Food for thought: Dietary choices lie in our hands | Health-med-fit … – WiscNews

PORTAGE—Last month we were reminded to “put our best fork forward” in choosing healthy food and drink selections during National Nutrition Month. As we move forward with everyday life, it’s easy to lose focus and may find ourselves struggling throughout the day to make healthy decisions.

To help maintain this momentum, Divine Savior Healthcare family physician Dr. Amy Doherty and employee wellness specialist Sarah VanOrder encourage residents to continue to put their best fork forward every day.

What food fuels your day?

Food has a direct impact on our mental performance and is a huge contributor to our workplace productivity. It is important to note that not all food is good fuel, and in order to receive the proper fuel we need to make the right food selections. Proper food selections throughout the day can help us stay energized and on top of deadlines, meetings, emails, etc.

How does food become fuel?

Our body converts most of what we eat into glucose, and glucose is what provides our body with energy. We need energy to power through the day and for our brains to stay alert. When our bodies are running low on glucose—an empty stomach—it becomes hard for us to concentrate and stay focused. We can end up feeling sluggish if we go throughout the day by not making the best food selections or by skipping meals.

All food is fuel, but not all fuel gives us the same amount of consistent energy. Even though most food gets converted into glucose, for example: energy, not all foods are processed at the same rate, which determines the amount of energy we receive from our food. Foods like cereal, soda, and bread quickly release their glucose when being processed, which gives us a quick burst of energy but then is shortly followed by a decline in energy. Foods that are high in fat, like cheeseburgers, provide our bodies with energy for a longer period of time, however, their high fat content makes our digestive system work harder to break it down, which decreases the amount of oxygen levels in our brain. This decrease of oxygen in our brain can cause us to feel groggy and unfocused.

Choose essential nutrients

To try and avoid that mid-day crash it is important that we are not skipping meals and that we are making the right food choices like choosing fruits and vegetables over fast food and processed items. Research from the British Journal of Health Psychology found that fruits and vegetables are not only good for body but they are great for the mind and emotional well-being. The study found that people who consumed more fruits and vegetables per day were happier, more engaged and more creative. This may be due to the fact that fruits and vegetables are packed with essential nutrients that help in the production of dopamine. Dopamine is produced in three different areas of the brain, these areas of the brain are responsible for bodily functions like memory, sleep, mood, behavior, and cognition.

While most of us know eating fruits and vegetables throughout the day is best for us, we tend to struggle to eat that way because of factors like hunger, time and convenience, to name a few. Food items with little to no nutritional value like fried fast food or pre-packed items like chips, cookies, and pastries often sound better to us when we are running on an empty stomach and need that quick burst of energy.

Healthy tips

Below are some tips to help you choose the proper fuel to avoid feeling sluggish and to help you feel more alert and productive throughout your day:

  • Keep healthy snacks readily available – instead of having candy at your desk, have a jar of almonds. Help yourself make the healthy choice by having the healthy choice be your only option. Choose from walnuts and almonds, apples, apples with almond butter, oranges, Greek yogurt, oatmeal and blueberries, hard-boiled eggs, carrots and hummus and low-fat cottage cheese.
  • Meal prep—make your food decisions before you get hungry. Don’t wait until you’re starving to make your food choices, it is easier to resist high-calorie, fatty foods when we are not hungry and low on glucose.
  • Eat smaller meals more frequently throughout the day. Eating smaller meals more frequently will help keep your glucose at a consistent level and help keep you from getting overly hungry- this is when we tend to make poor food choices.
  • Keep a large water bottle at your desk – aim to drink at least 64 ounces a day.

Try incorporating some of the tips above into your daily routine to see how the proper fuel can power you through your day.

The choices we make

Doherty said, “Throughout nature, we see that life tends toward health as long as it has the proper ingredients and location to flourish. In gardening, healthy plants are the best prevention against plant diseases. A plant without the proper sunlight, soil pH, and nutrition becomes susceptible to disease as it tries to deal with its environmental deficiencies in addition to whatever fungi or virus is attacking it. The same is true of humans.”

Doherty said it’s a beautiful if somewhat intimidating truth in medicine and in life, that most of the choices involved in controlling our health and happiness are ours to make. “Further, helping others to be healthy makes each of us healthier. So every day, let’s remember to care for ourselves and others, making choices that are good for us, our community, and our world,” she said.


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