Archive for May, 2012

Does what we eat affect how we think? Yes, according to recent research—especially as we grow older. We may joke about “senior moments,” but for most of us, it’s no laughing matter. We fear dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Who among us is more likely to be a target for decreased mental abilities?

Specific nutrients affect memory and learning. A diet with lots of sugar-rich foods has a negative impact. As one study noted, sugar makes you dumber. Rats fed extra fructose in their drinking water lacked the ability to think clearly and to recall the route of a maze they had learned several weeks earlier. However, even with the fructose, omega-3 fatty acids added to their regular diets caused them to remember the route faster.

Researchers theorized that high amounts of fructose blocks insulin’s ability to regulate the cell’s use and storage for energy that’s required to process thoughts and emotions. Thus, they concluded that high-fructose harmed the brain and the body.

Likewise, saturated fats may decrease memory and reduce brain function while unsaturated fats may improve it. Total fat doesn’t seem to affect mental tasks, but the type does. Even slight negative changes in cognitive skill increases the risk of developing dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

Another study noted how omega-3 fatty acids protect the aging brain. Researchers tested 1,500 people with an average age of sixty-seven. Those who ate diets lacking omega-3 fatty acids aged faster and lost memory and thinking ability. Researchers did MRI brain scans, measured mental function, body mass, and omega-3 fatty acid in the red blood cells. Those who scored in the lower twenty-five percent of omega-3 fatty acid levels in their blood had smaller brains and scored lower on memory and abstract reasoning. They mentally appeared two years older than the remaining seventy-five percent.

How can you improve the way your brain works? High-sugar and high-saturated fat in the diet seem to do harm. Foods high in omega-3 fatty acids, such as fish, improve memory. Also, berries have nutrients that contribute to brain health. Berries contain high levels of phytochemicals. Although berries differ in their combination of these substances, each contributes antioxidant effects that may help prevent age-related brain degeneration and changes in cognition and motor function. For best results, try a serving of berries—blueberries, strawberries, blackberries— each day.

Your memory may not be as sharp as in years past, but by careful selection of what you eat, you can keep your mind more alert and improve recall. What do you have to lose—except your mind?

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Quinoa is not a grass, but its seeds have been...

Quinoa is not a grass, but its seeds have been eaten for 6000 years. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A new grain has found favor among food aficionados. Quinoa, pronounced keen-wah, actually isn’t new nor is it a grain. Harvested in South America for thousands of years, the Incas referred to it as the “mother of all grains.”

Technically, it is the seed of the goosefoot plant, in the same family as spinach, with leaves shaped like a goose foot.

Quinoa ranges in color from yellow or white to dark brown. Use it in place of rice in casseroles or as a side dish. The nutty flavor blends well with cinnamon or nutmeg along with brown sugar or maple syrup for a tasty breakfast.

I tried the white quinoa. After a good rinse, I soaked overnight (although unncessary), rinsed again, then cooked it the same as regular rice—one part quinoa to two parts water. Like rice, I brought the water to a boil, added the seeds, and cooked about 20 minutes.

The protein content of quinoa is almost twice that of corn or rice. Other nutritional attributes include high fiber, B-vitamins, iron, zinc, manganese, magnesium, and other minerals. Additionally, it is gluten-free.

The unwashed product has a coating called saponin which has a bitter taste and can result in digestive problems. Rinse thoroughly to remove. Although available prewashed, consider another rinse.

Check your grocery shelves for this new “ancient” cereal. Find tasty recipes at these sites and others.



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