Top 3 Brain-Boosting Foods Fish: Wild Caught Salmon (Omega-3s – DHA & EPA) Berries: Blueberries, Blackberries (antioxidants) Greens: Bok Choy, Spinach, Collard Greens (folate)

Top 3 Brain Boosting Foods!

One of the common complaints about health is having brain-fog.  We often think this is just a part of aging which we have no control over.  Is that the case? What happens when we look at our brain from a functional perspective?

The simple fact is food affects our brain, for better or worse. Choosing foods which support proper brain function is vital to our overall wellness. Growth of healthy cells, healthy connections in the brain and efficient operation of our brain, and in turn our entire body, are affected by the foods we choose to consume. One of my favorite sayings about brain health comes from Dr. William Sears:

“Forget low-carb and low-fat diets. Eat a ‘right-carb’ and a ‘right-fat’ diet for optimal brain health!”

I couldn’t agree more! The quality of what we eat is of greater importance than the quantity. Let’s take a quick look at our brain health and food choices.top-3-brain-boosting-foods

When our brain is provided with healthy nourishment it can make healthy connections, process information, create memories and signal muscles and hormones to react and move. Next time you think about healthy eating, don’t just think about the benefits it will have on your waistline. Rather, think of all the positive benefits your brain receives from getting the right brain-boosting nutrition!

So what is the fuel which is vital to the brain?

For optimal function our brains need:
Omega-3 fats, Folate, Antioxidants and Carbohydrates.

  • Omega-3s are important building blocks in the brain – they are vital to the proper function of impulses which take place.
  • Folate is a nutrient needed for neurotransmitter function.
  • Antioxidants keep the blood brain barrier healthy, protecting cells from wear and tear and improve blood flow by decreasing excessive blood clotting.
  • Carbohydrates are needed because your brain uses them for energy.

What are quality sources of these brain fuels?

Top 3 Brain-Boosting Foods

Fish: Wild Caught Salmon (Omega-3s – DHA & EPA)
Berries: Blueberries, Blackberries (antioxidants)
Greens: Bok Choy, Spinach, Collard Greens (folate)

One of my family’s favorite meal is grilled salmon with a side of steamed veggies and large bowl of mixed greens topped with a bit of olive oil and berries. Even my child who isn’t fond of fish loves this meal! I have a super simple salmon recipe here. As well as more information on Omega-3s and essential fats here.

So the next time you go shopping remember to stop by the produce and seafood departments to get a special brain-boosting treat 🙂

[Resources:

Soares AA, et al (2017)  A double- blind, randomized, and placebo-controlled clinical trial with omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (OPFA ɷ-3) for the prevention of migraine in chronic migraine patients using amitriptyline.  Nutr Neurosci. doi: 10.1080/1028415X.2016.1266133.

Pu H, Jiang X, Wei Z, Hong D, Hassan S, Zhang W, Shi Y, Chen L, Chen J.(2016) Repetitive and prolonged omega-3 fatty acid treatment after traumatic brain injury enhances long-term tissue restoration and cognitive recovery.
Cell Transplant. doi: 10.3727/096368916X693842. PMID: 27938482

Pu H, Jiang X, Hu X, Xia J, Hong D, Zhang W, Gao Y, Chen J, Shi Y. (2016) Delayed Docosahexaenoic Acid Treatment Combined with Dietary Supplementation of Omega-3 Fatty Acids Promotes Long-Term Neurovascular Restoration After Ischemic Stroke.
Transl Stroke Res. 2016 Dec;7(6):521-534.

Jiraungkoorskul W. Review of neuro-nutrition used as anti-alzheimer plant, spinach Spinacia oleracea. Phcog Rev [serial online] 2016 [cited 2017 Jan 17];10:105-8. Available from: http://www.phcogrev.com/text.asp?2016/10/20/105/194040

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Delicious, Mayo-Free Tuna Salad!

One of my favorite quick dishes is egg salad, tuna or chicken salad.  The problem which I have encountered is I am not a fan of mayonnaise.  When we changed our diet it became one of my quests to find an alternative. Well – here is one of our favorite replacements.  This works for chicken or tuna, I happened to make tuna today:

Easy, Delicious Mayonnaise Free Tuna Salad!

Delicious Mayo-Free Tuna Salad

  • Servings: 3-4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Delicious Mayonnaise Free Tuna Salad


Ingredients

  • 1 Boiled Egg
  • 1 Can Tuna
  • 3-4 Small Stalks of Celery
  • 1/2 large Cucumber – diced
  • 1/4 c diced Onion
  • 1/2 Avocado
  • pinch of Salt (optional)
  • 1 TB Olive Oil

Directions

  1. Either start your egg first to boil it while you prepare the rest – or go ahead and move on to the next step. Put egg in pan of water and turn on high heat – keep covered, when water is boiling remove from heat and let sit for about 10 minutes.
  2. Rinse and chop Celery and Cucumber – add to mixing bowl.
  3. Chop, dice small amount of onion – add to mixing bowl.
  4. Add Tuna to mixing bowl.
  5. Mash up boiled egg in a small separate bowl, IF making fresh boiled egg let cool just a tad. Then add Avocado and Olive Oil and mix together well. Can add salt at this step.
  6. Once the avocado and egg are blended up add to the rest of the ingredients and mix well. This is wonderful when served on a bed of lettuce with a few apple slices! We love to sprinkle our favorite herbs on top.
  7. TIPS: Keep a couple of boiled eggs on hand to use to make a quick snack with left over chicken, turkey or for a day when you just don’t want to cook!

Essential Fat- A Quick Overview

Among one of the hot topics in regards to health today is essential fats. In particular omega-3 and omega-6. You may have noticed Omega-3 is making its way into the things we eat.  Products are boasting about how much Omega-3’s they provide.  When we start talking with others almost invariably Omega-3s will come up in the discussion.

As with most trends there is usually some confusion. To compound that, unfortunately many companies look to the easiest way they can use the latest buzzword in marketing  their products.  Claims made on products can be misleading and not live up to their crafty hype.  With our fast paced lifestyle we often put off digging into the nitty-gritty of reasons behind these latest trends.  It is very easy to get drawn into the hype when much of the hype is truth!  So, I am going to share a few tidbits to help you on your journey to gain knowledge beneficial to your health path, hopefully equipping you to decipher fact from hype…

First – what are these ‘Omegas’?  They are fatty acids which our bodies need.  Some fatty acids such as Omega 5, 7 or 9 our bodies can make.  Omega 3 and Omega 6 are ones our bodies cannot make, therefore they are labeled ‘essential’.  For the most part this post will be about these two although I will touch on Omega-9’s.

Where do they come from? or How do we get them?  The simple answer is from real food!  Both plants and animal sources provide Omega-3 & Omega-6.  But – this is where confusion, and often misleading marketing comes in. Let’s look at Omega-3’s.

    • Alpha-linolenic acid or ALA is found in plants, plant oils, nuts and in fat of grass-fed beef.  One thing to note about ALA is our body must convert it into DHA and EPA.  The conversion rate is rather poor though, only about 4%.  Our body primarily uses ALA for energy.
    • Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) come primarily from fish, hence they are often referred to as marine Omega-3’s.  DHA & EPA are the Omega-3’s which have been attributed to various health benefits. For instance DHA is the primary component of brain structure.  EPA is typically associated with reduction of inflammation.

Where one needs to be careful is reading supplement packages carefully.  Reading the ingredient list to see what is the source of the Omega-3, how much ALA, DHA and EPA.  Remembering ALA is primarily used for energy where as DHA & EPA appear to be used for proper function and repair.

One other interesting tidbit is regarding Omega-3’s in grass-fed meat.  Again, the latest buzz is the Omega-3 benefit from grass-fed beef.  WELL, in researching this post I found out the Omega-3 content found in grass-fed beef is ALA. This was a surprise to me with grass-fed beef compared to fish in many health circles.  While grass-fed meet has a much better ratio than grain-fed, it’s the type of Omega-3 that is important in my health journey. So this is something I will be digging deeper into…

Do we need ALA?  Absolutely! It is an essential fatty acid, the caution is what our body uses it for and what is the reason we are wanting to increase our Omega-3’s.  Many claims are made on labels of plant-based Omega-3 supplements referring to the scientific evidence of DHA or EPA benefiting various aspects of health. While the claims are most often Difference in Omega-3's ALA, DHA and EPA theFunctionalPerspective.comcertainly true, the problem is a plant based Omega-3 does not directly provide DHA or EPA rather ALA which must be converted into DHA & EPA at a 4% conversion rate(or less!). And your body primarily uses ALA for energy.  So the labels can be very misleading.

The other essential fatty acid Omega-6.  This fatty acid is another necessary nutrient our bodies need.  The problem comes when there is an excess or an imbalance compared to Omega-3.  Studies have shown a correlation with excess Omega-6 with a variety of ailments.   So while we need Omega-6, once again we must look at keeping things in balance.

Which leads me to a member of the unsaturated family,  Omega-9.  These fatty acids are not essential because our bodies can make them.  Something to note is, some vegetable oils can be high in Omega-9 content which can potentially cause an imbalance in your body.  Some studies suggest benefits and some suggest potential adverse effects. All to say be cautious and watch for signs of how your body reacts. Another aspect worthy of noting is these same vegetable oils are also typically high in Omega-6 which can cause problems when out of balance with Omega-3’s.

Non-essential fatty acids are rarely something we need to be concerned with supplementing. Be on the look out for claims of a balanced Omega supplement, it isn’t that a problem exists perse, rather not always an efficient use of our money to purchase something our bodies already make and our body knows exactly how much we need 😉  My philosophy is let my body function as intended and let me get out of the way of that proper function..

Eating a balance diet of real foods paying attention to our balance of essential fats and non-essential fats can make our journey to good health a little easier to navigate. One tool I will frequently use is a nutrient tracker at  SELF Nutrition .  It is free to use and you can sign-up to track daily food intake.  What I like best is the extended nutrient profile. Once you have looked up your food you can click on “more details” for a very detailed nutrition analysis. {We used this alot when we were tracking glucose and fructose consumption} This “more details” tab is under the different nutrient categories, such as more info on the fat breakdown.  If you would like to see what the omega make up is of your foods here is a list of the corresponding numbers for ALA DHA and EPA as well as some Omega-9’s.

ALA – 18:3 -n3

EPA – 20:5 n3

DHA – 22:6 n3

Omega 9’s

18:1 (n-9) – Oleic acid

18:1 (n-9) – Elaidic acid

20:1 (n-9) – Gonoic acid

20:3 (n-9) – Mead acid

22:1 (n-9) – Erucic acid

24:1 (n-9) – Nervonic acid

Well, that was as quick as I could make it!  There is so much more that can be said in regards to these fatty acids but I hate to spoil your opportunity to discover them on you own  🙂    Thanks for stopping by and as always I enjoy your comments!

(Some of the sources I used:

http://www.berkeleywellness.com/healthy-eating/food/nutrition/article/grass-fed-beef-omega-3s

https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/omega-3-fats/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Omega-9_fatty_acid

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10545672

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7737644https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7737644

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2901759/)