Caralee Fontenele is a bestselling cookbook author who believes in the power of food in her physical and emotional health and wellbeing. In this extract from her latest book Nourishing You, she shares her advice on how to look after your brain health and emotional health through both food and also easy lifestyle changes.
Nourishing your brain & mind
The link between the brain and mind fascinates scientists. Thousands of studies are conducted yearly to investigate the brain’s control over the body, and its influence on the human mind. To live a healthy, happy and prosperous life, I believe it is essential that we understand the link between nourishing our brain and mind. William B. Salt II, MD, author of Irritable Bowel Syndrome & The Mind Body Spirit Connection: 7 Steps for Living a Healthy Life With a Functional Bowel Disorder, Crohn’s Diseases or Colitis, explains the difference between the mind and brain as follows:
Brain and mind are not the same. Your brain is part of the visible, tangible world of the body. Your mind is part of the invisible, transcendent world of thought, feeling, attitude, belief and imagination. The brain is the physical organ most associated with mind and consciousness, but the mind is not confined to the brain. The intelligence of your mind permeates every cell of your body, not just brain cells. Your mind has tremendous power over all bodily systems.
Over the past years, I have seen first-hand the connection between nourishing my brain and the effect it has on my mind. In the end, it’s quite simple. To ensure a healthy mind we have to nourish our brain with healthy foods, and vice-versa.
Our brain is one of the most incredible organs that we have. It is the grand conductor in our lives that plays a vital role in everything we do. Yet, we often overlook the brain and its influence on our mind.
If the brain is not nourished, various conditions and diseases can effect it. To help your brain function at its best, consider incorporating any of the below known and proven brain foods into your diet and recipes.
Great to use while baking or eating fresh! Blueberries are packed with antioxidants that are excellent for our brain and can improve cognitive function. They also aid memory.
Avocados contain healthy, unsaturated fat that is good for our nails, hair, skin and (yes) brain! Overall, avocados aid brain function and memory, and are excellent to help balance blood sugar.
This handy spice is a must-have in the kitchen. Not only does it flavour your food and brighten it with colour, it has for centuries aided health and wellbeing with its almost magical anti-inflammatory properties. Studies carried out in recent years by Professor Andrew Scholey and his team (Swinburne University), found that when their study groupware given curcumin supplements (curcumin is the active compound found within turmeric), the working memory and mood of subjects improved.
Need more energy? Look no further; beetroot boosts energy as well as aiding the liver to cleanse the body of toxins – specifically, the blood. This is essential for healthy brain function.
Broccoli is delicious cooked or raw and it also boosts memory function.
Packed with omega-3 oil, salmon is a good supplement for brain health. It helps with memory, concentration and keeping a clear head.
Coconut oil boasts a long list of healthy benefits. Used on hair, it can be helpful in the eradication of head-lice. Used as part of a face mask, coconut oil will leave your skin glowing. Consumed, it can help to improve brain function and memory, as well as provide much needed anti-inflammatory assistance to the body.
These are awesome to stash in your handbag, car or office drawer for a quick snack. Walnuts aid concentration and memory.
NOURISHMENT FOR THE MIND
There are several ways to nourish the mind. Continued learning, eating healthy foods, using positive affirmations, staying hydrated, performing healing work with the right professionals, and staying physically active are all great ways to move towards a nourished mind. To help you get started, let’s have a look at some helpful strategies and tools to nourish the mind.
GRATITUDE & POSITIVISM
Practising gratitude and having a positive attitude can change your life around for the better. Some people are naturally this way, and others aren’t. However, I believe that everyone can learn to have a gratitude attitude. Keeping a gratitude journal or repeating positive affirmations are both activities that can help you change your perspective in life to be a more beneficial, positive one. The benefits of a positive attitude are endless. Not only will you see constructive changes in how you take on new challenges, but you might feel a renewed sense of belonging, self-worth and wellbeing.
How: Keep it simple. Start by writing down a few powerful, positive statements. Read them before bedtime or after you wake up in the morning. Another option is to print and place your affirmations on your mirror and say them out loud each morning as you are getting ready. When it comes to journaling, there is no right or wrong way, but it can feel daunting, and you may be unsure how to start.
Helpful tips: I have a cute journal that I love, and each day I write under three headings, and as many thoughts or ideas that flow to me at the time.
1. My daily positive affirmations
— Fantastic opportunities flow to me every day from the most unexpected places.
—Today is an amazing day because I am surrounded by incredible people who are caring and thoughtful.
2. What am I grateful for today?
—I am grateful that I have healthy children.
—I am grateful that I feel inspired and creative.
—I am grateful that my husband is so affectionate and loving.
—I am grateful that my body is healthy and that it allows me to do all the things that I want to do.
—I am grateful to be going to work today to make a positive impact on the lives of others.
3. My future goals
—Start a podcast that positively impacts women.
—Learn how to do yoga, and practice it three times per week.
—Expand my business by 20% in the next 12 months.
MEDITATION & QUIET TIME
There is no one or ‘exclusive’ way to meditate.
Whether it is praying, following a guided meditation, learning the art of meditating alone, or just having quiet time, there are multiple benefits to grounding yourself daily through meditation.
How: Even if you are pressed for time, allocate 5 minutes a day(or longer if possible), to help you focus and re-ground yourself. The more you practice the art of meditation, the more benefits you will receive in your everyday life. It is incredible what happens in your life when you allow yourself some breathing and thinking space.
TRAIN YOUR BRAIN
Brain activities are especially helpful to improve memory and keep brain cells active! Opt for a crossword, puzzle, Sudoku, memory twisters or any other exercise that stimulates the brain.
Hanging out with friends that lift you up provides a different type of relaxation and nourishment – it is sometimes just what the mind needs. Having a barbeque with friends or family, having good conversation or hanging out at the beach are a few things that can enrich your mind and life.
Have you ever noticed how happy kids are? They have loads of energy that lasts forever, and can play all day long. We seem to lose our inner child as adults, with playing being one of the last things we focus on. I would encourage you to find time to be playful, have fun and bring out the child in you. Jump on that jumping castle or slide down the waterslide! Be silly and laugh! Life is too short to be serious all the time.
During a recent Sunday night dinner, we had some leftover pavlova that I knew would be spoilt by morning. I got the kids to go out to the garden and initiated what I termed a ‘pavlova fest’ where we squished pavlova over each other’s faces (similar to a watermelon fest). They all loved it, and so did I!
A MINDSET TOWARDS GROWTH
Adopting a growth mindset, embracing challenges and making time for change are all essential aspects of nourishing your mind. There is no doubt that life is going to throw some interesting and difficult challenges towards you; it’s part of the human experience. But, how we choose to nourish our mind has a considerable impact on these experiences. If we remember that change and growth strengthen our mind and improve our self-worth, we become better able to handle life with all its challenges.
Extract from Nourishing You by Caralee Fontenele, photography by Jo Anderson, Available Now, RRP$39.99, distributed by Bateman Books