It is widely accepted that nutrition can have a significant impact on our physical health and overall well-being, but emerging research is showing that nutrition may also play a significant role in our behaviour.
A new article published in Wise Traditions identified several connections between nutrient deficiencies and violent behavior. The increase in violent behavior is especially critical for young people who commit over 41% of violent homicides each year according to the World Health Organization.
School shootings are becoming more common in many countries and many children seem to have a greater amount of behavioural problems in school and at home. Although there may be several factors for this increase in violence, nutrition may play a key role in helping reduce the amount of violent behaviour and mental disturbances in our world today.
Part of the reason for increased violence may be our reliance on processed foods which are mostly devoid of nutrients and contain potentially toxic chemicals such as, sugar, artificial food coloring and MSG.
The brain and nervous system require fat and fat-soluble vitamins to function properly. The brain is 60% fat and needs essential fatty acids to stay healthy. Consuming excessive “fat free” processed foods can lead to an essential fatty acid deficiency which may hurt the ability for our brain to function optimally.
Vitamin A, a fat-soluble vitamin found in any high fat foods, also plays a role in maintaining proper cognitive function. Lack of vitamin D, another fat-soluble vitamin, may increase depression, reduce memory, and reduce the ability of the brain to properly produce serotonin, a calming neurotransmitter.
Unfortunately, due to our reliance on highly processed, low fat foods that are missing essential fatty acids and critical vitamins, our brains are functioning without proper nutrition.
The average Australian consumes approximately 20 teaspoons of sugar daily. Our bodies are not used to dealing with concentrated doses of sugar at a one time, such as what is found in a soft drink.
Fluctuations in blood glucose, caused by consuming foods too high in sugar, may result in difficulty concentrating and other cognitive deficits. Excess sugar in children may decrease concentration ability and may promote violent behavior. In a study of high school children in Boston researchers found that children who drank the most soda were also more likely to have exhibited violent behaviour at some time.
If you or your child is struggling with cognitive difficulties, outbursts of anger, or other behavioural problems, it may be helpful to take a look at your diet.
The first step is to eliminate all processed foods.
Include essential fatty acids from healthy sources such as coconut oil, olive oil or flaxseeds in your diet. Eat at least 2-3 portions of fish weekly, for omega-3 fats.
Include rich sources of vitamin A such as eggs, lean cuts of beef, or liver.
Get at least 15 minutes of sunshine daily to increase vitamin D levels.
Reduce or eliminate added sugars in your diet, especially those from sweetened beverages.
A balanced diet should consist of lean protein, healthy fats, plenty of fruits and vegetables and whole unprocessed grains. A healthy diet can give you the foundation you need for a healthy brain and a healthy life.
Julie Masci is from New Life Nutrition. NLN is a team of dedicated dietitians and nutritionists based in Brisbane, Australia. Their focus is on providing practical lifestyle solutions that are simple and easy to follow, specializing in weight loss, chronic disease management, irritable bowel syndrome and food intolerances.
Connect here: http://newlifenutrition.com.au/