Brain Food: Spring Clean Your Diet
I’m wrapping up National Nutrition Month (March) with a brain food post that is several years in the making. My relationship with food and health shifted dramatically following my mother’s Alzheimer’s diagnosis.
Disclaimer: I am not a medical doctor and cannot give medical advice. I am simply a health enthusiast, sharing what I have learned about nutrition and disease prevention.
You Are What You Eat!
I first discovered Dr. Weil’s anti-inflammatory diet while obsessively researching disease prevention in the aftermath of my mom’s diagnosis. Realizing that my Miadog’s chronic ear infections were caused by a corn allergy, I continued to research the direct effect of diet on inflammation, metabolism and immunity.
Embracing the anti-inflammatory diet more and more over the last few years, I have noticed a remarkable increase in both my metabolism and immunity, as well as a tremendous decrease in depression and anxiety. Currently breastfeeding an infant with a milk protein allergy and a suspected gluten sensitivity has taken my “clean eating” to a new level.
I did some “brainstorming” (pardon the pun) for this post by creating the doodle above. Below, I share a few simple ways to spring clean your diet and fill up on brain food [with links to more detailed info]:
Don’t FORGET, FATS are your FRIEND.
Your brain needs Omega-3s (a.k.a. Omega-3 fatty acids)!! Say “NO” to vegetable oils that are high in Omega-6 fatty acids. I cook almost exclusively with extra virgin coconut oil (good for baking and high heat) and olive oil. FYI, coconut oil should not be refrigerated. [10 Ways To Eat And Drink Your Way To A Better Brain and FAQs: What Are Safe Cooking Fats & Oils]
Other good sources of Omega-3 fatty acids are AVOCADO and pasture-raised or Omega-3 enriched eggs. I also add ground flax seeds (I grab a big bag at Sam’s Club) to oatmeal, yogurt and smoothies. P.S. I currently have to substitute almond milk and coconut milk-based products for dairy, while I breastfeed. [The 11 Most Destructive Nutrition Lies Ever Told]
Nuts (especially walnuts) have a high Omega-3 content and make a terrific, ready-to-eat snack. Store them in the freezer to keep them fresh longer.
Plenty of FISH in the SEA.
Wild caught fatty fish like salmon are an excellent source of the healthy Omega-3s your body craves. If you’re not a seafood fan, or if you are but don’t consume large amounts of fish, take an enteric-coated (no fishy burps) fish oil or krill oil supplement daily. [Reducing Inflammation - The Natural Approach and The Best Foods to Ease Anxiety]
Don’t forget to drink enough water to flush out toxins and keep your body functioning properly!!! Get a reusable BPA-free water bottle and refill it all day!
Drink GREEN TEA.
Green tea is an amino acid and antioxidant-rich wonder drink. The antioxidant EGCG helps block the formation of beta-amyloid plaques found in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s disease. I drink green tea every day, usually hot in the morning and chilled in the afternoon. Adding lemon juice helps your body absorb the tea’s healthy compounds. [Health Benefits of Green Tea and Green tea epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG) reduces beta-amyloid mediated cognitive impairment and modulates tau pathology in Alzheimer transgenic mice.]
Limit sugar and flour.
It is not good to eat much honey, nor is it glorious to seek one’s own glory.
Proverbs: 25:27 ESV
Sugar (glucose and fructose) and gluten create harmful inflammation in your body. Inflammation is detrimental to brain health. Substitute coconut palm sugar, local honey or maple syrup for sugar in your favorite sweet stuff like drinks and baked goods. Keep in mind that all sweeteners should be used in moderation. (I previously recommended agave nectar but it turns out its low glycemic index score is very misleading as it ignores fructose content.) [Food Fight: Agave vs. Honey, What's Wrong With Agave Nectar and Coconut Palm Sugar: Best New Sugar Alternative]
Choose corn tortillas instead of flour when eating Mexican food. Use #glutenfree all-purpose flour or gluten free baking mixes but always watch out for junk ingredients. [Inflammation - Strong Relationship to Dementia, These 11 Charts Show Everything That's Wrong With The Modern Diet]
Color diversity: fruits & veggies.
And God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food.
Genesis 1:29 ESV
Eat a rainbow of fruits and vegetables. Usually the darker the color of the produce, the greater its antioxidant content. Opt for fresh or frozen fruits and veggies, instead of canned, whenever possible. We eat a lot of salads full of leafy greens and stir fries full of colorful veggies at our house.
Probably the best “snack” brain food is berries, especially blueberries. I always buy organic berries since conventional berries tend to have a lot of pesticide residue.
Red, red wine (in moderation).
So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.
1 Corinthians 10:31 ESV
Red wine contains antioxidants like flavonoids and resveratrol but limit yourself to 1-2 drinks per day. If you don’t imbibe, drink grape juice or snack on red and purple grapes. [Red wine and resveratrol: Good for your heart?]
Eat dark chocolate (70%+ cacao).
My favorite treat is also a disease-fighting powerhouse (and it pairs nicely with the beverage above). Antioxidant-rich cacao protects your health in more ways than one. [9 Health Benefits of Chocolate]
And most importantly,
TREAT yourself with kindness.
Manage stress. Be happy.
There is nothing more important to your health than happiness Make self-care a priority.
REST. Get a massage. Walk.
The benefits of enough sleep, regular exercise and massage are endless. The effects of chronic stress can be fatal.
My yoga instructor loves to remind us of the Sanskrit word “ahimsa,” meaning “do no harm.” Getting on the mat every week helps me take care of my body and mind. It has increased my strength and flexibility and taught me how to intentionally relax.
Pray. Meditate. Laugh.
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
Matthew 11:28 ESV
Don’t take yourself so seriously. Laughter really is the best medicine.
Realize that you will never be perfect or have everything under control. God is in control. FORGIVE as Christ forgave you. Free yourself from worry.
Lauren Flake @ For the Love of Dixie