The Brain & Mental Health: Food, Exercise & Mood, Part Two

 NOTE: Last month, Mental Health Month, I posted Part One of the topic drawing on Dr. Amen’s terrific book, The End of Mental Illness. Today I am completing this topic, using Dr. Sanjay Gupta’s book, Keep Sharp, which focuses more on a healthy brain, especially for dementia, rather than mental illness, per se, but covers the topics of food, mood, and exercise quite well. Here are some highlights and quotes that apply to the whole body, which includes the mind.

“…In order to best take care of your body, you have to first take care of your mind.” (Introduction)

“ No matter what your DNA says, a good diet, regular exercise, not smoking, limiting alcohol, and some other surprising lifestyle decisions, can change that destiny.” (Intro.)

In one of his “boxes” to highlight information, Dr. Gupta writes about statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, noting that 80% of Americans don’t get enough regular exercise. Equally important is the analysis that involved adults from age fifty to age 71. If these people exercised between two and eight hours per week from their teen years until their sixties, they have a “29 to 36 percent lower chance of dying from any cause over the twenty-year period.” (p . 101)

The above stats are a great endorsement for staying active at any age. As 96 year old Dick Van Dyke said in a documentary about older actors, “Keep moving!”

96-year old Dick Van Dyke (aka The Energizing Bunny! es)

Dr. Gupta covers muscle mass, the importance of “white matter (bundles of nerve fibers trough which messages pass between different areas of gray matter),” how exercise should be a lifetime activity, and as he notes on page 112, “exercise is a daily nonnegotiable activity like brushing my teeth.”

Since I am a big believer in the relationship between food and general health, including mental health, I think Dr. Gupta’s “Guide to Good Eating,” starting on page 170-176 is extremely important. Here are his ideas using the acronym: S.H.A.R.P:

S: Slash Sugar and Stick to Your ABCs. (A foods are ones to consume regularly, like fresh fruits and veggies. B foods are additional foods to include, such as whole grains, and C foods are foods to limit, such as fried foods and red meat).

H: Hydrate Smartly. According to the author, our ability to identify we are thirsty diminishes and also we often mistake hunger for being thirsty. He notes that there is a link between how hydrated you are and your energy levels as well as brain rhythm.

A: Add More Omega-3 Fatty Acids from Dietary Sources. Because our Standard American Diet is heavy on Omega 6s and not Omega 3s, we need to eat more “brain-nourishing” gems from seafood, nuts, and seeds” and fewer “processed, friend and baked food.” The 1:1 ratio of early humans is not honored, and he notes that the ratio is more like 12: 1 to 25:1 omega -6 to omega-3.

R: Reduce Portions. The emphasis here is in cooking your own meals so you can control the portions you eat. He also writes about different ways of preparing food that are more healthful, such as avoiding frying foods and replacing that technique “ with boiling, poaching, steaming, or baking.”

P: Plan Ahead. Here the author recommends that by planning ahead, we won’t “get caught” to buying and eating simple carbs, low fiber, and saturated fats. By planning ahead (ex. I take an apple or banana with me when I shop in case I get hungry.)

At the end of this section he provides a list of ideas called “Feeding Your Brain,which draws upon S.H.A.R.P. with some additional practical tips, such as eating a wide variety of different colored veggies, reminiscent of what he recalls as “eating the rainbow,” read labels, etc.

I read some time ago in a book by a doctor that diet is 80% of your health and exercise is 20%. I am not sure I agree with that ratio, but I do agree that some people tend to eat junk and they can go to the gym to exercise and offset the junk food (I disagree with that).

To me, eating well may not be 80% of our health, but it certainly is very important, with exercise as also necessary to stay healthy, especially as we age. Find your own balance/ratio and see how you feel, changing your habits as needed to remain healthy with your family doctor’s input.

Dr. Gupta’s book is an excellent overall guide to attain what his subtitle says:
Build a Better Brain at Any Age.

KEEP SHARP  is published by Simon & Schuster and costs $28 hard copy.


Information from Earth Conscious Life by Rob Herring

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The article below is reprinted with permission from

My Note: I believe that eating lower on the food chain is good for the environment and our bodies. Going one step further: removing pesticides will also help to clean up the planet.  Thanx, Earth Conscious Life!
P.S. I added the Earth Day logo and organic food photos from the Internet.

Is organic really all that different?

Some people think organic is a bit overhyped…

In my opinion, it’s not.

Sure, organic almost always costs a bit more, and not everyone can afford to buy 100% organic all the time. Others may live in areas where they simply don’t even have access to these kinds of options.

I’ve begun thinking it’s not that organic “costs more”, it’s that using synthetic chemicals and fertilizers costs less.

Keeping our soils and foods free from carcinogenic chemicals should be the baseline.

Just like with the human body, or taking care of a car…if you think short-term and have no respect for the longevity of the system, then you can cut corners and do things a lot cheaper.

But poisoning the soil and farming ecosystem comes back to bite you in the end.

As I said in one of my early songs “you can pay the farmer now, or pay the doctor later.”

Enough about price – what’s really the difference?

I recently came across this study from a few years ago. It’s a meta-analysis of 343 peer-reviewed publications on the topic of “organic vs conventional.”

A “meta-analysis” or a “systematic review” looks at a large grouping of various studies on a certain topic.

This analysis concluded:

“the concentrations of a range of antioxidants such as polyphenolics were found to be substantially higher in organic crops/crop-based foods.”

The following bullet point terms may not be vocabulary words you’re super familiar with…but what you need to know are these are antioxidant compounds which have been shown to provide disease fighting function and anti-inflammatory effects.

The researchers found each of these healing compounds HIGHER in organic crops by the following percents:

  • phenolic acids – 19%
  • flavanones – 69%
  • stilbenes – 28%
  • flavones – 26%
  • flavonols – 50%
  • anthocyanins – 51%

These differences are significant.

When you consume conventional nutritionally-compromised foods meal after meal, day after day…the lack of healing potential in your diet really adds up!

Imagine a few decades of missing out on what Nature originally intended your food to do.

It’s no wonder we are facing unprecedented levels of chronic disease everywhere we look.

Not only are these important healing factors missing in conventional produce…the study found that organic had lower levels of harmful toxic heavy metals and (obviously) pesticide and insecticide residue.

Many in the mainstream will still dismiss concerns about the toxicity of agri-chemicals…pretending it couldn’t possibly add up to impact human health.

Of course, these same people generally dismiss pretty much any toxic burden as being relevant, and yet seem to have no alternate explanation for what is CAUSING our catastrophic increase in disease and cancer.

Look – eating non-organic food occasionally is not going to kill you. It is true that “the dose makes the poison.”

It’s what you do most of the time that matters.

Stressing about every single meal being organic may be just as negatively impactful as eating a small dose of pesticides.

The point is to be mindful, not neurotic, when it comes to seeking foods that are as optimized as possible to support your well-being.

Remember that community, relationships, having fun, and enjoying yourself are part of a healthy life too!


Sometimes just being in company with friends and sharing a meal – with good conversation, smiles, laughs – is healing in immeasurable ways, regardless of the actual food itself.

We most certainly want to encourage each other to buy and eat organic when we can, and studies like this can help us in the conversation as to why we must collectively do more to support local, regenerative, organic farmers – it’s of critical importance to the future of our species.

So let’s keep inspiring each other on this mission while being sure to find a balance which doesn’t compromise our mental health in other ways!

To a healing future,


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