Brain Fuel: Tips for a Brain-Healthy Diet

 

There is strong evidence that there are specific foods we can eat to improve and protect our cognitive function. Brain health can be achieved by eating a healthy diet rich in nutrients such phytochemicals and anti-oxidants. It has been proven that following a heart-healthy diet is as good for the brain as it is for the heart. A heart-healthy lifestyle includes regular exercise and a healthy diet pattern to allow adequate blood flow to the brain.

For example, diet styles such as the Mediterranean and Dash-style diet have been researched and inked to improved cognitive function, memory and alertness. A diet style known as the MIND diet (MEDITERRANEAN- DASH Intervention for Neuro- degenerative Delay) is a combination of both the Mediterranean and Dash-style diet. This diet combination focuses on whole, natural, plant-based foods, with an increased focus on consumption of berries and green leafy vegetables, while limiting animal-based and high saturated fat foods.

The MIND diet has proven beneficial in lowering and slowing rick for and progression of Alzheimer disease (the leading cause of dementia). Research has shown that individuals who followed the MIND diet closely, lowered their risk of Alzheimer disease by up to 53%. Studies of individuals who are following the MIND diet pattern has been suggest that the MIND diet substantially slows cognitive decline with age.

Foods to Fuel Your Brain:

  • Green leafy vegetables & other vegetables
  • Nuts – unsalted
  • Dark berries
  • Beans
  • Whole grains
  • Fish & lean poultry
  • Olive oil
  • …and even small amounts of red wine

Brain-Fuel Nutrients:

  • Omega-3 Fatty Acids –
    • Found in fish, shellfish, and algae, but especially prevalent in oily fish such as salmon, mackerel, herring, anchovies, menhaden, and sardines, is especially important to brain function.
    • Avoiding saturated and trans fat may be as important as consuming polyunsaturated omega-3 fats.
  • Vitamins –
    • Adequate consumption of vitamins and minerals (B,C,D,E) maintain brain function.
  • B Vitamins –
    • Found in animal products such as fish, meat, poultry, eggs, milk and fortified breakfast cereals. Helps with energy production in the brain.
  • Vitamin C –
    • Found in many fruits such as cantaloupe, citrus fruits and juices such as orange and grapefruit, kiwi fruit, mango, papaya, pineapple.strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, cranberries and watermelon. Helps with energy production in the brain.
  • Vitamin D –
    • Found in cod liver oil, sardines, salmon, mackerel, tuna, raw milk, caviar, eggs and mushrooms.
  • Vitamin E-
    • Found in whole grains, nuts, seeds, blueberries, blackberries, avocados, dark leafy greens, bell peppers, and vegetable oils.
    • Reduces oxidation in the brain.
    • Supplementation with vitamin E must be done safely as taking more than 1,000 IU of vitamin E supplements per day may be unsafe, especially in individuals with cardiovascular disease.
    • Vitamin E supplementation may be risky for people who take blood thinners.
  • Lutein-
    • Found in egg yolk, dark leafy greens such as spinach and kale and even avocado is a yellow-pigmented carotenoid linked to brain health and improved memory. May be most beneficial in combination with Omega-3-Fatty Acid consumption.
  • Polyphenols –
    • Found in fruits, vegetables, tea, wine, juices, and some herbs.
    • High in antioxidants, neuroprotective and anti-inflammatory properties.
  • Curcumin –
    • Curcumin is the polyphenolic compound curcumin that provides the yellow pigment to turmeric (often used as an ingredient in traditional Indian curries).
    • High in antioxidants, neuroprotective and anti-inflammatory properties.
  • Resveratrol –
    • Found in grapes, wine, peanuts, and some berries.
    • Helps to eliminate free radicals, improving brain health.
  • Catechins –
    • Found in green, white, oolong, black and Pu-erh tea.
    • Highest concentration found in green tea.
    • Potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory

Overall, consuming a well balanced diet that is rich in the protective nutrients listed above it the best way to fuel and maintain brain health!

Special thanks to Dietetic Intern Carlyn Blevins for her contributions to this post.

Mindful Eating

With a busy schedule full of work, family and life obligations, it is easy to rush meal times while eating our food on the run. Many of us have mastered the skill of multi-taking, only to miss out on the opportunity to enjoy our food. Do you ever stop to notice the texture of the food that you’re eating or pay attention to your body telling you that you’ve had enough?  Mindful eating is a way to bring the focus back to the peace and joy that eating can provide.

What is Mindful Eating?

Mindful eating is applying mindfulness to why, when, where, what, and how you eat. This means being aware of both the physical and emotional feelings connected to eating; it is the process of paying attention to the experience of eating.

One study suggests that applying mindful eating tools may help you to avoid overeating by being aware of portion control, taste, texture and sensations such as mouthfeel. By being mindful you will raise awareness to why are you eating (are you hungry or simply snacking?), what you are eating (is this food nourishing to your body?), and how you are eating (am I on the run, multi-taking, driving, watching TV, texting? Am I even enjoying my food?).

Individuals who apply mindful eating tools have reported an increase in self-efficacy; cognitive control, improved eating behaviors; and even decreased symptoms of depression. A mindful eating approach may increase consumption of healthful fruits and vegetables which have protective qualities to help fight against coronary heart disease, stroke, obesity, and certain cancers.

Quick Tips For Eating Mindfully:

  • Observe your body: Notice hunger and fullness signals that guide you to start and stop eating.
  • Do not judge yourself: If you want to eat something, have it; as long as eating this food will not bring about any feelings of shame or guilt. If it will, recognize this and either avoid eating it or try to change your reaction to this food.
  • Notice your reaction to food. What do you like, what don’t you like? Try closing your eyes for a moment while you are eating to experience food in a new way.
  • Savor your food: While eating, notice all of the colors, smells, flavors, and textures of the food. Focus on each mouthful. Try to engage all 5 senses when you eat (sight, smell, sound, taste, touch).

Ask yourself, “Am I…” 

  • Physically hungry? Try using a scale of 1-10 (1 very hungry and 10 very full). Ideally, you want to eat when your hunger is mild at a 3-4 and stop when it reaches a 7-8.
  • Eating quickly or slowly? If you notice you’re rushing; take a deep breath and slow down.

Mindful Eating Resources:

  1. Intuitive Eating website: www.IntuitiveEating.org
  2. Miller CK, Kristeller JL, Headings A, Nagaraja H. Comparison of a mindful eating intervention to a diabetes self-management intervention among adults with type 2 diabetes: a randomized controlled trial. Health Educ Behav. 2014;41(2):145-154.
  3. The Center for Mindful Eating website:http://www.tcme.org/
  4. Tylka, T. Intuitive Eating Assessment Scale. J Counseling Psychology 2006(53):226-240.
  5. Mathieu J. What Should You Know about Mindful and Intuitive Eating?J Am Dietetic Assoc 2009;109(Dec):1982-1987.

Special thanks to Dietetic Intern Carlyn Blevins for her contributions to this post.

Pumpkin Season: Benefits of Adding Pumpkin to your Diet

November 15, 2017 by  
Filed under Cooking, Food Labels, Holidays

Tis’ the season for pumpkin everything and that is actually a very good thing. Pumpkin contains many protective nutritional qualities.

Fun Facts about pumpkin:

  • Pumpkin belongs to the Curcurbitaceae family, which also includes gourds, squash, cucumbers and watermelons.
  • There are  many shades and sizes of pumpkins, some are best for decorations and some are sweeter and best for pies and baking.
  • In other parts of the world, winter and summer squash are referred to as pumpkins.
  • When cooking or baking with pumpkin, used freshly made or canned pumpkin. Avoid pumpkin pie mix, which is filled with sugar.
  • The fiber content of pumpkin helps you to feel full, promotes digestive health, weight control and prevents constipation.
  • Pumpkin if left uncut, should be stored in a cool, dark place for up to two months.

Nutritional Benefits of Pumpkin:

  • Low in calories per serving
  • Approximately 90% water
  • Fiber rich
  • Antioxidants: may help to prevent degenerative damage to the eyes.
  • Iron
  • Magnesium
  • Vitamin A / provitamin A from Carotenoids (Beta-carotene)
  • B Vitamins: (folate, niacin, vitamin B6, thiamin, and pantothenic acid)
  • Vitamin C: antioxidant support
  • Copper
  • Calcium
  • Potassium: provides a positive effect on blood pressure.
  • Phosphorus

Beta-carotene:

Beta-carotene is a powerful antioxidant found in pumpkin, giving pumpkin its orange color. In the body, beta-carotene is converted into vitamin A. The National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements calls beta-carotene “by far the most important provitamin A carotenoid.” Current evidence on the nutritional benefits of beta-carotene suggests it may help protect against cancer, diabetes, heart disease, asthma, fight inflammation, delay aging/body degeneration and improve skin appearance. Multiple studies have concluded that a diet rich in plant food such as pumpkin, decrease the risk factors of chronic disease  such as obesity and decreases overall mortality.

Fiber:

Many Americans consume an average of 15 grams of fiber daily, falling short of the recommended 25-30 grams of fiber daily required to maintain health and a properly functioning GI tract. Adding pumpkin to your diet is a great way to increase daily fiber intake. Fiber helps to slow the absorption of sugar into the blood, aids in smooth digestion and promotes regular bowel movements.

What about the Seeds?

Pumpkin seeds are high in protein (7 grams per 1-oz), contain omega-6-fatty acids, and contain the amino acid tryptophan which helps the body produce mood-elevating serotonin. Pumpkin seeds contain fiber, polyunsaturated fatty acids, monounsaturated fatty acids, minerals and vitamin K.

Pumpkin Seed Oil:

Researchers also have looked into the potential health benefits of pumpkin seed oil, which is high in zinc, vitamin E, and magnesium.The main benefit of pumpkin seed oil is in the protective nutritional qualities benefiting the urinary and reproductive areas of the body, especially in the prostate.

Disease Fighting Properties:

Vegetables are rich in soluble and insoluble fiber and phyochemicals which play a vital role in the prevention of chronic disease. Researches state that the nutrition profile (carotenoids, pectin, oleic and linolenic acids) of pumpkin helps to improve glycemic and insulin response, decrease systemic inflammation and decrease cardiovascular disease risk factors. The plant compounds in pumpkin seeds and pulp are excellent for helping the absorption of glucose into the tissues and intestines, as well as balancing levels of liver glucose.

Nutrient Content:

According to the USDA National Nutrient Database, one cup of cooked, boiled, or drained pumpkin without salt contains

1.76 g of protein

2.7 g of fiber

49 calories

0.17 g of fat

0 g of cholesterol

12.01 g of carbohydrate

Recommended daily allowance (RDA) of:

200%: Vitamin A

19%: Vitamin C

10%: Vitamin E, Riboflavin, Potassium, Copper, Manganese

5%: Thiamin, Vitamin B6, Folate, Pantothenic acid, Niacin, Iron, Magnesium, Phosphorus

How to Incorporate Pumpkin into your Diet:

Pumpkin may be incorporated into desserts, soups, smoothies, salads and even made into a pumpkin butter to be used as a spread or substituted for butter in baking.

Tip: Remember the only ingredient in canned pumpkin should be pumpkin.

Special thanks to Dietetic Intern Carlyn Blevins for her contributions to this post.

Is the Cook-it-Yourself Craze Right for You?

December 7, 2016 by  
Filed under Consumer awareness, Cooking

cookathome

There’s no doubt that preparing food at home makes good sense. Studies have shown that people who make more of their own food have lower body mass index (BMI) levels and are generally healthier than those who eat food prepared outside of the home.

We all know we should cook more – but most people don’t do it! According to data from the Washington Post, less than 60% of dinners eaten in the US in 2014 were actually made at home.

To solve the problem, a bevy of businesses have cropped up to get Americans to make more meals at home. Companies like Blue Apron and HelloFresh are in a full-on marketing blitz to get their meals into our kitchens. These services offer fresh ingredients, colorful recipes and the promise of easy-to-make meals created right in your kitchen.

So is the cook-it-yourself craze right for you? Here are some pros and cons.

Pros

  • Fresh ingredients – most of these companies specialize in providing really fresh ingredients that you can cook up quickly
  • Food waste minimization – with all of the focus on food waste, these services are great in that they only provide enough ingredients to make food for the specific number of servings
  • Portion control – you are unlikely to consume as many calories in a made-at-home meal than you would in a restaurant

Cons

  • Price – there’s no doubt it’s more expensive to have a specially curated delivery package of ingredients sent to your house than it is to grocery shop yourself
  • Availability – not all of the services are available in all markets, so if you don’t live in a major metropolitan area, you might not be an eligible recipient
  • One-and-done – one of the best things about home cooking is the potential for batch cooking and leftovers; of course with these services you get a meal for tonight, but it ends there.

If you’re interested in trying out a cook-it-at-home services, there are lots of online promo codes and free trials you can take advantage of. And whatever you decide, at the end of the day, the more food you can prepare at home, the better off you are. How you decide to make that food at home – that is up to you!