“One cannot think well, love well and sleep well if one has not dined well,” said the author Virginia Woolf, who, judging by the quality and quantity of her literary output, must have been dining rather well.
What is current science saying about the effects of certain foods on our mental and emotional health? What foods make you happy? What foods should students eat to prepare for NCEA?
The best foods to feed both your mind and your mood, are “healthy fats, healthy fats, healthy fats”, says Papamoa naturopath Yolande Waho.
“The brain is the fattiest organ in the body and so are your nerve cells – neurons, so the best brain foods must include fats. As a naturopath, I tell people the most natural and best fats are those that remain stable at room temperature and when heated.
“Those fats are contained in animal, kaimoana [seafood], egg yolk and coconut products, and vegetable fats such as olive and flaxseed oils. All these healthy fats are stable and identical to the fat we have in our brains.”
A few vegetable fats, such as olive, hempseed and flaxseed oils, also promote healthy body function, she says.
“Vegetable oils shouldn’t be highly processed and manufactured so they are easier for our bodies to assimilate. Fat and water – and watery vegetables such as greens, cucumbers and watermelons – are the most important nutrients for your brain.”
Dehydrating liquids such as coffee, tea and alcohol are detrimental to our brains, explains Yolande.
“All processed foods, junk food and preservatives and added chemicals like artificial sweetener can hyper-stimulate nerve cells and kill them. The die-off can cause anxiety, depression, Parkinson’s and multiple sclerosis. Food additives and sugar have negative effects on brain focus.”
She highly recommends berries, especially blueberries, which improve the brain function.
“Berries are good foods for your nerves, so are good for anything controlled by your nervous system, i.e your senses: hearing, sight, taste, smell and touch.”
Keto or no keto?
Yolande does not advocate eating sugars in the form of carbohydrates.
“My clients have found that going on little to zero carbs has given them more energy and their moods have skyrocketed. Your brain turns the dietary fats into ketones.
“The best way to absorb ketones is intermittent fasting and eating a very low carb diet.”
These days modern science has caught up what many natural healers have known for years, she says: the ‘gut brain’ is perhaps even more important than our head brain as it has more neurons.
“Neurons and neurotransmitters send messages between your brain and your nerve cells – so the healthier your neurons, the better it is for your mental health. To feed your gut brain, you need probiotics.
“Research now shows that when you eat or swallow probiotics most of the probiotics don’t survive the gut acid. I am now recommending practitioner-only, spore-based probiotics, which survive the acid; I have found they work miracles.”
I wonder if Virginia Woolf would have been pro practitioner-only, spore-based probiotics? My gut says yes.