, and that includes our mental health.
To test out Dr. Greger’s claims, I went on a strict two-week plant-based diet. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, but I stocked my fridge with berries and broccoli, regardless, and proceeded to start my experiment.
Within the first 48 hours, I could already notice a considerable change in my mental state. I was suddenly much more aware of my surroundings. Time seemed to move at a normal pace rather than glitching every so often. After another 24 hours, I realized I could recall my long to-do list without checking my notebook. Throughout the day, random memories from my childhood would float up to my consciousness. Overall, my mind felt much clearer and my body lighter.
However, it’s not as simple as eating veggies and fruits—Dr. Greger mentions, “All plant foods are not created equal.” Ahead, a list of foods recommended in How Not to Die, but as with all foods and dietary changes, please consult with your physician first.
The book recommends eating three servings of beans a day. Now, that doesn’t mean spooning a bowl of lentils for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Beans come in the form of soymilk, edamame, tofu, hummus, miso, and much more—they’re pretty much a miracle food, as they contain both the benefits of the meat and vegetable food groups. You get your fix of protein and iron like you would from meats, while simultaneously consuming fiber, folate, and potassium.
Berries are by far the most superior of the fruits in the market. Berries have nearly ten times more antioxidants than other fruits, like apples and bananas, and blueberries take the winning spot with 380 units of antioxidant power, followed by raspberries (350), cranberries (330), and strawberries (310).
What’s the difference between cruciferous vegetables and other vegetables? Well, for one, cruciferous vegetables contain sulforaphane, a component known to prevent lymphoma, target breast-cancer stem cells, and boost liver detoxification enzymes. Vegetables in this category include broccoli, brussels sprouts, kale, watercress, and bok choy.
It’s important to diversify your vegetable intake. You might be thinking: “If broccoli is the powerhouse of the vegetables, why eat anything else?” The answer to that is each veggie offers something unique that others don’t. Your body needs a little bit of everything to complete a well-balanced diet, so make sure to get a good fix of pumpkins, onions, and carrots in your meals.
The keyword here is “ground.” Mother Nature packed these babies in well, and if you eat them whole, they’ll simply pass through your entire system without providing you with their benefits. This super seed is packed with omega-3 fatty acids, which are essential to a functioning brain. Think of them as the oil your brain needs to run smoothly. Sprinkle them onto your morning oatmeal, or bake them into a muffin, and aim to get at least a spoonful a day.
I had made the mistake of leaving out carbs from my diet thinking they weren’t good for me. For a while I didn’t eat any bread or pasta until I realized I could simply eat the healthier version of them. Sure enough, Dr. Greger recommends having at least three servings of whole grains a day. Once I started to happily consume brown rice and whole-wheat wraps, I realized I may have been a little malnourished with just the beans, berries, and broccolis (which seems so obvious now).
Back in ancient times, saffron was used as a healing spice. Modern science has since proven that it does, in fact, have antidepressant powers similar to the drug Prozac. But fair warning, saffron is the most expensive spice on the market—a great alternative, therefore, is turmeric, which has many of the same components as saffron.
Coffee isn’t just the delicious, life-giving beverage that starts many of our days, but can also improve concentration, boost your serotonin levels, and, of course, keep you alert throughout the day.
[Editor’s Note: As with all dietary changes, please listen to your body, understand your overall health concerns, and always consult with your physician.]
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