BY Tara Baker
We all know that food affects how we feel and how we look. But can food improve your mental health?
Mental health is important at every stage of life, from childhood and adolescence through to adulthood. It helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others and make daily choices. Just as we have foods to support our gut health, our brain, like other organs requires enough vitamins, minerals and antioxidants to protect us from stress, anxiety, depression and impaired brain function.
Eating nutrient-dense foods rich in vitamins, healthy fats, antioxidants and minerals doesn’t just fuel us in a purely physical way, it helps us grow new brain cells, warding off illnesses such as depression and dementia.
Here are 10 brain foods that play a key role in mental health to add to your diet.
1 cup of lentils contains a whopping 90% of your daily recommended intake of folate - a vitamin responsible for regulating DNA and producing neurotransmitters such as serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine to regulate your mood, sense of pleasure and clarity. Plus, lentils are a hefty source of magnesium, a mineral responsible for stimulating brain growth and controlling blood sugar.
The avocado is full of healthy monounsaturated fats which help lower blood pressure and support cognitive function. Not only is it a healthy fat of course, but it’s delicious!
It’s no surprise that fermented foods make for a happy gut, but you may be surprised to learn that probiotic-rich foods also support brain function. In fact, bacteria in the gut produces two essential neurotransmitters, serotonin and dopamine. But be careful. Not all yoghurts are made equal. Make sure to avoid the pre-sweetened varieties at the grocery store and opt for unflavoured types instead. Not convinced yoghurt is delicious without all that sugar? Try adding your own natural sweeteners such as honey or berries.
This fatty fish makes us happy thanks to its high concentration of nervonic acid (a monounsaturated fat), and omega-3 (a polyunsaturated fat) both of which help insulate and stimulate brain cells. When you aren’t getting enough omega 3 fatty acids, you can experience memory problems, fatigue and poor focus. Not only does salmon increase your focus and allow you to better absorb information, but it can also help fight depression and anxiety.
The high concentration of Vitamin K in this dark green leafy vegetable ensures your brain receives oxygen and helps insulate brain cells. Get creative and add a handful of the good stuff to your next smoothie.
This super spice gets its signature yellow hue from curcumin, a potent anti-inflammatory ingredient that prevents plaque buildup in the brain. Tumeric latte anyone?
These deep red root vegetables are chock-full of natural nitrates to boost blood flow to the brain and improve cognitive performance.
This divisive, cruciferous vegetable is an essential source of choline, a nutrient that boosts your mood, energy and focus while improving memory. It has also been shown to prevent cognitive decline by regulating inflammation. So, while a lot of people LOVE broccoli (myself included) we also know that there are plenty of haters out there. Perhaps it’s worth giving the little green trees another shot?
This kitchen staple contains hydroxytyrosol, a phythonutrient prized for its ability to protect the lining of blood vessels and oxygen supply to the brain. For an extra nutritional boost, use extra virgin olive oil in salad dressings or dips.
This bold herb is a fragrant source of antioxidant-rich phytonutrients which help enhance memory and concentration by facilitating blood flow to the brain.
Osteoarthritis is a very common disease and is the most common cause of difficulties with mobility and disability in older people. It is also common in younger and middle-aged people. Approximately 5% of people between 35 and 54 years of age have osteoarthritis. Many of these people have injured their joint earlier in life. Approximately 30% of the population between 50 and 70 years of age have problems related to osteoarthritis and the percentage increases in older age groups.
Osteoarthritis affects the whole joint, but most of all it affects the articular cartilage (the cartilage covering the ends of the bones). This articular cartilage becomes thin and fragile. This can be due to healthy cartilage being exposed to heavy loads over a long period of time (for example, very heavy labour over several years) or unhealthy cartilage that for some reason cannot handle normal loads.
You may have heard osteoarthritis described as ‘wear and tear’ of the joint. This statement is incorrect because loads are still needed to keep cartilage healthy. In a healthy joint, there is a balance between the regeneration and degeneration of cartilage. Osteoarthritis occurs when there is more degeneration (breakdown) than regeneration of cartilage. This can cause cartilage to thin, crack, and maybe disappear. However, cartilage needs a certain amount of load to regenerate. This is why healthy loads need to be applied on joints for cartilage recovery.
Currently, there is no known way of curing cartilage loss. Treatment is used to reduce symptoms and improve function of the joint. Learning about osteoarthritis is an important part of the treatment. Special exercises can be done to relieve pain and boost joint function. When function improves, the next step is to get more active. Being physically active can help maintain weight loss and improve overall health. People who have osteoarthritis should do these things as early as possible.
Exercising has added benefit for people with osteoarthritis. Nutrients are pumped in and out of the cartilage when it is loaded and unloaded. This promotes growth and reformation of the cartilage, boosting its strength. Exercising will have your joints moving through their range of motion. This will make it easier to do everyday things you used to have trouble with (putting on socks, climbing stairs, getting in and out of the car). Exercise helps build stronger muscles, which helps make daily activities easier. Exercising will train your coordination - the ability to use the right muscles at the right time with the right amount of force. This will make it easier to control movements like walking on uneven ground.
Exercise is essential for knee osteoarthritis but currently few Australians with osteoarthritis participate in exercise despite its proven benefits. At Intune Sports and Physio we will soon be launching a program called GLA:D® (Good Life with Arthritis: Denmark). GLA:DTM Australia is an education and exercise program developed by researchers in Denmark for people with hip or knee osteoarthritis symptoms. GLA:DTM Australia is a program for all individuals who experience any hip and/or knee osteoarthritis symptoms regardless of severity.
The program includes two education sessions and twelve group exercise sessions over an eight-week period. The program has been successfully run in Denmark, Canada, China and most recently here in Australia. Research from the GLA:D® program in Denmark found symptom progression reduces by 32%. Other outcomes include less pain, reduced use of joint related painkillers and increased levels of physical activity twelve months after starting the program.
Further details can be found at gladaustralia.com.au or by contacting Intune Sports and Physio on 5493 1999.
If you or someone you know may be interested in the GLA:DTM Australia program, come along to a free information and education session on at 11am on Thursday 21st February at our Birtinya facility. For more information and to book a place, contact Intune Sports and Physio on 5493 1999.
Brodie Gardner has a Masters in Exercise Physiology, Honours in Sports Science and competes as a professional triathlete. He has a long history working with elite athletes and has provided consultation services to numerous Australian sporting associations.