Viewing entries in
Nutrition

Feeling anxious? Eat a pickle

Feeling anxious? Eat a pickle

Pry open the next MacDonald's Big Mac or Cheeseburger and you might find two pathetic looking slices of pickles - all shrivelled up and sad. When I was younger, I would pick them up with a disgusted look on my face to toss them into my brother's burger. 

I'd replace pickles with ketchup hearts any day...

I'd replace pickles with ketchup hearts any day...

Little did I know, that little piece of vegetable can work wonders in calming any anxiety before a major exam.

It's estimated that around 7% of the world's population is suffers from anxiety. One of the most common forms is social anxiety - triggered by social situations such as public speaking, going for job interviews, or even interacting with strangers at a party. For some people, it can be so bad that it becomes a crippling fear.

The good news is that there is a long list of suggested ways to combat anxiety, from seeing a therapist, to taking medication, to gradually exposing yourself to a situation that makes you anxious a little bit at a time until you have built up some form of tolerance to it. 

Research has shown that there is another way to combat anxiety that may be a safer alternative to prescription medicine, and if you like to eat pickles, you're in luck! Even better news, you can stock it up in your fridge. 

Fermented foods like yoghurt, kimchi, and pickles contain probiotics that seem to act in much the same way as some anti-anxiety medications do. They alter GABA - the brain’s neurotransmitters that trigger anxiety. According to research from the University of Maryland School of Social Work, people who regularly ate fermented foods were less likely to suffer from social anxiety, even though their scores on the neurotic scale suggests that they should actually be more prone to it.

As weird as it sounds, it’s building on something that has already been scientifically proven decades ago -- that there is a correlation between gut bacteria, and a reduction of anxiety and depression in animals. By narrowing this down to the type of food that increases the GABA in subjects’ system, researchers found that food high in good gut bacteria from fermentation (such as pickles and kimchi) have an effect in reducing anxiety levels.

It may seem a bit far-fetched that wolfing down a big jar of pickles before a big exam might help you feel more comfortable, but plenty of studies support the influence our gut bacteria have on what’s going on in our heads and bodies.

So adding the right kind of bacteria into our systems when we need it the most may seem the logical thing to do, don't you think?

4 foods that are good for health, but actually bad for digestion

4 foods that are good for health, but actually bad for digestion

A strong digestive system ensures that you won't suffer all sorts of digestive disorders such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), bloating, constipation and diarrhoea. It will also prevent other health issues such as weight gain, eczema, chronic exhaustion and asthma.

Good digestion starts in the mouth. Some foods may seem healthy, and they are, but if you already have a weak stomach or are just recovering from an illness, it's best to not each so much of these 4 foods as they can be harmful to your digestion. 

1. Chocolate

While it’s not the healthiest of choices, a little bit of chocolate (especially dark chocolate) can serve as an energy boost after a strenuous workout.

But if you suffer from constipation or irritable bowel syndrome, chocolate can actually worsen the symptoms. Those with lactose intolerance may also react badly to the dairy in milk chocolate as it stimulate cramps, bloating, and diarrhoea.

2. Diary Products

Speaking of dairy, while getting the right amount of calcium is crucial in a balanced diet, many people can develop lactose intolerance from the diary found in milk and cheese. It can cause a lot of discomfort such as bloating, gas, and cramps.

The problem occurs when a person doesn’t make enough of the lactase enzyme which helps break down the lactose in dairy products. If you find yourself experiencing an upset tummy often after ingesting high lactose foods such as soft cheeses and milk, it's time to stop.

3. Berries

While berries can be full of vitamins and antioxidants, the types of berries that have tiny seeds in them such as strawberries, kiwi and figs can pose a risk to the digestive system especially those that have suffered from intestinal inflammation, infection or appendicitis before.

Eating these berries could cause them to get lodged in the intestinal pockets and create much discomfort while eating, so perhaps it's best to avoid eating too much of them. Or if you do want to eat them, to make sure you have a glass of water handy to wash the seeds down.

4. Corn

While corn is full of fibre and may seem like a good food for our digestion, it actually contains cellulose, which is a type of fibre that we are unable to digest due to us missing a certain enzyme in our bodies.

The fibre is corn actually ends up going in and coming out of our bodies in pretty much the same state. Our body has a hard time digesting it, and if your stomach is actually feeling weak either due to recovering from an illness or being lactose intolerance, it will be good to avoid corn in your diet. 

Brain Food: 5 Snacks to help you study better

Brain Food: 5 Snacks to help you study better

It’s easy to reach for those chocolate, potato chips, energy drinks or instant noodles when it’s 11pm and your tummy starts rumbling in the middle of your study session. But snacking on unhealthy food is not only harmful to your long-term health (and waistline), but it does nothing to fuel your brain. Here are 5 brain food recommendations that you probably already have available in your kitchen that you can snack on while studying to help provide you with a mental boost!

Cereal

Who says you can’t have breakfast food at night? The ability to concentrate comes from a steady supply of glucose in our bloodstream to the brain, and a bowl of cereal with milk is great for achieving this. Be sure to opt for wholegrain cereal, as it releases glucose slowly, keeping you mentally focused and ensuring that your stomach will not go hungry in the midst of your revision.

Sardines

I’m sure you have heard of fretting mothers making their kids drink ‘Essence of Fish’ before their PSLEs. Well, there is some truth to that! Fish, especially sardines and mackerels, are full omega 3 fatty oils, which cannot be made by our body. These fats are essential for healthy brain function, and they also aid in releasing serotonin, which helps in managing stress. An easy snack to make when you are studying is a sardine sandwich. Just pop open a can of sardines, eat them on some whole wheat bread, and you have a healthy snack that's going to power you through those hours of revising. 

Nuts

There are so many variety of nuts out there, you are sure to find one that you like. Whether cashews, macadamias, peanuts or pistachios; not only are they crunchy, salty, and a good source of protein, they are also proven to reduce stress levels. Just remember to take it easy on these addictive little things, you only need a handful or two to get your fix of protein, fibre and essential fats. 

Bananas

Potassium helps to keep oxygen levels normal and enhances brain functions by eliminating foggy thoughts. As one of the rare few food items to contain a high level of potassium, bananas are great snacks in ensuring your brain is able to work at its strongest capability. You definitely want that when you are studying. Bananas are also low in calories, delicious, and can give you an energy boost, since they contain fructose and healthy sugars that the body converts into energy.

Peanut Butter

If you like snacking on candy, a much better alternative in satisfying that sweet tooth is peanut butter. Candy is likely to cause a sharp spike in blood sugar levels, and then a crash that can leave your brain feeling lethargic. However, peanut butter releases sugar slowly, and this helps the brain to stay alert. One tablespoon full of peanut butter also has a lot of protein, which means a little goes a long way in keeping you full and alert for studying. Bonus: it does not expire very fast, so you can always keep a jar handy wherever you study in case you get hungry.

Now that you have some ideas for snacks which have positive effects on your brain, use it to your advantage when you are revising for your exams. Snack smart, and study hard!

Beverages that help you to study better

Beverages that help you to study better

You’ll probably think that this article is about some magical drink that can help you boost your grades or work productivity. I am afraid this is not the case. In actuality, this article is about common beverages that you can get pretty easily (you probably already have them in your kitchen) that you can consume while studying or working as these beverages can help you to stay awake, heighten your focus and more!

Good beverages for study

did you know that water has much more benefits besides merely keeping us alive?

Water

Lo and behold- over 70% of your body is made up of water. All organs, including your brain, are dependent on water for its daily functions. This is why humans require water to survive and the many health education lessons we all have went through advocate drinking up to 8 glasses of water a day. But did you know that water has much more benefits besides merely keeping us alive?

water

Your brain is in reality, made up of over 85% of water. Water provides the electrical energy for all your brain functions including thought and memory processing. Daily hydration can help with better thinking. When your brain functions on a full reserve of water, you will experience faster thinking and heightened clarity and focus. Unfortunately, your brain has no way to store water. Hence, it is crucial to be drinking plenty of water throughout the day.  

Tea

tea

The difference in consuming tea and water is the certain compounds that tea brings. The small amount of caffeine in tea aids in keeping your mind alert and sharp. Tea (especially green tea) also contains a compound called L-theanine which seems to mitigate the negative aspects of caffeine such as increased blood pressure and anxiety, while boosting the positive ones.

Now that you know of the beverages that you can continuously drink while studying or working, it is also important to know what to avoid.

Non-study beverages

Coffee

coffee

“Too much of anything is a bad thing.” This phrase definitely holds true with coffee. While it may be tempting to reach forward to your cup of joe, for the sake of your grades and health, do not succumb to that temptation! You probably already know that coffee contains caffeine ( probably the reason why you are reaching out to it in the first place), and despite its apparent benefits as mentioned above, it can cause you to feel jittery and have disturbed sleep cycles, which will inadvertently affect your revision routine and wreck your examination focus.

Unless you are part of the small proportion of students who drink coffee without sugar, you will also experience the effects of sugar on your body. This rise and fall in sugar level will eventually cause you to experience a crash later in the day- a feeling of extreme fatigue, something you would rather not be feeling in the midst of an important examination. 

Juice

juice

This seemingly healthy drink, in fact contains a surprisingly large amount of sugar. In addition, it does not contain the fibre that the actual fruit actually brings. If you drink a large glass of fruit juice, the amount of sugar entering your body is equivalent to consuming a few fruits in a very short amount of time. A large part of the sugar found in fruit juice is fructose, of which can only be metabolized by your liver in small amounts. When the liver has more fructose than it can take, some of it turns to fat, which can cause you to feel more fatigued. Even more so, manufacturers are not always honest with what they label on their packaging. After being squeezed from the fruit, tons of preservatives are usually added in to ensure that the juice does not go bad and to keep the flavour intact, preservatives that your body does not need.

Now that you know more about what you drink has an effect on you, use it to your advantage when you are revising for your examinations! 

Brainfoods

Brainfoods

Ever heard of how eating fish would make you smarter from your parents? Well, you are not alone. Many Asian children, whose parents are academically-focused, have heard this at least once in their lives. But does consuming fish make you smarter, or is it just a myth? What about other foods? This article seeks to find out.

Does consuming fish makes us smarter?

It does seem that this “myth” is true. Scientists have discovered that consuming omega-3 rich food can boost blood flow to the brain and improve performances in mental tasks. Oily fishes like sardine, tuna and mackerel are known to contain high levels of long-chain omega-3 fatty acids. New research has found that omega-3 can also improve reaction times and reduce the level of tiredness in the brain after performing mentally arduous tasks. So, there you go, fish actually helps in your cognitive abilities. If, however, you do not like the taste of fish, omega-3 tablets are readily available in your nearest pharmacy. Fortunately, that is not your only option- there are a few other foods that claim to make you smarter.

Other foods

1.     Walnuts

Even though not as rich in omega-3 as oily fish, walnuts- specific omega-3 have been found to act as an antioxidant that can block signals to potentially brain-damaging free radicals. Research has also shown that walnut consumption may support brain health, inclusive of an improved inferential reasoning in young adults.

2.     Berries

In a study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry in 2012, the neurological benefits of consuming berries were highlighted. This is due to the high levels of anti-oxidants that they contain, which have been proven to improve a host of mental abilities like reasoning, memory skills and even verbal and numerical comprehension!

3.     Leafy Green Vegetables

Chances are that you are already tired of being told to eat more green leafy vegetables, but guess what? You should probably eat more green leafy vegetables as they are a rich source of B vitamins. 3 B vitamins in particular – folic acid, B6 and B12 are essential brain vitamins. A study by Oxford University found out that these three B vitamins work together to improve your brain function by reducing its atrophy and dramatically reduce brain shrinkage in the part of the brain most affected by Alzheimer’s.

Knowing the foods that are beneficial to your brain is important but it is equally important to know the foods that are harming your brain.

These foods (and drinks) are the ones that you should avoid if you want to improve your cognitive ability:

1.     Fruit juice

Opting for fruit juice instead of a soft drink may seem like a healthier option. But fruit juices are as big of a culprit as soft drinks in terms of sugar content- and that extra sugar content may negatively affect your brain function.  A 2015 study showed that mice subjected to high-sugar and high-fat diets had their short and long-term memory functions taking a hit as well as their cognitive flexibility- the ability to problem solve in the face of new information.

2.     Cheese

Food high in saturated fats may hurt your memory and cause inflammation in your brain. As shown by a 2011 study in the Journal of Clinical Investigation, eating a high-fat diet would not only hurt your memory, but also your brain’s ability to regulate the food you take in, making you prone to obesity.

3.     Microwave popcorn

A 2014 study of 1000 men found participants who ate a high trans fats diet performed worse on memory tests than their control counterparts. Be careful though, not only microwave popcorn has high trans-fat, but also biscuits and fried fast food!

With all that knowledge about how your food you eat affects your brain power, use it wisely!