Brain Food: How A Healthy Diet Leads to a Healthy Mind

Originally published on ZeeshanHoodbhoy.com

Myth: Your mind and body are separate.

For both your stomach’s sake, and for your emotional well-being, I’ll have to kindly ask you to very slowly put down that fourth candy bar. It is common knowledge in the nutritional world that excess sugar harms the body both physically and mentally, but let me present to you the chemical proof:

One of our vital neurotransmitters which regulates our mood, serotonin, is produced right alongside the neurons that manage our digestion – in our gastrointestinal tract. Serotonin’s neighbor neurons also have a hand in our mental health, after they’ve of course, finished dealing with the fruits, vegetables, and chocolate bars passing through our system.Things go awry when the sustenance we choose works against us.

According to Eva Selhub MD of Harvard Health Publishing, certain foods just don’t do it for us the way natural sugars do. Processed sugar can actually cause extreme inflammation and debilitate most of the neurons in our gastrointestinal tract, which means not only our digestive system weakens, but the production of sufficient serotonin and our neurons’ ability to cope with stress and mood swings take a substantial hit as well.

Cue a stress-induced reach for that chocolate bar. Our bodies let us know when we need nutrients, but low emotional wellness can also trigger a craving that we don’t actually need, says Jennifer Kromberg PsyD of Psychology Today. An argument at work, unhealthy fasting or dieting, or the promise of a reward after writing a proposal when nothing else seems to be going quite right in our lives, are all dangerous paths that can lead to the understandable desire for quick and easy processed sugar.

I think of it as a cyclical process. If we are having these unhappy cravings, there’s a high chance our serotonin levels are already too low, and unhealthy foods are going to make matters worse. When we reach for that candy bar, we are potentially doing what has damaged our serotonin production and contributed to our dissatisfaction in the first place. Selhub mentions that those who take regular probiotics not only have the advantage of beneficial bacteria to fight off toxins in our food, but have also clearly exhibited positive turns in mental health.

If we want to feel physically strong, deal effectively with outside stressors, and whittle down problematic cravings, then a balanced diet is our key to both a healthier and scientifically- proven-to-be-happier life.

Your gastrointestinal tract and your mental are better off without that devious fourth candy bar anyway. Personally, I trust apples.

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Cut The Carbs: A Beginner’s Guide to the Keto Diet

Originally published on ZeeshanHoodbhoy.com

The phrase “low carb” can be scary for a lot of people. It means cutting out grains, sugars, fruits and for some people it means giving up some of their favorite foods. What shouldn’t be scary is how easy it is to make these changes in your everyday life.

The keto diet is known for being a low carb diet that allows the body to produce ketones in the liver for energy. Normally when something high in carbohydrates is put into the body, the body produces glucose and insulin for energy. With the lower carb intake of the keto diet, the body stops producing glucose and insulin and goes into a state known as ketosis.  While in ketosis the liver will start to produce ketones which are the byproducts of the body breaking down fat for energy.

Ketosis is achieved by restricting the amount of carbs and the amount of protein that is being ate. Too many carbs and too much protein can limit the results of the keto diet and take the body longer to reach the state of ketosis. Keto dieters should also stop snacking, start fasting, drink lots of water, and add exercise into their daily routine. Once ketosis is reached, physical symptoms such as increased urination, dry mouth, bad breath, reduced hunger and increased energy will materialize in the individual.

Before starting the keto diet, a strict diet plan should be created to maximize optimal results. A key thing to remember about the keto diet is that the diet should consist of about 70% fats, 25% protein, and 5% carbohydrates. When setting up a diet plan, the following higher carbohydrate food groups should be cut from the everyday diet:

  1. Grains – wheat, corn, rice, cereal, pasta
  2. Sugar – honey, agave
  3. Fruit – apples, bananas, oranges
  4. Tubers – potatoes, yams, anything that is a starch

Once the higher carbohydrate foods are removed, the following healthy fats should be added into the diet plan:

  1. Meat – fish, beef, lamb, eggs, poultry, shellfish
  2. Leafy greens – spinach, kale
  3. High fat dairy – butter, high fat cream, hard cheeses
  4. Above ground vegetables – broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, green beans
  5. Avocados & berries – raspberries, blackberries, any berry that has low glycemic impact
  6. Sweeteners – stevia, low carb sweeteners
  7. Other fats – coconut oil, high – fat salad dressing, nut butters

If keto is being done specifically for weight loss, also consider keeping net carb intake at between 20-30g. Net carbs are the total amount of dietary carbohydrates minus the the total fiber. But remember, when starting any diet, you are going to come down with the “flu.” Keto flu symptoms start to take shape when the body transitions from burning sugars for energy to burning flat. Symptoms can range anywhere from sugar cravings to stomach pains, nausea, cramping, and confusion.

Not only is the keto diet a great way to go from a high to low intake of carbs, it also helps with a variety of other health and everyday lifestyle changes. This is a great way to control blood sugar levels, increase mental performance, increase energy and normalize hunger, lower cholesterol and blood pressure, and improve skin by reducing the likelihood of acne.

Corporate Dining: Eating Healthy in the Office (Pt. 2)

Originally posted on ZeeshanHoodbhoy.com

As discussed in part 1 of my blog, eating healthy in the workplace does not have to be as difficult as it sounds. While it can be challenging depending on your workload and free time, there are smaller, everyday acts of wellness that can prove beneficial in the long run.

Drink Water

An obvious consideration for anyone, drinking water throughout the day (preferably 1-2 liters) not only keeps you hydrated, but can also improve your focus, concentration, and decision-making skills. Coffee isn’t the only beverage that can give you that extra kick. Dehydration is a large reason why workers feel fatigued toward the end of the day. Drinking water can prevent this and boost your productivity.

Meal Prep

Controlling your nutritional intake is as simple as cooking for yourself the night before. You can choose to do this daily, or prep for the week the Sunday before. With this route, you have the option of controlling your portion sizes, incorporating fruits and vegetables, including healthy snacks, all the while saving time and money. There are many blogs out there today offering some of the easiest, most delicious meal prep ideas, one of the best being BudgetBytes.com.

Decompress

Something that often falls by the wayside is stepping away from the office setting to eat. It’s very easy to want to eat at your desk and continue working, but remaining in an office environment and failing to decompress will prevent you from enjoying your meals. Given that breaks are encouraged in most work settings, one should always utilize this time spent away from the desk and enjoy the opportunity to destress. Bringing a packed lunch outside allows employees to feel refreshed upon returning to work.

Remain Resilient

Offices are commonplace for celebratory events, whether they be birthdays, goodbye parties, or promotions. With celebratory events typically comes cake, pizza, or unhealthy foods in general. Of course, indulging is okay if done in moderation, but being able to say “No, thank you” can go a long way. It may even become habitual after a while. Whether your coworker’s birthday merits an enormous chocolate cake, or your desk-mate wants to visit pizza shop down the street, remaining resilient and sticking to your nutritional morals can pay off both mentally and physically.

How Harmful Are E-Cigarettes?

Originally published on DrZeeshanHoodbhoy.com

A fairly recent trend that has taken over the world of smoking, e-cigarettes have been at the center of controversy since their inception in 2003. Many people argue whether or not these products are actually better for you than traditional cigarettes, or worse. Unfortunately, because of many professionals inexperience with this new trend, no long-term safety regulations exist regarding e-cigarettes, leaving many to believe that they come with both benefits and a number of health issues.

It is widely believed that e-cigarettes are almost guaranteed to be safer than their conventional cousins given the fact that they kill roughly 480,000 people every single year. Traditional cigarettes come with an array of health issues including, but not limited to, heart attack, asthma, cancers of various forms, diabetes, and respiratory infections. The harmful chemicals found within a single cigarette are enough to physically age the human body, which, over time, can take about 10 years off of your life.

The smoke created from cigarettes contains noxious gases like carbon monoxide and hydrogen cyanide. E-cigarettes, on the other hand, produces a somewhat safer vapor created by a liquid combination of nicotine, standard flavorings, and glycerol. Many smokers have even chose to switch to e-cigarettes in an attempt to (eventually) quit entirely, though this is not exactly a proven method. While some have found success in doing so, others were tempted to smoke even more.

The nicotine found in e-cigarettes can be just as harmful as that found in standard cigarettes. Chronic exposure of either kind has been found to contribute to type 2 diabetes, increased heart rate, and high blood pressure. Because of its addictive nature, e-cigarettes can be just as difficult to quit as normal ones, and may even lead to addiction of other drugs in adolescents who are still undergoing prefrontal brain development.

There many flavors also make them somewhat of a family hazard as well given that they are often listed as candy flavored or fruity, making them appealing to younger children. If the “e-liquid” found in cartridges is ingested orally, poisoning can result in vomiting, redness, blurred vision, headaches, and more. Some e-liquids even contain the chemical diacetyl, which has been found to cause bronchiolitis obliterans; a rare lung disease that can cause permanent damage to one’s bronchioles.

In conclusion, smokers who may be looking for alternatives could find solace in e-cigarettes, though they should still be aware of the lingering health issues. Those who do not smoke at all should avoid e-cigarettes altogether. Developing an addiction for these could prove very harmful for one’s long-term health. Seeing as the use of these products is continuing to grow, it is becoming a concern. Doctors and pediatricians alike should clearly explain the potential health issues that come with e-cigarettes to all of their patients in an effort to combat this growth.

Best Methods for a Low-Carb Diet

Originally published on ZeeshanHoodbhoy.com

Individuals on low-carb diets may find it difficult to provide their bodies with satisfaction in terms of food, but lowering one’s intake of carbohydrates can be incredibly beneficial health-wise. While these compounds are essential for energy, many people replace carbs with proteins, healthy fats, fruits, and vegetables. So, why partake in a low-carb diet?

One of the more popular reasons why people choose to go on low-carb diets is because they are looking to lose weight. The notion of ‘carbs = fat’ is fairly common, and while it does hold some truth, it should not be the entire basis for choosing this diet.

Because the human body stores carbohydrates, which can later become fat if not used for energy, many people seem to think that cutting out carbs entirely will result in no fat gained. However, research has shown that after 12 months, individuals on a low-carb diet did not lose more weight than those on a low-fat diet. This can make finding the right balance challenging. But, the following tips can help alleviate those challenges, and help you stick your low-carb fast.

Know Low-Carbs

There are many foods available that are low in carbohydrates, including lean meats such as chicken, pork, or sirloin. Others include fish, eggs, leafy green vegetables, nuts, apples, and blueberries. If cutting dairy out of your diet proves more challenging than expected, whole milk and plain Greek yogurt are low-carb as well.

Plan Your Meals

Planning your meals ahead of time can save a lot of hassle, especially for those with strict dietary restrictions. Knowing what you are going to eat for breakfast, lunch, and dinner every day that week is a great way to prevent you from falling off the wagon. Similar to this tactic, meal prepping is just as, if not more effective. Cooking and creating all of your meals for the week allows you to stick to this diet, and avoid giving into cravings such as sweets or fast food. Additionally, this can save you a decent amount of money in the long run.

Know the Different Carbs

Carbohydrates can be categorized as simple or complex. Simple carbs are comprised of easy sugars to digest, which include white sugar and flour. Complex carbs take much longer to digest, and are found in nutrient-rich foods like beans, whole grains, and fiber-heavy fruits. These also tend to make people feel fuller faster. When on a low-carb diet, try to reduce your intake of refined or processed carbs.

Corporate Dining: Eating Healthy in the Office (Pt. 1)

Originally published on ZeeshanHoodbhoy.com

pexels-photo-414262-205x300Eating healthy and exercising are not often at the forethought of someone in an office setting, but being more mindful of these factors can go a long way in terms of one’s health. Below are a few tips that may help even the most business-oriented individual become more aware of his or her overall health in the workplace.

Know Yourself

To begin a health journey in an office setting, the first step is understanding your daily eating habits and regular patterns. Something that may help those who mindlessly snack or eat is keeping a diary and making note of when and what you eat in a normal day. For example, it’s easy to indulge in unhealthy snacks or meals on a Friday or during a stressful day. Remember this habit and actively work to combat it.

If this is a new practice for you, do your best in understanding that eating healthy should not be seen as tortuous, but rather a journey toward bettering yourself. Always highlight the positives, whether that be weight loss, higher levels of energy, or improved skin quality.

Always Break Your Fast

It’s been said time and time again; “breakfast is the most important meal of the day,” and there is some truth behind that. Beginning your day with a nutritious, filling meal gives you the energy levels required to properly wake up and avoid that ever-dreaded morning slump. Your brain will be highly functioning at an hour where most people are still struggling to get out of bed, and you won’t hear the sounds of your own stomach growling until closer to lunchtime.

Fulfilling breakfasts can not only wake you up and provide abundant nutrients, but they can also improve your memory and concentration, promote weight loss, and give you an overall better mood.

Fill Your Desk with Snacks

Healthy snacks, that is. If you are only able to squeeze in a small breakfast before work hours, having healthy snacks in your desk drawer can prevent early morning hunger while also providing the nutrients your breakfast, or lack thereof, may not have been able to offer. Snacks like protein bars, peanuts or almonds, trail mix, or fruit and vegetables (so long as you have a refrigerator) are perfect fillers.

Stay tuned for part 2 of this blog series which will include even more tips and tricks on how to effectively eat healthy in fast-paced business settings!

The Connection Between Age and Supplements

Originally published on DrZeeshanHoodbhoy.com

Incorporating additional vitamins and supplements in your diet that you may not be receiving otherwise should be a necessity for all people. However, the age at which you begin to take these can affect how your body reacts to them.

There are many reasons why products like energy drinks are marketed toward younger demographics, while supplements intended to prevent pain or promote the growth of certain hormones are meant for older generations. Two factors to take into consideration are biology and chronology.

One’s chronological age is that which cannot be changed. From the day you are born up until this very moment, you are exactly however many days old. Your biological age can be measured based on your physical health, which people have more control over. This includes weight, skin and hair quality, energy levels, and internal organ health. Both your chronological and biological age can affect one another, however, which should be considered when deciding which supplements would be the most beneficial for you.

Supplements are specifically designed to assist one’s current physical health as opposed to their exact age. For example, if  teenagers were to take supplements aimed at promoting bone growth, it wouldn’t do much good seeing as they are still in the growing stages themselves. So, what supplements exactly are best for younger individuals?

Taking into account that younger generations are still growing or developing, supplements like pre-workout stimulants, fat burners, and muscle enhancers tend to be the most beneficial. People with low biological ages can handle any side effects that come with these supplements better than those who may be older, as well. Those who are much higher in either chronological or biological age may experience discomfort when taking these specific supplements.

Older generations are at more risk of contracting diseases, ailments, or chronic conditions given their much more sedentary lifestyles. These can range from joint pain, to muscular complications, to more severe conditions like heart disease or arthritis. To combat these issues, supplements specifically designed for each are always helpful. Anti-inflammatory supplements like curcumin can help with pain. Those that improve focus and mental health are great for individuals in their 70’s or 80’s to prevent different forms of dementia. Depending on which physical complication needs to be addressed, there are more than likely several supplements on the market designed to combat them.

Always be mindful of how many supplements you are taking. Nearly every doctor will instruct you to understand your limits and not abuse any supplement in the slightest. Your overall health is the best indicator of what you may need assistance in, and to take anything else for any other reason may prove detrimental. Talk to your doctor before adding any supplement to your diet to ensure it is the best one for you.