The evolutionary process of the human species throughout history helps explain why meat-eating and consistent exercise have been hardwired to reward our brains and boost mental resilience. As hunter/gatherers, humans moved around consistently in search of food. This exercise was part of the hunt. Food wasn’t a given; it was a reward. Eating meat must have been very satisfying and sustaining in those circumstances, hardwiring the human brain to desire more of its sustaining protein, amino acids, omega fatty acids and B vitamins.
Even during early civilization, mankind had to work hard to put meat and vegetables on the table. During the most recent homesteading lifestyles of the past centuries, mankind raised animals and hunted game to sustain their families.
Physical activity and the reward of meat are definitely hardwired into our brains today, especially for young adults, who are naturally adapted to be the primary hunters and gathers to carry out this evolutionary cycle.
But the modern day centralization of farming, mass production of foodstuffs, and the rise of supermarkets have changed this evolutionary process, detaching physical activity from the hunt for food. Humans now work in closet-like environments, detached from the chase and real life satisfaction of growing/hunting food. Even though our lives have been abruptly altered in this way, our mental health still relies on the lifestyle our ancestors built into us. This is why exercise is essential to good health, and why clean meat is still a satisfactory food for our brains.
The trendy diets of modern society and even cult-like vegan diets miss the simple fact that human psychology is adapted to enjoy the sustenance of meat. Fad diets are short-lived and are prone to the stress of worry; we should strive for more living plant nutrients in our diet, but shouldn't be bogged down by trying to live up to someone’s idea of a perfect diet. We should be more concerned with the quality of the food we eat. We should be more concerned with eating functional foods and herbs that address our current health situations.
The problem with meat today is the carcinogens that are added to it, such as sodium nitrite. Other problems involve the abuse of antibiotics at factory farms that raise animals in cramped conditions without access to full-spectrum nutritional foods from their environment.
The second part of the study from Binghamton University shows the importance of antioxidants for helping relieve the effects of stress. The benefits of antioxidants are greater for adults over the age of 30. The study stresses the importance of avoiding caffeine and sugar, as well.
Professor Linda Begdache, the study's author, said that adults over 30 are “more sensitive to regular consumption of sources of antioxidants and abstinence of food that inappropriately activates the innate fight-or-flight response.”
She noted that free radicals cause disturbances in the brain, causing mental distress.
“With aging, there is an increase in free radical formation (oxidants), so our need for antioxidants increases,” she said.
There are two other ways to increase mental health and boost the body’s ability to manage stress. Probiotics and prebiotic fiber help boost the good bacteria in the gut, which play critical roles in regulating brain chemicals. For reducing the effects of stress, consider adaptogens such as astragalus root, schisandra berry, licorice root, or eleutherococcus root (Siberian ginseng). Adaptogens balance the body’s glandular system, allowing it to respond to stress and regulate hormone levels more effectively.