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Where essential Vitamin and Minerals are hiding in your kitchen

The 13 essential vitamins are A, C, D, E K and the B vitamins: thiamine (B1 ), riboflavin (B2 ), niacin ( B3 ), pantothenic acid ( B5 ), pyridoxine ( B6 ), biotin ( B7 ), folate ( B9 ) and cobalin ( B12 ).

You can obtain these through the food you choose to eat but you may benefit from supplementing some of them with vitamin and mineral products depending on your diet and health status. 

Here’s a simple good to what you need and why.

Vitamin A

Good for: maintaining healthy skin and a good immune system.

Found in: cheese, eggs, milk, oily fish and yoghurt.

Vitamin C

Good for: maintaining healthy skin, blood vessels, bones and cartilage.

Found in: oranges, red and green peppers

Vitamin D

Good for: keeping bones, teeth and muscles healthy.

Found in: salmon, sardines, red meat and other oily fish.

Vitamin E

Good for: maintaining healthy skin and eyes.

Found in: plant oils such as soya and olive oil, nuts and seeds.

Vitamin K

Good for: healing wounds.

Found in: green leafy vegetables such as spinach and broccoli, vegetable oils and cereal grains.

The B Vitamins 

Thiamine ( B 1 )

Good for: keeping the nervous system healthy.

Found in: peas, fresh and dried fruit, eggs and wholegrain breads.

Riboflavin ( B 2 )

Good for: keeping skin, eyes and the nervous system healthy.

Found in: milk, eggs and rice.

Niacin ( B 3 )

Good for: keeping the nervous system and skin healthy.

Found in: meat, fish, wheat flour, eggs and milk.

Pantothenic Acid ( B 5 )

Good for: supporting energy release from food.

Found in: chicken, beef, potatoes, porridge, tomato, kidney, eggs, broccoli and wholegrains.

Pyrixodine ( B 6 )

Good for: allowing the body to use and store energy from protein and carbohydrates in food.

Found in: poultry, pork, fish and eggs.

Biotin ( B 7 )

Good for: helping the body break down fat.

Found in: a wide range of foods such as almonds but in very low levels.

Folate ( B 9 )

Good for: forming healthy red blood cells.

Found in: leafy green vegetables, peas, chickpeas and brussel sprouts

Cobamalin ( B 12 )

Good for: making red blood cells and keeping the nervous system healthy.

Found in: meat, salmon, cod, milk, cheese and eggs. Important to consider supplementation if following a vegetarian or vegan diet.

Keep well, Dr Clara Russell

Do you Tik Tok?

Are you doing Tik Tok?

The app phenomenon can be good for brain health, and for all ages, but in moderation, mind.
TikTok has 800 million active users worldwide.


And 41 percent of TikTok users are aged between 16 and 24. It has has been downloaded 467 million times in India alone – nearly one-third of its total downloads.


Born in 2012, Til Tok is a Chinese video-sharing social networking service owned by a Beijing-based internet technology company and the app is used to create short dance, lip-sync, comedy and talent videos.

Their mission is to inspire creativity and bring joy, which they seem to be doing on a global scale, with offices in Los Angeles, New York, London, Paris, Berlin, Dubai, Mumbai, Singapore, Jakarta, Seoul, and Tokyo.

It’s even become political platform ahead of US election according to the Financial Times. It’s popular with not just taste makers or fun seekers or brands looking to engage with a young audience, its also insanely popular in cultural and political movements.As I write this, there re 4.5 billion views on content with #blacklivesmatter


It’s similar to what Instagram did for photography — through filters and other photo editing settings, Instagram made it easier for people to create and distribute photos.The videos created using the app have music and are tall, not square, like on Snapchat or Instagram’s stories, and you navigate through videos by scrolling up and down, like a feed, not by tapping or swiping side to side.


And the reason that TikTok is good for your brain? It’s making it easier for people of all ages to become content creators. For example, the TikTok app gives people tools like filters, control over video speed, access to professional audio and more.

 Even if you’re not the best lip-syncer, you can still create something fun on TikTok with a music background.You can choose what personalised videos you want to see from comedy to culture, DIY and daily life, talent to tech, art to animals or beauty and style to food and fashion.Note: it can become highly addictive to watch and to do.
You can sign up here and for up to date and staggering stats on Tik Tok.

Scrolling Habits in the time of Covid-19

Are you spending hours on end going down a rabbit hole on Twitter or on tabloid news sites?
This is understandable, given the impact of COVID-19 and the impact it has had on all of our lives.

In some media quarters, inflammatory headlines and posts are amping up fear and anxiety which is not what any of us need right now.It may be time to have a Marie Kondo moment on your media intake. 

Here are some tips on how to strike a balance on the good and bad consumption habits which may have crept into your daily schedule.

  • Little and Not too often– It is of course important to be kept abreast of the latest news, try and restrict your consumption to no more than checking once or twice a day.
  • Be mindful- Click bait on news websites is designed to hook you in and keep you there, so please be mindful when you are on such sites, spending too much time on them, is the same as eating junk food, it should be consumed little and often.
  • How do you feel? Notice when you feel the urge to head onto social media or news platforms. What emotion is driving your compulsion – is is boredom, anxiety, fear or curiosity? Become aware of how you might be using news and social media platforms as a displacement activity – what re you trying to avoid doing, thinking or feeling? Are you procrastinating? Recognise your emotions and notice how you feel still and allow yourself to feel those feelings. Try not to distract yourself. What happens? Do those feelings linger or are you able to process them?
  • Time – Is there a better use of your time rather than scrolling? Drink water, make a cuppa or go for a short walk to try and switch off the need to constantly check news or social media.

Some of our favourite positive-focused news sources:

https://www.optimistdaily.com

/https://www.goodnewsnetwork.org

/https://www.positive.news/

Keep Well

Dr Clara Russell

4 ways what we eat can affect our sleep

Sleep is one of the most important things we can do to look after out brain health. Not only does regular quality sleep help us feel better in ourselves, it is also important for our memory and immune system. 

What we eat can affect our sleep

Both what we eat and drink and when we consume certain foods can impact both our ability to sleep and quality of sleep thereafter. 

If you are having difficulty sleeping, or waking up feeling unrested after ‘a good nights sleep’, it might be worth thinking about what you eat and drink in the hours running up to bedtime. 

1)Increase Melatonin rich foods

 Melatonin is a hormone released in the early evening usually to trigger our brain and body to start to prepare itself for sleep. Releasing enough melatonin and also this happening at the appropriate time is part of our natural routine that helps us sleep. 

In some countries melatonin can be purchased over the counter as a sleep aid and can be prescribed for certain age groups here in the UK. But tablets are not the only way to increase our natural production of melatonin. 

Sleep tip: Certain foods are known to help with melatonin release including cherries, oranges, grapes and tomatoes. Oats, nuts and seeds are non fruit options that will help with our natural melatonin production which not only helps us fall asleep at the right time  but can also improve sleep quality and improve overall energy. 

2)Caffeine

The worlds favourite stimulant, caffeine is consumed by most adults several times every day. Caffeine can boost our mood, energy levels and aid concentration. 

Too much caffeine and our sleep can be affected. Caffeine has a half life of up to 8 hours- meaning it still exerts effects on your metabolism during this time. Which is why the latte you had at 4pm or cups of tea after dinner can impact on your ability to fall asleep and also the quality of your sleep. 

Sleep tip: Stop caffeine after 2pm to ensure  a better nights sleep 

2) Spicy food– 

Food rich in spices close to bed time can cause stomach irritation which can affect our ability to sleep peacefully. But that isn’t the only reason spicy food can interrupt our zzzz – an ingredient found in spicy food, capsaicin, is thought to raise body temperature which can disrupt our sleep pattern. *

Sleep tip: Enjoy your spicy food earlier in the day 

4)Fatty foods

Food heavy in saturated fats can lead to longer sleep but quantity isn’t always quality. 

From studies looking at animals following a high fat diet they found these rats were more likely to be sluggish and lacking in energy despite the longer sleep duration**. Whilst animal studies have their limits, heading to bed after a big plate of fast food can certainly disrupt our sleep pattern. On top of this, digesting foods rich in saturated fad or additives can be harsh on our stomach which can also prevent us from getting a good nights rest. 

Keep Well,

Dr Clara Russell 

*https://www.nytimes.com/2008/06/17/health/17real.html

** https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/mnt/releases/247645#1

Immune System Support

Times they are a changing- slightly- but it’s important to remember that supporting our immune system as we continue to chart our way through this covid-19 storm is still extremely important 

An important way to help support our immune system is looking at what we put on our plates. Foods rich in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants are key to helping us stay at healthy.

What to eat to support your immune system:

  1. Pile up the green veg – spinach, kale and broccoli are excellent sources of vitamin A and Vitamin C, both big players within our immune system. Also rich in fibre which is important for our gut and the beneficial bacteria that live within out microbiome to help support our immune system. Cooked on their own, as a side dish or raw in a salad – mix it up and pile them high!
  1. Berry tastic – raspberries, strawberries and blueberries are not only delicious and in season but their bright colours are there due to their high anti oxidant content. These anti oxidants are helpful for all those free radicals that are present due to eating foods high in sugar and processed foods, stress and certain medications. As a snack on their own or added to natural yoghurt or smoothie these little powerhouses are great for your immune system
  1. Peppers – fun fact-red peppers actually contain more Vitamin C than an orange! Add to salads or onto the barbecue for a vitamin C packed crunch.
  1. Seeds and nuts – full of fibre which is good for your gut, omega 3 fats which are beneficial fats for your brain and also rich in immune supporting vitamin E- unsalted nuts including almonds, walnuts and Brazil nuts are a handy snack for these long lock down days.
  1. Mangoes- perhaps not as easy to get hold of, but still a tasty and refreshing source of Vitamin B6 and Vitamin C. A taste of sunshine!

https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/spiced-kale-crisps

https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/walnut-red-pepper-pesto-pasta

https://www.simplyrecipes.com/recipes/how_to_cut_a_mango/

Keep well

Dr Clara Russell

Sugar and your Brain

Why sugary foods can affect your mood

“The sugar high’ is something we are all familiar with both in ourselves and in our children – a sudden burst of energy that comes after eating sweet treats. 

But how does that sugar mood lift affect our brain cells?

A brain healthy diet recommends minimising refined sugar and processed foods- but why? 

A study done in Australia in 2015 showed that some parts of the brain are smaller in adults with diets high in sugar  and processed foods. In particular an area of the brain that is important for our memory – the hippocampus- was found to be affected.`**

Why? 

Sugary and processed foods are thought to affect our brain cells in a number of ways. 

One way sugar can cause damage is by triggering inflammation within our cells, 

Another effect of sugar is known as oxidative stress, often described as similar to rust in an old car.

How we food can help our mood 

Certain foods can protect our cells from oxidative stress. 

More research from Australian found replacing refined carbohydrates and processed foods for vegetables, whole foods and fish for 12 weeks reduced levels of moderate to severe depression*

Eating a diet rich in vegetables, oily fish, nuts, seeds and wholegrain have been shown to help protect our cells from the ‘rust’ that can be caused by processed foods and other aspects of our lifestyles including stress. 

Reducing Inflammation

Omega 3 fatty acids from food and Anti Oxidants ( known as flavonoids ) found in brightly coloured fruit and vegetables have been shown to help reduce inflammation.

High levels of inflammation have been found in people with depression and chronic diseases. 

The 2nd brain

Did you know our gut is known as the second brain? This is because the gut and brain are in direct communication. Foods that benefit the good bacteria in our gut are also thought to be helpful for our brain. Sources of probiotics have been shown to help with low mood and anxiety.

Research is ongoing about this hugely exciting area but including sources of fermented foods in our diet- such as kefir or sauerkraut-  can be beneficial to  both our Gut and Brain health 

There is no age too old or too young to start thinking about brain health and how we can help look after our amazing brains.  

Keep Well

Dr Clara Russell 

*https://foodandmoodcentre.com.au/smiles-trial/ 

**https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4563885/

Why kindness is good for our brain health.

“Be Kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle” Plato

We are talking a lot about Kindness at the moment and this is for good reason.

Last year, I had the opportunity to be involved with prospective medical students who were practising university interview questions and I was fortunate to be given the topic of empathy to discuss with them.

Thankfully (almost) every prospective medical student had a good grasp of what empathy meant-simply put, seeing something from another persons perspective. My favourite answer though included the sentence that expressing empathy isn’t just for people working in health care, empathy is important for everyone in everyday life.

Kindness is letting someone know we care and is a natural extension from having empathy for someone.

There are many scientific benefits to kindness – simple acts of kindness raise our happiness levels and can help us feel optimistic 

Psychology tells us that 5 small acts of kindness per week can boost our own mood – these simple acts can also help our energy and self esteem and can even help with our own feelings of low mood or anxiety. We benefit from these even more if we do these 5 acts of kindness in a single day. *

Why kindness is good for our brain health?

Our brain has something called mirror neurons- when we see someone cry, we feel sad, when we see someone laughing or smiling, we laugh or smile too. Our responses reflect what we see the other person experiencing. So this is why being kind is good for our brains as well as those we are being kind to. 

Kind today, kinder tomorrow

The more we practice being kind, the more our brain benefits from this and we can actually strengthen these mirror neurons. Children can benefit from this too and encouraging our children to have empathy and be kind to others is a really important part of helping their emotional well being. 

Keep well and be kind,

Dr Clara Russell 

*https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-happiness-project/201301/almost-any-types-acts-kindness-boost-happiness

Why a good night’s sleep can help your memory

What goes on in our brains when the lights are out

Sleep is essential for rest and repair of our bodies and minds. It is also vital for our immune system and broken non restful sleep and impact on our bodies ability to deal with disease. 

What happens when we sleep?

When we sleep our brain takes on a life of its own. Moving between the different stages of sleep including non REM and REM sleep our brain is processing what has happened in the previous day, or days. Our brain is managing memories and moving them into long term storage and also processing ‘a deep clean’- a benefit of sleep that is becoming increasingly of interest regarding risk for Alzheimers Disease. 

Dealing with emotions 

Whilst we are in REM sleep we have dreams that we may or may nor remember the following day, 

This REM stage of sleep also helps us process our feelings.  Research has shown that people who had their REM phase of sleep disrupted were still being annoyed by challenging events that had happened in the previous day. This was compared to those who had slept better who were more able to get some perspective on the emotions that had gone on before and therefore less irritable. I think we can all relate to that feeling!***

Anxiety

Poor sleep can also impact on our anxiety levels – a study in the US showed that one night’s poor sleep can increase anxiety levels up to 30% in some. 

‘A Deep Clean’? 

The non REM phase of sleep is where a lots of the hard work goes on. Reach has shown that during this stage of sleep, slow waves of fluid actually wash over the brain. 

Why does this matter ? This fluid clears the so called metabolic build up. Within this there are some proteins that are known to be associated with Alzheimers disease including Tau and beta amyloid

This cannot happen in our brains whilst we are awake as our neurons ( brain cells) are firing in different ways and all nutrients and oxygen are needed to help them do this. Essentially they are busy with the day job. *

Magic moments 

I always used to think that sleeping gave the brain a chance to switch off but this is totally not what is going on! 

Filing away memories is another key thing that happens whilst we are in the land of nod. Without enough sleep, our brains don’t get a proper chance to store what we have experienced. Research has showed that remembering something that has happened, even a small thing,  weeks or months later is easier for your brain if you have been sleeping well **

A good nights sleep is important for so many reasons four our brain health and overall well being

Simple ways to help get a good nights sleep:

  1. Regular Routine- not just for kids, we thrive on a sleep routine
  2. Keep your room dark and cool- cosy is a nice idea but having your bedroom too warm is a common reason for a disrupted sleep 
  3. Avoid caffeine after mid afternoon- yes even an afternoon cup of tea can impact our ability to fall asleep if we ares sensitive to it. 
  4. Eat early- going to bed whilst still digesting your evening meal or snacks can make it harder to us to sleep properly and get the rest we need
  5. Avoid screens in the evenings – especially at the moment, the stress and anxiety caused by late night scrolling is a real threat to getting a full nights rest and recharge. Blue light from our screens also confuses our natural melatonin production and confuses us as to when it is night time. 

Keep well, 

Dr Clara Russell 

*https://www.wired.com/story/scientists-now-know-how-sleep-cleans-toxins-from-the-brain/

**https://news.mit.edu/2009/memories-0624

***https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/psychiatry-and-sleep/201908/sleep-and-memory-how-they-work-together

Brain Feeling Fuzzy?

Forgetting things more than normal ? Tired? Irritable? Struggling to focus or ‘get stuff done’?

Everyday ways to give your brain a workout.

What to do with a case of the ‘whatjamacallits’

“Can you pass me the … that thing, you know the thing over there?”

“ I was talking to, you know, your man’s wife, works at the bank, brown hair you know who I mean don’t you? 

We all do it – forget names of people, places and things that we feel we should know. It’s easy to get annoyed when this happens, either with yourself, the person you are talking to, or sometimes even the inanimate object we are struggling to put a title to. Sometimes we start to worry when this happens too – is it a sign of something mores serious? Early onset Alzheimers? Something else? 

The good news is usually not – usually forgetting like this is a normal part of every day life and is made worse by distraction, lack of concentration, being tired or feeling stressed. ( So everything that we are all feeling at the moment) 

How to help your brain remember

Don’t reach for your google. It is so easy to put your hand on your pocket and type it into the pocket sized encyclopaedia we carry around with us that this is now the norm. For kids and adults alike we are inclined to look things up very quickly to a) get the answer and b) save time and get on with whatever it is we needed that name for.  Doing this stops us having to think or really put into action our memory and what it is there for 

Whilst this might be handy for some weird name of something you learned 10 years ago or if you are on a deadline, doing this quick look up several times a day for simple things might actually be weakening the areas of the brain that are so important in storing and accessing memories 

The hippocampus is a key area of the brain for memory storage as well as something called the pre frontal cortex (PFC). The PFC is very important for processing information, helping us make decisions and evaluate problems as well as managing complex tasks. So it’s important to keep both these brain areas ticking over. 

What to do?

Nothing! Next time you are thinking about that movie you loved last summer or the name of your P2 teacher, don’t rush to google. Pause, think, trust yourself that the answer will come to you. Let your memory muscles get a chance to work. 

Do one thing at a time

Multitasking is unproductive, inefficient and stressful. None of which is good for our brain health. And whilst we are in lockdown this can be particularly challenging. So focus on doing one thing at time.  

The biggest challenge to achieving this? Our mobile devices – breaking our train of thought whilst we are doing something for just a few seconds can increase the chance we will make mistakes with the task we are trying complete. Some experts say the chance of making a mistake triples when we check out phone mid job for just seconds!

This can impact our stress hormones and this in turn can have a negative effect on our short term memory.

What to do to get stuff done?

  • If you have to get through your to do list, move your phone out of the way, ideally to another room
  • Set times in the day when you will mindlessly scroll barbecues, holiday destinations for 2021 or social media for your latest burst of what is going on in the world (if you really want to know!)
  • Commit to these times and this then frees up the rest of your time for  the stuff you really need and want to get done. 

Avoid the Hanger

Big gaps without eating, the type of food you eat, certain medications, stress levels and your sleep routine can all impact how quickly the feeling of hanger can hit ( hunger+ anger)

Hanger is a real thing due to the drop in blood sugar levels that happen when you have not eaten for long periods and for some people it can have huge effect on decision making, mood, relationships and their energy levels. 

What to do to beat hanger

  • Know yourself- if hanger is an issue for your there are a few things to consider
  • Hydration 
  • Keeping healthy protein filled snacks at hand for when this starts to kick in. 
  • Most importantly, it is worth thinking about your diet overall and starting to keep a food diary of what you are eating and when. Consulting with a dietician or nutritionist can help if you can’t see any obvious patterns forming .

Reach Out

Loneliness has a significant impact on brain health. Research has shown again and again that connections are vital for brain health and whilst of course this is harder than normal at the moment, looking for ways to keep connections or form new ones with neighbours that you might not usually chat to can make a difference. Feeling lonely is stressful and stress is potent trigger for inflammation that can affect our brain health and general wellbeing.

Keep well

Dr Clara Russell

Reasons to have a good cry

Reasons to have a good cry

Crying – whether it’s tears of joy, frustration anger or sadness can help us feel better. In a piece in The Guardian, an analysis of 140 years of media articles on crying shows that a whopping 94% extol its virtues. 

Although consistent science is missing from the study of adults and crying, these Surveys find that 60 to 70% of people say that crying makes them feel less tense.

There are a number of benefits of specific tears. For example, emotional tears, the plus points range from releasing stress hormones and toxins to relieving stress and pain.


Shedding emotional tears is scientifically proven to release oxytocin and endorphins (that’s why you sometimes feel refreshed or more calm after a good cry).


So, if lockdown is all getting a bit much, maybe watch one of these tear jerkers which always have us in tears, no matter how many times we’ve watched them.Here are just six of our favourites. Which films always have you moved to tears?

Out of Africa is on Netflix  ( 1985 ) Starring Robert Redford and Meryl Streep, directed by Sydney Pollack won seven Oscars. It’s based on the best selling book by Karen Blixen.
Terms of Endearment is on Amazon Prime ( 1983 ) Stars Jack Nicholson, Debra Winger and Shirley MacLaine.
Lion ( 2017 ) is on Amazon Prime and is a true story. The big screen version stars Dev Patel, Rooney Mara and Nicole Kidman.
Beaches ( 1988 ) is also on Amazon Prime. It’s directed by Garry Marshall and stars Bette Midler and has a famous soundtrack.
The Pursuit of Happiness ( 2006) is another true story, with the film version starring Will Smith opposite his son, Jaden. Watch it free on Amazon Prime.
The Color Purple ( 1985 ) is based the Pulitzer Prize winning book of the same title. Directed by Steven Spielberg and starring Whoopi Goldberg, you can watch this free with Amazon Prime.

Want to read more on the subject in a lighter tone? 

This article from Stylist magazine  quotes a clinical psychologist and references scientific studies.  It will also give you an insight into a new book on the subject ’The Crying Book’ by Heather Christie.