Category Archives: Nutrition Education

Confessions of a dietitian. My kids eat doughnuts.

My children surprise me time and time again with their eating and their ability to hone in on their own needs and internal cues… if only I give them a chance. 

With my oldest turning 8 this week she is exposed to different foods in places outside our home. Sweets at youth club, biscuits for sale at school (yes really in the playground), cake at groups. Totally a time for her to put into practise all her intuitive eating skills and experiement away from me. 

With Miss K being my first child, she is also the one that I weaned first and did all the things wrong with first! Parenting is the hardest job for sure and there is no manual. So I was clear on limiting her biscuit intake and on keeping the sweets up high and on a pedestal. The sweet issue I had to totally back track on, explain I had dealt with this badly and it was time to try a new approach. The result is my kids eat sweets, regularly but they savour them and we have small amounts after a meal or as part of a snack. Today they have both had half an iced doughnut.  I don’t see restriction as the answer, I don’t want my children to grow up sugar-free or feeling cake is only for special occasions, but to appreciate all foods and know some things we eat less of.  I certainly don’t dish out cakes and sweets daily but I do have them around and part of life, Children need to learn how to eat and how to be around foods at home. Home is the training ground, the place to experiment, get things wrong and then try again. 

This weekend I was on a course and my parents looked after my kids. They all did a fabulous job at looking after each other. One thing I noticed was how well the mealtimes went. My mum was worried the smallest one especially had not eaten well and recounted the day to me, she had eaten well just not in what we would percieve to be a normal meal pattern. That’s toddlers! The kids had also convinced my mum to buy them doughnuts (grandparents prerogative) and where I would have cut these in half they had a whole one each…. my boy ate part of it and then gave it back when he had enough. Now this is the boy who I think could pretty much eat a whole chocolate cake – turns out I am wrong, again 😉 and very happy to be. 

So why am I writing all of this?  To show other parents that there is hope. That your children can be trusted around food, that they have an intuitive sense of what to have and how much. It may be that like me, you haven’t been perfect in your approach to food, well it’s not too late to change that and have a conversation with your children.

Here are 3 of my top tips:

  1. No foods are off limits or restricted. However as a parent you decide when to offer a food and what to offer. Your child decides what to eat from that selection and how much. If you have a cupboard of snacks like we do, then it is totally going to happen than you get asked for specific foods items from there, which could be totally fine but it’s working with your child to work out their hunger and what to put with their snack.
  2. Involve your children in the shopping and let them choose some of the foods, even if they are high sugar options you would prefer them not to have. It’s about learning how to have those foods safely, at home. 
  3. Let your children choose what to eat from a selection of food, without judgement. This is HARD. If you have provided a range of food then it is up to them to choose what to have and not up to you to tell them. Sometimes stepping back can allow your child to shine and show their independance off.

I’d love to hear your thoughts, experiences and problems. Do get in touch via social media, a blog comment or email.

The sugar summit and processed foods

Recently I was asked to speak on a panel at the Sugar Summit. This is a yearly meeting in Westminster aimed that brings together different stakeholders, from government, to charities, manufacturers, retailers, to talk about improving the the choices, policy and food environment around foods low in free sugars. This was an event organised by Sugar Wise who have a certification in place on processed foods. If you see this label on a food it is low in free sugars:

 

Being surrounded by food manufacturers one of the topics we discussed was processed foods.

1. Are all processed foods the same?

There seems to be a common misconception that processed foods are all bad and should all be avoided. Yet actually I don’t see that as true. Processed foods include frozen vegetables, fruit, tinned fish, cheese and bread. Food processing includes canning, freezing, baking and drying. So we really can’t get away from eating processed foods and we don’t actually need to. Food processing is something that has gone on since the start of the human race. There has always been a way of preserving foods. The issue now has become that some processed foods have become high fat, high sugar foods, foods to be eaten in smaller quantities and in moderation.

2. Should all processed foods be avoided?

Whilst the media/social media may give out the impression that processed foods are to be avoided at all costs, this is a very sweeping statement and pretty impossible to do. Tinned tomatoes, bread products, yoghurt and milk are all foods we eat regularly. Are they foods we need to avoid? Instead of avoiding processed foods, how about we see the processing of foods as essential and helpful. It makes food accessible and affordable. Suddenly vegetables can be kept in the freezer, out of season fruit is available all year round and a meal can be prepped in minutes out of the store cupboard. There are certainly some improvements that need to be made to some types of processed foods and this is where our focys needs to be. Working with food manufacturers, encouraging reformulation of sauces, biscuits, cereals and sweet foods is a great move.

3. Can processed foods actually be healthier?

Some processed foods are fortified with micronutrients that can improve their nutritional profile. Think breakfast cereals and plant based milks, margarines and flour. These foods can provide an important source of nutrients for people who may otherwise end up deficient. Frozen foods such as vegetables, fruit, beans and fish are processed and frozen fast, which means they can be better than the fresh versions which  may have travelling large distances and be stored for some time. 

All in all I think there is no way we can avoid all processed foods. Instead it is about being selective with the ones that we eat regularly. Check the label to see what has been added and compare to alternative brands. There are often reduced salt and sugar options that are better choices. 

I’d love to hear your views.

 

 

 

 

Diet and Depression

This is a topic I’ve been wanting to write about for ages and a media quote has spurred me on. I think we all know someone suffering from depression and the incidence seems to be on the rise. Depression is a multi-factorial disorder, something that was highlighted to me in a conversation to a journalist this week. I don’t believe that just changing one thing will be the cure. You can have the perfect diet but could still suffer, so instead it’s seeing diet as part of the picture and combining this with medication, therapy, sleep patterns, exercise and all round lifestyle.

Looking through some of the recent evidence on diet and depression an instant pattern emerges. Eating a balanced diet that relies less on processed convenience foods and more on eating from scratch is the answer. More fruit and veggies, wholegrains, olive oil, fish, low fat dairy is associated with a decreased risk of depression. 

An antidepressant food score was worked out by researchers, looking at the nutrient density of foods that have clinical evidence for helping in depression. The top foods were oyster, seafood, organ meats, leafy greens, lettuce, peppers and cruciferous vegetables. 

Top antidepressant nutrients (in no particular order):

Folate

Iron

Omega 3’s 

Magnesium

Potassium

Selenium

Thiamine

Vitamin A

Vitamin B6

Vitamin B12

Vitamin C

Zinc

Tryptophan

Fluid

Now it’s usually more helpful to think about nutrients in terms of foods, so here are some top ways you can boost your antidepressant nutrient intake.

  1. Eat regular meals – the brain needs glucose as fuel and eating regularly helps prevent blood sugars dropping too low which can give symptoms of fatigue, tiredness, lethargy.
  2. Include healthy fats in the diet  to nourish the brain. Oily fish, nuts, seeds, olive oil are all good ones. Aim for 2 portions of oily fish a week.
  3. Wholegrain foods are good sources of zinc, and B vitamins. Think wholegrain bread products, brown rice, brown pasta, grains.
  4. Ensure you eat protein regularly for tryptophan, iron and zinc. Tryptophan is thought to play a key role as it is a precursor for the neurotransmitter serotonin. Wholegrains, fish, poultry, eggs and seeds can help with this.
  5. Green leafy veggies contain folate, iron, potassium and magnesium plus vitamin C. Another reason to get crunching your veggies.
  6. Orange veggies such as sweet potatoes, orange peppers, carrots and apricots plus green leafy veggies are sources of vitamin A.
  7. Even slight dehydration can affect your mood. The brain is 78% water. Reducing caffeine and replacing with non caffeinated drinks, mainly water will help. Moderate intake of alcohol can be ok but watch the interactions with medications and too much alcohol can increase anxiety/depression.

Following a Mediterranean style of eating with a focus on fruit, vegetables, wholegrains, protein, oily fish and healthy fats is a great way to help combat depression. It may not be the cure but it is definitely a large part of the puzzle. 

Dietary patterns and depression risk: A meta-analysis. Psychiatry Research, July 2017

Diet quality and depression risk: A systematic review and dose-response meta-analysis of prospective studies. Journal of Affective Disorders, January 15, 2018

Antidepressant foods: An evidence-based nutrient profiling system for depression. World J Psychiatry. 2018 Sep 20;8(3):97-104 

 

Low Carb Diets

Today has been all about carbohydrates as a new study was published in the Lancet. I’ve spoken on ITV new  and Wave 105 radio about it and  video/audio clips are at the end.

So what’s the low down?  This is a controversial topic as low carb diets have become popular. I’m not against this, but I do think it needs to be properly thought through and planned out. Low carb diets are used by some dietitians clinically for diabetes control, weight loss and for some metabolic disorders. However there is a way to do it right. Let’s break the latest study down:

👉 This was an observational study and it used food frequency questionnaires, so not the best data as this is self reported after the event. It is easy to forget what you eat or under/over-estimate. However the study  was followed over 25 yrs  with over 15,000 people taking part.

👉 A U-shaped relationship was found with increased mortality on a high carb or low carb diet. Low carb being <30% calories coming from carbohydrates. High carb being >60% calories coming from carbohydrates.

👉Eating moderate carbs (50-55% of total calories) was shown to be best. This is what our UK guidlines are based on so we already advise this. 

👉 Swapping carbs for plant based fats and proteins has better outcomes compared to animal products. So if you reduce your carbs it does matter what you replace them with.

👉 This study didn’t look at the type of carbs eaten. We want to be eating #wholegrains and reducing refined carbs (unless you have a medical reason to eat a low fibre diet).

👉 Eating lower carb may help weight loss and with diabetic control but it’s all about balance. Not overdoing it and taking all carbs out. Choose sensible sized portions of wholegrain carbs with meals.

👉 Everyone is individual. If you are more active you may need more carbs. If you are recovering from an eating disorder you may need more carbs. If you on a special diet you may need less carbs. If any of that applies to you then seek advice from a #Dietitan or #registerednutritionist.

One big issue that comes out of all of this is we keep on focusing on individual nutrients. It is not helpful to break food down and count the grams you are eating or the calories from each nutrient and could be triggering for an eating disorder. Food is complex, it is made up of many nutrients some of which we can’t even give a precise measure of. So once again we come back to common sense nutrition, eating sensible portions of balanced meals and listening to your internal cues of hunger/fullness.

 

Foods for Gut Health

Gut issues are something that plague a lot, if not all of us at some stage of life. Whether it is travellers diarrhoea, a tummy bug, IBS or something more serious, our gut plays a key role in our overall health and it’s pretty complicated science. So here is a little overview of top gut health foods and some science that I think is pretty fascinating.

Gut-Brain Cross Talk 

We all know that our brain send signals to our guts. When you are hungry or about to eat, the brain sends signals so the gut can get ready and start the necessary secretions.

However the gut also has an impact on the brain and a control centre of it’s own.  This is known as a the Gut-brain axis. You will know that if you feel anxious or stressed it can have an impact on your tummy. You may feel this as butterflies or have an upset tummy before a job interview for example. Or have a gut feeling on something – this isn’t made up! Some people can be more sensitive to their guts than others, but in terms of health conditions there are some foods that we can eat to help our guts. 

Research has shown that stress, anxiety and disease states affect the balance of bacteria and microbes in the gut.  This could be an illness or something like a job stress or family event.  For some this will not be lasting, but for some it is. As an example my boy had a stomach bug and this led to lactose intolerance which is usually transient and passes after a few weeks, for him it has lasted but I hope as he grows older it will pass. 

Some people seem more resilient than others. Having a health gut microbiome could help with this, we don’t currently know but research is being conducted on this. It makes sense though that eating well is a logical step.

What is the Microbiome?

Microbiome – collect of bacteria, fungi, viruses and microbes plus their genetic material that are inside the intestines. The microbiome contains 10x more microbial cells than all the humans cells in the body. 

Good Gut Foods:

A top tip I heard recently from Dr Megan Rossi is to aim to eat 30 plant based foods a week. This includes wholegrains, nuts, seeds, fruit and vegetables. I counted mine up and I think I’m hitting 20 different types so have some work to do! If like me, you aren’t at the 30 mark then try adding in one new plant based food a week. Whenever you shop you could take a look at something different in the veggie aisle you don’t usually buy. I’ve started growing different veggies to make us used them and try new recipes. You want different colours and different types to get the range of prebiotics, fibres and antioxidants too. 

Fermented Foods:

I’ve been working on incorporating these into my own diet more as I’ve have a gut condition and when it is flared up it usually reminds me to attend to my gut microbiome. 

Foods that I try to make at home are live yoghurt, sometimes kefir and sourdough bread (if I am in a baking mood as it takes a while). Right now I’m in yoghurt mode. I heat the milk until I can just keep my finger in for 30 seconds. Then let it cool for a couple of minutes, stir in 3 tbsps of live yoghurt and leave it in a thermos flask (I have this one – but I don’t use their sachets) or somewhere warm for 8-12 hours. I like mine thick so leave it 12 hours.  I used to make yoghurt years ago as a student using a pyrex jug, leaving it covered with a tea cosy on the parcel shelf of my car in the sun! You can also buy Kefir in a lot of places and there are plenty of other fermented foods to try.

Fermented Foods
Kefir
Kombucha
Live yoghurt
Sauerkraut
Kimchi
Dry fermented sausage
Miso
Pickled foods

Probiotics:

Theses are the beneficial microbes that can help health benefits and alter your microbiome. They are known as  live cultures in foods. For example live yoghurt. Now whilst they can be bought as a supplement the problem is unless you know exactly which ones you need in your body you don’t know which ones to take. There is a probiotic guides that show the strains used in research studies that give benefits in different conditions, which can be useful when you need an idea of what to take, the amount and for how long. But we definitely need more research to enable us to be more specific. 

Prebiotics:

These are foods for the gut bacteria. Fibre, polyphenols and inulin being examples of the nutrients that help. There are loads of prebiotic foods and it is likely you are already eating some. They are the plant based foods – so increase these in your diet and you will be helping your gut. Examples include Jerusalem artichokes, garlic, onion, asparagus, legumes, leeks, bananas, apples, oats, barley, flaxseeds and even seaweed.

If you want to read a more in depth article that I have written for a nutrition magazine on this topic then do take a look here:

Issue 126 fermented foods IBS and microbiome

 

 

Eggs, a natural sleep aid?

There has been some chatter this week about eggs helping you sleep better. As a nation we are certainly not sleeping enough and not getting enough decent sleep. So can an egg help?

Personally I think eggs are amazing and underlooked. They are packed with nutrition in such a small space. Eggs are around 60-78kcals depending on their size. They are great protein source and also contain a whole range of micronutrients. With vitamin D to help top up those sunshine vitamin levels, Iron and zinc which specifically can be low in teenage girls and young women. Then B vitamins for energy release (we all need that). Thinking about brain development, pre-conception nutrition and pregnancy they contain folate, selenium and iodine too. So they are definitely something to be eating regularly, even daily.

Eggs are low in terms of glycaemic index so can help stabilise your blood sugars too. Back to the sleep. Eggs contain tryptophan which is an essential amino acid that acts as a natural sedative. The body can use it to make melatonin and serotonin, these aid our sleep.  The synthesis of serotonin from tryptophan derives from a two-step process with the rate of serotonin synthesis dependent on tryptophan concentrations in the brain. Because serotonin is involved in the regulation of mood and anxiety, eating eggs  may contribute to helping with anxiety and depression as well as sleep. 

Eating an egg along with carbohydrate help to decrease the other competing amino acids in the bloodstream due to the increase of insulin that occurs. So a great way to have your egg would be with a slice of wholemeal toast. 

Further Reading:

Eggs are good: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27126575

Daily Mail: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/food/article-5993327/Dietitian-reveals-one-sleep-aid-eat-dinnertime-quality-shut-eye.html

A great review on diet and sleep: http://www.michaelgrandner.com/files/papers/grandnerjackson2013-dietsxs.pdf

 

 

Body Confidence for the next generation

I’m passionate about raising my kids to love their bodies, to be confident, body positive and to know how truly beautiful they are inside and out. 

A recent post I shared on facebook showed how many others are also passionate about this and how as parents we play such a major role in shaping our children’s thinking. It’s a hugely responsible role and probably not one I am going to get 100% right, but I’m going to try. 

As a child I was brought up knowing I was 100% capable. I believed in myself and knew I could do something if I set my mind to it and put the work in. That has stuck with me. So therefore how we talk about our bodies and our childrens bodies will also stick with them.

Little comments stick. Whether it is commenting on a body part or the way you talk about clothes no longer fitting it counts. I had the luxury of a loving set of parents who didn’t talk much about diets and bodies (thanks parentals – you rock). However still other influences from close family friends and family members meant I had some phrases that stuck with me and undoubtedly shaped some of my views on myself. I’ve shaken those off now. Getting older has it’s perks 😉 

So how should we be talking to our children? I’m no expert but here are my thoughts and those of my 7 year old – Miss K

  1. Always be positive about your body. If there are parts you are not keen on don’t make it into a big deal in front of your children. 
  2. Talk to your children about body sizes and shapes. How we are all different and that is ok. How it is health that counts and not looks. How there is no ideal body shape and that many toys are not real-life. (BTW Barbies are not welcome in my house we have Lottie dolls instead).
  3. I love the phrase radical acceptance. All people are accepted at the size and shaoe they are. Look beyond to see the actual person, their character, their postives, their dreams and encourage that,
  4. Keep away from diets, intense exercise for weight loss purposes and weight loss aids/supplements in front of children, they will pick up on these things.
  5. Try not to weigh people in your house – is it really needed? The scales do not show much apart from a number. That number is affected by some many factors other than just what we eat. I have scales for work purposes and the children do play with them now and again but there is no judgement, just genuine interest. 
  6. Focus on character and traits instead of physcial size/shape. Let your kids know what they are great at and how that is what defines them. 
  7. Role model a good relationship with food. All foods are allowed, there is no good/bad. If your and food need some work, then perhaps now is the time to seek out help with that. Someone like myself who can support you and take you on a journey to improve your relationship and show your kids a great way forward. 

I’d love to hear your thoughts too…

Childrens Yoghurts – how to choose a good one

Yoghurt is one of those confusing foods. You want your children to be eating it and getting in their calcium, but so often yoghurts can be laden with sugar. Personally I encourage my children to eat yoghurt daily, it is our go-to dessert after our evening meal. To help you, I’ve come up with a ranking of children’s yoghurts and give my verdict on those to have in the fridge everyday and those to leave for occasional consumption.

Why the confusion? Well firstly the choice is overwhelming. Walk down the yoghurt aisle and you are bombarded with brands, health claims, cartoon characters, pots, tubs, pouches. What should you choose and how do you know?

Let’s talk about sugar. Yoghurt contains lactose which is a naturally occuring sugar and not one children need to cut down on. However you cannot easily differentiate between these sugars and the added free sugars. A general rule of thumb is the first 5g per 100g of total sugars is lactose. The sugars to keep an eye on are the free sugars. These are any sugars added to food/drink. These could be written as sugar, honey, syrup, agave, fruit juice for example. If you look at a yoghurt label and it is 8.5g total sugars then you can estimate about 5g is lactose and so 3.5g is added sugars.

In this blog we are focusing on children. Children aged 4-6 should have no more than 19g free sugars a day and 7-10yrs no more than 24g free sugars a day. For children under 4 yrs there is no guideline figure, it’s just keeping added sugar low and avoiding it where possible.

Labelling reading:

You can rank a food as high/low in total sugar using this guide:

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So in the instance of Full Fat Greek Yoghurt you can see that there are actually no added sugars in this. The sugar in it is all coming from the lactose and there is no sugar mentioned in the ingredients list confirming our thoughts. 

Compared it to this children’s yoghurt which definitely has added sugar. The label shows it as 13.2g total sugars per 100g, so thats around 8.2g added sugars (almost half the recommended amount for a child aged 4-7yrs). The label confirms this showing is has added sugar and the raspberry juice is also added sugar.

So it definitely pays to look at the label when buying yoghurts. If you are comparing several yoghurts it is best to compare them per 100g, Scroll down to see a table with a range of common children’s yoghurt in that have the sugar content per 100g with a quick ranking  done for you.

My Top Picks:

  1. Greek Style Yoghurts or Greek Yoghurt. For growing children I would always pick a full fat option, I eat the full fat version myself in fact. It may seem boring compared to other choices but you can add your own toppings at home – low sugar granola, dried fruit, fresh fruit, nuts, seeds, frozen berries,
  2. Natural Yoghurt is also a winner.
  3. Skyr is a low sugar yoghurt due to the way it is made, even the flavoured ones are low in sugar so these are good options if you want a flavoured yoghurt.

The Worst Offenders:

 Anything with chocolate, added crunch, pureed fruit and most of the squeezy pouches. This of course does not meant you cannot ever give these to your children but it is about the balance. I’m not in favour of cutting foods out or saying a blanket no. However I would recommend keeping these yoghurts as occasional choices. Think about where else they get added sugars from in their diet? Also check the portion size as some of these products are very large portions and you could halve them, thus halving the sugar too. In our house we keep diferent yoghurts as an occasional change or we mix our yoghurt and add something sweeter to the Greek yoghurt. 

Name Portion Size in grams (g) Sugarsper 100g in grams (g) Ranking 1(best)-5(worst)
Greek Yoghurt

100

5.4

1

Yeo Valley Natural Yoghurt

150

5.6

1

Arla Natural Skyr Yoghurt

150

4

1

Petits Filous My First Vanilla Fromage Frais

47

4.8

1

Arla Raspberry Skyr Yoghurt

150

8.3

2

Petits Filous Organic Variety Fromage Frais

50

8.8

2

Tesco Strawberry Yogurt Drink

100

9.1

2

Petits Filous Strawberry Raspberry Fromage Frais

85

9.9g

2

Peppa Pig Strawberry Fromage Frais

45

10

2

Paw Patrol Strawberry Fromage Frais

45

9.9

2

Petits Filous Magic Squares Raspberry Vanilla Yogurt

80

10.8

2

Frubes Variety Yogurt Pack

40

10.9

2

Munch Bunch Fruit Fromage Frais

42

12.7

3

Wildlife Choobs Strawberry Raspberry And Apricot Yogurt

40

12.8

3

Munch Bunch Squashums Limited Edition

60

12.1

3

Petits Filous Strawberry Raspberry Yogurt

100

12.2

3

Munch Bunch Squashum Strawberry Yogurt Drink

90

12.7

3

Actimel Multifruit Yogurt Drink

100

12.2

3

Munch Bunch Double Strawberry Raspberry Yogurt

85

12.5

3

Munch Bunch Double Up Strawberry Vanilla Yogurt

85

12.5

3

Frubes Strawberry And Raspberry Yogurt Pouches

70

13.2

4

Star Wars Strawberry Raspberry Yogurt Pouch

70

13.2

4

Smarties Split Pot Yogurt

120

15

4

Muller Corner Banana Yogurt Crunch Yogurt

135

16.7

5

Muller Corner Strawberry Crunch Yogurt

135

17.1

5

Muller Corner Vanilla Chocolate Balls Yogurt

135

17.7

5

Muller Corner Toffee Chocolate Hoops Yogurt

135

18.4

5

Milkybar Little Treats

60

21.1

5

Nestle Rolo Dessert

70

25.4

5

Cadbury Dairy Milk Pots Of Joy Caramel Dessert

70

26

5

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Breastfeeding and the Microbiome

Breastfeeding is something I am quite passionate about, partially because I’ve breastfed 3 children, for a total of 4.5 years. That’s a lot of feeds and little sleep 😉 however totally worth it in terms of the impact on their long term health. 

Now this is totally not meant to be a dig at anyone who cannot breastfed or who chooses not to breastfeed. Breastfeeding is blimming hard work. I’ve been through mastitis, blocked ducts, nursing strikes, bleeding nipples, tongue ties x 3, nursing strikes, expressing (such a faff!) and babies who just want to feed forever. So I totally get that how you feed your baby is your choice and for many combination feeding or formula feeding is the way forward. I planned to only breastfeed my first for 6 weeks, then 3 months, then till weaning. Small goals and steps helped me. However I also have ladies in my postnatal pilates classes who just cannot get on with breastfeeding and for them using formula saves their sanity. 

Ultimately we all know breastmilk is amazing stuff, so if you can breastfeed I heartily recommend you do it. Here I’m sharing an article I wrote for Network Health Digest on how breastmilk affects the microbiome of the infant. Fascinating stuff. 

Issue 135 breastfeeding and the microbiome

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Eating to boost your brain.

There is a huge connection between diet and brain function, how we eat can literally improve our cognitive function, our thinking, our mood, our memory. Which is fantastic news, as it doesn’t have to be expensive or too complicated. 

Here I review some of the evidence on the diets that improve our brain health and give some simple top tips of foods to eat more.

© Andrey KiselevID 7721961 | Dreamstime Stock Photos

The Brain Positive Diets:

  1. Mediterannean diet – this is known to be a good way to eat for heart health, but did you know that eating for your heart health will also help your brain function? A study on 447 adults over 4 years looked at mediterranean diet (fruit and vegetables, wholegrains, fish and lean protein with moderate red wine) plus 1 litre a week of olive oil and 30g mixed nuts per day. When compared to a control group there was better performance in cognitive tests. 
  2. Mind Diet – this is a tweaked version on the Med diet, with a greater emphasis on berries and leafy greens. Following the diet has been linked to a reduction in cognitive age of 7.5yrs and a reduction in Alzhiemers risk.

The Brain Positive Foods:

Oily Fish – those all important omega-3’s are key for cognitive function. Studies have shown a link between eat  fish slowing cognitve decline.  Yes you can get some of these from plant based foods but the conversion rate is not as good so if you do eat fish, this is the better option. Other foods that contain omega 3’s are shellfish, algae and caviar.

Nuts – at least 5 servings of 30g per week seems to be the key. Some research suggests a positive affect with mixed nuts and other research focuses on walnuts.

Wholegrains  – these usually have a more beneficial effect on blood sugars giving more consitent glucose levels for the brain. They also contain B vitamins which may help slow brain shrinkage and improve cognitive function. 

Beans, pulses and meat – these contain good levels of the B vitamins which are thought to help brain function. Organ meats contain a good level of Vitamin B12 which has been shown to be correlated to a reduced dementia risk.

Fruit and Veggies – oxidative stress is one of the primary mechanisms of age related brain decline. The brain is vulnerable to free radical damage and so eating food with a good mix and level of antioxidants will help. There are numerous studies looking at the correlation between eating more fruit and veg and brain function. Folate is another key nutrient for brain health and is found in those leafy greens. Vitamin E in seeds, nuts and avocado is a key antioxidant.

Berries – Some small scale but interesting studies suggest a link where having berry juice or more berries in the diet may improve your memory.  It’s definitely worth a try!

Flavanoids – these powerful micronutrients are found in red wine, green and berries. There is an indication that maybe flavanoids could help reduce dementia and cognitive decline.

Green Tea – again these are small scale studies but 2 cups a day may help your brain function.

Top 10 brain foods to eat:

  1. Leafy Green and fruit and veg in general.
  2. Nuts, especially walnuts.
  3. Berries.
  4. Beans and Pulses.
  5. Wholegrains.
  6. Oily fish, seafood, caviar and seaweed.
  7. Lean meat, poulty and organ meat.
  8. Seeds and avocado
  9. Moderate Red wine and Green Tea.
  10. Dark chocolate in small amounts.

So you can see that eating a diet rich in fruit and vegetables, with wholegrains plus some oily fish and lean meat is a positive way to eat for your brain. Add in regular nuts, seeds, beans and pulses then smaller amounts of red wine, green tea and dark chocolate and you are onto a winner. It’s a no-brainer 😉 

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