Editor's Note [Volume 24 No. 1 (2024)]

NUTRITION and MENTAL HEALTH

We have put the year 2023 behind us. Honestly, I do not know how to characterize the year. For me, I just started " running" right from the word go. I am sure I am not the only one who feels the world right now is so different from what it was in the past. But then, clearly, for my generation it can be scary. We come from a past that appeared so basic, but was it? It appeared so simple, but was it? I can say for sure that our mental health is critical. It is a health perspective that we did not think about before. First, there is information overload. In my elementary school, I could memorize things and even Bible verses. I could remember dates in history, for example, dates for specific events such as who was the first person to land on the moon? and what year was it? We believe that good nutrition can improve our cognitive function, but to what extent? We always liked to be in control of our undertakings. But how can we make that claim when all the time we are looking up things online to get the spelling right or to confirm the information we have? These days no one must remember everything. You just Google. Are our memories now too lazy? Are they underutilized? I do not think so. If anything, I feel my brain is overworked. We have crucial to dates and other things to remember: birthdays, national days, identification documents, and on top of all that, we must check our social media accounts like Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and so on to keep up with social trends. All this puts too much pressure on our brains. There is just too much to manage! And then I started wondering: what are the changing nutritional needs of our brains in this context? We are working our brains more than ever before. Are we thinking of better nourishment for them? When we think of better nutrition for our bodies, do we remember to single out our brain? It is the one part of our body that has been overworked lately. Yet we rarely single it out for special nutritional attention.
What nutrients does the brain need, and what foods contain these? Eat mostly plant sources of food, fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains. Vegetables especially green leafy ones like kale and indigenous leaves, dark green ones like broccoli, yellow ones like pumpkin and purple ones like red cabbage are rich in healthy micronutrients and antioxidants. These are extremely good for brain function. Berries, especially blueberries, and many other dark red berries found in your local food system, curcumin found in turmeric (part of curry powder) most nuts, especially almonds are healthy and the oil they contain is healthy. Of late we have foods being marked as exotic and uniquely helpful; examples of these are chia seeds, pumpkin seeds, and quinoa; edible mushrooms are said to be great, and insects are gaining popularity worldwide but have always been eaten in Africa. I see on the Kenyan market now leaves of taro, guava, cassava, and sweet potatoes in addition to well-known African Leafy vegetables. There is increased interest in what people eat. And there is just too much information and marketing out there, it can confuse consumers. Food choice and selection of the right foods to fulfill individual dietary needs is not an area anyone can consider themselves an expert. We need sufficient research to enable us to give sound advice. All I can say is that before you try something new, consult your local cuisine experts and even a chef or those who are marketing the product in question. Secondly, make your diet diverse, and continue to observe healthy practices. Thirdly, on animal sources of foods, eat fish even the oily type, insects, poultry, and dairy products unless you are allergic. Omega 3, found particularly in fatty fish is excellent for brain health. Understanding what we should eat can be very complicated. Just keep it simple. I try to eat everything and anything, but in moderation, while keeping nutrition needs in mind. In addition, try to keep your body well exercised and adequately rested. Always be aware of what you put in your mouth; enjoy it and hopefully it provides you with good nutrition.

In this issue, the first one of 2024, we carry 15 peer reviewed articles. We thank our reviewers and congratulate our successful authors, and look forward to greater collaboration this year.
Happy New Year everyone.


Ruth Khasaya Oniang'o
Founder and Editor-in-Chief, AJFAND

 

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