Superfoods for your Brain

We’ve all had days when we didn’t feel like we were ‘on our game.’ And as we age, both our bodies and our brains grow old as well.  By making smart food choices though, we can preserve our precious gray matter longer and improve brain function.  Here are some brainy choices for keeping our noggins in tip-top shape.

Blueberries have been shown to shield the brain from stress, dementia, and Alzheimer’s disease.   Research has also shown that diets rich in blueberries significantly improved both the learning capacity and motor skills.

Avocados, though considered a ‘fatty fruit,’ contribute to healthy blood flow and decreased blood pressure, lessening the chances of developing hypertension, which can lead to a stroke.

Deep-water fish, such as salmon is a wise, freshwater fish choice.  It’s abundant in omega-3 essential fatty acids, which are essential for healthy brain function.

Nuts and seeds are good sources of vitamin E, an important vitamin needed by your brain to stave off declining cognitive functions. Cashews, peanuts, walnuts, sunflower and sesame seeds and almonds are all great choices.

Whole-grain breads, brown rice, and oatmeal also contribute to a healthy brain by reducing the risk for cardiac disease.  By promoting a healthy heart and improved blood flow, the brain is sure to thrive via excellent oxygen and nutrient delivery through the bloodstream.  Complex carbohydrates also supply the brain with a steady stream of glucose that enhances brain function. It’s important to avoid simple carbohydrates often found in junk food because the glucose gives the brain a short-lived sugar high, often followed by a crash that makes you feel hungry and tired.

Freshly brewed tea also has potent antioxidants, especially the class known as catechines, which also promotes healthy blood flow. Since black teas do contain caffeine it’s important to use it sensibly.

Dark chocolate has powerful antioxidant properties, contains several natural stimulants, which enhance focus and concentration, and encourages the production of endorphins, which helps improve mood. Again, moderation is the key.

Superfoods that Squash Stress

Life has a way of getting the best of us some days.  Whether it’s working too many hours, shuffling your kids all over town for their activities, taking care of your household, or dealing with personal or family matters, stress can take its toll on you physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.  But there are simple steps you can take to combat stress, starting with the foods you eat.

Avoiding caffeine and alcohol is a good start when life’s particularly stressful.  Stimulants and depressants like these can both zap your energy and rob you of the fuel you need to successfully cope with tension.  Sugary foods should also be avoided as well, as they cause your blood sugar levels to spike then dip rapidly, which can in turn make your energy levels spike and dip at the same rate.

However, there are several superfoods out there that provide you with the energy and nutrition your body needs to keep stress in check

Asparagus, which is high in folic acid, can help level out your moods. Folic acid and vitamin B are key players in producing serotonin, a chemical that gets you into a good mood.

And though we may hear negative things regarding red meat, it’s actually a wise dinner option for a stressed-out family. Beef’s high levels of iron, zinc and B vitamins not only help get you into a good mood, but help you stay there as well.  Your local butcher can help you select lean cuts for the healthiest options

Milk really does a body good. Chock full of calcium, protein, antioxidants, and vitamins B2 and B12, it helps strengthen bones and promotes healthy cell regeneration.  Paired with a healthy whole-grain cereal choice in the morning, low-fat milk is a great way to start your day and arm yourself to do battle with the stressors that await you.

Cottage cheese is also another great dairy choice, and when coupled with a fruit that’s high in vitamin C, it helps the body battle free radicals that run rampant during your most stressed periods.

Almonds are also an awesome choice when it comes to arming yourself against stress.  They’re high in magnesium, zinc, as well as vitamins B2, C, and E and unsaturated fats, all which are great warriors against free radicals, which have been shown to cause cancers and heart disease.

You Really Are What You Eat

Recent dietary research has uncovered 14 different nutrient-dense foods that time and again promote good overall health.  Coined “superfoods,” they tend to have fewer calories, higher levels of vitamins and minerals, and many disease-fighting antioxidants.

Beans (legumes), berries (especially blueberries), broccoli, green tea, nuts (especially walnuts), oranges, pumpkin, salmon. soy, spinach, tomatoes, turkey, whole grains and oats, and yogurt can all help stop and even reverse diseases such as hypertension, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, and some forms of cancer.

And where one might have an effect on a certain part of the body, it can also affect the health of other body functions and performance, since the whole body is connected.  With these 14 foods as the base of a balanced, solid diet, weight loss gimmicks and other fly-by-night programs can become a thing of the past in your life.

Conversely, the ill-effects of an unbalanced diet are several and varied. Low energy levels, mood swings, tired all the time, weight change, uncomfortable with body are just a few signs that your diet is unbalanced.  An unbalanced diet can cause problems with maintenance of body tissues, growth and development, brain and nervous system function, as well as problems with bone and muscle systems.

Symptoms of malnutrition include lack of energy, irritability, a weakened immune system leading to frequent colds or allergies, and mineral depletion that can trigger a variety of health concerns including anemia.

And since the body is connected, realizing that an unhealthy body will result in an unhealthy spirit only makes sense.  When we nourish our body with these superfoods and complement them with other nutrient-dense and healthy fresh foods, our spirit will be vitalized and healthy as a direct result.

Many modern diets based on prepackaged convenience foods are sorely lacking in many vitamins and minerals, which can affect our mental capacities as well, and cause irritability, confusion, and the feeling of ‘being in a fog’ all the time.

Superfoods can be the basis of a sound, healthy, nutritious solution to curing many of these ailments and more.

Super Foods for Super Weight Loss

Experts say there are two basic categories of foods that can be considered “keeping it off superfoods” because they fill your tummy without piling on the calories: fruits and vegetables. And the nutrient that gives fruits and vegetables that ‘staying power?’ Fiber. So, if fruits and vegetables are the “keeping-it-off superfood groups,” fiber may well be the “keeping-it-off super-nutrient.”

Protein is another super-nutrient. It’s becoming more scientifically accepted that protein may help to curb appetite. Protein also offers staying power, and can slightly boost your metabolism in the process.  But it’s imperative that you choose your proteins wisely, because like all other foods, if you’re eating more than your body needs, it’ll show up on the scale as a gain, instead of a loss.

The following superfoods are smart, low-calorie choices that will benefit your weight loss efforts:

Green Tea – Researchers suspect that the catechins (helpful phytochemicals) in green tea may trigger weight loss by stimulating the body to burn calories and mildly decrease body fat. So indulge in either a hot cup or a nice tall iced glass of green tea.

Broth- or tomato-based soup – Soups can help reduce hunger before meals and increase your feeling of fullness.

Low-calorie green salads – Having a low-calorie salad – which is not defined as one that’s loaded with croutons, high fat dressings, and cheese – as a first course can help you feel full, thereby reducing how much you eat with your main course.  Wisely choose your ingredients, and its high fiber content can be the key to helping you fight cravings later in the day.

Yogurt – Including dairy products as part of your healthy diet may promote your weight loss efforts.  Choosing a light yogurt may help you fight off hunger pangs due to its combination of protein and carbohydrate.

Beans – A great combination of fiber and protein, beans help you feel full longer, which means they may work to curb your between-meal appetite.

Water – Water is your body’s lifeblood, and you should be drinking it through your day. It’s a great no-calorie beverage, and you can get it by drinking unsweetened tea, flavored unsweetened mineral water, regular water with lime or lemon, or even in your cucumber.  In addition to helping flush toxins from the body, it can also help you feel full.  So when those hunger pangs strike, try drinking a glass of water before grabbing that snack.

High-Fiber, Whole-Grain Cereal – Whole grains in general help boost fiber and the nutritional value of your meal.  One of the easiest ways to give your daily diet a whole-grain boost is to have a bowl of higher-fiber whole-grain cereal as breakfast or a snack.