Archive for the ‘food for healthy brains’ 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.

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.

Eat Smart for a Healthier Brain—Part I

April 25, 2013

There is a lot of focus these days on how much food we consume. We should also be aware of what kind of foods we are consuming, especially when it comes to our brain health. While the modern American diet is increasing the incidence of obesity and diabetes, it is also wreaking havoc on our brains.

The brain is the most metabolically active organ in the body. There is mounting evidence that feeding the brain healthy foods can help us maintain a healthy brain well into our old age.

Adding some “superfoods” to your daily diet can help increase your odds of maintaining a healthy brain for the rest of your life. Here are some suggestions:

blueberries1Blueberries—Fresh or frozen, adding blueberries to your diet can help protect the brain from oxidative stress and may reduce the effects of age-related conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. Studies have shown that diets rich in blueberries significantly improved both the learning capacity and motor skills of aging rats, making them mentally equivalent to much younger rats.

Wild salmon—A “clean” fish in plentiful supply, salmon is rich in omega-3 essential fatty acids, which are essential for brain function. Omega-3s also contain anti-inflammatory substances. Other oily fish that provide the benefits of omega-3s are sardines and herring.

Nuts and seeds—Just an ounce a day of nuts and seeds can boost vitamin E levels to lessen cognitive decline as you get older. The choice is wide: walnuts, hazelnuts, Brazil nuts, filberts, almonds, cashews, peanuts, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, flax seed, and unhydrogenated nut butters such as peanut butter, almond butter, and tahini. Raw or roasted doesn’t matter; choose unsalted if you need to restrict sodium.

Avocados—While the avocado is a fatty fruit, it has monounsaturated fat, which contributes to healthy blood flow, which contributes to a healthy brain. Avocados also help with hypertension, a risk factor for the decline of cognitive abilities.

See our May 5, 2003 post for Part II.

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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