COUNSELLING BLOG

Posts tagged Nutrition

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Foods that Boost your Brain Power

1. Wholegrains – Like brown cereals, wheatbran, granary bread and wholemeal pasta slowly release glucose into the bloodstream. These help to keep you mentally alert throughout the day.

2. Foods that are rich in essential fatty acids reduce your risk of developing memory loss. They are found in linseed (flaxseed) oil, soya bean oil, pumpkin seeds, walnut oil, soya beans, and oily fish (such as salmon, trout, mackerel, herring, sardines, pilchards and kippers.)

3. Blueberries – Are believed to improve or delay short term memory loss.

4. Blackcurrants are a rich source of vitamin C – which is thought to increase cognitive agility.

5. Tomatoes – Are rich in the antioxidant lycopene. This may protect against free radical damage to cells (which is associated with the development of dementia.)

6. Vitamin B6, B5 and folic acid are found in brewer’s yeast, egg yolks, meat, berries, and green leafy vegetables. They help protect against cognitive impairment.

7. Pumpkin seeds are rich in zinc – which is crucial for improving memory and thinking skills. 

8. Nuts, leafy green vegetables, asparagus, olives, seeds, eggs, brown rice and wholegrains are all good sources of vitamin E. This helps to fight against cognitive decline.

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How to Practice Conscious Eating

There are a million reasons behind what and why eat. Conscious eating is where we stop ourselves and choose to take control of this aspect of our lives. The following tips can help with this:

1. Do your own grocery shopping and pack your own snacks and meals.

2. Don’t eat while you are doing other things.

3. Be aware of the nutritional content of food. Decide to mainly eat for nourishment and health.

4. Only eat when you are hungry. (Learn to identify genuine hunger pangs.)

5. Learn to separate emotions and food. Don’t eat because someone asks you to, or has prepared food for you (eg if you are at a social event), or because you want to get your money’s worth (in a restaurant), or because you feel you should finish what’s on the plate, or because you’re bored, or for emotional reasons.

6. Chew your food very slowly and deliberately. Feel the texture and savour the taste.

7. Stop when you feel full, or have consumed enough calories for the meal. (Learn to identify feelings of satiation.)

8. Avoid addictive foods and super-size meals.

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Facts about our Weight

1. Genes play a role. Scientists have discovered that individuals who inherit two copies of the FTO gene are 60 percent more likely to become obese than those who only inherit one copy. This has led researchers to conclude that there may be a number of genes which play a similar role in weight gain and weight loss.

2. We each have different fat cell counts. This stays the same regardless of whether we gain or lose weight.

3. Exercise can increase your metabolism (which helps you burn calories more efficiently at the cellular level).

4. There is an association between high levels of stress and weight gain. This is because stress provokes us to reach for high carbohydrate foods – which contain stress relieving hormones.

5. Sleep deprivation can lead to weight gain. This is because lack of sleep is associated with lower levels of leptin (which causes us to feel full) and higher levels of ghrelin (which causes us to feel hungry). Thus, we feel hungry – even although we’re not hungry.

6. Ear infections can damage taste nerves found in the middle ear. This can hamper our ability to taste sweetness and fattiness. The effect can be eating more of those kinds of foods because we want to taste the food!

 7. Foods that are high in antioxidants can also help us to manage our weight. The reason? Free radicals have been linked to a weakening of the “stop eating” signal. However, eating fruits and vegetables that are high in antioxidants can help to combat this effect.

8. When it comes to health, fitness is more important than weight. A growing body of research indicates that overweight people often have normal levels of cholesterol, and other indicators of good health. What matters more, is how much we exercise as that has a greater effect on our health.

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Diet and the Brain

1. Junk food triggers the same pleasure centres in the brain as drugs do. That could be one reason why so many people binge on those foods.

2. The brain uses a disproportionately large amount of our calorie intake. Hence, poor nutrition may have negative consequences for the brain.

3. Ensuring an adequate and steady calorie intake throughout the day is the first step to keeping focused and alert all day long. (Note: Eating regularly - three meals a day - helps you to concentrate.)

4. Omega-3 oils (found in oily fish, walnuts, pumpkin and flax seeds) help build and maintain the myelin sheath around brain fibres. This is crucial for peak mental performance.

5. Slow release, protein-rich foods help to maintain a healthy level of dopamine. This helps us to feel peaceful, positive, enthusiasm, motivated and, generally, happy. However, falling levels are associated with a sense of emptiness, sadness, irritation and boredom.

6. Chocolate is one of the best quick mood boosters as it contains anandamide. (This fat molecule resembles the active substance found in marijuana.)

7. The neurotransmitter serotonin also helps us feel serene, and helps to combat anxiety. Although carbohydrate snacks raise these levels quickly, they also cause us to feel sleepy. Thus, it is better to reach for foods that keep the level steady. (Eggs and meat are helpful foods for that.)

8. A small amount of caffeine (one espresso coffee) will boost your energy and wakefulness. However, too much caffeine (two or more espressos) will cause you to feel anxious and muddle your thinking.

9. Vegetables such as cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower seem to help boost memory, as do eggs.  These appear to stimulate the brain. This is important as we tend to remember events which happen when we are feeling emotionally or intellectually stimulated.

10. High levels of stress hormones lead to the development of compulsive behaviours, including eating large quantities of sugary food and drinks. The only way to counteract this is to avoid foods you’d rather not be addicted to!

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Sensible Guidelines for a Healthy Diet

1. Eat foods that are as close to nature as possible. As a general rule of thumb, if it’s highly processed then it’s bad for you.

2. Don’t focus on calories (and, related to this, avoid dieting). Those tend to lead to an obsession with food. Instead, eat plenty of raw fresh fruits and vegetables, go for smaller portion sizes, only eat when you are hungry, and stop eating when you are full.

3. Make sure you have some protein at breakfast. That will help stave off the hunger pangs and stop you reaching for quick and empty calories before lunch (like donuts and pastries).

4. Don’t eat after 7pm – unless it is some fruit or veggies. Food eaten late at night tends to lie in the stomach, and is much more likely to be converted into fat.

5. Pay attention to the kinds of fats you eat. It’s crucial that you include the essential fatty acids in your diet – but avoid saturated fats when you can. The former are critical for your health and cannot be produced by the body; the latter clog up your arteries!

6. Eat foods that you enjoy. You only live once, so take pleasure from your munching! There are plenty of options so don’t fixate on a few foods. Also, indulge and splurge on whatever you enjoy – as long as you restrict it to once or twice a week.

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Tips for Improving your Health

1. Eat a piece of fruit before you sit down for a meal. It will help to take the edge off your appetite.

2. Avoid buying food from vending machines.

3. Try switching to wholegrain pasta, rice and bread.

4. Always carry a bottle of water with you.

5. Try to cut down on those high calorie speciality drinks (smoothies, lattes, frappaccinos etc).

6. Drink water instead of soda.

7. Walk part of your commute to school, college or work.

8. Include at least 20 minutes of activity into each day.

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Food and Personality

1. Craving chocolate can be an indication of a low boredom threshold, a thirst for excitement, or simply wanting to feel more positive. More specifically, those who crave dark chocolate are more likely to be extroverts; whereas those who crave milk chocolate are more likely to be introspective and reserved.

2. Craving sweet, sugary food is said to be more common among those like to live a carefree life, who don’t worry too much, and who rarely suffer from guilt pangs and regrets.

3. Craving salty food is more common amongst laid back individuals who “go with the flow”.

4. Preferring a combination of foods is believed to be more common in those who are more private, and prefer to be alone than be part of a large crowd.

Note: Although all our mental health posts are based on scientific evidence, we also include pop psychology posts to add a bit of fun to the blog!

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Top diet and nutrition tips for women

· Focus on whole, plant-based foods. Fill most of your plate with fruits and leafy green vegetables. Also include a variety of whole grains, beans, and legumes to give you filling fiber and keep you going throughout the day. Try to find minimally-processed or locally-grown foods whenever possible and make these foods the mainstay of your diet.

· Bone up on calcium. Women are at a greater risk than men of developing osteoporosis, so it’s important to get plenty of calcium to support your bone health. While dairy products are high in calcium, their animal fat and protein can accelerate bone loss. So also consider plant-based sources of calcium like beans, broccoli, kale, Brussels sprouts, and collard greens.

· Don’t eat too much protein. Protein is an essential part of any healthy diet, but eating too much animal-based protein—such as the levels recommended in many low-carb, high-protein diets—is particularly dangerous for women. Eating lots of protein causes calcium loss. Over time, this could lead to a decrease in bone density and osteoporosis.

· Make sure you get enough iron. Many women don’t get enough iron in their diet. On top of that, women lose a lot of this important mineral during menstruation. Boost your intake by eating iron-rich foods such as lean red meat, dark poultry, lentils, spinach, almonds, and iron-fortified cereals.

· Cut back on alcohol and caffeine. Women who have more than two alcoholic drinks a day are at higher risk of osteoporosis. Caffeine consumption interferes with hormone levels and also increases the loss of calcium. Try to limit alcohol consumption to one glass a day and caffeine to one cup a day.

Source: http://www.helpguide.org/life/healthy_eating_women_nutrition.htm

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The Best Brain Foods

1. Coffee:  Boosts short-term memory; improves attention and problem-solving skills; slows down the aging process.

2. Blueberries. Improves thinking, and helps with long-term memory. Also, the antioxidants found in blueberries are believed to protect the brain from free-radical damage - and thus reduce your risk of developing Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases.

3. Salmon or mackerel: Speeds up, or increases, your thinking power. Omega-3 fatty acids (found in these fish) are a primary building block of brain tissue. They also contain niacin which helps to slow down the rate of cognitive decline.

4. Low-fat yogurt or mixed nuts: Helps you to relax. Specifically, these 2 foods significantly reduce the levels of stress hormones in the blood.

5. Leafy green salads: Improve your mood and increase subjective happiness. These foods are a great source of B vitamins - which are important for manufacturing feel-good hormones (serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine.) They also protect against irritability and depression.

6. Flaxseeds: Helps us process information; sharpens the senses; heightens our experience of pleasure.

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You are What you Eat

Eating fruit is beneficial to your health. For example:

Cherries – Relax the nervous system and help to calm us down.

Grapes – Help to purify the blood, and fight disease.

Apples – Promote healthy hair and skin. They also boost the immune system.

Watermelon – Helps to control the heart rate so that we feel more balanced and calm.

Oranges - Promote healthy skin, assists with vision, and helps fight colds and infections.  

Strawberries – Potentially fight cancer and the aging process.

Bananas – Provide energy and have a calming effect.

Blueberries – Fight infection and disease, and help to boost the immune system.

Mangos – Are believed to help the body fight cancer.

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Feed your Brain

Although the average brain only weighs 3lbs it uses 20% of the calories we eat. To maximise the benefits of food to the brain, think about including the following:

1.       Foods to boost concentration – Anything containing mega-3 oils. For example, oily fish, walnuts, pumpkin seeds and flax seeds.

2.       Foods to improve mood – Anything that’s rich in dopamine or serotonin. For example, beets, soybeans, almonds, eggs, meat, grains and dark chocolate.

3.       Foods to boost memory – Anything that’s rich in acetylcholine. For example, eggs, liver, soy beans, cauliflower, broccoli and cabbage.

However, strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, cherries and tumeric (commonly used in curries) are believed to be the best food of all for the brain. They improve brain performance and enhance our memory. Thus, since research confirms that “you are what you eat” make sure you are eating to feed your brain!

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