It’s official – bad things are good for you

The five brain foods we all need


  • Have you let your standards slip too?
  • Here’s a researcher that loves his TV
  • Discover the five brain foods that will boost your IQ… maybe!

I have been pondering the way the past three months have affected many peoples’ diets.

In some cases the tendency has been to rediscover old recipes and start to cook healthy and hearty meals at home.

But for other people the temptation has been to snack and graze on cakes, sweets and other less healthy stuff.

Talking to a neighbour over the garden fence the other day it became obvious that her household was very much of the latter persuasion whilst she was trying her best to prepare better options.

But I did tell her that not all treats are bad for us, just the case of doing things in moderation, as I always say.

But I thought it was time I properly looked into the old adage “a little bit of what you fancy always does you good.”

So, this week I’ve discovered a whole flurry of evidence that suggests alcohol, ice cream and TV are all good for you.

I’ll explain how in a minute.

But just imagine how the new NHS posters promoting good health could look…

You’d have someone sitting on the sofa… a glass of wine in one hand… a tub of ice cream in the other… watching Eastenders!

It may sound nutty, but it confirms what I’ve been saying all along.

You don’t have to cut out all of life’s little treats in order to enjoy a good, healthy life.

In fact, they may even help you!

Is this why pub quiz teams are so brainy?

You’ve probably heard that a glass of red wine can help strengthen the heart and keep disease at bay… I may have mentioned it a time or two!

But could it make you brainier…?

Well, possibly.

According to Professor Stefan Brene, a pint of beer or a glass of wine could trigger the growth of new brain cells.

Tests carried out at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm showed that alcohol taken in moderation over a long period helped new nerve cells – called neurons – form in the brain.

And guess what…

The growth of these new neurons improves your memory and learning abilities.

But before you get too excited and drag out that home-brew kit from under the stairs, this study was conducted on rats.

But it seems there’s a clear link between alcohol and the production of new brain cells.

Of course, this doesn’t mean you should drink heavily. Binge-drinking is one of the curses of modern living, and is harming more people (especially the young) than ever before.

To me, it’s yet more proof that drinking sensibly is better for you than trying to cut out drink altogether.

So let’s raise a glass to that!

And while we’re making toasts, here’s one from my wife…

Three cheers for ice cream!

It’s official. Ice cream really does make us happy.

Now, if you’re like my wife, you’ll argue that you’ve always known ice cream makes you happy!

But now there’s scientific evidence to back up your argument.

Experts at London’s Institute of Pyschiatry conducted an experiment where people’s brains were scanned as they ate vanilla ice cream. And by using a magnetic resonance imaging machine (don’t ask me), results showed that the ice cream immediately switched on the brain’s pleasure zones.

I didn’t even know we HAD pleasure zones (I know, I know I’m a typical man), but this does explain the feel-good feeling that comes from eating ice cream.

So as usual, my advice is, if you like ice cream, indulge yourself once in a while. Don’t cut out the treats altogether. They really DO make us feel happy, and that’s a vital factor in our general health.

TV – angel or devil?

I’m not a great fan of the telly.

Some programmes are truly great. Some are mildly diverting. But most are rubbish. And relying solely on the TV as your main form of entertainment can be harmful.

Research has shown that sitting in front of the TV for long periods can aid obesity, and lead to poor attention span. It can also make you feel sluggish, jaded and brain dead.

But I think it’s only fair to put my prejudices to one side to tell you about a study that I read.

It claims that TV is actually good for you!

In his book – Everything Bad Is Good For You – Steven Johnson argues that TV stimulates the brain with complex stories, moral problems and plots that are every bit as intellectually nourishing as a good novel.

“Watching programmes is like a mental workout,” he says, “exercising the mind and keeping it fit and sharp.”

There may be some truth to this. After all, there’s a strong suggestion that keeping your mind nimble with crossword puzzles and Scrabble can strengthen the mind and help prevent mental deterioration – especially in the old.

So if a TV programme makes you think – than I guess it could help keep the brain fit and healthy.

The trouble is, so few programmes DO make you think.

(Celebrity Love Island anyone?)

Rather than make me think, it makes me reach for the off button.

My top 5 ‘brain foods’

Instead of watching Celebrity Love Island, I’d rather nourish my brain by eating my top 5 ‘brain foods’:

– Tuck into bread, rice, pasta and some tasty pork to up your levels of Vitamin B1 (Thiamine). This vitamin is essential for a healthy brain and nerve cells.

– Meat, poultry, fish, whole-grain cereals, milk, vegetables, and fruit are all great for Vitamin B5 (Pantothenic acid), which helps our brain receive messages. (I seem to develop a deficiency when my wife tells me to tidy up the garage).

– Chicken, fish, pork, liver, and kidney, as well as whole grain cereals, and nuts are great for Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine), which helps produce serotonin, an essential brain chemical.

– Try including some of these the next time you’re planning a light lunch: bananas, orange juice, fortified cereals, lemons, strawberry, melon, leafy vegetables, dried beans and peas. All of these foods contain folic acid, another great brain-food substance.

– Blueberries. American researchers found that eating one-cup of blueberries a day reduced age-related damage in the brain. In fact there’s a whole range of benefits to Blueberries. It’s recently been elevated to a super-food status, so get eating!

Okay, that’s all from me today. I’m off for a glass of wine and a Cornetto!