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Food for the brain

rachelCIn support of the Mental Health Foundation’s Mental Health Awareness week initiative, many of us have been taking part in physical activity and other initiatives related to mental health and wellbeing.  So I thought… how else can we promote mental wellbeing within our organisation?

Our diets can also play an important part in our mental wellbeing.  While some research remains controversial, there is evidence that a diet that including “brain foods” may improve your coordination and memory, enhance your reactions and combat stress.  So I thought I’d bring a sample of such foods to snack on this week.

Further interesting findings are outlined below.

  • Skipping meals, eating junk food and following fad diets have been found to be detrimental to your brain health.
  • Your brain cells need double the energy as the rest of your body’s cells.  With that in mind, complex carbohydrates are the best sources of energy.  These include brown or wild rice, whole meal bread, brown pasta and whole grain cereal.
  • It is recommended that ~50% of your diet is made up of carbohydrates.  Much more and it can lead to feeling fatigued, but get it right and it can boost your serotonin levels (a hormone that plays an important part in regulation of learning, mood and sleep).
  • Amino acids allow your brain cells to communicate.  You can boost the supply of amino acids to your brain through the consumption of meat, fish, egg whites, beans, peas and lentils.
  • Antioxidants have been found to play a crucial role in combating Alzheimer’s disease.  Some antioxidants, along with vitamin C and vitamin E, shield your brain from cell damage that causes dementia. Oranges, berries, tomatoes, green vegetables, avocados and nuts are all high in antioxidants. Vitamin E is found in most fruit and vitamin C is in most vegetables and citrus and tropical fruits.
  • Reaction times have been shown to be improved by increasing zinc levels.  Pumpkin seeds represent a good source.
  • Blueberries activate neurons in your brain which help to keep you alert.
  • We all know the value of staying hydrated by drinking water.  This not only hydrates your body but also your brain.
  • Fatty acids (you may have heard of Omega-3) are also thought to combat dementia by providing oxygen and glucose to the brain, and these can be found in salmon and other oily fish.

You can find out more about how your diet affects mental wellbeing here.

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