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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!

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.

ADHD Diet Treatment

March 4th, 2010

Doctors traditionally treat ADHD children with stimulant prescription medication. However, more and more health care providers are now having success controlling symptoms by recommending diet changes. Some say that children are now thriving due to a special ADHD diet and nutrition program.

The body is a chemical factory and all foods produce reactions in the body. Eating the wrong foods may cause a brain chemistry and nervous system imbalance. Experts say that the top five foods that can cause sensitivity and aggravate ADHD symptoms include eggs, corn, citrus products, and wheat and dairy products. They also say that adding a daily supplement to your child’s diet may help. Missing essential nutrients may also cause ADHD symptoms.

Taking the natural route is always worth a try.

Better Choices, Healthy Choices for Fast and Simple Meals and Snacks

March 1st, 2010

During the school year it is difficult finding children the food they want fast while still giving them the nutrition they need.  There are easy ways to make sure your kids don’t have to settle for fast food. Here are a few ideas for a better choice. 

- Skim milk oatmeal with raisins. 
- Frozen waffles with walnuts and berries. 
- Wheat crackers with string cheese and fruit.
- Scrambled eggs in a tortilla with light cheese.
- Hummus, wheat pita and celery sticks.
- English muffin with cheese and tomato sauce.
- Smoothie with either tofu or plain yogurt, frozen fruit and 1 Tbsp. ground flax.

- Fresh Fruit.
- Light string cheese.
- Fruit cups.
- Trail mix made with nuts, dried up fruit, chocolate chips, or little marshmallows.
- Either carrots, celery or jicama sticks with some low fat ranch dressing.
- Oatmeal- raisin cookie.

Evening Snacks:
- Small bowl of milk and cereal.
- Plain yogurt with honey and sunflower seeds.
- Cottage cheese and pineapple.
- Hot chocolate with skim milk
-  Wheat bread with nut butter.
- 1 cup of light, low fat popcorn or air pooped popcorn with a little bit of parmesan cheese.