6 Foods For Your Brain

On Tuesday, I shared how greens are good for your brain (“Eat Your Greens. It’s Brain Food!“). Today I’ll share which are also good for the grey matter.

Let’s face it, keeping the brain healthy is just as important as keeping the rest of the body healthy. I doubt there is anyone who disagrees with that last sentence, but I do think many people are perplexed as to how we can keep cognitive functions clicking along at full speed. After all, we can feel our muscles getting stronger, and we can when out “guts” are well fed, but how do we know if our brains are being correctly exercised and fed? In future posts, I’ll discuss exercising the brain, but today the post is about feeding the brain.

In a Runner’s World article, six foods are given focus because of their brain protecting qualities. First item on the list is arugula, what I would consider a “stand in” for all leafy greens. (frankly, I would have chosen Swiss, but as I mentioned in yesterday’s post, “An Ode To Leafy Greens…”,  I’m a little biased) Arugula does a fantastic job of feeding the brain with loads of vitamin K, and can be easy found in grocery stores and served in restaurants.

Others on the list include:

  • Blueberries – could lower Alzheimer’s risks by 53%
  • Egg Yolks – Choline in yolks is beneficial in allowing brain cells to communicate more efficiently
  • Olive Oil – The antioxidant oleocanthal may play a part in the reduction of plaque formations in the brain
  • Salmon – The Omega 3’s in salmon help reduce inflammation and oxidation in the brain.
  • Walnuts – Like salmon, these nuts are rich in Omega 3 oils, and thus protect the brain.

For additional details on why these foods work for your brain, click on the Runner’s World link here. https://www.runnersworld.com/healthy-food/best-foods-brain-health

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An Ode to Leafy Greens: Nutritional Values and How to Eat Them

photo created by the author

Yesterday’s post (Tuesday, 1/16/18, “Eat Your Greens. It’s Brain Food!”) I shared how adding a serving of leafy greens to your diet everyday is good for your brain. In today’s post, you’ll see the nutritional values for a variety of leafy greens that you’ll find in the marketplace, and some ideas of how you can consume greens other than in a salad.

For a while, kale has been written about with the title, “Super Food”. When you review the nutrition data associated with kale, “Super Food” is a title that is well deserved. But there is one problem with kale; many people don’t like the flavor. The bitter, astringent flavor of most kale is too strong for the palates of most folks. Personally, I like to add kale to a salad, but I rarely eat it alone. The question then becomes, what other leafy greens offer similar health benefits but not with the same bitter kale bite?

Nutritional values of leafy greens

Click on the table to expand it for better viewing.

I’ve been promoting the virtues Swiss chard to family and friends for years. Chard is a mild flavored green like spinach, but I believe chard has a lot more going for it than spinach. First off, chard is very easy to grow. The colorful leafy chard is very forgiving in a harsh growing environment, like where I live in Central Texas. Conversely, I have found spinach to be rather demanding, especially water consumption. Secondly, the nutritional profile of chard is outstanding. At a 100gr per serving, Swiss chard delivers 692% of the daily vitamin K needs (limits neural damage to the brain and promotes bone growth), 204% of the daily vitamin A needs (critical for good vision, bone growth, cell reproduction and cell growth, and thus supports a healthy immune system and skin), 50% of the daily vitamin C needs (powerful antioxidant that supports your immune system), 22.5% of your daily iron needs (nearly the same amount as spinach, and iron is a much needed supplement for many women) and powerful antioxidants such a beta carotene which turns into vitamin A once the phyto-nutrient is consumed. Why not swap one Super Food for another, and enjoy what you are eating.

Once you start to look at the nutritional profiles of leafy greens, I think you can make a good case as to why you should consider adding one or more of these vegetables into your diet. I suggest that you just eat one by itself, but instead mix them together like a salad because the different flavors and textures make for a satisfying meal. Personal tips: I like to add mustard greens to my salads. The sharp peppery-horseradish mustard flavor adds a punch of flavor to a mild lettuce salad. You don’t need too much to add a “wow” factor to your salad.

Here are some ideas on where to add greens into your diet:

  • Make a salad: This is obvious, and I already touched on this idea.
  • Make a sandwich or a wrap: Add mustard greens, spinach, and watercress to your next sandwich and give your next bite some extra crunch.
  • Add to soup: Hearty vegetable soups like minestrone pair well with collard greens, kale, and Swiss chard. Many Asian soup recipes pair well with bok choy and cabbages.
  • Stir-fry: Add chopped spinach, bok choy or Swiss chard to your stir fry.
  • Steamed: Steaming collard greens, mustard greens, kale or spinach until they are slightly soft.
  • Saute: Quickly saute your greens with olive oil, garlic, and crushed red pepper.
  • In an omelet: One of my favorite ways to add greens to my diet. Saute the Swiss chard for spinach, then fold the greens into an omelet with tomatoes and little feta cheese. So good!

What are some other ways you have added greens to your diet. Please share your thoughts with the rest of us.

References:
https://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/foods/show/2917?manu=&fgcd=&ds=Standard%20Reference
https://www.nutrition-and-you.com/vegetable-nutrition.html

Eat Your Greens. It’s Brain Food!

Do you eat greens? Some people eat salads to manage their waistlines. Some eat greens because they want more fiber in their diet. Some folks, don’t think about leafy greens at all. Would you eat more greens if I told you greens are good for your brain? And that if you eat greens regularly, your brain could be younger by an average of 11 years compared to non-greens eaters.

In a study published in the magazine “Neurology”, researchers found that by increasing the daily consumption of greens by 1.3 servings a day, test subjects significantly slowed down their cognitive decline. For those who added the additional serving of leafy greens to their diet everyday slowing of cognitive decline such that their brains appeared to be 11 years YOUNGER that the test subjects who did not eat leafy green.

What is the relation of leafy greens to a younger brain? It is believed that the primary nutrients and bio-actives in leafy greens, vitamin K (phylloquinone), lutein, β-carotene, nitrate, folate, kaempferol, and α-tocopherol, play an essential part in keeping the brain healthy, and thus slowing the natural decline that comes with aging.

A healthy mind and body, in sync with each other, is a great way to live out your life.

If you would like to read more about this topic, you can find the study published in Neurology here 

The LIVESTRONG site also has some additional studies done on this topic and those studies back up the latest study. Check that out here.

Five Reasons Why People Overeat

Photo created by Wide-Body

In a well-done article, Parade magazine explores five reasons people overeat. What I like about this article is that the reasons given for why people overeat is because people have formed poor habits that they are likely unaware that they have. And because these same people are unaware they have these poor habits, they are also likely to be unaware of how the poor habit is impacting their ability to stop overeating. How many of these bad habits do you have? I know there is one habit in here that I was unaware of until I read this article.

The Five Reasons Why People Overeat are:

  1. Overestimating the value of exercise. The treadmill says you burned 500 calories, so you think that it is okay to supersize your next meal. Problem, exercise machines inflate the calories burned number.
  2. Your primary social activity is eating out. Large restaurant plates, alcohol, and good friend can lead to overeating, and you may not even be aware it is happening. Try an event that is more active with your group of friends.
  3. You need more sleep. A lack of sleep messes up your hormone levels, leading you to crave more food, and thus overeat. You can keep your appetite in check by getting more sleep.
  4. You eat food labeled as “healthy”. Here is a something I never considered; Some people subconsciously associate healthy food choices with being less filling, and thus over eat the healthy choices. Who knew? Not me. Portion control doesn’t go away just because you’ve made a healthy food choice.
  5. You are not eating enough fat. “Say what? Are you saying I need to eat more fried chicken?” Eating more fat doesn’t mean eating more fried foods. In the case of fried foods, much of the fat used in the frying is saturated fat, which goes straight to your belly and hurts the heart. Instead, the fats you need in your diet are unsaturated and found in foods like avocados, nuts, seeds, salmon, and olive oil. These fats add flavor to food AND satisfy your appetite

I have to say that I learned something new, and had a couple of suspicions verified. To read more details and see the opinions of experts cited in the please click here at parade.com.

Do you find articles like this helpful? Are there actions that you’ve taken in your own life that would be helpful to other people? If so, please share them as we would like to hear from you. Either make your comments below are send me a message through the contacts page. Thank you.

Does Ibuprofen Cause Male Infertility?

picture created by Wide-Body

The headlines on January 9th were essentially screaming, “Ibuprofen Linked to Male Infertility!”. When I see headlines read like that, then I know is the time to look for the devil in the details.

The study in question was published January 8th in the journal “The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences”, and the key highlights from the study are:

  • In a small sample group of men (n=31, ages 18-35)
  • The men ingested 1200mg of ibuprofen every day for 6 weeks
  • At the end of six weeks, the men had a 23% increase in the levels of luteinizing hormone (LH). The rise in LH was noticed after just two weeks.
  • An increase in LH is indicative of problems within the testes.

It is important to note that the study did not measure sperm production and that testosterone levels of the men in the study remained normal.

Let’s also talk about the details that are important to not overlook:

  1. A sample of 31 men is very small. In medical research, it is not unusual to start with a small sample. If there are interesting results from the small sample, the researchers can then publish their results and make a case for why they need a larger budget. Once they have funding for a larger budget, the researchers can test a large sample and prove or dismiss the results of the small sample.
  2. 1200mg of ibuprofen a day, for two weeks or more. That is a lot of ibuprofen! 1200mg is the daily recommended limit, and if an ordinary citizen is taking that much ibuprofen everyday for two weeks straight, then that person really needs to be in the care of a pain doctor.

The lesson here is that more research needs to be completed on this topic, and that unless you need to be ingesting 1200mg of ibuprofen everyday for at two weeks, you should be safe to take ibuprofen as needed.

If you would like to read more about this study, the web site Live Science has done a nice job discussing the details, here.

Texas BBQ Can Be Healthy? YES! EAT MORE BRISKET!

photo from Kreuz Market. Get there. Now!

I’ve seen a lot of crazy health and food plans (Ever heard of the “ice cream diet”? Yes, there is such a thing) so when the latest “This is healthy!” trend comes across my desk, I’m more than a little skeptical. I’m sure you can imagine my thoughts when I saw the news headlines say “Texas BBQ Brisket is healthy!”. Yep, my first reaction was, “What are you talking about, Bubba?”

It turns out that Bubba may know a thing or two about brisket eating healthy. Research conducted by the good folks at Texas A&M University has identified brisket as having high levels of oleic acid, a fatty acid sometimes known as Omega 9. What is the big deal about oleic acid? That is the same fatty acid which is helpful in boosting your HDL (good) cholesterol and lowering your LDL (bad) cholesterol. It also turns out that brisket is one of the preferred trims of beef used in ground beef, and that means your next hamburger patty may not be all that bad for you. According to Dr. Stephen Smith, Texas A&M AgriLife Research scientist, “Americans consume over 50 percent of their beef as ground beef…. Ground beef is not going to kill you. When you take the beef out of fat, it reduces LDL, but also reduces HDL. Our studies have shown that fat is a very important component of beef.”

This is where I need to temper expectations and say, “all things in moderation”. If you are having a problem with your cholesterol and you want to increase your oleic acid, there are other foods, and those healthy choices (olives, avocados) are probably what your doctor would prefer you eat. There are saturated fats in beef that are not good for you in excess, hence you shouldn’t overconsume beef daily. But please, do enjoy your next Texas style BBQ brisket. I know I will, and likely at Louie Mueller’s in Taylor. Or Style Switch in Austin. Maybe at Kreuz in Lockhart. Possibly Cooper’s in Llano. Oh wait, I still need to get to Snow’s in Lexington. Oh, sorry…. I got carried away, dreaming of succulent smoked meat.

If you want to read more about the Texas A&M study, click here: https://today.agrilife.org/2016/08/19/health-benefits-beef-brisket-discussed-texas-beef-cattle-short-course/?hootPostID=1483ce6c04e6213ddea5cee7742b8726

Do you want to learn more about oleic acid? The Livestrong foundation has a nice insightful post located here: https://www.livestrong.com/article/492098-omega-3-fatty-acids-peanuts/

Let The Kids Play! The Importance of Playing Multiple Sports

For some at least the last decade, pediatricians have become alarmed at the increased amount of injuries they are seeing in young athletes. The doctors are noting that they are seeing athletes at a young age suffer from repetitive stress injuries, i.e. those injuries associated with playing a single sport and the athlete essentially wears out their joints, muscles, and/or bones. Although pediatricians have called out the need for athletes to play multiple sports and thus avoiding multiple injuries, there has been a lack of study on the long-term effects, positive or negative, on playing multiple versus single sports. That lack of information was until just recently.

Researchers from the University of California San Francisco tackled the topic of multiple sports play in a recently published a report titled “The Effects of Playing Multiple High School Sports on National Basketball Association Players’ Propensity for Injury and Athletic Performance” (A title you would only find in a research paper). The researchers studied the health and performance of 237 NBA athletes, noted those who were multisport athletes in high school, and those who played a single sport, and sought to find a statistical difference in health (injuries) and performance (play time and longevity).

The finding show that the athletes who played multiple sports when they were younger suffered fewer major injuries (25% vs 43%), had an increase in the number of games they played, and a significantly longer career.

For you parents with multisport stars, I think the direction is obvious: Let the Kids Play!!

Here are some tips from the American Academy of Pediatrics:

  • Delay sports specialization until at least age 15-16 to minimize risks of overuse injury.
  • Encourage participation in multiple sports.
  • If a young athlete has decided to specialize in a single sport, a pediatrician should discuss the child’s goals to determine whether they are appropriate and realistic.
  • Parents are encouraged to monitor the training and coaching environment of “elite” youth sports programs.
  • Encourage a young athlete to take off at least three months during the year, in increments of one month, from their particular sport. They can still remain active in other activities during this time.
  • Young athletes should take one to two days off per week to decrease chances of injury.

http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0363546517738736?journalCode=ajsb
https://www.aap.org/en-us/about-the-aap/aap-press-room/Pages/AAP-Clinical-Report-Young-Children-Risk-Injury-in-Single-Sport-Specialization.aspx