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Nutrition Essentials for Feeling Good

You are what you eat.
R. J. Crumbe

Let food be your medicine.
Hippocrates

Food as Fuel
If you want to be naturally high, you must begin with the best possible raw materials to feed both your body and mind. Many people in North America fail this basic first step because our Standard American Diet (SAD for short!) is anything but nourishing. Ironically, we are overfed and undernourished. With a diet consisting of processed food that is nearly devoid of nutrient value, high in chemicals, salt, and, above all, sugar, it's amazing that our bodies can eke out the basic minimum requirements. Often, they don't. We need a steady supply of high-quality fuel (food) for our engines (bodies and brains) in order to function on all cylinders.

In our practices we have seen depressed, low-energy, foggy-brained adults who were not, as they had been erroneously told, in need of Prozac, but simply needed a consistent supply of "real food" to get their brains and bodies going. Haven't there been times when you found yourself feeling tired, irritable, and unable to think straight, and overwhelmed with all that you had to do when you realize that you'd skipped a meal? Within minutes of eating a carrot, or a piece of cheese, everything changes – the world becomes a better place, and those tasks are no longer insurmountable. The problem was simply low blood sugar: your poor brain was running on empty! Suffice it to say, you need to maintain your blood-sugar level as a basic step to feeling consistently high.

The next step is to choose the highest-quality food possible to help keep your neurotransmitters in balance.

There is scientific proof that if you follow the principles of optimum nutrition, you can:

  • Improve your mood.
  • Increase your mental and physical stamina.
  • Enhance your concentration, memory, and overall mental ability.
  • Reduce your stress level.
We'll be looking at each of the various nutrients from the fuel-supplying carbohydrates to the building-block proteins and fats to the catalysts and cofactors, vitamins and minerals. We'll finish with a list of the basics that will get you – and keep you – high.

Running on Carbohydrates
The main fuel for all body cells, including brain cells, is glucose, or blood sugar. Most carbohydrates – bread, cereals, fruits, and vegetables – break down into this simple sugar during digestion. Despite its weight of only 3 pounds, the brain is the most sugar-hungry organ of the body, consuming up to 50 percent of ingested glucose. This does not mean that you should eat more sugar to enhance your brain power! Quite the opposite. The quick-release sugars – found in white flour, candy, cookies, and fruit juices – will lead only to the "sugar blues."

We measure how quickly a specific food is turned into glucose by means of the Glycemic Index (GI). To determine the GI of a particular food, a measured portion is fed to participants, whose blood is analyzed over the course of several hours. The higher the GI of the food, the faster the resultant rise in blood sugar will be after eating it. As your blood sugar goes higher, more insulin is secreted to cope with the sugar. Insulin removes sugar and stores it as fat and glycogen. High-glycemic foods, such as doughnuts and candy, cause insulin to spike rapidly and excessively. This causes your blood-glucose levels to drop, making you feel weak, lightheaded, and even cranky.

The top brain-fuel foods, however, are "slow-release" carbohydrates – those that gradually and consistently release their energy-giving glucose into the bloodstream, allowing for more stable blood-glucose levels. Some low GI "good guys" include complex carbohydrates, such as whole, unrefined grains, found in whole-grain bread and whole-wheat pasta. Some fruits, like apples and pears, have a low GI, while others, such as raisins and bananas, have much higher GIs. Almost all vegetables are slow-releasing. While this index can be very useful in helping us avoid high-glycemic villains, it's important to factor in a food's nutritional component along with its GI. While carrots, raisins, and bananas are relatively high on the GI, we certainly don't recommend that you avoid these nutritious and delicious foods. Certainly, no one ever got too fat from eating these foods. So defer to your common sense and use the GI as a guide, not your bible!

Another way to slow the release of carbohydrates is to combine them with protein. For example, pair a salmon steak with brown basmati rice, chicken with boiled new potatoes, or, if you're vegetarian, tofu with whole-wheat pasta.

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From NATURAL HIGHS: Supplements, Nutrition, and Mind/Body Techniques to Help You Feel Good by Hyla Cass and Patrick Holford. Copyright Hyla Cass, M.D., and Patrick Holford. Used by arrangement with Avery, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

To order this book visit www.penguin.com. Get a 15% discount with the coupon code FENPARENT.


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