Food For Health

Does Nutrition Affect Your Mood?

Does Nutrition Affect Your Mood

Nutrition has a tremendous affect on the way we feel. Eating healthier can definitely improve your mood.

Nutrition and Your Mood


Does nutrition affect your mood? Everyone has heard of the term “comfort food.”  Those are the foods we turn to when we are feeling down or in a funk.  Everyone has their favorite comfort food, but many of us turn to things laden with carbohydrates, fat, and sugar.  People feeling a bit off their game will often pick up a candy bar, bake some brownies, or have a big bowl of pasta with alfredo sauce.

For a while, we feel, well…comforted.  After a bit of time passes and our food really begins to digest, other symptoms hit us – moodiness, listlessness, and fatigue.  When we consume a diet that is primarily constituted of these ingredients, those unpleasant feelings of fatigue stick around – and can make us downright depressed.  Indeed, nutrition can have a lot to do with mental health disorders.

How Food Influences Your Mood

The way that we feel, whether happy, angry, sad, or afraid, is directed by tiny little messengers inside of the neurons of our brains known as neurotransmitters.  You have probably heard of them in passing – serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine.  Inside of our brain there are at least 100 billion neurons, each of them possessing these neurotransmitters which they send back and forth between one another to relay messages.

Neurotransmitters are what help us do everything from thinking, to talking, to walking, to falling in love.  Not all of us are equipped with the same amounts of each of the three neurotransmitters, though, so the way in which we process information can vary greatly among people.  Lack or excess of neurotransmitters has a tremendous effect on our moods.

When we are lacking serotonin, for example, we get food cravings, have insomnia, and can become depressed.  If our serotonin levels are very high, on the other hand, we feel calm and content.  We are possessed with an overall feeling of wellness.  Likewise, altered levels of dopamine and norepinephrine can have similar results.  So, does food affect your mood? Absolutely!

Nutritional Deficiencies can Lead to Mental Health Disorders Like Depression

Neurotransmitters are made when the body converts amino acids utilizing both B and C vitamins in combination with selenium.  If we do not have enough of any of these nutrients, the reactions cannot happen or they are severely hindered.  As a result, we do not have many neurotransmitters available in our brains, and we feel depressed.

It is interesting how doctors are so ready to diagnose a person with depression and prescribe SSRI’s (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors) and other anti-depressants that cause us to make the most of what few neurotransmitters we have, yet they fail to address the problem of nutrition and advise us that a diet change or the addition of a nutritional supplement may be all that we need to get back on the right track emotionally.

Vitamin B6, in particular, is one of the most important vitamins that helps in the production of serotonin.  If you want to get more of that feel-good substance, increase your intake of leafy greens.  While B6 is found in fish, poultry, and whole grains, consuming these in large quantities can lead to increased levels of mercury, antibiotics, hormones, and triglycerides, which cancel out the benefits you may be gaining from the elevated levels of B6.

Serotonin production is also heavily dependent on folate.  Folate deficiency is one of the most common nutritional deficiencies found in America, and the effects of folate deficiency are no joking matter.  If your folate levels are low, there is a good chance you are depressed.  Most people who are depressed, studies show, have low folate levels.

Studies have shown that replacing folate and selenium via supplementation can improve depression over time.

Folate can be found in greens as well as beans.  They also both happen to contain vitamin B6.  Selenium can be found in fish and whole grains.  If you are eating a grain-free vegetarian or vegan diet, consider supplementing with an over the counter preparation of selenium.

Carbohydrates:  The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly

There is no doubt that carbohydrates tend to uplift our moods.  Why else would we be so passionate about pasta and bread?  People who make the change to a grain-free diet undergo serious withdrawal symptoms – so much so that many people report becoming completely fixated on grain based foods to the degree that it interferes with normal daily activities.

Diets high in carbohydrate-rich foods greatly increase the amount of the amino acid tryptophan in our brains.  Tryptophan is one of the main building blocks for the neurotransmitter, serotonin.  The more carbs you eat, the more content you feel.  This is most likely why we turn to carbohydrate rich foods when we are feeling a bit blue or anxious.  The converse, naturally, is also true.  When we can’t get access to carbohydrates, we feel grouchy and irritable.

It is interesting to note that there are differences between individuals regarding carbohydrates and their effect on mood.  Some women tend to excessively crave carbohydrates.  Other people can eat tons of bread, pasta, and potatoes and not really notice any difference.  One hypothesis to explain these abnormalities is that the people who really crave carbs may be serotonin deficient.

While they may make us feel better and help elevate our serotonin levels, high levels of carbohydrates can increase our risk of diabetes – especially if the carbohydrates we eat are simple carbohydrates or have a high glycemic load.  Additionally, getting your mood fix on could be elevating your triglycerides and vLDL (the really bad form of cholesterol).

Using Carbs to Counteract PMS

Some studies have looked at mood swings and carbohydrate consumption – specifically, seasonal mood swings and those affiliated with PMS.  Some people tend to consume more carbohydrates during the winter months and put on a few extra pounds in the process.  Likewise, women who are about to begin their menstrual cycles tend to seek out carbohydrate rich foods.  Is there a reason for these

Scientists speculated and tested the hypothesis that consuming extra carbohydrates during the winter months might improve depression in people who suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder.  The result?  By increasing the number of carbohydrates they consumed, sufferers of Seasonal Affective Disorder were able to improve their moods significantly.

In another study done on women suffering from PMS, the women were given a carbohydrate rich solution to drink once a month prior to beginning their periods.  In a matter of hours, they reported significant improvement in anger, depression, and anxiety.  Complex carbohydrates also assist in getting tryptophan into the brain so that it can be converted into serotonin.

Beware of the Carbohydrate Trap

While there are certainly good things to be gained serotonin-wise from eating carbohydrates when it comes to improving one’s mood, there is a nasty little problem associated with consuming carbohydrates – addiction.

Recent research into the way in which carbohydrates work on our brain has shown that when we consume carbohydrates our brains are stimulated in the same way that they would be had we have just done a few lines of cocaine.  The serotonin that is produced when carbs are consumed creates an addiction, just like a drug.

Since we are addicted to carbohydrates, we have very little control when it comes to not eating them.  Many people grossly over consume carbs and become obese.  The fact that most of the food we eat is highly processed only worsens this effect.  Processed foods are engineered by food manufacturers to be irresistible.  They go to great lengths to tap not only our serotonin response to carbs, but also to trigger similar responses with fat and salt.

When people overeat they gain weight.  Millions of Americans are not only overweight, they are obese.  Our addiction to carbs has made us not only fat, but sad as a result.  So, we need to stop and ask ourselves if it is worth the pounds we will gain if we choose to eat high carb foods?  If so, we should probably take a long hard look at our consumption of processed foods.  If we need carbs to keep our serotonin high, they should be the healthiest carbs we can get.  Otherwise, we will continue to suffer from obesity and other nutrition-related diseases that are 100% preventable.

Foods that Help Mental Health

Carbohydrates make us feel better, but there are other foods that can also improve our mental health.  Foods containing Omega-3 fatty acids such as seaweed, walnuts, and flax seed also help in the production of serotonin.  Leafy greens contain folic acid that can help relieve depression, insomnia, and fatigue.  Fermented foods and tempeh (commonly consumed by vegetarians and vegans) contain active bacterial cultures that assist yet another neurotransmitter called GABA which helps you feel good.  Be sure to get plenty of these foods that improve mood.

Does Nutrition Affect Your Mood?

So, in answer to the question “Does nutrition affect your mood?” we can conclusively say, “yes.” It is important, though to consider the ramifications of running out to fill ourselves up with foods that enhance our moods, because the benefits can often be outweighed by the costs to our bodies in other ways.

List of Healing Herbs and Spices

healing herbs and spices

Herbs and spices have healing properties that we are just now beginning to understand through science.

The Healing Power of Herbs and Spices


Herbs and spices have been known since ancient times as curatives for all sorts of ailments.  Some of the notions people had about spices were rather strange and ineffective, but a number of suggested uses for spices as healing tonics have actually proven to be accurate according to current research.

Turmeric is one such spice.  In ancient India, it was known well for its pain relieving functions.  Current research on turmeric shows that it may also help prevent cancer and is frequently promoted in current day India by the government as a tonic to improve the health of the general public.  The research is still in its infancy, but it has been yielding promising results towards proving that spices have healing properties.  A list of healing herbs and spices can be found below:

10 Healing Herbs and Spices

  • Turmeric
  • Coriander
  • Nutmeg
  • Black pepper
  • Cumin
  • Saffron
  • Cloves
  • Red Chili Peppers
  • Fenugreek
  • Ginger

Fighting Cancer with Herbs and Spices

Herbs and spices spices that heal the body naturally come from plants and are minimally processed.  Therefore, many of the phytonutrients and phytochemicals that heal are preserved and are passed on to the person who uses herbs and spices.

Phytochemical are what plants use to protect themselves from attack from predators and the environment in which they live.  When we ingest these phytonutrients, we gain their protective properties at the cellular level.  It is at the cellular level where we get the most protection from phytonutrients.  It is believed that they may help keep healthy cells from becoming cancerous.

Many plants contain antioxidants, which are substances that neutralize the free radicals that float around in our bodies.  If they are not neutralized, free radicals latch onto the cells throughout our bodies and cause damage.  If the damage to the cells is severe enough, the free radicals can damage our genes.  The genetic changes that result from free radical oxidation, as it is known, may lead to cancer.

Certain spices, such as turmeric, are full of an antioxidant known as curcumin.  Curcumin has been shown to significantly reduce the risk of colon cancer.  It has also been shown to work against skin cancer.

Other cancer fighting spices include coriander, nutmeg, black pepper, cumin, and ginger.  These spices help to neutralize other harmful substances in our bodies, thereby protecting our cells from their potential cancer-causing abilities.  One toxin in particular that theses spices help to fight is something known as aflatoxin, a type of mold that lives in the soil and frequently contaminates grains.  Aflatoxin has been shown to cause liver cancer.

Some spices are incredibly potent.  Saffron, for example, is a very expensive spice that is often used in Indian and Arab dishes to flavor and color rice.  It is uncommonly used in Western countries.  Saffron has been extensively researched and found to kill cancer cells when placed directly on them.  The interesting thing about these experiments is that while saffron had extremely remarkable effects on stopping cancer cells in their tracks, it did not appear to have any effect on normal healthy cells, whatsoever.

Research is still underway on the protective powers of spices, so it is hard to say which ones are recommended and in exactly what dosage.  Using essential oil concentrates of these spices seems to be an efficient way of obtaining concentrations significant enough to effect change, though.

Spices and Heart Disease

Heart disease is by far the most pressing disease in America today.  Our overconsumption of grains and sugars has caused our cholesterol levels to skyrocket.  Cholesterol is a substance in the bloodstream that is produced by our liver.  Some cholesterol is good, but certain types of it are very dangerous and stick to your artery walls in the form of plaque.  This plaque build-up can restrict blood flow to the heart, depriving the heart muscle of oxygen, and ultimately causing heart attacks which may be fatal.

Once again, research has shown that healing herbs and spices can help the body by providing antioxidants.  In this case, they help to keep the arteries clear by keeping the free radicals from converting some forms of cholesterol into the very dangerous kind that causes artery plaque.

One particular spice that seems to be of help in this campaign against heart disease is clove.  It contains a powerful antioxidant known as eugenol.  Like the curcumin found in turmeric, eugenol can protect the arteries.

Turmeric is a very important spice in terms of protecting the heart because not only does it protect our arteries from dangerous plaque, but it also helps lower triglycerides.  Triglycerides are types of fat in the blood that are formed as result of starch consumption.  When triglycerides are high, arteries harden and the risk of heart disease becomes much higher.  If you consume high levels of starch, consider adding turmeric regularly to your diet.

Fenugreek is another heart healthy spice.  It works its magic in the intestines by latching onto cholesterol molecules and preventing them from being absorbed into the bloodstream.  Fenugreek is able to perform this slight of hand because it contains compounds called saponins which are responsible for the cholesterol binding behavior.  For people who consume high levels of cholesterol, they can expect significant reductions in cholesterol levels if they add fenugreek to their regular diet plan.

A final cause of problems with the heart has to do with blood clots forming in our blood stream.  In theory, the clots can form anywhere in our bodies, but they often form in our legs.  When they dislodge and travel through the bloodstream, they may lodge in vessels that supply our heart or our brains causing heart attacks or strokes, both of which may be fatal.

Clots are formed from cells called platelets which are a critical part of our blood.  They are responsible for stopping bleeding if we get a cut.  The problem with platelets occurs when they become overstimulated and start sticking together when they should not be doing so.  There are five known spices that have proven properties to prevent platelets from clumping together:  cloves, red chili peppers, fenugreek, turmeric, and ginger.  Ginger contains a compound called ginger that appears chemically similar to aspirin which is often used to break up clots.

Future Research in the Healing Powers of Herbs and Spices

Spices, like many other plants, are just now gaining the awareness of science.  One movement in particular seems to have spurred this interest – the emergence of the essential oil / aromatherapy market.  Many people are now turning to essential oils to treat common ailments from aches and pains to stress.

Slowly, but surely, science is validating may of the reported results from using plant-based treatments (some call it plant-based medicine).  Many decades ago, it was believed that the only ‘good medicine’ was what humans synthesized in labs.  Today, we are beginning to realize that nature has done a lot of this work for us.  The trick is that we have to figure out how it all works, because it’s pretty complex.  They are working on it.

The research being done on the plant-based compounds known as phytonutrients & phytochemicals ranges from treating seizures with black pepper to using curcumin to protect eyes from cataract formation to slowing the progression of AIDS with curcumin – and that’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to healing herbs and spices.

Nutritional Deficiencies and Chronic Fatigue

Nutritional Deficiencies Cause Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Fibromyalgia

Nutritional Deficiencies Can Cause Symptoms of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Fibromyalgia

Nutritional Causes of Chronic Fatigue


What Specific Nutrients are Missing?

If you have chronic fatigue syndrome, there are a number of nutrients for which you should consider being tested for deficiency.  Only a slight deficiency in any of these nutrients could cause you to feel less than yourself.

Magnesium Deficiency and CFS

Magnesium is one of the most important minerals to the human body as it is involved in so many chemical reactions.  When a person has a magnesium deficiency, he or she tends to feel down or depressed, stumbles as opposed to walking, and may even have heart spasms.

People with magnesium deficiency often report feeling “tiredenss,” which is hard to quantify or define.  However, people who report this symptom also usually report feeling like they have “lead feet.”  This is because magnesium, along with potassium, helps muscles to contract.

Potassium Deficiency and CFS

If you are a long-distance runner or professional athlete, it is likely that you already know the hazards associated with potassium deficiency.  Potassium is responsible for keeping muscles cool and if you are an endurance athlete, you know that after a couple of hours of exercise that your potassium is used up.  Even in highly-trained athletes, chronic fatigue, weakness and irritability will result unless the potassium is replaced.

Potassium deficiency is not limited to athletes.  Many people who eat the Standard American Diet (SAD) are deficient in potassium.  Without enough potassium over the course of a few days, you feel weak.  After a few months of chronic potassium deficiency, you feel simply awful.

Iron Deficiency and CFS

Iron deficiency tends to sneak up on people over long periods of time.  It happens commonly in women as a result of menstruation and pregnancy, but can just as easily occur in men who may have an inadequate iron intake due to eating a diet poor in iron.  Like magnesium and potassium deficiencies, iron deficiency causes a person to be lethargic and unable to perform at the same level as non-iron deficient persons.

Folate Deficiency and CFS

Folate is a type of B vitamin that is necessary for the creation of normal red blood cels.  When folate levels are too low, red blood cells are too large, strangely shaped, and have a shortened lifespan.  If you are lacking healthy red blood cells, then you have less hemoglobin.  Hemoglobin is used to transport oxygen throughout the body.  If you aren’t getting enough oxygen, you are fatigued.

The Bottom Line

Unfortunately, doctors don’t often consider magnesium, potassium, iron, and folate deficiencies as a possible cause of what they may diagnose as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS), mental instability, or depression, so many people end up taking prescription medications that they do not need.  This is quite disheartening, because a nutritional deficiencies are one of the most common causes of fatigue, and usually they can be cured very easily.

If you suspect that you may have chronic fatigue, be sure to insist on getting tests run for these nutrients before agreeing to take prescription medications.  If you are just now reading this and have already begun taking medications for chronic fatigue, be sure to consult your doctor before abruptly stopping those medications.  Some medications have very severe side effects if you do not taper off of them slowly.

A Final Word about Diet Change

Radical alterations of the diet, no matter how good they may be for us, are hard on the body.  It is normal to feel bad for a week or two while your body adjusts.  Getting off of processed food (especially sugar) is much like drug withdrawal.  Expect extreme cravings, irritability, insomnia, gastric upset, and so forth.

Make no mistake – it won’t be a walk in the park.  Anyone who says otherwise is lying.  When you are going through that nasty phase, keep in mind that you will feel so much better than you have felt in years.  It will be worth it.

Once people make it to the other side of this type of radical diet change, they often ask themselves why they didn’t do it sooner.  As unpleasant as it may be, it is a small price to pay for such an improvement in overall health and well-being.

Processed Food and The Obesity Epidemic

Processed food and the obesity epidemic

The consumption of processed food is causing an obesity epidemic

Processed Food and The Obesity Epidemic

Americans are becoming sicker and sicker as a general population.  We spend billions of dollars on drugs to fix problems from heart disease to arthritis to fibromyalgia to gout.  The list is endless.

Our health problems are not only becoming more widespread, but they are becoming more severe and are showing up in younger and younger people.

A quick look around any random major shopping center is enough to make the argument that we are in trouble.  Thirty years ago, you might see a handful of obese people wandering down the aisles, perhaps one may be even morbidly obese.  Today, you see a handful of people of normal weight in a sea of people who are obese and many who are morbidly obese.

Morbid obesity is defined as when someone is 100 or more pounds over his or her ideal body weight.  People who are morbidly obese usually suffer from one or more health conditions commonly associated with the condition.  These conditions greatly reduce life expectancy.

Health conditions commonly found in persons who are obese include depression, sleep apnea and other respiratory problems, osteoarthritis on weight-bearing joints, Type 2 diabetes, urinary stress or incontinence, infertility, and gastroesophogeal reflux disease (GERD)/hiatal hernia/heartburn.

Why Do People Become Obese?

In order to understand how people become obese, we need to back up and look at what is often referred to as the Standard American Diet, or SAD for short.

The Standard American Diet is made up mostly of highly processed and refined foods.  Don’t believe it?  Think about where you shop.  Envision it in your mind.

Got it pictured?  Now think about this:  as you take a mental trip down the aisles, try to locate in your mind products that don’t have labels that list ingredients.

Huh?  Everything has to have an ingredients label, right?  Nope.  Not if it is a whole food like apples, zucchini, fresh meat, or fish.

Ok, So What about It?

Think about how little of a grocery store is made up of whole foods.  It’s a pretty small portion.  There’s the produce area and there’s the meat and fish section.  Everything else has been processed in one form or another – and that’s a very bad thing.

Our shopping carts reflect this when we go to check out.  Compare the amount of whole food that was in your shopping cart on your last several trips to the grocery store.  You maybe had some lettuce, a few apples or oranges, maybe another fruit or vegetable, and possibly a cut of fish or meat that came from the counter where it is cut to specification.

Everything else in your cart had a label.  If I were a betting person, I’d wager that 85% or more of your food – probably closer to 95% was a packaged, processed food of some variety.

What’s Wrong with Processed Food?

I remember a s saying when I was growing up, but I can’t recall where I first heard it.  When someone asks you a question about what you think is wrong with something that has so much wrong about it that there is hardly no good, you reply, “Do you want the whole list, or just the top ten things?”  This is one of those situations.

It is wholly possible to write an entire book on what is wrong with processed foods, but I’ll pick for you the top handful here because I don’t think you’d be still reading this article 350 pages later.

Processed Foods have Few Nutrients

Processed foods are made to be stored for lengthy periods of time.  They are made to be convenient.  They are also made to have exact ratios of salt, sugar, and fat which trigger our brains in very primitive ways to love them.  In a single word, the processed food industry does everything in its power to make their products ‘irresistible.’

In order to achieve shelf stability, ideal amounts of sugar, salt, and fat, texture (also known as “mouth feel”), etc., food manufacturers manipulate raw ingredients to the point that they rarely come close to resembling the initial foods that went into them.  They strip away parts of whole foods that tend to go rancid and replace them with filler.  They also manipulate texture, flavor, and stability by adding in chemicals that you would never consider adding to your grocery list.

Between the stripping away of the parts of the food that would go rancid and the substituting of actual food with filler and chemicals meant to manipulate the end product, few nutrients remain.  Several manufacturers add in synthetically manufactured vitamins to make their products look more nutritious and healthy, but they are a far cry from the nutritional value of the whole foods that were processed into what ends up on the shelf.

Processed Foods are Full of Chemicals and Artificial Ingredients

I once made a comment on my personal Facebook page for which I was blasted by many of my intellectual friends for being too shallow and not presenting the entire picture.  I had seen a meme of some colorful child’s cereal that said something about it containing a chemical additive that I knew as an industrial strength cleaner.

My comment had something to do with how when choosing foods you shouldn’t buy things with ingredients you can’t pronounce.  I was summarily dismissed for fear mongering, etc., etc.  I took quite a trouncing before all was said and done.

Who was wrong?  Me or them?

Clearly, this additive wasn’t killing children who consumed said cereal en masse when they ate it, so it was ‘safe,’ my friends claimed, in the amounts that were used.  No dispute there.  But, if you were shopping and there were no processed foods available in the store, would you grab a bunch of chemicals to add to your food just because they were also available “in safe amounts” and were “Generaly Recognized as Safe” (GRAS)?  I doubt any one of us would answer that question in the affirmative.

Why, then, do we permit food manufacturing companies to add it to what we eat?  Sure, there have been some studies about the individual components and their general safety for consumption in small amounts.

What is scary is that we are consuming hundreds, possibly thousands of these chemicals together and in large quantities.  Between the plastic known as azodicarbonamide used in making processed breads and the BHA/BHT used in preserving the fats in our chips, who knows what kinds of interactions they will have together.  We haven’t even examined artificial flavors and colors – they’re in there, too, you know.  And we wonder why so many people are becoming ill?

Processed Foods are Full of Sugar, Fat, and Salt

Ever wonder why processed food, despite all of the nasty chemicals, preservatives, and artificial colors and flavors, still tastes so good?  It is no accident.

Food manufacturers don’t just hear about a great recipe through the grapevine and decide that they will mass produce it.  They don’t just stumble upon great food ideas by accident.  Their products are engineered just like bridges and battleships – everything from the shape, size, portion, packaging material, packaging color, and target ethnicity are taken into account.  And, this is really just naming a few things.

Really, I’m not kidding about this.  In addition to the standard focus groups where manufacturers give out several different formulations of a product to see which one is preferred, some companies are getting even more high tech.  These companies are now using functional MRI’s to watch our brain’s response to the products that they are testing for market.  Human feedback is sometimes unreliable.  There is no arguing with a functional MRI that shows exactly what our brains are thinking – even when we don’t know it ourselves.

Food manufacturers target specific amounts of sugar, salt, and fat to meet certain “bliss points” as they are known, which are defined as the amount of substance required to make us love it – any less or any more either detracts from or does not alter our opinion of the product.

Want to know the kicker about bliss points?  If you have consumers who are becoming increasingly aware that too much sugar is a bad thing, well, you can alter your product by adding more fat to make up for the sugar you take out (or vice versa) and you still get the same result.  It still tastes good.

So why be concerned about sugar, fat, and salt in our processed food?  In short, it’s killing us.  Diabetes, cancer, obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and a host of other ailments stem from the over-consumption of these three additives.

Most of our sugar, fat, and salt come to us as processed foods – and as I mentioned before, they are loaded with it.

The Fats in Processed Food are “Bad Fats”

To be clear, fat is not a bad thing.  Our bodies require fats so it is important that we include them in our diets.  One of the most critical reasons that we should consume fat is that our brains require it to function properly.

Trans fats are the fats you should avoid because they can raise bad cholesterol levels.  Trans fats are used to improve the shelf stability of foods as well as provide a richer texture and preserve flavoring.  Trans fats are made by modifying vegetable oil to make it more solid.  This is done by adding extra hydrogens, a process known as hydrogenation.

Trans fats are commonly found in frostings, cookies, crackers, cakes, frozen pizza, vegetable shortening, margarine, and many if not most snack foods.  Check labels for partially hydrogenated oils if you want to avoid trans fats.  A product may have 0.5 grams of trans fats and still be labeled “zero trans fats.”

Surprisingly, saturated fats are not considered bad fats any longer.  Research has shown that they are not the demons once thought.  In fact, they are healthy to have in moderate amounts.  One of the healthiest choices for a saturated fat is coconut oil.

Processed Foods are Full of Refined, Addictive Carbohydrates

What is a “refined carbohydrate”?  Refined carbohydrates are made when grains are ground and sifted in a way that separates out the bran and germ the parts of the grain that contain the fiber and vitamins.  Without the fiber, the remaining carbohydrates are able to be broken down very rapidly in our digestive tracts causing rapid elevation of blood sugar.

When blood sugar rises quickly, a host of things go wrong in our bodies.  First, our insulin spikes in order to control blood sugar that our brain interprets as rising so quickly that it may become dangerous.  When this happens repeatedly over a long period of time, our pancreas, the organ that secretes insulin, becomes over-used and may have a difficult time producing enough insulin for us in the future.

A second thing that happens is that our cells become resistant to the overabundance of insulin and quit allowing it to deliver sugar to our cells.  This is considered the beginning stage of Type 2 diabetes.

Additionally, the pleasure centers of the brain are stimulated by the sudden rises in blood sugar.  These are the same pleasure centers that are activated by cocaine.  There is also a release of dopamine – a feel-good neurotransmitter in the brain.  Over time, all of these biochemical reactions to eating refined carbs leads to addiction.

Our bodies crave more and more simple carbs which put us into an endless cycle of eating foods that provide this “sugar high”.  While we may be surrounded with good food, we do not want to eat it because it will not satisfy the craving that refined carbs do.

Profit Incentives in Processed Food Equal Unhealthy Products

In sum,  we have large processed food manufacturers whose incentive is profit.  As anyone with a basic understanding of economics realizes, you get the most profit when your costs of raw materials and production are low and your selling price well exceeds the raw materials plus the cost of manufacturing, sales, distribution, etc.

Steadily, we are becoming a nation of poorer people who have less income to spend on food.  Rent and utilities are high, credit card debt is huge for the majority of people, wages are low, and unemployment is high.  Companies can’t push prices much higher, so they have to cut costs elsewhere.  They can’t do much about the cost of fuel to distribute products and the sales and marketing people must exist to do business.

The only thing left where corners can be cut is in the ingredients of the product itself.  Subsidies on corn (used in the production of high fructose corn syrup), sugar, and a number of other products heavily used in the manufacture of processed foods make the low prices for these poor choices in food additives irresistible to manufacturers.

Our system is broken at every level, and we are paying for it with our health.

Your Diet Could Be Causing Your Chronic Fatigue

Your Diet and Chronic Fatigue


Your Diet and Chronic Fatigue

Your Diet Could Be Causing Your Chronic Fatigue

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) has become a common diagnosis as of late.  People diagnosed with CFS often report an overwhelming feeling of exhaustion or malaise.  CFS makes everything seem nearly impossible – like feeding your dogs or taking out your garbage.  Forget about actually accomplishing anything new – or keeping up with your dishes or laundry.

Most people who report having this condition are told by their doctors to “reduce stress levels” and are given prescription medications including anti-seizure medications such as pregabalin and gabapentin, pain relievers including narcotics like tramadol, and anti-depressants.

While these prescription medications may help ease the symptoms of chronic fatigue, they do not treat the potential underlying causes of the condition.  Although there is no single cause of CFS, because the diagnosis is broadly used to describe similar symptoms that may have very different origins, people who have CFS may wish to get a comprehensive blood workup done to determine if they may be deficient in one or more critical nutrients.

As simple as it may sound, complex conditions of chronic fatigue may have their origins in nutrient deficiency.

The Nutrient Deficient Standard American Diet (SAD)

The Standard American Diet (SAD) consists mainly of processed foods that are filled with chemicals, additives, and artificial flavors and colors.  The processing done to these foods strips them of their natural nutrients.  Processed food manufacturers often add back nutrients, but what gets added back is not necessarily what was removed and they are usually synthetic as opposed to natural nutrients.

To say that Americans are lacking in critical nutrients in their diet is like suggesting that the ocean might be a bit “damp.”  Sadly, most doctors are more concerned with churning patients through their office than with sleuthing out the actual cause of a patient’s problem.  As a result, symptoms are treated without figuring out what is causing them.

Chronic Fatigue sufferers are at a serious disadvantage for finding a solution for their fatigue, because it is left up to them to ferret out the cause.  Most people with chronic fatigue can barely make it through the day, let alone be burdened with learning what is making them feel so exhausted all of the time.

The saddest part about this is that people with chronic fatigue have so little energy that they are less likely to spend time cooking whole foods that contain the nutrients they are likely lacking.  Instead, they turn to quick and easy processed foods that require the least amount of effort to prepare.  This creates an endless loop of fatigue caused by poor eating.

How do You Stop the Cycle of CFS and Bad Nutrition?

The answer is:  either a little at a time or all at once.  If you suffer from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, finding time every day to revamp your diet is a challenge.  All you want to do is go home and lie down.

The Gradual Method of Changing Your Diet

With the first strategy, try incorporating fresh foods into your diet by picking up convenient items while doing your regular shopping.  Instead of getting a bag of chips, get a bag of fresh washed salad and eat it with balsamic vinegar and olive oil instead of ranch dressing.  Grab some easy to eat fruits like apples, oranges, and bananas and substitute them for whatever your common snack foods are.

Over time, you can change your shopping and eating habits and you will gradually start to feel better as a result.  The main drawback to this method is that it does not produce immediate results.  You have to first reach the tipping point, as it were, in which fresh, healthy food exceeds the processed foods you eat in an amount sufficient to feel the results.

The Cold Turkey (or Nearly Cold Turkey) Method for Diet Change

The second strategy is much harder.  In order to make a change all at once, you need to schedule a whole day in which you go through your pantry, cabinets, refrigerator, and freezer and purge your processed food items.  If you can’t manage to part with all of them, start with the things that are most unhealthy and maybe plan to make a second round of purging in a couple of weeks to get rid of the rest of the stuff you haven’t yet eaten.

To find the worst products you are consuming, just quickly flip the item over and have a look at the ingredients list.  Do you see more than 10 things listed?  Do you see more than 20 ingredients listed?  You don’t even need to bother with reading the labels at this point.  Just put it in a bag to donate (presuming it’s unopened).

Once you’ve gotten rid of the worst offenders, you need to go shopping.  It’s best if you avoid foods that have labels and stick to fruits and veggies, but that probably won’t happen for every single thing you buy.  So, being realistic, now it’s time to read those labels.

Choosing the Least Problematic Processed Foods – The Best Ingredients

When purchasing processed foods, aim for ones with 5-10 ingredients at the maximum.  Once you have found items with relatively few ingredients, then you need to analyze those ingredients.

Try to avoid anything that you cannot pronounce or do not recognize.  While there are certainly things that are safe to eat that are either hard to pronounce or are uncommon to eat, it is just easiest to rule out bad food product quickly by being able to easily recognize the ingredients.

For example, a bread that contains high fructose corn syrup, degerminated yellow corn meal, datem (a dough conditioner), and monoglycerides among a list of about 25 other ingredients is certainly not as safe as one that contains only wheat, barley, millet, lentils, soybeans, spelt, water, yeast, wheat gluten, and sea salt.  This is a grossly oversimplified example, but it illustrates the point of what you are trying to accomplish.

Likewise, a salad dressing with monosodium glutamate, artificial flavors, disodium phosphate, sorbic acid, disodium EDTA (really nasty stuff), discoid insinuate, and disodium gauntlet is probably not as good of a choice as balsamic vinegar and olive oil.