Recently, people have been asking me about their food choices and how they relate to brain health, mood and awareness. We are learning more about how a balanced diet, fitness and sleep affect our brains, and emerging research suggests that food can have a profound influence on mental health and cognition. From the mind-gut connection to identifying the best fuel for your brain, this is a popular topic.
There is no one food that should be eaten or not eaten to reduce the risk of mental health disorders. In general, I recommend eating a balanced diet comparable to the Mediterranean plan rich in healthy fats, fish, smart carbohydrates and vegetables.
Nourishing Your Noggin With Barley
You may know from my Barley Balance posts that barley is a smart carbohydrate with the soluble fibre beta-glucan and has a low glycemic index rating. All this nourishment provides excellent energy to fuel the brain. In fact, a recent study in Spain found cognition scores improved in patients who had followed the Mediterranean diet for 6.5 years, compared with those who had consumed a low-fat diet (1). My favourite “nourish your noggin” foods include barley, salmon, spinach, blueberries and nuts.
Three Meal-Planning tips with Barley
- I love crunch and salt when it comes to food, so crackers are an easy solution to satisfy. However, after reading the labels of some highly processed crackers on the grocery shelf, I sought out an alternative. Step up the sunflower barley crackers. With only five ingredients and very little prep time, these “nourish your noggin” crackers will have you on your game during snack time!
- With grill season upon us and the Meatless Monday trend in full swing, why not try mushroom barley burgers for your next barbecue? The prep time is about an hour to account for the time it takes to cook the barley—keep this in mind, and make extra barley for other recipes at the same time!
- One of my favourite barley recipes is tabbouleh. Although it originated in Lebanon, it has become a Mediterranean favourite. It’s a perfect “nourish your noggin” complement to a turkey wrap or as a side with the burgers.
Brain Health Bottom Line
Remember to combine a healthy diet filled with whole foods like barley with a fitness routine and plenty of sleep to keep your body and brain in optimal health.
1. Martínez-Lapiscina E Het al. Mediterranean diet improves cognition: the PREDIMED-NAVARRA randomised trial. J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry. 2013; 84(12):1318-25.