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Eating smart: How certain foods can boost your motivation and wellbeing

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Eating smart

Here’s some food for thought . . .

Have you ever considered that the food you eat could be affecting your motivation levels, wellbeing and ability to focus?

I’ve been exploring the research in this area and I’ve got to say, the research is so compelling. It’s made me clean up my act.

I’ve ditched the junk food. I’ve packed the fridge full of fruits and vegetables. I’m cooking delicious plant-based meals.

I’m eating like an absolute champion. But this wasn’t always the case . . .

What I used to eat

I grew up in an Italian family that had some wonderful food traditions.

Tomato Sauce Making Day was one of them.

My entire family (aunties, uncles, my cousins and their children) would come together and in a couple of days, we’d make hundreds of bottles of tomato passata.

When I tell people about this tradition, they automatically look impressed. They think:

“Wow! You must have grown up eating amazing Italian food all the time.”

Nope.

Sure, we had some delicious feasts for special occasions. But most of the time I ate processed junk foods.

Why did I eat so badly?

My parents worked really hard on the family orchard. At the end of the day, they would come home exhausted. They had no energy to cook. And I didn’t know how to cook.

So we did what was easy and convenient: we ate take-away. And we ate a lot of it.

As a teenager, I had no idea that what I ate had anything to do with my poor mood, brain fog and low energy levels. No one ever told me that these things could be eliminated by making a few simple changes to my diet.

It wasn’t until a few years ago that I learnt how food could shape my ability to think and influence my mood.

What the research says on food and the brain

The research is in. Eating certain foods can improve your wellbeing, motivation and brainpower. Let’s take a quick look at one of these research studies . . .

A study conducted by a research team at the University of Otago found even a small increase in fruit and vegetables could lead to rapid increases in motivation, vitality and flourishing. In this study, the researchers took a group of university students who didn’t consume many fruits and vegetables (they ate less than 3 serves of combined fruits and vegetables per day) and divided them into three groups:

Group 1: Control group – they didn’t change their diet.

Group 2: Ecological momentary intervention (EMI) group
– they would receive two text messages a day for two weeks encouraging them to eat more fruit and vegetables, plus a $10 voucher to buy fruit and vegetables.

Group 3: Fruit and vegetable intervention (FVI) group – these students were given a bag of two weeks’ worth of fresh fruit and vegetables. They were told to consume at least two serves on top of what they usually ate each week.

What did the researchers find?

Group 3 showed a significant improvement in their wellbeing (more than the other two groups). They showed increases in vitality, flourishing and motivation.

Here’s what was so incredible . . .

Group 3 (i.e. the participants who were given the big bag of fresh fruit and vegetables) were consuming only one extra serve of fruit and vegetables than the control group. Keep in mind that group 3 had only increased their consumption of fruit and vegetables by 1.2 serves on average from their baseline levels. But that extra serve seemed to make a big difference.

The researchers concluded:

“Despite both intervention groups reporting modestly higher and similar consumption of FV [fruits and vegetables] relative to control (3.7 vs 2.8 daily servings), only young adults who were given two weeks’ worth of FV showed improvements in their feelings of vitality, flourishing, and motivation. The short duration of our study indicated that FV intake translated into improved well-being quite rapidly.”

So why didn’t group 2 (the EMI group) show any improvements despite consuming a similar amount of fruit and vegetables as group 3?

The researchers stated:

“One possibility is that this difference might be due to lower control over type, quality, and preparation of fruit and vegetables eaten by the EMI group. The EMI group were free to choose whatever fruit and vegetables they liked, and when surveyed, we found that they were more likely to eat cooked vegetables in casseroles and mixed into their main meals. By contrast, for the FVI group, we chose high quality produce, which was mostly eaten raw (including the carrots, eaten as snacks). Some researchers have shown that more optimal psychological outcomes are associated with the consumption of fresh fruit and raw vegetables/salads, but not cooked vegetables.”

They also mentioned that the participants may have been annoyed by receiving the regular text message reminders and this may have “wiped out any gains in well-being”.

Overall, I find this study really interesting because it shows when you eat more fruit and vegetables you can see immediate psychological benefits. It also highlights the importance of easy access to good quality fruit and vegetables.

This is just one of many studies I came across that illustrates the powerful role food plays in impacting wellbeing.

The cheapest path to better health and happiness

When I was in my early twenties I spent thousands of dollars on personal development courses that promised greater happiness levels and to “unlock my hidden potential“. But not one of these courses talked about food nor did they give me the benefits that switching to a healthy plant-based diet did.

I’ve spent many hours exploring the research literature on food and the brain. What I’ve discovered has been life changing. Changing my diet turned out to be the cheapest and most effective pathway to greater happiness and wellbeing.

I want to share this knowledge with others. It seems crazy that this information isn’t widely known and accessible.

So this is why I’ve created the online course Eating Smart.

Eating smart course

In this course, you’ll see that every time you sit down to eat you have an opportunity to improve your mood, ability to focus and brainpower.

Learning how to cook in a healthy way improved every aspect of my life: my energy levels, my ability to think clearly, my mood and memory all improved. The mental fog lifted. I became sharper.

I want this for you. So I’m sharing the research and my best strategies with you in this new course.

The Eating Smart program starts on the 19th October 2020. More details can be found here.

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