The primary reason why you’re on the Health Plus diet is to lose weight-but as I’ve emphasized in this blog, there are many other positive benefits that go along with weight loss. If you’ve started shedding the pounds, you might have already noticed some of these benefits. For example you may feel less achy after you exercise, your clothes may be fitting better, and you and you may be finding that you are less winded after walking or biking. Hopefully, you’re starting to experience an overall improved sense of physical well being through the diet and exercise changes you’ve been making.
This is great news, and what’s even better news is that these positive benefits are not limited to the body. There is a profound mind-body connection that is often discounted in Western medicine. When you’re body is functioning at its optimal level, you may have noticed that your memory, focus and cognitive abilities have been at their best as well. This is not a coincidence! Dr. Dean Ornish, author of the book Eat More, Weigh Less, and a profound influence on the Health Plus philosophy, has written about the connection between exercise, diet and mental functioning.
Until recently scientists thought that after a certain age the brain stops developing and begins to shrink. Scientists including Dean Ornish now believe that far from the brain ceasing to develop at twenty-five, it actually can become stronger as well get older. These scientists believe that there are concrete steps you can take to keep your brain healthy and fit throughout your life. And no surprise here- two of the best ways to keep up your mental fitness are to work on your physical fitness. In his article Ornish cites a study done by the University of Illinois in 2006, which found that walking only three hours a week can stimulate the growth of new neurons (or brain cells) and have increased brain size for the participants.
According to Ornish, diet also plays a very important role in neurogenesis, or the development of new brain cells. A diet high in fat and sugar impedes neurogenesis, while a low fat, low sugar diet helps to stimulate it. Certain foods such as blackberries, tea and small amounts of chocolate are actually known to stimulate neurogenesis. (Don’t use that as an excuse to eat an extra Hershey’s bar though, you’re better off going on a jog).
For more information, check out Ornish’s original article
For more on neuroplasticity, I recommend The Brain That Changes Itself by Dr. Norman Doidge