Nutrition for cognition - dietary changes for mental clarity
Whilst mental health issues need to be dealt with by a trained professional, there are many things you can do to help promote your mental health. Mental health is linked with physical health, and it's only recently that scientists have started to conduct research into this relationship.
Experts are well aware of the significant impact diet has on mental health. However, they are only just beginning to explore how the brain can be specifically influenced by the different nutrients we consume.
So here is some basic advice on how to improve your nutrition in order to support mental health. For more detailed information based on your particular health needs, please consult a qualified nutritionist.
- Add turmeric spice to your cooking. This has anti-inflammatory properties will help to reduce cell damage and the progression or onset of disease.
- Fruit (>2 daily) and vegetables (>5 daily), two of which should be purple such as blackberries, blueberries plums, aubergines and purple sprouting broccoli. The polyphenols they contain are thought to ward off Alzheimer's.
- Essential fats from oily fish such as wild caught salmon and mackerel, avocado, raw nuts and seeds. Numerous studies have linked omega 3 fats with improved brain health and the deceleration of mental decline.
- Legumes— beans, lentils, soy, chickpeas and beans sprouts (e.g. alfalfa, mung).
- Complex carbohydrates with lower GI (e.g. wholegrain bread, wholemeal pasta and wholegrain rice, spelt and rye breads, buckwheat noodles).
Water, one to two litres a day, and non-caffeinated teas (especially organic green tea) plus vegetable juices
chamomile tea — has a calming effect on the digestive and nervous systems.
- Excess coffee, tea and other sources of caffeine.
- Trans-fats (e.g. chips, fish burgers, chicken nuggets, crisps, pies, sausage rolls, donuts), hydrogenated fats, salt, fast foods, added sugar (such as in soft drinks, lollies, biscuits, cakes, breakfast cereals, shop bought sauces) and processed foods (e.g. white bread, white pasta, pastries).
- High alcohol intake —however small amounts such as one glass daily of red wine may help prevent dementia.
- Chemical additives — artificial sweeteners, preservatives, colourings and flavourings.
- Gluten - gluten intake may be associated with brain fog and reduced ability to focus. If you suspect a link or if you have a diet high in wheat-based products such as bread and pasta, remove them from your diet, keep a food diary and see if you notice the difference.
Particular nutrients which may help are:
Vitamin D (cholecalciferol), Vitamin C, Vitamin E, CoEnzyme Q10, DHA omega 3 from fish oils, folic acid and vitamin B12.
Finally, give meditation and mindfulness a shot. Numerous studies now link longevity and improved mental health with meditation. Give your mind the space it needs to grow. For those who are time poor start off with home CDs or online resources. A simple but effective way to build calm into your day.
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