Neurish // Whole Foods for a Whole Mind

neurish   ˈnə-rish\
: consuming whole foods & supplements that nourish the neurons in your mind & throughout your body

: to cause your mind & body to develop or grow stronger

The science is simple: we feel less well when we eat too many processed, fatty, & sugary foods¹ (we’ve all been there, grumbling at the movie theatre after devouring a bag of sour patch kids & outrageously buttered popcorn). Nutrients, like healthy fats found in avocados & flax seeds, are central to brain structure & function². Overwhelming support among research has shown that our diet has a strong influence on the development of depression.

macronutrients for the mind  //

The macronutrients carbohydrates, protein & fat are ALL needed to build healthy brains!

CARBOHYDRATES  //  

  • Brains need ENERGY to work. That energy comes in the form of glucose, which our brain gets from our blood as our body breaks down the carbs we consume.
  • STOP! This info isn’t your free ticket to mowing down carb-heavy meals; unbalanced meals heavy in refined carbs can leave you feeling tired as they increase the brain’s level of the amino acid tryptophan, which is calming (the ingredient in those big turkey dinners that leaves you oh so sleeeeeeeepy…).

PROTEIN  //  

  • Most neurotransmitters are made from amino acids we get from protein in the food we eat.
  • Neurotransmitters are the brain chemicals that are responsible for our moods — they motivate us or make us sleepy, promote alertness or frustration, make us happy or make us sad.

FATS  //  

  • Fat is a key macronutrient for building healthy brains & supporting neuronal growth throughout your body.
  • The 3 types of fats are unsaturated, saturated, & trans-fats.
  • Polyunsaturated fat in particular are known to benefit brain health & include 2 types: omega 3 fatty acids & omega 6 fatty acids. Omega 3 is found in: flaxseed oil, canola oil, as well as in fatty fish & shellfish as EPA & DHA. Omega 6 is mostly in liquid vegetable oils like soybean oil, corn oil & safflower oil.

our fave brainy foods  //

Here are some of our favourite foods for brain health!

AVOCADO  //  A source of monounsaturated fat, which contributes to healthy blood flow². This fruit also lowers blood pressure, which reduces risk of hypertension. Hypertension is a risk factor for reduced cognitive abilities.
to use  ::  Try adding 1/4 to a 1/2 avocado to a smoothie, mash on toast, chop over salad, or slice into a sandwich. You can also check out our ode to avocado post for more recipe ideas!

BLUEBERRIES  // Help protect the brain from oxidative stress, as well may improve learning, motor skills & reduce effects of age-related conditions like Alzheimer’s disease or dementia3,4.
to use  ::  Add a handful to your morning cereal, salad at lunch, or to a bowl or yogurt or cottage cheese.

TOMATOES  //  Lycopene, a powerful antioxidant in tomatoes, may protect against free radical damage to cells that occurs in the development of dementia, particularly Alzheimer’s4.
to use  :: Add diced tomatos to your morning omelette, add fresh or sun-dried tomatoes to salads, or roast halved large fresh tomatoes with oregano & a dash of parmesean for a dinner side dish.

NUTS & SEEDS  //  High in vitamin E, which corresponds with less cognitive decline with age4.
to use  ::  Add raw or roasted nuts & seeds via nut butter on toast or oats in the morning, or spread onto rice cakes for mid afternoon pick-me-up, or chop to top a salad or stir fry.

WHOLE GRAINS  //  Oatmeal, whole-grain breads, quinoa, spelt, amaranth, barley, gamut, millet & brown rice are all whole grains, which have low-GI, meaning they release glucose slowly into the bloodstream, regulating blood sugar levels. Glucose is fuel to the brain & when it’s coming in a steady stream (rather than a sugar rush with a bottle of soda or slice of processed white bread), this keeps you mentally alert, able to focus & concentrate throughout the day. Whole grains improve blood flow & reduce the risk for heart disease, which directly impacts brain health 4,5. Learn more about whole grains with our recent grains post.
to use  ::  If you frequent our blog, you’ll know we love (understatement alert!) oats. So jump on the brainy food bandwagon! Need oat inspiration? Check out our oats post. Other ways to bring whole grains into your diet include whole wheat bread with mashed avocado, barley risotto, or quinoa salad.

BEANS  //  Like whole grains, beans stabilize blood sugar levels. Glucose is what fuels the brain & the brain needs a steady stream of energy. So a stable source, like that from beans, is good for both mood¹ & mental stamina.
to use  ::  Lentils & black beans are our go-to’s, whether tossed cold in salads, or used in veggie chilis we make in the crockpot to return home to after a long day at work!

WILD SALMON, HERRING, TROUT, MACKEREL, SARDINES  //  These fish are rich in omega-3 essential fatty acids, which are anti-inflammatory substances & are essential for brain function. These oily fish contain EPA & DHA in a ready-made form, which enables the body to use it easily. Research has linked low DHA levels with a higher risk of experiencing memory loss or developing Alzheimer’s disease. Deficits in omega-3 fatty acids identified as contributing factor to mood disorders¹.
to use  ::  Try roasting a whole fish or just a fillet with herbs, onions, & root veggies in the oven, or make a whole grain crust for the fish & pan fry in a cast iron skillet in a drizzle of olive oil.

Macronutrient Mood Therapy (MMT)  //

Intrigued by the ways in which food, mood & brain health are related? Macronutrient Mood Therapy (MMT) is a dietary approach to supporting mood & health. If you’re interested in MMT, e-mail sally@wholistichealthyyc.com to work with our Psychologist, Sally Powis-Campbell.


¹Jacka et al. 2010. The Association Between Habitual Diet Quality and the Common Mental Disorders in Community-Dwelling Adults: The Hordaland Health Study.
²Bourre, J.M., 2006. Effects of Nutrients (in Food) on the Structure and Function of the Nervous System: Update on the Dietary Requirements for Brain. The Journal of Nutrition, Health & Aging. Vol 10, Num 5. http://www.bourre.fr/pdf/publications_scientifiques/259.pdf
³Joseph, J.A. et al. (1999). Reversals of Age-Related Declines in Neuronal Signal Transduction, Cognitive, and Motor Behavioural Deficits with Blueberry, Spinach, or Strawberry Dietary Supplementation. Journal of Neuroscience. Vol 19, Num 18. http://enews.tufts.edu/stories/101399BlueberriesMayImproveMemory.htm
4Steven Pratt, MD, 2006.  Superfoods Rx: Fourteen Foods Proven to Change Your Life.
5The Whole Grains Council: What are the Health Benefits of Grains? http://wholegrainscouncil.org/whole-grains-101/what-are-the-health-benefits