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Food for thought 10 tips to regain brain health



According to new research*, 85 percent of all Australians suffer the effects of feeling 'brain dead', tired and low in energy at least once a week, however most are in the dark about how to help themselves. With 25 percent confessing they suffer the same feelings at least once a day, cognitive scientist and brain health expert Mimma Mason and dietitian Susie Burrell have come together to help educate the nation about what our brains need to function at their best.

The research reveals that most Australians will turn to quick fix solutions when they feel 'brain dead', tired and stressed. The overwhelming majority, 71%, reach for stimulants such as coffee or chocolate, while one in five head straight for the lolly jar.

Accredited Practising Dietitian Susie Burrell reviewed the findings and commented, "Nutrition is clearly not top-of-mind when it comes to 'treating' a tired brain. It seems we are inclined to seek healthy foods to keep our weight down and far less healthy choices to keep our tired brains awake. Australians need to understand that the brain and body are highly connected - what you do for one can benefit both."

It appears that it could be the nation's pre-occupation with their waistlines which may be leaving their head in a spin. Forty one percent of respondents admit that when shopping for food they are most influenced by the effect it will have on their waistline, followed by 17 percent who consider their energy levels and 15 percent, their mood.

"When your brain is tired you can be irritable, forgetful, feel exhausted and vague. The research suggests these are common conditions that Australians are suffering from and yet they don't have to. For example you can help your brain by enjoying a balanced family meal that contains important brain nutrients and offers social stimulation, such as steak with 3-4 brightly coloured vegetables. For busy mums they can grab a wrap with lean meat and salad vegies to keep their minds alert throughout the afternoon," she advised.

Mimma Mason from Brain Resource commented, "Nutrition plays a key role in helping our brains to perform well, including fighting off mental fatigue. In fact research shows that we can change our brains and develop new cell connections by eating well, exercising our bodies, exercising our brains and reducing stress."

Partnering with scientists from around the world, Brain Resource has developed the first and largest international human brain database. Assisting over 500 scientific studies to date it is a unique and powerful resource which has helped transform what is known about the brain and what to expect from its performance across the lifespan. "This database has helped us shed light on how the brain works and the specific roles that things like nutrition play in improving its function and performance, no matter what your age."

To help Australians get the best from their brains, Susie Burrell and Brain Resource have collaborated to develop some practical and scientifically sound tips to help Australians take charge of their brain and body health:

1. Feed your brain

Choose nutrient-rich foods, such as red meat, to ensure adequate levels of nutrients for optimal brain functioning including iron and zinc, B vitamins, omega-3 and amino acids. Common symptoms of iron deficiency include feeling tired, irritable and finding it hard to concentrate

Get the right mix of healthy fats each day from foods including oily fish, olive and sunflower oils, nuts and seeds, for healthy blood circulation and to allow a regular flow of nutrients to brain cells.

Eat plenty of fruit and brightly coloured vegetables every day. The anti-oxidants, vitamins and minerals play a crucial role in protecting brain cells from the day to day damage that accompany busy lifestyles

2. Think about why you eat not just what you eat

Identify the emotion and stress drivers that may cause you to eat for comfort and instead use exercise, relaxation or brain training as outlets for stress and mood fluctuations

3. Set realistic goals you can achieve in three months or less

Your brain will react to genuine personal goals which are SMART: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Time-bound

4. Train your brain: Neurons that fire together wire together

Your brain can change with training. Each time you solve a problem you give your brain a workout and form new brain connections. Try new, challenging activities like learning a language or recipe, completing a crossword or Sudoku

5. Train our feelings too - focus on 'what works'

Aim to increase your optimism and positivity by focusing on what works for you rather than magnifying your weaknesses. You can change your brain with your thoughts so train yourself to tune into positive thinking by playing games like "e-Catch the Feeling" (available on iphone or at

6. Build supportive relationships

Tune into and try and react to people's needs rather than their emotions - better emotion recognition helps you read between the lines. This will help to develop meaningful relationships that will provide support when needed. Try smiling at people to increase positive engagement

7. Exercise your body

Add periods of strength and intensity training (reaching 85% of your maximum heart rate) to your regular exercise routine to increase blood flow and generate new brain cell connections

8. Get a good night's sleep

Decrease brain stimulation from TV, computer work and food intake at least 30 minutes before you go to bed at night

9. De-stress every 90 minutes

Reset both your body and your brain throughout the day by taking 2 minute breaks. Try '4,3,7 breath in to the count of 4, hold your breath and count to 3 and breath out to the count of 7

10. Protect your brain

Limit use of recreational drugs, cigarettes and alcohol, wear a helmet when riding a bike and seek help for mood and anxiety concerns if they become unmanageable

*The research was commissioned by Meat & Livestock Australia and conducted online by Galaxy Research in January 2010 among 620 Australians aged between 18- 64 years

Issued on behalf of Meat & Livestock Australia and in conjunction with Brain Resource


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