Seven Top Foods For Brain Health

Seven Top Foods For Brain Health

Chronic mental illness and diseases like Alzheimer's and Dementia, as well as general cognitive decline, anxiety and depression are sadly on the increase. Many of these conditions have a hereditary component and a lifestyle component. 

But there is a growing body of evidence that nutrition can offer support and may even help prevent mental illness. 

Certainly, even when conditions have genetic and hereditary components, (as do many diseases), these genetic predispositions are far less likely to show up, if we take proper nutritional care of our bodies - and brains!

Today's article provides you with a list of some of the top brain-health foods you can eat.  These are important because your gut actually (and surprisingly to many people) manufactures an estimated 90% of the key "happy" brain neutrotransmitter seratonin - that's right, it's made in the digestive tract!

The foods mentioned below can help provide your brain with the right nutrients it needs to thrive and provide you with improved cognitive function and mental health; protect from harmful inflammation, and nurture your gut to assist in developing and maintaining a healthy brain!

1.  "Fatty" fish, such as salmon, trout, mackerel and sardines, are rich in Omega-3 fatty acids(1), which comprises about 30% of your brain!(2)  Omega 3's may slow age-related mental decline (helping to prevent, or slow the onset of Alzheimer's(3)) and not getting enough Omgea-3's can be linked to learning impairments and depression.(4)

Wild-caught salmon is especially valuable, as it also contains Vitamin B12, selenium, antioxidants, and potassium(5).  However, when consuming fish, do your best to avoid sources that have higher levels of mercury which is a heavy-metal toxin.

2.  Blueberries.  These nutritional-stars contain powerful antioxidants called flavonoids which have been shown to reduce the risk of cognitive decline and age-related brain degeneration(6).  Other evidence suggests that eating blueberries can reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes, which is a risk factor for Alzheimer's disease(7) and other research has shown that even though they taste nice and sweet, they actually have a positive effect on blood sugar control.

3.  Turmeric.  The active ingredient is curcumin, which is a potent antioxidant and has been shown to pass the "blood-brain barrier", and may help benefit memory, ease depression, and help new brain cells grow(8)(9)(10).

Turmeric can best be used as a spice in your cooking, and is typically absorbed better when heated and consumed with black pepper and a little healthy fat, such as olive or coconut oil.  It should be noted most of the studies relating to this powerful nutrient involve supplementation in doses ranging from 500 - 2,000mg per day which is much more than you could typically consume as a spice (turmeric only contains around 3-6% curcumin)(11)

I recommend a specific supplement called "Curcumin Bio" which provides curcumin in a bio-available form.  (Please get in touch for more information)

4.  Leafy green and cruciferous vegetables.  These are amongst the most nutrient-rich foods on earth, abundant in bio-available minerals and vitamins, as well as fibre and other phytonutrients.  Notable are cabbage, kale, and broccoli, which help to protect intestinal health by reducing inflammation in the bowel lining.  A healthy gut supports a healthy brain. Cruciferous vegetables, examples of which are broccoli, Bok Choy, cauliflower, kale, cabbage, and brussels sprouts, are also thought to be helpful in reducing your risk of developing cancers, as they are rich in several "carotenoids" and "glucosinolates", the latter which break down into various bio-active compounds which have been found to inhibit cancers in some studies.  

5.  Avocado.  The cafe fave of "Smashed avo on toast" may be helpful for your brain health too!  (Especially if you choose a grainy seeded sourdough). Avo's contain folate, which is necessary for making neurotransmitters, assisting cellular detoxification, and helping with proper nervous system development (12).   They also contain lutein, another dietary carotenoid, which is associated with improved levels of cognition(13), and also they are rich in monounsaturated fats, which research has shown to increase healthy blood flow throughout the body and to the brain(14).

6.  Nuts and seeds.  Generally, nuts are excellent brain-nutrients, containing brain-healthy fat and protein.  Nuts have been shown to assist in protecting again against age-related cognitive decline(15). Notable in the Nut family for brain health would be walnuts (high in polyunsaturated fatty acids, alpha-linolenic and linoleic acids), and brazil nuts (beneficial because of selenium, magnesium, Vitamin E, and other brain-friendly micro-nutrients).  Be sure to avoid cheap nut-mixes which contain a majority of the non-nut "peanut" (they are actually a legume), and may be cooked in cheap and nasty oils!  In the seeds department, it’s hard to go past Sunflower seeds, otherwise known as pepitas.  These contain great antioxidants that help protect the brain from free-radical damage(16) and are a fantastic source of magnesium, iron, zinc and copper, each of which is important for brain health.

7.  Other food sources beneficial to your mental health may include:

  • fermented foods, such as kimchi, kefir, and sauerkraut which are rich in probiotic bacteria - which may assist with clearer thinking and improved mood(18)
  • prebiotic foods, such as chicory root, garlic and onions, although the latter two may be better avoided if you have Irritable Bowel Syndrome - in which case you should consider Low FODMAP meals
  • dark chocolate with a cocoa content of 70% or greater, which again present the benefits of the antioxidant plant compounds "flavonoids" to your brain!  Unfortunately, supermarket milk chocolate bars don't have quite the same effect - sorry!
  • Green tea can improve alertness, performance, memory and focus(19) and as well contains L-theanine, an amino acid that can cross the blood-brain barrier and increase the activity of the mood-regulating neurotransmitter GABA, which can help reduce anxiety and increase relaxation.(20)

The above of course, is not an exhaustive list, but should help you on your way to powering up your brain and mental health!  

Source contributions and references:






6. Subash, S., Essa, M. M., Al-Adawi, S., Memon, M. A., Manivasagam, T., & Akbar, M. Neuroprotective effects of berry fruits on neurodegenerative diseases. Neural regeneration research. 2014; 9(16), 1557–1566  

7. Muraki Isao, Imamura Fumiaki, Manson JoAnn E, Hu Frank B, Willett Walter C, van Dam Rob M et al. Fruit consumption and risk of type 2 diabetes: results from three prospective longitudinal cohort studies BMJ 2013; 347 :f5001





12. McGarel, C., Pentieva, K., Strain, J., & McNulty, H. (2015). Emerging roles for folate and related B-vitamins in brain health across the lifecycle. Proceedings of the Nutrition Society, 74(1), 46-55. 

13. Johnson, Elizabeth, et al. Avocado consumption increases neural lutein and improves cognitive function. The FASEB Journal  (2015): 32-8.

14. Mark L. Dreher & Adrienne J. Davenport. Hass Avocado Composition and Potential Health Effects, Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition. 2013; 53:7, 738-750,  

15. Shibu M. Poulose, Marshall G. Miller, Barbara Shukitt-Hale, Role of Walnuts in Maintaining Brain Health with Age, The Journal of Nutrition. 2014; 144:4 561S–566S,



18. Selhub, E. M., Logan, A. C., & Bested, A. C. Fermented foods, microbiota, and mental health: ancient practice meets nutritional psychiatry. Journal of physiological anthropology. 2014; 33(1), 2. 



Author: Lisa Cutforth B. Sc.  Nutrition with Psychology.


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20 Natural WAYS To Boost Mood & Improve Your State!

It absolutely is possible to influence your “state”. By state, I mean you can influence your mood, your energy levels and your state of mind.

When you are in your optimum state, the world is your oyster, you perceive more possibilities and feel more capable, and you are usually better able to access joy!

Here are 20 really simple and easy to implement ways to improve your state. A healthy mind and mental state needs to be nurtured.

If taken for granted or neglected it can quickly deteriorate. If you have mental illness, like any disease, recovery and feeling well require consistent daily management; there is no “quick fix”.

Try some of these everyday, you will be better for it. 😃😃😃

Diet has been scientifically proven to influence mood, performance, brain chemistry, your health and your overall state of well-being. To get yourself into an optimum state and play at the top of your game... it’s a good idea to start with the basics.
1.  Eat three servings a day of top-quality amino containing foods like fish, lean white meat (free range), egg, soya, quinoa, combinations of beans, lentils, pulses, and sprouts. This will make sure you are getting all the essential amino acids you need for optimum brain chemistry.

2.  Choose low "Glycaemic Load" carbohydrates.
Eat reasonable portions of carbohydrates as whole grains, vegetables and fresh fruit, and stay away from processed sugar and refined foods.

This will make sure you have a steady stream of good quality calming carbohydrates as well as essential amino acids entering your system which are vital for maintaining the perfect state of being. Your brain, your nerves, your red blood cells and your muscles all rely on carbohydrates for energy. Give them the fuel they need to perform.

By choosing quality carbs you help keep this supply stable and avoid highs and lows that negatively affect mood, energy and other body systems.

Extra tip: Combine protein with carbohydrate. This is a very effective strategy to help keep your blood sugar levels stable which has a profound effect on your mood and ability to concentrate.  This means you won’t become a victim of cravings and addicted to stimulants that will make you edgy and weak.

3.  Save your antioxidants for your power not for your defence. Avoid hydrogenated fats and reduce your intake of saturated fats from meat, dairy produce and junk food. Avoid artificial additives and preservatives. They can deplete you of nutrients, damage your cells, steal your good mood and negatively affect your state.

4.  Boost your essential oils status. Omega 3 fats contain EPA and DHA which are mood enhancers as well as mind and memory boosters. Eat good quality oily fish three times a week instead of meat, or take fish oil supplements (good sources are sardines, mackeral, salmon, tuna... sardines are naturally lowest in mercury).

Have a tablespoon of ground flax seeds every day or munch on some walnuts. Use cold-pressed seed oils in salad dressings.
5.  Drink 1 – 2 litres of water a day (naturally caffeine free herbal teas can be included in this.)  Dehydration will affect your performance and concentration whereas enough water will keep you clear, alert and energised.

Some herbal teas, have the added benefit of being a “pick up” or “calmer” so choose the one you need. For example: Peppermint and Liquorice tea are great for afternoon energizers. Camomile is great for relaxing. Lemon and Ginger are great for after meals and Jasmine is the perfect social tea.

6.  Enjoy whole and fresh natural foods for greater vitality, energy and zest for life. Real foods contain many more vitamins and minerals and goodies than we could easily name off the top of our heads.

If your brain and your body is well nourished, you feel well and capable. If you are malnourished, lethargic, or carrying a burden of chemical toxins (like preservatives, trans-fats, and artificial additives) it is really difficult to improve your state because you just don’t feel good and healthy.

7. Get a daily dose of lecithin. Lecithin supports acetylcholine a neurotransmitter involved in memory and mood.  Foods containing lecithin include organ meats, red meat, seafood, eggs, cooked green vegetables, such as Brussels sprouts and broccoli, legumes, such as soybeans, kidney beans, and black beans

8.   One or two squares of raw dark chocolate (or good quality organic dark chocolate) can be wonderfully calming and uplifting, especially if eaten with a handful of almonds. Almonds are great for the amygdala, the emotional centre of your brain.

9.  Chop some fresh herbs onto your meals.

Patrick Holford, founder of the Institute of Optimum Nutrition, promotes the benefits of the following culinary herbs:
Basil can sharpen the senses and improve concentration.
Coriander is reputed to have a refreshing, stimulating and uplifting effect on the mind and may help with lethargy and tension.
Marjoram is helpful for calming the nervous system and reducing anxiety and feelings of stress.
Peppermint is a cooling herb that can reduce angry feelings and nervousness. It can also help with mental fatigue.
Rosemary is a stimulating herb, reputedly good for improving memory.

So plant a herb garden and get in the habit of sprinkling some fresh and revitalising goodness onto at least one meal a day!


10.  Use spices like cinnamon or foods like ginger and liquorice to warm you up or uplift you. Cinnamon can also help to regulate blood sugar levels, helping to keep your mood stable.


11.  Magnesium can help calm anxiety and relieve tension by relaxing your muscles. If you battle to sleep, this will dramatically affect your state when you are awake. Try taking 300 mg of Magnesium in the evening before bed to help you relax. Or you could add some magnesium salts to a nice warm relaxing bath.

12.   If your energy levels are low and your stress levels are high and you are relying on stimulants to get through your day, consider taking a vitamin B complex after breakfast or at lunch time, rather than a coffee or other stimulant like sugar.

You will be delighted by the lift (and don’t be put off by your bright yellow wee!) Vegans might benefit from supplementing vitamin B12 sublingually (under the tongue) and Spirulina. Vegans are often low in B12 and iron.

13.  Focus your attention.
Choose where you focus your attention be aware of what you give power and energy to. If you can laser tune your focus, you will elevate your state and achieve greater results.

Focus on positives, notice when you are in a repetitive cycle of focusing on the negative or worst case scenario. We can train ourselves to pay attention to different things and to become aware of positive things at play in our lives. Our state and progress can be affected by focus.

"Choose what you would like to pull into your focus...."

 14.  Balance your brain with meditation, prayer, or quiet reflection.

15.  Choose your circle of influence carefully. Your “unconscious” mind is open to suggestion, make sure that those speaking into it or influencing it are mostly positive and supporting, enrich your perspective or lighten your state and your mood, or create an environment where you feel loved, accepted and like you belong.

A sense of community, connectedness and belonging will also increase neurotransmitters like Serotonin and GABA which help us feel calm and stable, even happy.

16. Movement through light exercise or some aerobic exercise can get that vital energy going. It will invigorate your brain, raise endorphins and as an added bonus, burn some fat. Exercise has been proven to help people recover from depression.

Dancing has been associated with elevated mood, decreased incidence of Alzheimer’s and improved mental health. Walking in nature releases GABA, a stabilising calming neurotransmitter.

17. Sunlight. Maximise natural light in your room, with natural daylight or full spectrum lighting.

Sunlight and vitamin D are important for the pineal gland, for hormone regulation, for your immune system and can ward off depression.

Sit out in the morning sun or afternoon sun for 20 minutes a day, face and arms exposed to the rays (and of course keep out of the mid day sun, so that you don’t get sunburned).

18. Smell is so powerful that it acts directly on the brain like a drug. Our smell sense is directly wired into the limbic system, a part of our brain that acts as an emotional switchboard.

Fragrances can relieve pain, call up deep-seated memories and generally affect personality and behaviour.

Scents like essential oils: Ylang Ylang, Sandalwood, Rose, Patchouli, Jasmine, Vanilla and Musk are both relaxing and stimulating. You could burn these essential oils in an oil burner, add drops to your bath, or burn fragranced candles to help improve your state.

19.  Create a state of ecstasy or calm through music. You can use music consciously to alter your state- as a natural stimulant, relaxant, mood booster and connector, both at home and at work. Music with 60 beats per minute aids concentration and puts you in a receptive and calming learning state.

‘Half an hour of music produces the same effect as ten milligrams of Valium.’ Raymond Bahr, Director of Coronary Care, St Agnes Hospital

20.  Sleep. Increased REM sleep is an excellent mood enhancer. Get enough sleep.

People who are sleep deprived tend to be lower in serotonin, lower in growth hormone, less productive, feel more stressed and can be ineffective.

Aim for 6 to 9 hours a night. Take siestas, a well-timed nap can be tremendously invigorating!

The role of stress and emotions in the manifestation of disease, as well as its effect on recovery

This is not a new idea, but it's often understated or underestimated and often misses out on adequate attention in the treatment cycle.

I have been collecting literature on this topic for years but recently found an interesting article which describes it pretty succinctly here.

Stress can affect our ability to protect ourselves from illness and our ability to heal. While not all stress is bad, the ongoing assault of chronic stress or persistent daily stress is more impactful than most people realise.

"...Chronic stress has a significant effect on the immune system that ultimately manifest an illness. It raises catecholamine and suppressor T cells levels, which suppress the immune system. This suppression, in turn raises the risk of viral infection. Stress also leads to the release of histamine, which can trigger severe broncho-constriction in asthmatics.

Stress increases the risk for diabetes mellitus, especially in overweight individuals, since psychological stress alters insulin needs.
Stress also alters the acid concentration in the stomach, which can lead to peptic ulcers, stress ulcers or ulcerative colitis.

Chronic stress can also lead to plaque buildup in the arteries (atherosclerosis), especially if combined with a high-fat diet and sedentary living.
The correlation between stressful life events and psychiatric illness is stronger than the correlation with medical or physical illness. The relationship of stress with psychiatric illness is strongest in neuroses, which is followed by depression and schizophrenia.

There is no scientific evidence of a direct cause-and-effect relationship between the immune system changes and the development of cancer. However, recent studies found a link between stress, tumour development and suppression of natural killer (NK) cells, which is actively involved in preventing metastasis and destroying small metastases."

Arguably stress is not always avoidable... however we can learn techniques to shield ourselves from some stressors, we can improve our ability to self regulate and recover better through others... and we can make sure we support ourselves physically with good nutrition and mentally with adequate emotional or psychological support and connection.  Eat plenty of nourishing food and try to limit “stress eating” junk food, which puts further strain on your body and can cause further inflammation. 

Sometimes in life, there are times we need to hold on, to "vasbyt" (a great Afrikaans term which kind of means "endure") and push through stress because it's necessary or temporary or because there's something worth holding onto, and sometimes there will be times when it becomes necessary to "let go" or change something big, because your health will require it.  

Sometimes our desire or need to be in control needs to be soothed by acceptance of circumstances outside of our control, and a redirection of energy to embrace other opportunities, consider other options or to recover and renew and regroup.  Happiness and contentment can be found in many different places, as can success, and fulfillment and hope.

Consider: “what’s causing you stress”, and “is there anything you can change”, and “where you can get support”, also look for little ways you can support yourself through it like getting more sleep, spending time in nature, eating nourishing food and talking to friends and family.

Order your healthy meals delivered in Brisbane, Sunshine and Gold Coasts here.

Ref:  Malaysian Journal of Medical Sciences, Vol. 15, No. 4, October 2008 (9-18)

Why Healthy Meal Delivery Can Be the Best Gift for New Parents


Bringing home a new baby can be overwhelming and without a doubt, exhausting. If it’s a couple’s first child or even fourth, the first few months following a new arrival are always hectic and tiring, yet somehow magical.

It can be difficult for new parents to think about food prep or recipes, let alone to prioritise healthy eating at all. While trying to recover from the most physically and emotionally exhausting event that is childbirth, they have their hands full (literally), they are tired and they are hungry. That’s why healthy, wholesome and delicious prepared meals can be an absolute lifesaver during that precious and all-consuming time.

We are absolutely certain that new parents will appreciate our lovingly prepared meals delivered to their doorstep, with no prep of any kind required – no chopping, no mixing, simply heat and eat. The perfect gift to cut out the stress of shopping, cooking and washing up.

Our hand-prepared frozen meals are packed full of nutritious fresh ingredients (locally sourced where possible) to support the postpartum healing period and allow more time for care and rest for the new parents. Each Wholesomeness meal comes labelled with nutritional information and microwave and oven heating instructions.

A Wholesomeness gift voucher would make the perfect gift for new parents. Alternatively, if you would prefer to just purchase and send the new parents a box once the little one has arrived, you can do that as well.

For a couple who have only just become parents, we would recommend our pack of 14 x one-portion meals. This would provide the new parents with 7 nights of dinners. For an extra treat, add on a pack of our yummy guilt-free vegan cakes (a huge customer favourite) for the couple to enjoy together once the baby is (finally!) asleep.

For families who already have children, our family meal pack would be perfect. Our family meal pack includes 5 x 1.2kg kid-friendly meals (each meal is designed to feed two adults + two children).

Purchase a gift voucher here.

Order and send meals to the new parents here. Delivery is every Tuesday.

“A new baby is like the beginning of all things…hope, a dream of possibilities.”

- Eda LaShan

Wholesomeness Superfood Breakfast Packs


Did you know that we make delicious breakfast packs that you can add onto any order for only $20?

Our breakfast packs are made in house by our clinical Nutritionist and are gluten free, dairy free, preservative free, cane sugar free and additive free. We can also make them low FODMAP!

Our breakfast packs include a mix of smoothie packs and our homemade cereal packs (some weeks we mix it up a bit and make our yummy breakfast frittata too).

Our delicious superfood smoothie packs are the perfect blend-and-go brekkie for those busy mornings – simply blend with your choice of milk or water. No prepping, no waste and no mess!! For an added boost, you can also add a serving of our homemade protein powder blend, which can be added onto any order. 

We make our own cereal blend from scratch, using premium ingredients (and no added refined sugars in sight!). We keep our dried fruit content low, occasionally we might add xylitol, honey or maple syrup, but it's rare and it's minimal. We like to use wholesome, nourishing ingredients in our cereal…think puffed quinoa, pepitas, sunflower seeds, shaved coconut and freeze dried fruit, just to name a few! We are constantly creating new cereal blends with different and exciting ingredients to add variation so that you’re never bored…which we believe is essential for an enjoyable, yummy breakfast!

Perhaps you have a super busy schedule, or you have some food sensitivities, or you simply just want more time for a sleep in! Add a breakfast pack to your next order here. Breakfast is one of the most important nourishing opportunities of the day. Make it count. 



Lisa Cutforth
B.Sc Nutrition with Psychology (Dual Degree)
Consulting Clinical Nutritionist to The Banyans Wellness Retreat
Owner and Managing Director of Wholesomeness