Back to school Brain Food – Donegal Daily


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Donegalese nutritionist Sorcha McElchar from Sorchas Healthy Living takes a look at the best foods and beverages to keep your mind performing at its best. She also gives advice on good food for a good mood!

To book a free initial nutritional consultation with me, please click on the link

There is plenty of new evidence that our diet has a huge impact on brain health. In particular, the relationship between gut health and brain health is much stronger than previously thought.

We have been told that we need to keep our brains healthy, that we need to eat plenty of healthy omega-3 fatty acids that you get from oily fish like tuna, salmon, mackerel, sardines, and trout, and from plant sources like flaxseed and chia seeds, ground flax seeds, hemp seeds and walnuts. Of course, this still applies. Healthy unsaturated fats play an important role in brain health, but they’re not the only important element.

As I mentioned earlier, gut health is so important to brain health. Why? Because the billions of different intestinal bacteria not only affect digestion. They affect mood, immune health, food cravings, and more! In fact, it has been shown that people with an imbalance of good and bad gut bacteria (also known as dysbiosis) are more likely to suffer from many mental illnesses, including depression. Basically, having a healthy bowel is an important factor in overall health and wellbeing.

So how do you make sure that you are doing everything possible to have a healthy gut, and therefore a healthy brain? Here are a few simple tips that you can incorporate into your family’s daily diet and lifestyle.

1. First, fiber is key. I tell this to everyone who listens. If you increase your fiber intake to at least 25-38g per day, you’ll see such a big difference in your overall health, not just your gut health. Fiber acts as a prebiotic, which is food for the beneficial intestinal bacteria. If you opt for whole grain bread, pasta or rice as often as possible and eat lots of fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds, your beneficial gut bacteria will be eating like royalty!

2. We call these beneficial bacteria probiotics, and while you can get them in the form of supplements, you can get them through your food too. Including fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kombucha, kefir, tempeh, kimchi, miso, cucumber, traditional buttermilk, natural yogurt and yogurt drinks such as Yakult and Actimel. You can get most of these at either your local grocery store or health food store.

Add more yogurt to your diet

3. I know that cutting out junk food is not an easy task these days. So why not just try swapping more processed foods for less processed alternatives? Instead of going for highly processed meat, consider choosing fresh meat from your local butcher. Things like sausages, ham, beef and chicken burgers, ground beef, and other meat products that are cheap to buy but heavily processed may taste good at this time, but what harm does they do over time if eaten regularly? Unfortunately, the answer is a lot. You can buy cheaper pieces of fresh meat from your butcher that, if cooked correctly, taste better than the more expensive pieces.

4th Sugar feeds many of the more harmful gut bacteria, so cutting down on sweets and carbonated beverages is of great help. You don’t have to cut them out completely, just try swapping them out for a healthier option if you can.

5. If you suffer from frequent heartburn and indigestion, you are likely carrying a bottle of Gaviscon or Rennie on standby. The truth is that research has shown that they shouldn’t be used in the long term as they can actually cause bacterial overgrowth of the small intestine (SIBO) as they neutralize stomach acid too much and stomach acid is a form of defense against harmful Bacteria we can ingest. Try going for herbal remedies like peppermint tea and peppermint capsules.

Mint tea

6th I firmly believe in modern medicine, but we are beginning to see that overuse of antibiotics does more harm than good. Broad spectrum antibiotics do not distinguish between harmful and beneficial bacteria and kill them all. This leaves you prone to overgrowth of harmful gut bacteria. Use antibiotics only when absolutely necessary. Never use them if you have a cold or a virus as they are useless in that case anyway. You should also try to increase the beneficial bacteria, so maybe take a probiotic supplement or eat more probiotic foods.

7th A practice. It might not be diet related, but countless studies have shown that staying active improves gut and overall health.

8th. Drink plenty of water and avoid excessive alcohol consumption. The water part goes without saying. We can survive weeks without food, but only three days without water. Water is also important when increasing your fiber intake, so drink! Alcohol can affect the health and diversity of your gut bacteria, meaning you have less of the good guys fighting your corner. Alcohol is poison to the body. While one or the other social drink or two is fine every now and then, it’s best to avoid it if you are really serious about taking care of your body.

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To book a free initial nutritional consultation with me, please click on the link

Sorcha’s Healthy Life: Back to School Brain Food was last changed: September 8, 2021 from Sorcha McElchar



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