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99% of us don’t get the nutrition our brain and body need from diet alone

We conducted independent research into diets—and most of us aren't getting it right.

Last year, we partnered with an independent research body to get to the bottom of some burning questions we had about nutrition for your brain.

When developing Vitals⁺, it was important for us to understand people’s eating habits—including their knowledge base of what good nutrition is, what they’re eating, and why—so that we could identify where the gaps were in their base nutrition, and make sure we could fill them.

We’re so excited to finally be able to share our nutrition research survey results with you. You might be surprised at what we found...

What did we ask?

The survey was conducted by an independent research body, who asked 2000 people all over Britain to answer questions about nutrition. They were asked about topics including their idea of a healthy diet, to describe their daily eating habits in detail, if they considered nutrition for the brain when thinking about their food choices, and if they were aware of their nutrient requirements.

How many of us have a good diet?

The most widely recommended diet for general health by the NHS is the Mediterranean diet. The University of Gothenburg has proven it to be the best diet for brain function and mental health, linking it to a reduced risk of anxiety and depression, as well as its well-documented links with reduced risk of stroke and heart disease.

More recent research suggests that the MIND diet is the best one to follow for long-term brain health. Based on the Mediterranean diet and the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet, it encourages foods specifically chosen for their impact on brain health, and helps to prevent cognitive decline.

Getting the right nutrients for your brain is a hugely important part of having a thriving brain. And yet, despite this diet being billed as the best for our brain health, only 1 in 400 people surveyed actually consumed a brain-healthy diet.

That’s less than 1% of people actually consuming what their brains and bodies need to thrive .

What is the best diet for the brain?

There are, of course, ways to supplement the nutrients in these foods, but in terms of getting them from your diet alone, here's what it looks like:

  • Green, leafy vegetables 5x a week

  • 5+ different coloured fruits and vegetables every day.

  • Berries 5x a week.

  • 5+ servings of nuts a week

  • Olive oil 5x a week

  • Whole grains 5x a week

  • Oily fish 2x a week or take an algae-based omega 3 supplement

  • Legumes and pulses 5x a week

  • White meat/mix of plant-based proteins 2x a week

  • Vitamin D supplement

  • Minimal processed foods

  • No more than 1 glass of wine a day

  • 1-2x coffee or tea a day max

  • 2L water a day

shellfish on a plate

How do our diets measure up?

In short? Not very well. Eating a ‘balanced diet’ (like the MIND diet), is a term widely used but poorly understood. Most people with busy modern lifestyles find it hard to reliably consume the right nutrients for the brain in the required quantities, or in the case of those on a plant-based diet—find it hard to find suitable alternatives.

Our research found:

  • Nearly 10% of people admitted to not eating any of the recommended quantities

  • Only 18% confidently said they eat 2 portions of vegetables and 3 portions of fruit per day

  • Just 16% get the recommended intake of nuts and seeds

  • Over 80% are not eating enough fish or supplementing with omega 3

We’re putting our brains and bodies at risk

Not getting the right nutrition for the brain can adversely affect mental health and well-being, and have huge repercussions for our physical health too.

One of the foods often neglected is purple fruits and vegetables. These contain anthocyanins—which have been shown to improve mental performance in all ages, from children to the elderly, and yet only 34% of people surveyed reliably eat these each day.

In addition, only 20% of those surveyed eat foods containing the recommended levels of B12 and iron daily. Lacking iron and B vitamins is known to cause sleep disturbance, poor memory and fatigue—and people are feeling the effects, with more than a quarter (26%) admitting to taking supplements to increase their energy levels.

About the author:
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Sophie Medlin

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