For as long as I live no kind of excitement will parallel that of that first day of school during years 5-11 of my existence. My mom would shuffle us all outside and take a photo in our new outfits. Smiles stretched a mile long and backpacks were pulled up to our ears. Its contents included crisp new trapper keepers, floppy disks, and 1-inch binders (really dating myself here). With lunch boxes crowed with sandwiches and snacks.
Now being 25, the first day of school doesn’t quite hold the same kind of magic. Especially when it comes just a day after a nerve-provoking and stress-inducing dance audition after a summer that just felt way too short, which is happening in exactly one week’s time. But alas, such are the rules of adulthood. Whereas I wish my mom were still the one packing my lunch box, that responsibility now falls on my shoulders. Meal prepping and planning must be prioritized when readjusting to a new routine, otherwise I’m bombarded with the constant wondering of what food will be fueling the studying. This is especially pivotal for me because my new PA program will be so rigorous. Like in the classroom from 8AM-6PM kind of rigorous. Insert nervous laughter here…
So gearing up for this new schedule, I’ve crafted a gut and brain friendly grocery list, with foods that help decrease inflammation and boost focus and memory. Blood sugar levels will be stable and guts will be rejoicing (since the gut-brain axis is such a crucial connection, after all. Happy guts = happy brains).
To do this, I chose to enlist the help of foods with low glycemic load, good sources of protein, antioxidant-packed plants, ample fiber, and polyunsaturated, monounsaturated, and omega-3 fats. My focus will also be on chewing food well, eating balanced meals and snacks, drinking enough water, sleeping well, and exercising the right about (not too much, not too little) to decrease stress levels and leave all the focus on the new material / trying to make new friends? Man oh man coming up with token icebreaker answers in my head as I type this.
Some of these foods include:
- wild salmon and shrimp: rich source of omega-3s – populations who eat the most fish have the lowest rates of depression. Both contain EPA and DHA, which are important for healthy brain function, the heart, joints and our general wellbeing. Having sufficient levels of both EPA and DHA is thought to help manage stress and make serotonin, the happy hormone.
- cherry tomatoes: the lycopene in these helps prevent the formation of pro-inflammatory compounds, and contains iron, tryptophan and vitamin B6, which is what your brain needs to produce regulating hormones like serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine. Lycopene could help protect against the kind of free radical damage to cells which occurs in the development of dementia, particularly Alzheimer’s.
- beets: contain folate which is crucial for good mood, memory retrieval, processing speed, and lightning reflexes
- garlic: promotes healthy arteries, ensures proper blood flow to the brain, and contains chromium, which is needed for a proper response to insulin
- blueberries: help protect the brain from oxidative stress and may reduce the effects of age-related conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. They’re also great for delaying short term memory loss
- cherries: rich source of anthocyanins and other flavonoids that may boost memory function
- eggs: the yolks in eggs contain large amounts of choline, which helps in fetal brain development for pregnant women. It also breaks down bethane, a chemical that produces hormones related to happiness.
- nuts and seeds are good sources of vitamin E, which correspond with less cognitive decline as you get older
- pumpkin seeds in particular are richer in zinc than many other seeds, which is vital for enhancing memory and thinking skills. They also contain magnesium, B vitamins and tryptophan, all of which help with the production of serotonin.
- whole grains such as oatmeal and quinoa can reduce the risk for heart disease. If you promote cardiovascular health, you’re promoting good flow to the organ system, which includes the brain.
- beans stabilize blood sugar levels as well as act as prebiotic fiber. This is what feeds the good gut bacteria, in turn creating a healthy microflora and happy brain.
- sage: noted to help improve memory and concentration
- rosemary contains carnosic acid, which helps protect the brain from neurodegeneration. It does this by protecting the brain against free radicals, which are linked to neurodegeneration, Alzheimer’s, strokes and normal aging in the brain.
- turmeric: helps boost antioxidant levels and keep your immune system healthy, while also improving your brain’s oxygen intake, keeping you alert and able to process information.
- dark chocolate has powerful antioxidant properties, contains several natural stimulants, including caffeine, which enhance focus and concentration, and stimulates the production of endorphins, which helps improve mood.
Taking this list, here’s what’s on the line-up for the week:
- chocolate cherry brazil nut bites
- cherry babaganoush
- lentil veggie macro bowls
- pumpkin sage salmon with roasted beets and spaghetti squash
- salmon tacos
- spaghetti squash pomodoro
- crackers with cashew cheese, olives, and tomaotes
- grape blueberry almond smoothie
- carrot cake oats
- and more!!!
Click the bolded link here: >>> whole foods boston back to school meal plan <<< to print out, meal plan, and step-by-step guide for recipes!
I have a partnership with Whole Foods Market and was compensated for my work, but all words and opinions are my own.