Whenever we go to the fridge to make a decision about what to eat, most of the time we probably make that choice based primarily on what sounds good. Choosing foods that are tasty is an important part of the enjoyment of food, but it may not necessarily be the best way to make a selection. It certainly isn’t the healthiest way to choose what to eat, but for some it is the only way. Not only can this lead to unhealthy eating habits, but it can also deprive the body and brain of important vitamins and nutrients that are essential to overall health.
One way of ensuring that we’re eating a good variety of healthy foods is choosing our foods based on color. We’re all probably very familiar with the food pyramid and know the suggested number of fruits and vegetables to be included in a healthy diet. But how many of us have considered the variety of color in those fruits and vegetables? Dr. Andrew Weil says:
“The vibrant colors of fruits and vegetables aren’t just visually appealing; they are also indicators of abundant protective nutrients. You’ll likely have a healthier diet if you use color as your guide in choosing fruits and vegetables. And while there’s nothing wrong with eating a lot of green vegetables, research has suggested that the wider the variety of natural colors you have on your plate or in your daily diet, the better your nutritional needs will be met.”
We all have our favorite foods, and each gravitate toward specific ones based on taste and texture. Each of us has also grown up with certain preferences toward different fruits and vegetables in particular, depending on what we were introduced to as children, and sometimes due to what is available seasonally. We don’t often have to consider seasonality when making food choices, but there are a good number of reasons that it is wise to do so…
“…the best consequence of eating seasonally is that you get the best tasting, healthiest food available. The same reasons that keep the cost of seasonal food down also drive its quality up: The food is grown closer to you so it doesn’t spoil on its trip, it’s harvested at the peak of its season (although there’s no real guarantee that it’s picked at the peak of freshness), and sold during its season, before it spoils. Ideally, this means you’re getting fruits and vegetables that haven’t had time to lose their flavor or their health benefits by sitting in a shipping container for a trip across the ocean.”
Being that produce starts diminishing in nutrients the moment it is picked, it’s obviously going to be much fresher and more nutritious when we get it from a locally grown source. Not only that, but when we go to the local farmer’s market, we can also inquire about the growing methods, chemical usage, and ethical values of those who have cultivated our food. That is certainly one option that is not available when buying produce from the grocery store. Sure, we can buy items that are certified organic, but even then, there are still certain pesticides allowed by the USDA, and the bottom line is that it is still factory farming, even if it is labelled organic.
Another factor to be considered when deciding what foods to eat is how they will support healthy brain function. This is certainly not a consideration that many are accustomed to, but it is one of great importance. Not only does the food that we eat affect our cells and tissues by providing proper nutrition and giving us energy, it also has influence over how our brains function as well. According to an article in Nature Neuroscience,
“Diet, exercise and other aspects of our daily interaction with the environment have the potential to alter our brain health and mental function. We now know that particular nutrients influence cognition by acting on molecular systems or cellular processes that are vital for maintaining cognitive function. This raises the exciting possibility that dietary manipulations are a viable strategy for enhancing cognitive abilities and protecting the brain from damage, promoting repair and counteracting the effects of aging.”
The subject of neuroplasticity is an interesting part of neuroscience, which is beginning to reveal more and more about the importance of the state of the human mind. While food intake is very important for healthy brain function, attitude is also an important factor in determining overall health. Our brains develop and change continuously over time, responding to environmental factors, nutritional intake, and even our emotions. How we treat our bodies and the way the that we respond to changes in our environment shapes our minds by activating and deactivating various regions of the brain.
There is also evidence showing that cannabis encourages this neuroplasticity in the brain, offering protection against damage to neurons. Being that it’s been such a restricted field of study, and since the research that has been done mostly seems to be in the service of placing cannabis in a negative light, it may take some time for the truth to be known. But as we continue to learn more about how cannabinoids affect the endocannabinoid system and the brain, perhaps we’ll find that the effects of cannabis are not only good for various ailments, but also helpful for overall brain health and function. And for those who already know how nutritious and positive its effects can be, we’ll be sure to always include this leafy green.