It was Mental Health Awareness Week last week and that got me thinking about 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.
I’m going to hang my wellbeing hat on the much-loved avocado. Technically a fruit, this little green powerhouse has had a huge resurgence in recent years and it’s no surprise that this has gone hand in hand with our general awareness of what constitutes good health.
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 this have to do with our mental health? Well, our state of mind is closely connected to our brain and our 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 this goes to show that eating the right thing – such as a health-kicking avocado – can help keep you mentally well and keep depression at bay – this common condition 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.
It’s fascinating to consider the findings of a study which suggest 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. Throw in a good dollop of commonsense 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.
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.