Cheryl Lythgoe, Matron at not-for-profit healthcare provider, Benenden Health, shares 10 foods with great health benefits to include in your diet this year.
New research from Benenden Health has found that almost half of adults in the UK believe that they have an unhealthy relationship with food, with the youngest generations telling us that they are most unhappy with their eating habits.
Whether you are trying to improve your physical health or just change your eating habits, the best way to approach your diet is to ensure you are getting a good balance of food groups, vitamins and minerals and to aim for a rainbow of colours on your plate.
The challenge and burden of constantly assessing our eating habits can have a significant impact on our mental wellbeing, with the pressure of following diets and calorie counting often making us feel worse. By removing these targets and looking at making some simple lifestyle changes we can all live a healthy life and promote positive wellbeing.
To help us do this, here are ten foods that are great for our physical and mental health and well worth adding to our diets in 2022!
Live yoghurt has an excellent source of so-called friendly bacteria, also known as probiotics. Probiotics can help to strengthen the digestive tract, which is perfect for the gut and help to support our immune system. Along with this, new research has found that there may be an emerging link between lactobacillus and reduced levels of depression.
Yoghurt can be enjoyed in many ways, including as a yoghurt drink or mixed in with fruit, nuts or grains; however, when buying yoghurt, consider the sugar content as some yoghurts can contain significantly more than others.
Aubergines are a tasty vegetable which can easily be added to a lot of our favourite dishes. The vegetable has an antioxidant that may help to lower “bad” cholesterol. Along with this, it is a great source of fibre and has various important nutrients which can support the immune system and brain function.
Almonds have a multitude of health benefits and are a protein rich, tasty snack that is great for curbing the appetite!
Research has shown that almonds can help to improve our sleep and regulate blood sugar as they contain high amounts of muscle-relaxing magnesium. Magnesium helps the body to switch from its adrenaline cycle to what is known as the 'rest and digest cycle’.
Fresh ginger can help produce stomach acid as it stimulates the digestive system to keep food moving through the gut, helping to support digestion. Along with this, studies have recently been looking into how ginger may affect serotonin levels and may help to reduce anxiety.
The best way to incorporate ginger into your diet is by adding it into soups, stews, smoothies or stir-fries. You can even add grated ginger to boiling water to make a refreshing ginger tea!
Cherries are not only one of the most delicious fruits for snacking on or drinking, but are also known to improve sleep as they naturally contain melatonin, helping to promote a longer and deeper sleep.
Turkey is an excellent source of protein and is also great at encouraging sleepiness. This is because turkey is high in tryptophan, an essential amino acid acting as a natural mood regulator.
Tryptophan is excellent at calming the body, balancing hormones and fighting anxiety, all of which induce sleep.
7. Yeast extract
Yeast extract can be found in foods like Marmite and Vegemite or from leftover brewer's yeast and is one of the world's richest sources of B vitamins.
A study has shown that yeast extract has the potential to boost brain function as it can increase levels of a neurotransmitter associated with healthy brain function.
The University of York also found that adults who ate a teaspoon of Marmite every day had an increased production of a chemical messenger associated with healthy brain function.
8. Citrus fruits
Citrus fruits and drinks have significant benefits, with one study finding that a higher intake of citrus juice was linked to improvements in cognitive functions in older adults. Another study found that the flavanone-rich citrus juice in quantities commonly consumed can enhance blood flow to the brain in healthy young adults.
9. Oily Fish
Oily fish is full of Omega–3 fatty acids, which show that they may reduce depression. This is down to two such acids, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), which are thought to have the biggest potential benefit for people with mood disorders.
Oily fish is also fabulous for our cardiovascular system so we get two benefits for the price of one!
The oats that make porridge contain a unique type of fibre that nourishes and restores healthy gut bacteria as well as reducing your low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, the “bad” cholesterol.
Oats are a super easy food to add to your morning routine by having a bowl of porridge, which is excellent for your health and keeps you feeling fuller for longer!
For more advice and information on how to build a healthy diet, go to: https://www.benenden.co.uk/be-healthy.
For enquiries, please contact Olivia Prole or Abby Parkinson
Note to Editors
Cheryl Lythgoe is Matron for Benenden Health, the not-for-profit organisation founded in 1905 and based in York since 1990. It is one of the UK’s longest serving and most respected mutual healthcare societies.
Cheryl is currently undergoing a PhD. at the University of York while basing the rest of her time working within York and Kent supporting the Matrons and wider workforce.
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