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Food and Mood

Foods to help us feel better

The challenges of eating healthily whilst on lockdown are there – access to food, access to healthy food, access to fresh food, the motivation to make or eat something healthy when we are surrounded by Easter chocolate and the constant desire to snack throughout the day are just some.

But the good news is we can help ourselves feel a little better with what we eat

What can we eat to help our mood ?

Omega 3 rich Fish

This type of fat – omega 3 fat – are seen as healthy fats and have been researched for their ability to help with symptoms of depression. 

The thinking is that this form of fat helps with the structure of brain cells (neurons) and that this in turn helps brain cells communicate as well contributing to lowering inflammation and help support our serotonin levels.

2 servings a week is recommended to keep up your omega 3 levels and the fish can be a variety of mackerel, sardines, salmon or herring.

Not a fish fan? Look for foods fortified with Omega 3 DHA or consider supplements 

Green Veg

There is no getting away from how good green vegetables are for your brain health. 

Maintaining normal levels of vitamin B12 and Folic Acid can help with energy, memory and serotonin

A big study looking at Folate levels ( known as a meta analysis where lots and lots of studies are looked at to be able to review results) showed that people with depression have lower levels of Folate than those without depression. 

Folic acid is found in all green veg including Popeye’s favourite spinach, but can also be found in avocados, beans and lentils 

Probiotics

Sources of live cultures are very important for balance of bacteria that live in our gut. We want the good guys to outnumber the bad guys in simple terms.

This is important for mental health, gut health and immunity. 

Research has looked at probiotics and whether these have a role in reducing negative thoughts* and also depressive symptoms**

Kefir, sauerkraut and live culture containing yoghurts are recommended food sources of live cultures. Just keep an eye on the sugar content of flavoured yogurts as that can undo some of the good work live cultures can do

Vitamin D

Found in Egg yolks, fatty fish and some fortified food and drinks such as milk. And of course sunshine. Research from another meta analysis study- which looked at over 30,000 people-found that low vitamin D levels were associated with depression.***

Supplements are vital in winter months, in countries where there is less sun or if you can’t get out in the sunshine when it is there

Caffeine

Caffeine is a mood booster and when consumed early enough in the day can be a real support to a dip in mood or energy. The key is remembering moderation is important. Too much caffeine can make us more anxious and also affect sleep so make the most of that morning or early afternoon caffeine lift and swap to non caffeine alternatives after that

Dark chocolate

Bursting with anti oxidants, caffeine and with possible benefits to serotonin levels, some dark chocolate is another way to get a little mood boost. And if dark chocolate isn’t your thing then there are still benefits been found with milk chocolate too. 

*https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0889159115000884

**https://annals-general-psychiatry.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12991-017-0138-2

***https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/the-british-journal-of-psychiatry/article/vitamin-d-deficiency-and-depression-in-adults-systematic-review-and-metaanalysis/F4E7DFBE5A7B99C9E6430AF472286860

Dr Clara Russell

Noggin the Brain People

Immune Health- what does it really mean?

What our immune systems do

Our immune systems are  a hugely complex operation. Our immune defences take different forms- from barriers that we can see, such as skin and those little hairs inside our nose, to the huge array of clever processes that go on beneath the surface.

Our gut has 70% of our body’s immune system contained within it but our whole body works together to fight off invading bugs and respond appropriately when we come into contact with something that is ‘bad for us’. 

How does it work?

This goes on all day every day without us ever realising or giving it too much thought. 

We generally become aware of our immune system when we start to become unwell with an infection or perhaps have an allergy. From the milder ( but irritating) end of the spectrum  like hay fever  all the way through to the scary and severe reactions that can come with anaphylaxis to nuts or something similar- these are both examples of our immune system at work.

We generally don’t think about our immune systems, because, like so much of our amazing bodies, it does the job for us. The warning signals go to the right places causing cells to respond, team up and fight back with the appropriate level of response. 

That response varies depending on the threat and our body’s  requirement to react- it might be a rash to something on our skin or a fever and sore throat and cough when a potent bug has got through some of our lines of defence to cause symptoms of a viral or bacterial infection that makes us feel unwell.

This is a normal functioning healthy immune system- something most of us have fully operational most of the time

Team work

Think of it like an army. Our Immune system works as a fully armed group of different types of immune fighting soldiers to keep us healthy. 

Different things at different times can either trigger our immune response by requiring the troops to assemble and get to fighting. The whole army may be needed sometimes- perhaps for a serious infection or severe allergy response. Other times less force will be needed. 

Sometimes the armies have to work in different ways such as if you have had chemotherapy or a type of treatment that works but by attacking your own immune system to get results to help you get better in the longer term. 

What affects our immune system?

Some chronic conditions such as having diabetes or some immune suppressing medications can have a big impact on the way some of our tools can be used to fight infection.

This is why sometimes people in these groups can have a harder time fighting infections. 

To have our immune system working at their best every day and when we really need it,  ideally we want all our troops to be fully armed with the most powerful of weapons or tools 

Whilst those with immune affecting conditions can  have a tougher time with infections, even for those of us without these, some challenges we face in daily life can blunt those tools and in turn, blunt our immune response. 

It is so important that I will say it again 

Things we do everyday can affect our body’s ability to have an optimal immune response and fight infections.

What things? Chronic stress ,poor sleep or a diet deficient in nutrients can impact our immune systems ability to mount the best response they can. 

What can we do to help our immune system?

SO can you ‘optimise’ or ‘boost’ an army fully armed with the best and sharpest of weapons aka a perfectly working immune system – Probably not. 

But if you think there are someways that you defences may be less than sharp looking at ways to help support your immune system is really important. 

In everyday life AND when there is increased risk from infections. 

What can you do to help your immune system 

  1. Sleep- your brain and body super power and essential to a healthy immune system
  1. Manage stress- for more tips on this see:
  1. Exercise- regularly and small amounts are enough to get started
  1. Vitamin D- it is very hard to have an immune system operating at its best if your vitamin d levels are low 
  1. Nutrient rich foods -think as many different colours of fruit  and veg as you can- a variety of colours helps with antioxidants and the health of your immune system’s army found in your gut known as the microbiome 
  1. Reduce alcohol- alcohol affects the bacteria in your gut, too much and too regularly this can affect your immune response. And also affect your sleep ( see 1)
  1. Don’t smoke
  1. Live cultures- probiotic sources such as kefir and fermented foods help your healthy gut bacteria thrive. 
  1. Think nutrient support – diet is the best source of all vitamins and minerals always but sometimes we need a little extra support such as vitamin d.

This is not meant to be an exhaustive list but some ideas to think about to help you help your immune system be at its best 

Keep Well

Dr Clara Russell 

Simple ways to try to feel a little better everyday – even in lockdown

Get up for 5 minutes in every hour ( at least)

Some clever watches or movement trackers might already prompt you to do this but you don’t need to have this to remind you to get up and give your self a jump start. Sitting for too long is health issue all on its own – you may have heard the phrase the sitting in the new smoking- so it is really important to beware of this at home. Without the morning commute or walk even to the work car park, your overall sitting time may be more at the moment so make sure you try to get up at least once an hour.  Jump around, stretch, dance, run on the spot, move however you feel like it- a simple way to boost your energy and give your mind and body a mini work out.

Get outside responsibly

The current rules are clear: following the current lock down rules of social distancing and one short trip outside the home for exercise per day,

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/full-guidance-on-staying-at-home-and-away-from-others/full-guidance-on-staying-at-home-and-away-from-others

It can be easy to not want to go out at all if we are feeling bit lethargic, fed up or even scared of being out and about. But 15 minutes outside in sunshine is enough to give our vitamin D levels a boost (with our arms and legs exposed if you can manage) Vitamin D is an essential vitamin for our immune system, bone health and can help our mood too.

Look around, up and out.

When we are outside even for the briefest of periods it can help to focus on the surroundings and where we are. Whilst we have to be mindful of our proximity to others at the moment, when there is space to do so look up, around and out. This can help us be present and be right where we are. Look at what is in front of you and if you are out with a family member chat about what you can see- flowers, a child’s coloured in rainbows blu tacked into a window, a nicely kept lawn or carefully tended garden. Seemingly simple things but they can help us focus on the moment and not drift off into worries or what might be waiting for us on the news or in our inbox at home.

Try not to eat on the go

Whilst pre lock down that probably meant grabbing a sandwich dashing between meetings, or a venti cappuccino and cake on the run to school pick up now this means regular snacking from the fridge or the cupboard as you walk past.

The same principles apply- eating on the go is not good for digestion and it can confuse the signals to our brain about whether we are full or not. 

The result? Ongoing snacking, never feeling fully full and resulting sluggishness and bloating.

The solution? Take what you are looking to eat, put it on a plate and sit down to eat it. This avoids mindless snacking which can affect your energy levels and ultimately your weight.

Make a decision about what you want to eat, sit down and eat it consciously. And drink lots of water. 

Chew chew chew

Digesting our food begins when we put something in our mouth, if we gulp or swallow too quickly we are not giving enough time for our digestive enzymes ( chemical that work to break down our food) to get to work and as a result we don’t get the chance to digest our food properly. This can leave us feeling bloated and not aware of when we are full. The famed Mayr Clinic in Austria – founded by Dr Franz Xaver Mayr  who believed that intestinal health was the key to keeping well and now a popular health retreat for the rich and famous, advocates chewing each bite up to 30 times!

Sweet craving? 

Look beyond the Easter eggs if you can and try a  herbal tea- peppermint or something with cinnamon can often satisfy these sweet cravings ( at least for a short while!) 

Home working?

Whilst in a work setting we may have a desk set up to ensure optimal spinal position and use of a mouse this might be harder at home, especially if you are at a table or kitchen counter. 

Poor posture can affect your back and cause pain and stiffness. This can have a knock on effect to your concentration and energy levels. Try to ensure your computer screen is at eye level and that your elbows and hands are one level. If you are using a lap top use a book or pile of paper to help this.

Dr Clara Russell



Feeling Stressed?

Talking about feelings of stress has become part of our daily routine. Stress is defined in different ways. Technically it is the adverse reaction people have to pressure or demands places on them. 

Or put more simply, the constant and repetitive feeling you have when you are doing one thing but feeling that you should be doing something else. Like when you are working but feeling you should be exercising. Or playing with your kids but feeling you should be working. Or working on one project but feeling you have 5 other things you should be doing for your boss that are more important. Sound familiar? Feelings of stress are normal and part of life and in fact often beneficial as this is part of our body inbuilt way of functioning.

However this stress reaction can take different forms for different people at different times

It can occur acutely to a sudden adverse event or can be a chronic build up at a low level over time

When we are stressed, or identify something stressful going on around us, our body goes into a fight or flight position with the idea of self protection. 

Different chemicals ( hormones, known as chemical messengers) are released when we are in this state. In response to an acute situation this is essential. 

However when this stress reaction happens on an ongoing regular basis the reaction within ourselves can be so subtle we don’t always notice it until things have built up to a level that stress is revealing itself in different ways. Perhaps a feeling of struggling to cope, making mistakes,  arguing with our nearest and dearest or struggling to sleep. 

Stress at Work

Work related stress is common- that is stress as direct result of number of different factors in our workplace — over 12.8 million days of absence per year are lost to work placed stress. (hse.gov.uk

Within a work place sources of stress can come from the role itself, changes within the role not being communicate, difficulties in work place relationships, a sense of lack of support or personal control over what we are being asked to do and changing demands being placed on us 

How stress can affect us

Stress can affect how we feel, how we think, how we behave and even our physical health such as affecting our hear rate, blood pressure or our sleep patterns 

We, or those around us may notice difficulty concentrating, lapses in memory, becoming vague, easily distracted, recurrent negative thinking, worrying and difficulty in finding our own intuition 

We might feel more tearful, more irritable, have mood swings, feel sensitive to criticism, more defensive, struggle with motivation, 

There may be a feeling of being out of control, being angry, increased frustration. Persistent feelings like this can result in a lack of confidence or self esteem 

Physical symptoms can occur too- commonly people report a loss of libido, rashes , gut symptoms such as indigestion or a change in weight, frequent colds or infection, palpitations or feeling dizzy or even difficulty swallowing . 

Phew. 

In summary there are lots of ways stress can take its toll. It’s important to be aware of these for ourselves and for those we care about 

Ways to help:

How to cope with stress

Look after the basics- get enough sleep, drink enough water, move more, eat well. These are some of the core building blocks of brain health at Noggin HQ. 

Turn the stone- try to see things differently, that can be hard on your own but talk to someone else you trust about your worries and what ever is making you feel stressed 

Take a break – even just a few minutes in the work day can help you feel refreshed and better prepared for the tasks ahead. 

Accept what you cannot change- a big one- make a list of everything that is worrying you about the situation, divide it into what you can and cannot change. You might find there are more things in the ‘cannot change’ versus ‘can change’ column-so focus on accepting this 

Task out your day- get the tough things done first thins

Say no- if we are struggling or under pressure we can feel the need to try harder, do more, try to prove that we are ‘doing ok’. Say no to more than you can handle. Your health will thank you for it 

Dr Clara Russell

Chocolate Headlines-5 reasons Easter Chocolate can help us feel better

  1. Immune supporting- yes you read correctly, eating chocolate can support your immune system. Dark Chocolate is packed with anti oxidants which as we know work to counteract those pesky free radicals.  Flavonoids and polyphenols (polly-feen-ols) are the main anti oxidants in dark chocolate. The higher the cocoa percentage, the more of these anti oxidants you can benefit from 
  2. Brain boosting– the same anti oxidants that can help your immune system have been shown to help with blood flow to the brain which as we know, is good for brain health. There is even research ongoing as to how/if this might be useful in people with Alzheimers Disease and Parkinsons Disease 
  3. Mood lifting– Chocolate releases feel good hormones Endorphins as well as Serotonin which is the reason we get a pick me up after a a few bites of chocolate goodness. 
  4. Blood Pressure Lowering – a study in 2015 looked at this in more detail and found that a group of patients (with known blood pressure and type 2 diabetes )that consumed 25g of dark chocolate regularly had better outcomes with blood pressure 
  5. Gut bacteria benefitting-  your good gut bacteria ( that is the bacteria in our guts that are beneficial for health)  have been shown to thrive on some of the ingredients in dark chocolate and as a result, produce compounds that are anti inflammatory. Reducing inflammation is a really important way of reducing our risks for many chronic diseases including type 2 diabetes. 

Anything else?

Yes! It’s not just cocoa- particularly in dark chocolate you will find nutrients including Magnesium ( a Noggin favourite for brain health), Iron, Manganese (important for bone health and possible blood sugar )  and Copper ( essential for heart and bone health )

What about chocolate other than dark chocolate?

The good news is that milk chocolate has benefits too- whilst there is little doubt that dark chocolate probably has more health benefits and is regarded as a ‘healthier’ form of chocolate, a study published in 2017 found that eating 100g of milk chocolate lowered risk of death by heart disease and also stroke risk by around 23%* 

As you unwrap your Easter Egg this week end, there might be more than just the yummy taste that you are benefiting from!

Happy Easter from all at Noggin HQ

Stay well

Dr Clara Russell 

*Kwok CS, Boekholdt SM, Lentjes MAH, et alHabitual chocolate consumption and risk of cardiovascular disease among healthy men and womenHeart 2015;101:1279-1287.


Store Cupboard foods with brain benefits

5 brain healthy foods from the cupboard ( and one from the freezer) and why they are worth giving a try

  1. Oily fish– the story your mum used to tell you that eating fish would help you at school? Well it turns out she was possibly right. Oily fish is packed full of omega 3 fats usually in the forms of DHA and EPA. Whilst improving your Mensa scores are harder prove, we do know that people who eat diets low in this type of fats have been found to have increased risk of developing Alzheimers disease. So check your cupboard for tins of salmon or sardines!
  2. Walnuts-talking of omega 3 fats, walnuts are a great source of these too as well as vitamin E which is an important anti oxidant to mop up some of those pesky free radicals 
  3. Pumpkin seeds– another bumper source of anti oxidants that might be hiding away in your cupboards. These seeds also contain zinc- good for immune support and magnesium– another brain important mineral  and Noggin favourite.
  4. Turmuric-curcumin is the active ingredient in turmeric and has gained increased popularity in recent years due to its anti inflammatory and nutrient rich properties. Another great source of anti oxidants, curcumin has also been shown to help with production of BDNF- otherwise known as miracle grow for brain cells 
  5. Blueberries – whilst fresh blueberries may be harder to come by at the moment, the frozen ones can still do the job. Another anti oxidant and anti inflammatory source, these are not only delicious but have been shown is some early studies to possibly even have preventative benefits for Alzheimers and age related brain function *

Some recipes ideas are below:

https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/breakfast-smoothie

https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/collection/turmeric

*https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2850944/

To Nap or not to Nap?

Having a daytime nap is something we associate usually with babies, toddlers and for the rest of us when we are on holiday somewhere sunny ( we can dream)- most of us are just too busy right? 

As most of us as not getting enough sleep at night, is a daytime nap just the thing to help us get more rest and feel better?

Yes-clearly, there is not always the opportunity to do this-but if you find 20 minutes in your day, maybe instead of checking your phone or ‘getting jobs done’, having a lie down and getting some shut eye might be the best way to power us through to bedtime.

There is clear evidence that napping can be good for our brain in terms of mental sharpness, memory, and mood*

How to nap effectively and for how long?

If you do have the chance to nap during the day and feel you might benefit from it, timing is everything

Too close to bed time and it will disrupt your sleep routine at night so think about early afternoon as siesta time

You don’t have to lie down- a reclining chair or somewhere dark is enough

A quiet environment and perhaps a blanket or a sleep mask ( a Noggin Favourite!) can help you nod off. 

Listening to relaxing music or a short meditation might help too.

How long should you nap for?

Different benefits can be gained from different times: 

Even 10-20 minutes can be enough to help with concentration, improve mood an energy as well as reface stress

30-60 minutes has been shown to help with memory and decision making

60-90 minutes takes you into REM phase of sleep which can help with creativity, and can help with problem solving

A Nap Must Do

Set an alarm! All benefits of a nap can we quickly eliminated if you wake up having missed an important appointment or child pick up. 

And if you do hit the snooze during the day, or sleep for longer than 20-30 minutes, you can wake up with an initially feeling of grogginess or jet lat where you temporarily feel worse than you did pre nap. It will pass but can leave you feeling a bit out of sorts for a few minutes !

If you are looking for ways to nod off after noon,  www.calm.com offers timed daytime nap stories. 

Rest well

Dr Clara Russell 

*https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/j.1365-2869.2008.00718.x

It’s time for some ISS -Immune System Support.

5 Ways you can help your immune system today. 

  1. Sleep. This is your body’s super power. Sleeping at night is the equivalent of half time during a football match. Except we allow usually around 7-8 hours for this half time break. That is how important it is. During this vital half time, our immune system gets the chance to produce proteins called cytokines. Cytokines are required when we are fighting an infection or when we are under stress. Not enough sleep reduces the production of these guys so when we are hit hit with stress or infection our bodies can be more affects by it. How much should we sleep? 7-8 hours for adults, teenagers need around 9-10 hours and school age kids benefits from 10 hours or more of sleep per night

2) Relax. 

Chronic stress increases our natural cortisol release ( known as the stress hormone). Excess cortisol can suppress our immune response when it is under attack which can affect your ability to fight or recover from infections. 

It’s not the easiest thing to do right now I agree- keep the news off, switch off social media and read.  Meditate for a few minutes or more- plug in to websites such as calm.com, www.headspace.com. Cook, bake, write, laugh. Whatever you can to switch your mind off.

3) Move. 

From PE with Joe (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QPXQcCyRFt) to dancing in the kitchen ( or any room you want).  Getting moving, keeping active helps us feel better due to a natural endorphin release. This improves our mood, gives us more energy and has been shown to maintain a healthy immune system*

4) Eat your greens ( reds, yellows and oranges too)

Comfort food is a natural reach whilst we are sitting at home waiting for things to improve. But what we eat can affect our gut health, how we feel and our immune system. Whilst some treats are practically prescribed during this time we also have more time time think about meals, what we are eating and also to prepare food. Eating as many different colours of fruits and vegetables is a way to ensure we get a wide variety of nutrients and anti oxidants into our diet. ( and also an idea to entertain the kids for a few minutes… which colours of the rainbow have you eaten today?) 

To accompany our variety of vegetables we need sources of healthy protein and wholegrain sources of carbohydrate washed down with lots of water to avoid the brain fuzziness and irritability that comes with even slight dehydration. Fresh food might be harder to come by just now but frozen fruit and veg are great sources of rainbow coloured foods. 

5) Get outside.( responsibly)

Time outside in nature has been shown to be beneficial for our immune system- this may be limited at the moment but its important we still take the short breaks outside that we can whilst maintaining social distancing guidelines. This can help us feel better as well as ensuring we get some vitamin D – known as the sunshine vitamin- that is essential for a healthy immune system functioning well . 

*https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/03/200331162314.htm

Keep well, Dr Clara Russell

How super is your food?

Foods that have lots of healthy properties have been termed ‘superfoods’. 

So what about all these foods that have so called ‘superfood’ properties? Here is our A-Z guide to some of these- how to say them for a start- and some of the health benefits they can offer 

Acai

What is it? A deep-purple Amazonian berry that’s bursting with disease-fighting antioxidants. It’s sold as a powder and used in smoothies and breakfast bowls.

How do you say it? Ah-sah-ee

Amaranth

What is it? A gluten free wholegrain that is particularly high healthy fats. You’ll usually find it in a ‘puffed’ form in breakfast cereals and mueslis.

How do you say it? A-muh-ranth

Baobab

What is it? African and Australian superfood of the fruit variety. Baobab powder is renowned for its high vitamin C content, it also contributes minerals like potassium, calcium and magnesium as well as certain B vitamins, fibre and protein.

How do you say it? Bay-oh-bab

Cacao

What is it? The fresh seed of the cacao bean. It is rich in a group of antioxidants that support heart health. The best part? It gives a delicious chocolate flavour, without all of the added sugar.

How do you say it? Kah-kow

Chia

What is it? A nutrient-dense seed that’s packed with healthy fats, including omega-3s to support heart and brain health.

How do you say it? Chee-ahh

Edamame

What is it? Baby soybeans. Soft and edible, they’re often served in the pod as a starter or side dish, or mixed through salads and stir fries. They provide muscle-building protein and gut-loving fibre.

How do you say it? Eh-duh-maa-mei

Freekah

What is it? A nutrient-dense ancient grain that contains impressive levels of protein, fibre, iron and zinc. It works well either hot or cold in salads.

How do you say it? Free-kuh

Goji

What is it? An antioxidant-rich berry that is sold either dried or as juice. Goji berries can be added to salads, smoothies and baked goods, and can even be used to make tea.

How do you say it? Go-gee

Hummus

What is it? A dip made from chickpeas, tahini, lemon, garlic and oil. Homemade varieties can be a very healthy snack, but some store-bought brands contain excessive levels of sodium.

How do you say it? Hu-muhs

Kefir

What is it? A fermented milk drink that offers gut-loving probiotics, as well as protein for muscle maintenance and calcium for strong bones and teeth. It has a thin yoghurt consistency.

How do you say it? Keh-feer

Kimchi

What is it? A Korean side dish made of fermented vegetables, usually cabbage. Due to the fermentation process, it offers probiotics to support gut health.

How do you say it? Kim-chee

Kombucha

What is it? A fermented drink made of tea, a SCOBY (AKA symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast) and sugar. It offers probiotics to support a healthy gut.

How do you say it? Kom-boo-cha

Pepitas

What are they? Like all seeds, pepitas (pumpkin seeds), are nutrient powerhouses. These are ones without a hull and arre packed with essential fatty acids, plus vitamins A, B and K and minerals such as iron and calcium.

How do you say it? Peh-pee-ta-s

Quinoa

What is it? A gluten free wholegrain that offers gut-loving fibre and energising b-group vitamins. It’s often used cooked and cooled in salads, or as flakes in cereal and muesli.

How do you say it? Keen-wah

Rooibos

What is it? A type of herbal tea that is caffeine-free. Also known as ‘red’ or ‘red bush’ tea.

How do you say it? Roy-boss

Skyr

What is it? An Icelandic-style yoghurt with a mild flavour. Most varieties are very high in muscle-building protein and bone-strengthening calcium.

How do you say it? Skee-er

Theanine

What is it? This compound is found in green tea and also in some types of mushrooms. This is available as a supplement and can be beneficial to the brain.

How do you say it? Thee-ah-nine

Turmeric

What is it? A bright-yellow spice that has anti-inflammatory properties. It’s also rich in disease-fighting antioxidants. Turmeric is often used in curries and as a food colouring.

How do you say it? Ter-mer-ick

Zucchini

What is it? Also known as a courgette, this green veg is delicious raw, steamed or roasted, zucchini is very low calorie and a good source of folate (essential during pregnancy), vitamin C and potassium.

How do you say it? Zoo-kee-nee

But, food doesn’t have to have a complicated name to be super from a nutritional point of view. 

If we are looking for foods rich in nutrients and health benefits we often don’t have to look too far to find something- the humble Apple is packed with fibre to help our gut, vitamins A,C,K and B as well as lots of anti oxidants to protect our cells from free radicals.

Dr Clara Russell 

Kale- a super hero of greens

Of all the super healthy greens, kale is one of the healthiest and most nutritious plant foods in existence.

Loaded with all sorts of beneficial compounds, here’s a top line introduction on what you need to know on why kale is king. 

Super easy to cook ( recipe link at the bottom of this article ), it’s great in smoothies and makes a nutritious alternative to crisps. 

It’s become very popular in the last few years, there’s even a National Kale Day in the UK.

Cabbage Patch Family

Kale is member of the cabbage family – a cruciferous vegetable like cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, collard greens and Brussels sprouts.

Like most vegetables, it comes in different types, the leaves can be green or purple, and have either a smooth or curly shape.

And the most common type of kale is called curly kale or Scots kale, which has green and curly leaves and a hard, fibrous stem.

Nutrients

Kale contains an omega-3 fatty acid called alpha linolenic-acid.

High in nutrients and very low in calories, kale makes it one of the most nutrient-dense foods on the planet and  like other leafy greens, is very high in antioxidants.

These include beta-carotene as well as various flavonoids and polyphenols.(poli-phee-nols)

(Remember antioxidants help counteract oxidative damage by free radicals in the body so we want as much of these in our diet as possible) 

Vitamin C

We hear Vitamin C, we think citrus fruits but oranges are not the only source.

Kale is much higher in vitamin C than most other vegetables, containing about 4.5 times much as spinach.

The truth is, kale is actually one of the world’s best sources of vitamin C. A cup of raw kale contains even more vitamin C than a whole orange.

According to one study, steaming kale dramatically increases the bile acid binding effect which is helpful for our gut health and digestion. 

Vitamin K

Vitamin K is an important nutrient and absolutely critical for blood clotting, and does this by “activating” certain proteins and giving them the ability to bind calcium.

The well-known anticoagulant drug Warfarin actually works in part by blocking the function of this vitamin.

The form of vitamin K in kale is K1, which is different than vitamin K2. 

K2 is found in fermented soy foods and certain animal products. It helps prevent heart disease and osteoporosis.

Beta-Catotene

Kale Is very high in beta-carotene,  an antioxidant that the body can turn into vitamin A.

Minerals

Kale is a good plant-based source of calcium, a nutrient that is very important for bone health and plays a role in all sorts of cellular functions.

It is also a decent source of magnesium, an incredibly important mineral that many of us  don’t always get enough of. 

Kale also contains potassium, a mineral that helps maintain electrical gradients in the body’s cells. 

Adequate potassium intake has been linked to reduced blood pressure and a lower risk of heart disease.*

Here are some more facts on kale and some recipes on how to enjoy it, from the BBC.

*https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/high-blood-pressure/changes-you-can-make-to-manage-high-blood-pressure/how-potassium-can-help-control-high-blood-pressure

Dr Clara Russell