By Graeme Pallister of 63 Tay Street
We’re in the midst of Mental Health Awareness Week as I write this column and so I thought I’d take a look at how food can affect our general wellbeing.
Let’s start with what we mean by wellbeing! The best definition I found has it as ‘a positive physical, social and mental state’; for me, all of these things can be made better by food.
In the interests of keeping myself on-foodie-trend, I’m going to hang my wellbeing hat on the much-loved avocado. This little green powerhouse of a fruit has had a huge resurgence in recent years and it’s no surprise that this has gone hand-in-hand with our general awareness around health.
Eating the right thing – such as a health-kicking avocado – can help keep you mentally well.
Avocados are full of what we now know to be good fats - or monosaturated single bond fats for the health-nuts among you. There are also 18 of the 22 amino acids we need for good health, including all eight essential amino acids, plus plant based essential fatty acids omega 6 and omega 3.
But what does all of this have to do with your mental health? Well, your state of mind is closely connected to your brain – obviously – and to your gut. The monosaturated fats deliver vital nutrients to our bodies, giving us energy and helping to maintain our cells. For instance, the nerve cells in our brains are made up of fat and need to be flexible to work quickly. Chemical messengers, mainly formed from amino acids, are used to transport information to other parts of the brain, including signals about mood.
All going to show that eating the right thing – such as a health-kicking avocado – can help keep you mentally well. Of course, where there’s good there’s bad and the flip side is a bit less appetising; depression has been linked with a lack of omega-3 fatty acids, and research has shown that children with ADHD tend to be low in fatty acids and iron.
This research into nutrition and mental health is still relatively new – and I’m certainly not a doctor – but it is fascinating to consider the findings of the BBC study which suggests that the rise in mental health problems over the last 50 years can be attributed to the changes in the way that food in the UK is produced.
A healthy mind is more likely to go hand-in-hand with a healthy body.
Throw in a good dollop of common sense and you’d conclude that a healthy mind is more likely to go hand-in-hand with a healthy body. Wellbeing is, after all, an entire state and that humble avocado could help you on your way to making sure it’s a positive one.
Graeme's Top Tip: I’m going all #instachef you on with a simple avocado on toast. I like sourdough - second day is best – rubbed with a little olive oil, warmed through and topped with avo and flaxseeds. Or use it as the base for a healthy pancake. Mix eggs, flour and ripe avocado until sloppy enough to pour and make in the same way you would traditional pancakes. Serve with Greek yoghurt and Scottish berries.
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