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  • Eating to boost immunity and mental health

    05 May 2020

    A healthy diet might be the key to boosting immunity and mental health says Cancer Council SA Dietitian Nat von Bertouch.

    Ms von Bertouch says that it all comes down to diet, in particular our daily fibre intake.

    “The gut microbiome (or gut bacteria) is influenced by the foods we eat, and this in turn impacts our health in a range of different ways,” she said.

    “The microbiome is an amazing thing and we are starting to understand more and more about the association between food and the gut and the role in plays in increasing immunity, reducing stress and improving mental well-being.”

    “The research suggests that a diet that includes a wide variety of plant based foods and is high in fibre is one of the keys to a healthy gut microbiota and that a healthy gut microbiota can boost immunity,” she explained. 

    “We also know that the microbiome may affect brain function in adults, impacting stress, anxiety and depression.”

    Despite fibre playing such an important role in our health and wellbeing, data shows that Australians still aren’t eating enough.

    The daily recommended fibre intake for men is 30g of fibre, with the daily recommended intake for women 25g. However, research shows that most of us eat about 5g less than this recommendation each day. 

    In the most recent 2011–2012 National Nutrition and Physical Activity Survey (NNPAS) in Australia, more than 1 in 2 children and more than 7 in 10 adults had fibre intakes below the recommended intake.

    Ms von Bertouch said that there are simple things that we can all do to up our daily fibre intake and in turn, boost our immunity and mental health.

    “Fibre is found in a range of healthy foods. Nuts, seeds, fruit and vegetables, particularly with the skin on, are all a great source of fibre. Other ways to boost your fibre intake include choosing wholegrain or wholemeal options like barley, rye, oats and wholegrain bread and eating peas, beans and pulses.”

    With many South Australians now working at home, she says it’s the perfect time to make simple diet changes which can have long term impacts

    “We have access to a great range of foods at home and can stock the pantry full of great healthy foods. A diet high in fibre can have a huge impact on our health and wellbeing, which is so vital during this time,” she said.

    To find out more about how to boost your fibre intake, including healthy recipes to make while at home, visit our website here: cancersa.org.au/get-informed/blog/details/good-health-starts-with-the-gut.

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