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Healthy Granola Recipe

April 28th, 2010

Granola can be an incredibly healthy way to start the day or it can considered a junk food. It all depends on the ingredients used. Try this healthy granola recipe that provides great healthy benefits while avoiding some of the common granola pitfalls.

As with any granola recipe, feel free to add your own creative touch by substituting nuts, seeds and sweeteners. Play around with the recipes until you find your perfect mix. And don’t forget to include your kids in the preparations. Kids typically loving helping in the kitchen!

Sweet Tart Granola
6 cups old-fashions oats
1 1/4 cups pistachios
1/4 cups sunflower seeds
1/3 cup ground flaxseed or wheat germ
3/4 tsp. cinnamon
3 large egg whites
3/4 tsp. salt
3/4 cups honey (maple syrup or molasses can be substituted)
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup dried cherries
1/2 cup coconut flakes

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
2. Combine first five ingredients in a large bowl.
3. In a separate bowl, whisk eggs whites and salt until frothy. Combine honey and oil.
4. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir until evenly coated.
5. Evenly spread the mixture on two baking sheets and bake 20 minutes.
6. Gently flip granola with a spatula and bake an additional 10 minutes, until golden brown. If the granola begins to brown too much on the edges, gently stir the outer parts to the middle.
7. Remove from the oven and cool completely on the pan. Once cooled, transfer the granola to a bowl and gently stir in the dried cherries and coconut.

Brain Food

April 26th, 2010

Here we are at the last post in the brain food series. Our final list is of foods with the highest antioxidant, brain-protecting abilities. These foods include;

Red onions
Spinach and kale
Sweet potato and yam
Parsley and cilantro

Berries: blueberry, cranberry, blackberry, raspberry
Avocado (yes, it’s actually a fruit and not a vegetable)
Dark-skinned apples
Dark-skinned grapes
Prunes, plums, cherries

Legumes, Nuts and Seeds:
Red and black beans
Walnuts, almonds, peanuts
Flax, sesame and sunflower seeds

Herbs and Spices:

Try to include as many of these brain food items in your daily diet. Your mind and body will thank you.

Brain Foods, Continued

April 23rd, 2010

In this brain foods series, we have already looked at the best proteins and carbohydrates for brain function. It’s time to look at fats and oils. Which promote a healthy brain and which do not? When eating with the brain in mind, always select oils and fats from the Best Brain Food section and avoid the fats and oils listed as bad for the brain.

Best Brain Foods: Fats and Oils
Omega 3s: flaxseed oil, fish oil capsules
Omega 6s: Borage, evening primrose, black currant oils
Nuts and seeds: Walnuts, almonds, peanuts, chia and pumpkin seeds
Extra virgin olive oil, hemp oil

Okay Fats and Oils for the Brain
Cold-pressed canola, sesame and sunflower oil
Grape seed oil

Bad Fats and Oils
Corn, vegetable and other processed cooking oils
Saturated fats and trans fats (commonly found in fried foods, margarine and baked goods)

Last in the series will be a list of  foods with the highest antioxidant, brain-protecting abilities. Check back soon.

Good Brain Food – Carbs

April 21st, 2010

The previous post addressed the best and worst proteins for bran function. Today we will look at carbs in the good brain food category. As with the proteins, there are brain-friendly foods and those that aren’t so kind to brain. Some foods feed the brain to help you think and concentrate clearer while other foods aren’t so kind to the brain.

Good Brain Food:
Fruits: berries, apples, dark-skinned grapes, raisins, plums and prunes
Green vegetables: spinach, kale, broccoli, brussel sprouts, cilantro, parsley, basil
Bell peppers, onions and garlic
Tomato and avacado
Yams and sweet potatoes
Whole grains: brown rice, barley, oats and oatmeal
Dark beans

Bad Carbs for the Brain:
Processed Sugar: soft drinks, desserts, candy
Potatoes, corn, white rice
Processed Flours: white bread, bagels, donuts, rolls

There are a number of carbs that are okay for the brain. They are not the best, but not the worst either.  These include fresh fruits not previously listed in the “good brain food” section and whole-wheat pasta and bread.

The next post that will look at brain-healthy fats and oils, followed by a post about the foods with the highest antioxidant, brain-protecting abilities so check back.

Good Food for Brain Function

April 19th, 2010

There are some foods that naturally feed the brain. The brain-friendly foods in this category can help you concentrate, magnify your memory, calm stress and even prevent brain aging. On the other hand are foods that do no good to the brain.

Through this week we will look at the best and worst foods for the brain, starting with proteins. Watch for the next three posts that will address carbs and oils, and also which foods have the highest antioxidant, brain-protecting abilities.

Best Food for Brain Function:
Fish: salmon, albacore tuna, ahi tuna, sardines
Eggs: look for Omega-3 eggs or organic and free-range eggs
Soy: tofu, tempeh, protein powders
Cottage and ricotta cheese

Bad Food for Brain Function:
Red meats, pork and other fatty meats
Processed, deli meats

Turkey and chicken are okay brain proteins – not the best but certainly not the worst either. Clams, shrimp and other fish, along with lamb, also fall into the “okay” category.

There is an important note that needs to be made about eating fish: Nearly all fish and shellfish contain traces of mercury, which can harm a child’s developing nervous system. Salmon and sardines are both considered “low-mercury” fish while tuna has higher amounts. Additionally, wild salmon is a better pick over farm-raised salmon. The FDA and EPA suggest that pregnant women and young children eat a maximum of two low-mercury fish meals per week.

Tryptophan to Help Children Sleep

April 19th, 2010

Foods containing tryptophan are excellent bedtime foods to help children sleep. This is especially important for high-gear kids who have trouble slowing their minds down enough to sleep.

Tryptophan, one of the best natural sedatives, is an amino acid that the brain uses to make serotonin and melatonin, two neurotransmitters that help relax the mind and body.

These are foods high in this sleep-inducing amino acid include;

Dairy products
Soy products
Whole grains

Many people are aware of the sleep-inducing effects of tryptophan but did you know that you can boost tryptophan’s effects by adding carbohydrates? To help children sleep at night, compbine a food high in tryptophan with carbs for a bedtime snack. Here are some light bedtime snacks that mix tryptophan with carbohydrates;
- Yogurt topped with low-fat granola cereal
- Sliced apple with peanut butter
- Cup of cereal with skim milk
- 1/2 cup low-fat pudding
- Banana with peanut butter
- One cup skim milk with fruit

Bisphenol A (BPA)

April 16th, 2010

It’s not just the additives and preservatives in foods that you need to beware of. You also want to consider the containers that your foods come in. Canned foods, water bottles and reusable plastic containers can contain Bisphenol A, otherwise known as BPA

The plastics industry continues to insist that Bisphenol A is harmless yet recent reports suggest that exposure may put your children at risk for behavioral problems like hyperactivity and early onset puberty. For adults, long-term exposure can put you at risk for a number of health issues including breast cancer and uterine fibroids in women, and prostate cancer and decreased sperm counts in men.

Trace amounts of Bisphenol A leech from bottles and cans. A 2004 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study found that 95 percent of Americans have BPA in their body. If you save canned goods for emergencies only and opt instead for fresh or frozen foods, you will be far better off.

The FDA now recognizes BPA as a potential health hazard but have not established regulations to enforce a ban. You don’t have to wait for the FDA. You can enforce your own ban by limiting canned foods for children. Children’s developing bodies are more susceptible to the effects of BPA. Adults should limit their consumption to 1-2 cans per week.

You should also avoid plastics that contain BPA. If you want to know if your bottles contain BPA, look for the letters PC (polycarbonate) and a recycling code number on the bottom of the bottle. BPA is usually identified by the number 7 in a triangle. The higher-density plastics, which are considered harmless, will have a number 2 or 5 on the bottom of the bottle.

Frozen Yogurt Smoothie Recipe

April 14th, 2010

This frozen yogurt smoothie recipe combines brain-boosting Omega-3 fatty acids with fruit and yogurt for a super quick and super healthy breakfast.

Omega-3 Pineapple-Strawberry Smoothie
1 1/2 cups chilled pineapple juice
2 Tbsp. flax oil
4 Tbsp. plain or vanilla yogurt
2 cups frozen strawberries

Combine all ingredients in a blender and puree to a smooth consistency. Add ice cubes as desired to put the “frozen” in this frozen yogurt smoothie. Enjoy!

The ADHD Omega 3 Link

April 12th, 2010

When it comes to brain-boosting, Omega-3 essential fatty acids clearly emerge as a must-have nutrient for nourishing the brain and stabalizing behavior. A Purdue University study the looked at the ADHD Omega 3 link found that children deficient in Omega-3 fatty acids are more likely to display behavioral problems, impulsiveness, excessive physical activity and lack of concentration. The study also found that adding omega-3 fatty acids to the diet helps manage behavior and mood and can help children be more productive in school.

Cold-water fish are excellent sources of omega-3 fatty acids but good luck getting your picky eater to eat fish. One option is to buy Omega-3 enriched eggs. You can also sneak a healthy dose of omega-3s into your child’s diet by mixing flaxseed oil into yogurt. There are many other ways to use diet as treatment of ADHD.

Caffeine and ADHD

April 7th, 2010

A friend of mine once told me that her ADHD son drank a cup of coffee every morning before school. She observed a beneficial effect between caffeine and ADHD and was able to avoid medicating her son.

The conneciton between the stimulant caffeine and ADHD makes sense. After all, what is the first thing thrown at children to take care of their ADHD symptoms? A stimulant medication. There are a number of studies that show health benefits of coffee and there are zero studies that show health benefits of ADHD medications so if I had to choose between the two, I would choose to throw caffeine at my child instead of an amphetamine.

That said, I would wage money on the fact that a solid protein-based breakfast is a better option for children. So, if you want to try caffeine to see if it eases ADHD symptoms, remember to serve the coffee with some scrambled eggs and whole grain toast with peanut butter.