Mood boosting foods: why you should add these five de-stressing ingredients to your shopping list right now
Right now we can all benefit from a little TLC, what with the January blues and everything going on in the world. When it comes to our mental health, what you choose to eat or drink can positively affect your mental health. In the same way a mug of hot milk can make you feel sleepy or a banana gives you a boost before exercising, what we eat can sometimes impact how we feel.
Not a typo or a connection to the baking delights of Mary, rather this is a piece on the strong scientific evidence which exists to demonstrate that eating blueberries, blackberries, strawberries and other berry fruits has beneficial effects on the brain and may help prevent age-related memory loss and other changes.
We’ve blogged before on the importance of giving your brain a break and when it comes to simple ways to feel better hugs can really do the trick. Here at Noggin, we love hugging and we miss the physical contact with friends and family and hugging is one simple act which many of us are unable to do presently, due to Covid. Read on to understand how a simple act can change your brain and physical chemistry. When it comes to hugs, the chemical we need to know about is Oxytocin. Oxytocin the so-called "love hormone" is being increasingly shown to trigger a wide variety of physical and psychological effects in humans. The hormone's influence on our behaviour and physiology originates in the brain, where it's produced by the by a structure called the hypothalamus, and then transfers to the pituitary gland which releases into the bloodstream. The presence of oxytocin actually speeds the physical healing of wounds. Studies have shown that even a brief touch of the hand from someone who cares can start your oxytocin pumping which is a good sign. When you offer a comforting hug to someone in pain, or you’re on the receiving end of one, you not only begin the healing process, you also allow your body to shut down memories of the painful stimulus. Oxytocin encourages us to warm up to others and creates a sense of safety. A number of scientific studies have conveyed positive findings on the benefit of both giving and receiving hugs, especially when there has been a conflict. Oxytocin production ramps up when we're touched by another caring human. This is because our bodies are made to provide and respond to physical comfort, so next time you see someone in pain or feel as if the world is crumbling around you, open yourself to a hug. A 2018 study of 400 people over a two-week period found that that receiving a hug following a conflict can help with squelching those bad feelings. We know 2020 has been the cause of hug deficiency for many of us but better times are ahead - for now, hug your pet, those close to you, or even hug a tree - it works! Keep Well Dr Clara Russell
Going for a walk has been the new going out in 2020 and it's a resolution to think about keeping up as we move into the New Year. Walking speed at age 40+ linked to physical well-being and brain health Here at Noggin HQ we're a fan of walking and have blogged on the many benefits of this simple and free way to “endorphinate”. Recent research findings have found that the walking speed of a person at age 45 was associated with both physical health and also with brain health in midlife according to an NIA-supported study. The findings, published in JAMA Network Open, suggest that a simple test of how fast a person walks could be a helpful indicator of how both the body and brain are ageing. A team led by researchers at Duke University, Durham, North Carolina, looked at data from 904 participants in the Dunedin Multidisciplinary Health and Development Study, a population-based study that has followed 1,037 people born between 1972 and 1973 in Dunedin, New Zealand. At the most recent assessment, researchers measured the 45-year-old participants’ physical and cognitive functioning and imaged their brains in an MRI scanner. All participants had their cognitive function first measured at age 3.This study showed that gait speed – which is how fast someone walks – has a relationship with physical and brain health. Participants with slower gait speed had more physical limitations, such as weaker hand-grip strength and more difficulty getting up from a chair, than those who walked faster. Also, participants with slower gait speed were aging faster, as measured by a set of 19 biomarkers that included body mass index, blood pressure, cholesterol levels, cardiorespiratory fitness and gum health. These biomarkers were measured at ages 26, 32, 38 and 45, allowing the researchers to assess how the participants had aged over time. In terms of brain health, participants with slower gait speed had signs more typically found in older adults, the MRI results showed. Compared with participants who walked faster, they had a smaller brain, a thinner brain cortex (which controls thinking, information processing and other brain functions) and more white matter hyperintensities — a sign of vascular disease and a risk factor for stroke and dementia. Participants with slower gait speed also performed worse on tests of memory, processing speed, reasoning and other cognitive functions. So, the takeaway is keep moving, and stay as active as you can, whatever age you are. This article originally appeared on the National Institute of Aging in the US.
The big figs of brain health – four foods you might not associate with brain health. With winter upon us, it’s so tempting to reach for comfort foods to snack on and big carb laden dinners to feel cosy with and if you feel the need to balance out any food indulgence over the coming weeks during the festive period, try some of these recommendations. You can enjoy them on their own or cook or bake with them. Figs Figs are high in natural sugars, minerals and soluble fibre, rich in minerals including potassium, calcium, magnesium, iron and copper and are a good source of antioxidant vitamins A and K that contribute to health and wellness. So whether you enjoy them paired with cheese or tossed in salad, figs are a surprising health booster. Unsure how to prep, store or consume them? The BBC has this helpful page dedicated to figs and I think we’ll be having the healthy winter salad soon here at Noggin HQ. Bananas The banana is a food genius and we’ve blogged about our love of bananas before. The average banana has about 100 calories and is loaded with potassium and fibre and contains zero fat. Bananas also boast tryptophan and 30 percent of your day’s vitamin B6, which helps the brain produce mellowing serotonin so you get through the day with less stress. Avocadoes Whilst we are raving about bananas, let’s also respect the avocado. This creamy fruit contains 60 percent more potassium per ounce than bananas and is an excellent source of heart-healthy monounsaturated fat. They’re rich in plant sterols, which have been shown to lower cholesterol. Pop some avocado in your green juice and blend for a creamy consistency or why not try this recipe for chocolate mousse, made with avocadoes. Finally, if you add some avocado slices to a sandwich, the fat will slow the digestion of the bread, which will in turn ease the impact it has on your blood sugar levels. Celery Low in calories and high on the chew factor, celery is a good source of potassium, a mineral that aids muscle function and offsets some of sodium’s damaging effects on blood pressure. And phytochemicals in celery help destroy benzopyrene, a carcinogen that occurs in foods cooked at a high temperature. You can also add celery to your green juices and to soups and bolognaise sauces. Keep Well Dr Clara Russell
With the festive season upon us with spiced pumpkin and cinnamon lattes or mulled wine being offered, here’s our guide to the drinks which you could choose to benefit your brain health. As always, it’s about balance and we've blogged before about the brain health benefits of coffee, water and wine. Here are some other options we recommend. Green Tea Not everyone is a fan of the taste of green tea but if you don’t mind it’s flavour this is a good source of two brain boosting chemicals. Green tea’s caffeine content is much lower than that of coffee but it’s also good for us as it contains two promising nootropic compounds, stick with me these are — l-theanine and epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG). Studies have suggested that l-theanine may promote relaxation, as well as that l-theanine combined with caffeine may improve attention. Kombucha Kombucha is a fermented drink usually made from green or black tea, plus fruit or botanicals and its major benefit lies in its ability to introduce beneficial bacteria called probiotics to your gut. There are a number of companies in the UK making it. One supplier we recommend in Scotland, is Clever Kombucha. Check out their FAQs on everything you need to know about Komubucha. Green juices and smoothies We generally recommend making your own green juices or buy from a fresh supplier as the bottled ones you see in some coffee shops in plastic bottles can be packed with sugar and are lower in nutrients than the fresh alternatives. Always try to add leafy greens and fruits low in sugar. We’ve compiled a list of brain boosting foods you can add to your juices. You could also add a protein powder Turmeric lattes You can buy matcha or turmeric lattes from many high street and independent coffee shops.Sometimes known as golden milk, turmeric lattes are warming, creamy drinks featuring the yellow spice turmeric. This powerful spice contains the antioxidant curcumin, which may increase your body’s production of what is called brain-derived neurotrophic factor . Low BDNF is associated with mental deficits and neurological disorders, raising BDNF levels has been linked with improved brain function. Kefir Like kombucha, kefir is a fermented beverage packed with probiotics and is made from fermented milk rather than tea. A study has found that it may aid brain function by promoting the growth of healthy bacteria in your gut and we know gut and brain health are intrinsically linked. We are a fan of the award-winning Chuckling Goat kefir, read more on their product here. Fruit juice - ideally along with the rest of the fruit When it comes to getting your five a day, eating an orange is the better way to consume vitamin C over drinking orange juice because the whole fruit is lower in calories and sugar and higher in fibre but hey, this post is about drinking it. One review of 50 human studies found that those with higher blood levels of vitamin C or a higher self-reported vitamin C intake had better attention, memory, and language scores than those with lower blood or intake levels. Keep Well, Dr Clara Russell
Every Little Helps The new WHO guidelines and key facts released on 26th November, on physical activity, suggest that every little bit of physical activity helps with our wellbeing. We’ve blogged about the brain health benefits of walking and regular exercise and the latest guidelines from WHO state that physical activity is beneficial and can be done as part of our work, sport and leisure or transport and this includes dance, play and everyday household tasks such as gardening, cleaning and a visit to the shops. The new guidelines recommend at least 150 to 300 minutes of moderate to vigorous aerobic activity per week for all adults. Women are encouraged to maintain regular exercise throughout pregnancy and post-delivery and people living with physical disabilities should also maintain a level of physical activity Older adults – those people aged 65 years or older, are advised to add activities which emphasise balance and coordination, as well as muscle strengthening, to help prevent falls and improve health. “Being physically active is critical for health and well-being – it can help to add years to life and life to years,” said WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. “Every move counts, especially now as we manage the constraints of the COVID-19 pandemic. We must all move every day – safely and creatively.” “Physical activity of any type, and any duration can improve health and wellbeing, but more is always better,” said Dr Ruediger Krech, Director of Health Promotion, World Health Organization, “and if you must spend a lot of time sitting still, whether at work or school, you should do more physical activity to counter the harmful effects of sedentary behaviour.” “These new guidelines highlight how important being active is for our hearts, bodies and minds, and how the favourable outcomes benefit everyone, of all ages and abilities”, said Dr Fiona Bull, Head of the Physical Activity Unit which led the development of the new WHO guidelines. Regular physical activity is key to preventing and helping to manage heart disease, type-2 diabetes, and cancer, as well as reducing symptoms of depression and anxiety, reducing cognitive decline, improving memory and boosting brain health. So whether its open water swimming, yoga, tai chi or walking, every little helps! Keep Well ( and moving) , Dr Clara Russell