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May 13, 2022
In our fast-paced lives, it can be hard to stay on top of our nutrition. What can be even harder to stay on top of (yes, even for me as a neuroscientist and nutritionist who can interpret the science and gets why nutrition is so important for my brain) are the seemingly ever-changing messages about what to eat and what not to eat. Thankfully, there are a few messages that ring loud and clear – and that we know to be true: drink more water, eat less sugar and more vegetables. But then, the question comes back to “how do I do this, when I’m so busy?!” Read on, and let’s make this doable (and dare I even say, fun), with a few simple nutrition hacks.
Did you know that many of our cells – including our brain cells – give up some of their water when our blood is “thirsty” (ie. when it becomes too concentrated)? It makes sense then, that they don’t work as well, and that brain and mental health symptoms like headaches, low mood, reduced attention span and poor memory are the first signs of dehydration  . Our levels of certain neurotransmitters have also been shown to change during dehydration. That’s right: even before you feel thirsty.
To keep these side effects of dehydration at bay, you need to drink 8 – 10 glasses of water every day. I recommend treating yourself to a nice water bottle that you can always have with you, and to make it a conscious effort to drink regularly (I often ask clients to set an alarm that reminds them to drink every hour, until it becomes a habit).
You can make your water more exciting by adding fruit (eg. lemon, lime, berries, cucumber) or fresh herbs (eg. mint, basil, rosemary). Craving something really special? Try Botanica’s Turmeric Lemonade or Lion’s Mane Iced Tea for a delightfully brain hacked version of some refreshing Summer staples – just add water!
I know you’ve all heard this one before, but you might not know that 1 in 4 of us may not be able to just simply quit sugar. Science tells us that food addiction is real   and that up to 25% of people may have a physiological addition to sugar and processed, refined carbohydrates. So we need to be gentle with ourselves as we reduce our sugar intake, and some of us may need to go slowly.
One simple healthy food hack you can start doing immediately is eating some protein every time you eat carbohydrates. Research has shown that adding a protein to a carbohydrate can significantly reduce that carb’s glycemic impact (ie. how much the sugars in that carbohydrate affect your blood sugar, and therefore your mood, energy and weight ).
Get in the habit of adding 1/4 cup raw nuts or seeds (I really love hemp seeds) to pasta, or 1 Tbsp nut (I love almond) or seed (I like pumpkin seed) butter to your toast. Nuts and seeds (and their butters) can easily go with you on your busy day in a little baggie or container, and will help your sugar-reducing efforts immensely (another nutrition hack is to add Greek yogurt to your baked potato, or sweet potato for a really healthy food duo).
You can also enjoy a high-quality protein shake at some point during your day. I like the Perfect Protein – Vanilla by Botanica (extra nutrition hack: you can even bake with this protein powder! l personally love these vegan banana protein pancakes!)
Try the healthy lifestyle hack of cutting up your fresh vegetables for the week ahead on Sunday evening. I like to have mine pre-portioned and stored in little mason jars in the fridge (and I always recommend keeping them in water, draining right before you eat them, so they stay nice and fresh). Prep them once, and enjoy them five times!
If you want to follow my protein hack above, enjoy your veggies with your nuts or seeds – or perhaps dip them into your nut or seed butter. Hummus is another simple, healthy dip to try – here is one of my personal favourite recipes! If you’re really struggling to get those vegetables in, I recommend a greens powder, which you can easily add to water, like Botanica’s Perfect Greens (I personally drink their unflavoured one).
I hope you can add these three nutrition hacks into your busy life! Once they become a healthy habit, you won’t even have to think about them – and can get on with your busy day!
 Davis, R., Bonham, M. P., Nguo, K. & Huggins, C. E. (2019). Glycaemic response at night is improved after eating a high protein meal compared with a standard meal: A cross-over study. Clin. Nutr., 39(5), 1510-1516. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31303526/
 DiNicolantonio, J., O-Keefe, J.H. & Wilson, W.L. (2018). Sugar addiction: Is it real? A narrative review. Br J Sports Med, 52(14), 910-913. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28835408/
 Pross, N. (2017). Effects of Dehydration on Brain Functioning: A Life-Span Perspective. Ann Nutr Metab, 70(Suppl 1), 30-36. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28614811/
 Westwater, M.L., Fletcher, P.C. & Ziauddeen, H. (2016). Sugar addiction: The state of the science. Eur J Nutr, 55(Suppl 2), 55-69. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27372453/
 Wilson, M.M.G & Morley, J.E. (2003). Impaired cognitive function and mental performance in mild dehydration. Our J Clin Nutr, 57 (Suppl 2), 24-29. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/14681710/