Dietitians often get asked, “What is the healthiest food?” The correct answer is there is no healthiest food. Instead, there are a bevy of foods that contribute to a nutritious diet. Because we may feel like our food purchasing opportunities in Southeast Alaska can be limited, this broad view of which foods are healthy is encouraging. What is available to us is hard to come by in the lower 48 – and it’s some of the most nutritious food out there. I’m talking about wild Alaskan salmon, fresh and dried seaweed, and berries of all types.
1. Gives us power.
At the root of it all, food provides us with energy. Whether it’s through fat, carbohydrates, or protein, our body metabolizes these nutrients and transforms them into energy to do whatever it is we like to do.
Enjoy doing crosswords? You can thank omega-3 fatty acids from seafood for powering and supporting your brain. Like fishing with your family? Props to those complex carbohydrates in whole grains, potatoes, and brown rice for giving us long-lasting energy. And what about recovering from a long hike? Protein from fish, game, beans, nuts, and dairy is the hero there, rebuilding our muscles so we can get after the next trail.
Whatever you enjoy doing, make sure you’re adequately fueled enough to make the most of it!
2. Improves mood.
Have you seen the t-shirt that says, “I’m sorry for what I said when I was hungry.” Do you feel like you should be wearing that shirt a little too often? Well, turns out it’s not just being hungry that can make us act differently. What we eat can influence our moods.
Check out this study from 2016 that concludes that eating more fish was linked to a decreased risk of depression, and even a small amount of high-cacao chocolate is linked to improving mood (but too much did the opposite), according to this study. And this review from 2019 compiled a list of ways of eating a variety of fruits and vegetables can help improve mood, cognition, and even attention. For example, blueberries were linked to enhanced memory!
None of this should come as a surprise to us. If you’ve been around a child in the days following Halloween, you know food affects attention and energy. And it’s not just the kids that are susceptible to the pattern of a sugar rush followed by a breakdown.
What we eat can directly affect how we think, act, and respond to situations. By eating a nutritious and well-balanced diet of fish, fruits, and vegetables, we can give our brains the best fuel each day.
3. Increases quality years.
The subject of quality years is an honest but sometimes painful conversation. When doctors talk to patients about outcomes of chronic diseases like diabetes and heart disease, they acknowledge that their patient may live to 85 regardless of how they take care of themselves, but how will the next 20 or 30 years be for them? Will they spend the next several decades independent, enjoying time with their family, and able-bodied? Or will they be in and out of the hospital, taking many different medications, and in chronic pain?
There are many factors that play a role in determining quality years, but a healthy diet is a key component. Choosing wild fish, berries, local vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts, and dairy can help maintain a healthy weight, fuel activity, and provide nourishment to the body. And, according to this study, adopting healthy lifestyle behaviors can add 10 quality years!
Now, who wants 10 more years of catching salmon and going berry picking? Let’s go!