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Healthy food, healthy brain?

Friday April 12, 2019

We are in the midst of a scientific revolution linking better nutrition to better brain health. Although terms like mood food and brain food have been used for a long time, nutritional research has only recently begun to reveal how true this actually is.

 

 

A large number of studies from all over the world have found connections between what people eat and their mental health. The same pattern seems to be true no matter what your background, culture or country. Diets higher in fruits and vegetables and lower in processed foods are associated with much better mental health

 

Diets high in fat, refined sugars and additives and low in nutrients can affect behaviour and learning in children. Depression and anxiety is much more common in people whose diets are low in vegetables and fruits and higher in processed foods, in fact what you are eating now can predict whether you will develop these problems later. And people who eat minimally processed, plant-based diets tend to have slower cognitive decline with age and reduced risk of developing dementia or Alzheimer's disease.

Why does nutrition have such wide-ranging effects? Because many vital processes in your brain, including energy production, neurotransmission and nerve growth and repair require nutrients to happen – they are essential building blocks and co-factors for brain metabolism. Simply, your brain is dependent on optimal nutrition for mental health.

Eating well for better mental health is much easier than you might think. With some very basic guidelines and a little bit of motivation you can clean out your cupboards and enjoy a new, ultra healthy way of eating.


Go green

Regular consumption of green leafy vegetables ensures a very high intake of micronutrients, as these are the most nutritionally dense foods we can eat. Aim for at least one serving every day. Plant-based foods can include proteins too - experiment with Tofu, tempeh, and edamame, nuts and legumes, chia or hemp seeds, mycoprotein - there is an ever-growing variety of options to try.

Berries, berries, berries

The vibrant colour of fresh berries reveals their unusually high level of phytonutrients, especially those with brain benefits. Try to eat about 150 grams at least three times a week.

Go nuts

Almonds, walnuts and pistachios (raw, unsalted) improve your heart health, which improves your brain health and they are great as a snack or on salads. Aim for a small handful most days.



Avoid ‘Grain Brain’

In his book Grain Brain, neurologist Dr. David Perlmutter exposes the surprising effects of wheat, carbs and sugar on your brain. Avoid refined cereals, added sugars and sweets - your brain health depends on it.

 


Tasty Vegetables


Eating well for better mental health is much easier than you might think. With some very basic guidelines and a little bit of motivation you can clean out your cupboards and enjoy a new, ultra healthy way of eating.



Aimée Benbow, BSc (Hons), MSc, ANutr. is Director of Nutrition at Viridian Nutrition.

 


The information contained in this article is not intended to treat, diagnose or replace the advice of a health practitioner. Please consult a qualified health practitioner if you have a pre-existing health condition or are currently taking medication. Food supplements should not be used as a substitute for a varied and balanced diet.

 

TAGS: Brain HealthDiet, Cognitive Health

 

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