Archive for the ‘diet and brain health’ Category

Breakfasts with Brain Power

July 23, 2014

yogurt1You hear it all the time—“Eat your breakfast!”

Eating a good breakfast can not only help you maintain a healthy weight and give you energy to face the day, but it also can increase your ability to concentrate.

The trick is to incorporate into your breakfast foods known to keep brain cells healthy and maintain cognitive ability. Here are some suggestions for breakfasts built with powerful nutrients for your brain:

Yogurt with walnuts and berries—The yogurt provides a foundation of protein. The walnuts add brain-saving omega-3s and the berries serve up one of the most concentrated sources of antioxidants. You can even add a little high-fiber cereal (shredded wheat for example) to ensure everything gets digested slowly for steady energy (and better concentration) all morning long.

Fried eggs “plus”—Fried eggs become healthier when you cook them with a brain food like olive oil; tomatoes, spinach, and an apple on the side round out the meal with important antioxidants.

Dressed-up cereal—When you shake up a basic bowl of cereal with pumpkin seeds and sliced peaches, you are adding brain-friendly vitamin E, healthy fats, fiber, and antioxidants.

Salmon on toast—Salmon is one of the best sources of omega-3 fatty acids, and experts think it is responsible for helping brain cells communicate with each other better. Spread a slice of whole grain toast with lox (smoked salmon spread), and add a dollop of cottage cheese for a breakfast that’s filling and fiber- and protein-rich.

Waffles with yogurt—Replace the syrup with yogurt on your favorite waffles. Top with berries and a little flaxseed and you’ve got a tasty breakfast everyone will love.

Want to power up your ability to concentrate? Optiminds has earned a reputation for helping to improve the study, reading, math and cognitive skills of students of all ages. We also have specialists in college counseling and athletic college prep counseling on our staff. Learn more about us by calling us today at (248) 496-0150 or by visiting us at: optimindsct.com.

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Care and Feeding of the Aging Brain

June 14, 2014

brainfoods1We are learning more about the human brain every day, but there is still much about it that remains a mystery. One thing we do know is that our brains can deteriorate if we don’t take care of them.

So here are some things you can try to keep your “gray matter” healthy:

Eat brain-healthy foods—Choose foods that are lower in fats and cholesterol. Increase your intake of dark fruits and vegetables, fish and lean proteins. Instead of candy, snack on almonds and blueberries. Healthy snacks can lower blood sugar and improve cognition. Also, the Omega-3s in walnuts have been found to improve mood and calm inflammation that may lead to brain-cell death.

Read for half an hour a day— The Mayo Clinic Study of Aging found that reading books (in addition to other cognitive activities) can lead to a 50 percent decrease in your chances of developing dementia.

Exercise—Walking your dog or yourself for just 20 minutes a day can lower blood sugar and increase blood flow to the brain so you can think more clearly. Don’t forget about dancing. Learning new moves activates brain motor centers that form new neural connections.

Be a social animal—According to the Yale Medical Center, people who sustain close friendships and continue to socialize live longer.

Become a student again—Challenge your mind by taking courses at your local college, university, community college or adult education center. Many institutions offer discounts for senior students.

Learn a musical instrument—Recent studies show that after only four months of playing an instrument an hour a week, seniors experienced improvements in the areas of the brain that control hearing, memory and hand movement.

Improve your powers of observation—Stare straight ahead and see if you can make out what’s at the periphery. Walk down the street and scan to the left and right. These actions activate rarely used areas of the brain that can atrophy if not used enough.

Get out of your comfort zone—Try tasks that are opposite your natural skills. If you like numbers, learn to draw. If you love language, try logic puzzles.

Write it down—Research shows that handwriting helps stimulate the areas of the brain that deal with thinking, language and memory. Write stories or keep a daily journal for starters.

Sleep—Seven or eight hours of good sleep a night helps prevent memory loss and gives the brain to relax and process things you learned during the day.

Optiminds has earned a reputation for helping to improve the study, reading, math and cognitive skills of students of all ages. We also have specialists in college counseling and athletic college prep counseling on our staff. Learn more about us by calling us today at (248) 496-0150 or by visiting us at: optimindsct.com.

Study Ties Saturated Fat to Alzheimer’s Risk

January 23, 2014

brainfood1A recent study found that dietary saturated fat cut the body’s levels of a key chemical—apolipoprotein E (ApoE)—that helps protect against Alzheimer’s disease.

Study participants who received a high-saturated-fat, high-sugar diet showed a change in their ApoE that made it less able to help clear the amyloid. If left loose in the brain, amyloid beta proteins are more likely to form plaques that interfere with neuron function, the kind of plaques found in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s disease.

Diet also directly affected the amount of loose amyloid beta found in cerebrospinal fluid. People on a high-saturated-fat diet had higher levels of amyloid beta in their spinal fluid, while people on a low-saturated-fat diet actually saw a decline in such levels.

While this study is preliminary, it adds another small piece to the growing evidence that taking good care of your heart is probably good for your brain too. We tend to focus on diet in terms of weight and heart health, but often overlook that diet is critical for healthy brain aging. In addition, many of the things the brain needs to function properly—fatty acids and certain amino acids, for example—come only from food.

People focus on diet in terms of weight and heart health, but they overlook that nutrition can be key to cognitive function as well. According to research team member Suzanne Craft, a professor of medicine at Wake Forest School of Medicine, “Diet is a very underappreciated factor in terms of brain function. It’s quite well accepted for your heart and your cholesterol and your blood, but diet is also critical for a healthy brain aging. Many of the things the brain needs to function properly—fatty acids, certain amino acids— come only from food.”

Optiminds’ brain fitness programs take brain performance to new levels by strengthening nerve cells, and improving cognitive power and concentration. Dr. Jane Stewart at Optiminds has earned a reputation for helping to improve the study, reading, math and cognitive skills of students of all ages. Learn more about Optiminds’ by calling Dr. Stewart today at (248) 496-0150 or email her at: jstewart@optimindsct.com. And be sure to visit the Optiminds website at: optimindsct.com.

Foods That Help Boost Brain Power

September 25, 2013

They say you are what you eat. Following are some foods that researchers have determined can help you improve mental performance.

beets1Beets—Nosh on this root vegetable to boost brain power. Scientists at Wake Forest University determined that natural nitrates in beets can increase blood flow to the brain, thereby improving mental ability.

Sage—They don’t call it “sage” for nothing. A study published in Pharmacological Biochemical Behavior found that young adults who took sage-oil extract (50 micro liters) before cognitive tests performed better than those given a placebo. Sage contains compounds that prevent the breakdown of acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter involved in learning and memory.

Iron—A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that women with healthy iron levels performed better on mental tasks and completed them faster than those with poor iron status. Iron helps transport oxygen throughout the body and to the brain. In addition to red meat, choose iron-rich dried fruit, cereals and grains, egg yolks, spinach, and beans.

Eggs—The yolks of eggs are a leading source of choline. Choline is a precursor for acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter involved in helping you remember things like where you left the car keys. Eating protein-rich foods like eggs for breakfast can improve overall cognitive performance.

Walnuts—When crunch time comes along, pop a handful of walnuts. Scientists at Tufts University in Boston found that a diet rich in walnuts may improve mental performance. A synergy between the specific type of antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids in this nut might be at work here to boost brain power.

Vegetables—Harvard Medical School researchers found that women who ate the most vegetables experienced a slower rate of cognitive decline than women who ate the least vegetables. High on the list were green leafy vegetables (spinach and romaine lettuce) and cruciferous vegetables (broccoli and cauliflower).

Dr. Jane Stewart at Optiminds has earned a reputation for helping to improve the study, reading, math and cognitive skills of students of all ages. Learn more about Optiminds’ customized tutoring programs by calling Dr. Stewart today at (248) 496-0150 or email her at: jstewart@optimindsct.com. And be sure to visit the Optiminds website at: optimindsct.com.

Link Between Healthy Lifestyle and Fewer Memory Complaints

July 25, 2013

While research has shown that healthy behaviors are associated with a lower risk of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, less is known about the potential link between positive lifestyle choices and milder memory complaints—especially those that occur earlier in life and could be the first indicators of later problems.

In a recent study, researchers examined the impact of lifestyle choices on memory throughout adult life, surveying participants about both their memory and their health behaviors, including whether they smoked, how much they exercised and how healthy their diet was.

As researchers expected, healthy eating, not smoking and exercising regularly were related to better self-perceived memory abilities for most adult groups. Reports of memory problems also increased with age. However, there were a few surprises.

Older adults (age 60-99) were more likely to report engaging in healthy behaviors than middle-aged (40-59) and younger adults (18-39). (For example, only 12 percent of older adults smoked, compared with 25 percent of young adults and 24 percent of middle-aged adults.) So this finding actually runs counter to the stereotype that aging is a time of dependence and decline.

In addition, while 26 percent of older adults and 22 percent of middle-aged respondents reported memory issues, it was surprising to find that a higher-than-expected 14 percent of the younger group complained about their memory too.

multitask1It’s possible that older adults may participate in more healthy behaviors because they feel the consequences of unhealthy living and take the advice of their doctors to adopt healthier lifestyles. At the same time, memory issues in younger people could be due to stress and the increase in multitasking that comes with the use of technology.

These findings reinforce the importance of educating young and middle-aged individuals to take greater responsibility for their health—including memory by practicing positive lifestyle behaviors earlier in life.

Dr. Jane Stewart at Optiminds has earned a reputation for helping to improve the study, reading, math and cognitive skills of students of all ages. Learn more about Optiminds’ customized tutoring programs by calling Dr. Stewart today at (248) 496-0150 or email her at: jstewart@optimindsct.com. And be sure to visit the Optiminds website at: optimindsct.com.

Eat Smart for a Healthier Brain—Part II

May 5, 2013

While the modern American diet is increasing the incidence of obesity and diabetes, it is also wreaking havoc on our brains. Here are more “superfoods” you can add to your daily diet to help increase your odds of maintaining a healthy brain for the rest of your life.

Whole grains—Oatmeal, whole-grain breads, brown rice and wheat germ are just a few examples of whole grains that can reduce the risk for heart disease. They promote cardiovascular health, meaning good blood flow to your body’s organ system, which includes your brain.

Beans—Often unappreciated for its health benefits, the humble bean stabilizes glucose (blood sugar) levels. While the brain is dependent on glucose for fuel, it cannot store glucose.  It relies on a steady stream of energy, which beans can provide. Any beans will do, especially lentils and black beans.

Pomegranate juice—With its potent antioxidant benefits, pomegranate juice helps protect the brain from the damage of free radicals. And no part of the body is more sensitive to the damage from free radicals than the brain.

greentea2Freshly brewed tea—Tea contains potent antioxidants, especially the class known as catechines, which promote healthy blood flow.  In addition, the modest amount of caffeine in tea can boost brain power by enhancing memory, focus, and mood.

Dark chocolate—In addition to powerful antioxidant properties, dark chocolate contains several natural stimulants, including caffeine, which enhance focus and concentration, and stimulate the production of endorphins, which helps improve mood. It is best to limit your intake to one-half ounce to 1 ounce a day.

Dr. Jane Stewart at Optiminds has earned a reputation for helping to improve the study, reading, math and cognitive skills of students of all ages. Learn more about Optiminds’ customized tutoring programs by calling Dr. Stewart today at (248) 496-0150 or email her at: jstewart@optimindsct.com. And be sure to visit the Optiminds website at: optimindsct.com.


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