We need plenty of different nutrients to support our bodies, and it can understandably be difficult getting enough variety into your plate on a daily basis.
However, when it comes to the important issue of brain health, Australians may need to start paying more attention to their dietary habits.
A new survey commissioned by Souvenaid has found that declines in memory function is one of the top age-related health concerns for Australians. The survey was carried out by Galaxy Research and focused on 1,000 respondents from both genders.
According to the results, dementia is the top concern (37 per cent) associated with ageing and health, ahead of cancer (19 per cent) and loss of mobility (13 per cent).
Yet in spite of this, the same survey found only a small minority are regularly eating foods linked to better brain health. For example, only 7 per cent of respondents ate fish and 11 per cent ate broccoli on a daily basis.
Both of these foods have been associated with supporting brain function. Oily fish is a rich source of Omega-3, while broccoli contains a hefty amount of vitamin K as well as fibre and antioxidants. Previous research has linked both vitamin K and omega-3 to positive effects on cognition and other aspects of brain function, which may be useful as we grow older.
In order to make the most of these nutrients and any benefits they have for brain health, we need to ensure they have a significant presence in our daily diet. Unfortunately, this is one area of healthy eating that Australians may be falling behind in, as highlighted by the Souvenaid survey.
The results also revealed the perceptions people have about a healthy diet, and what they believe is sufficient on a daily basis. Two in three survey participants (68 per cent) said eating a balanced diet was good enough for brain health. Meanwhile, 75 per cent believes fish oil supplements benefited the brain and 12 per cent thought a multivitamin supplement was enough to support a healthy brain.
Professor Richard Wurtman, a neuropharmacologist from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), said Australians are starting to understand why good nutrition is so important. However, there is still more work needed to help people understand what foods are best to consume and how much of each is necessary.
"Our brains are extremely complex, particularly when diseases such as dementia are factored in," Mr Wurtman said in a statement released May 28.
"Currently the daily Australian menu is completely upside down when it comes to the foods we need to eat to maintain health – fish, meat, fresh green vegetables need to be at the top."
While many people's nutritional habits may not be fully sufficient, the survey showed Australians are taking other steps to support brain health. In total, 52 per cent of respondents aged 50 years or older said they walked or had some other form of daily exercise.
A further 39 per cent read daily in an effort to maintain brain health and mental agility, while 11 per cent did Sudoku puzzles.
"The research shows exercise and lifestyle elements of looking after brain health are there, but there's a need for Aussies to significantly improve their overall nutritional understanding," Mr Wurtman said.
Eating a nutritious, balanced diet and engaging in regular exercise are two essential steps in the journey towards better health. The right health insurance policy can also help you achieve peace of mind about your family's medical needs.
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