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You can always do more to take better care of your brain, even if you haven't been experiencing any memory problems. In fact, a handful of Texas-based researchers have focused their efforts into finding more information on brain health, in order to help brains nationwide stay in better shape.
"The more knowledge we can share about the brain, the more we can empower individuals to take charge of their cognitive health," said Sandra Chapman, Ph.D., of the Center for BrainHealth at the University of Texas (UT).
As an ongoing yearly tradition at UT, Chapman and her associates are planning to host a series of lectures they've titled "The Brain: An Owner's Guide." This year, the speakers will focus on how the brain controls thought and action, decisions and emotions that affect our lives, and how the internet has changed the way brains work.
Chapman also recently published a book on the subject on brain health, titled "Make Your Brain Smarter." In the tome, she presents the theories that aging does not impact brain health the way many people assume it does. In addition, having a good memory may not necessarily mean your brain is in the best shape, according to her findings.
Some suggested vitamins for healthy brains
While scientists continue to advance our knowledge of how the brain works, there a few things some people are already convinced may help improve the brain's overall functioning.
For example, writing for the official website of television health celebrity Dr. Oz, Dr. Rovenia Brock, Ph.D., recommends consuming omega-3 fatty acids, known to be especially present in fish oil for the improvement of brain, joint, eye and heart health. The names of the two omega-3 acids most commonly found in fish oil are called eicosapentaenoic (EPA) acid and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). For people who don't already consume fish frequently, Rovenia encourages them to munch down a 500 milligram (mg) supplement per day. DHA, states Rovenia, is already
present in the brain's nerve cells and additional DHA could aid the brain's development and functionality.
Likewise, the Alzheimer's Prevention and Research Foundation (APRF) notes that omega-3 acid from fish oil could potentially lessen an individual's chances of developing memory loss or dementia during old age. Exercise and consuming additional healthy foods could also reduce chances of brain deterioration.
However, the awareness and research organization provides a handful of other substances a person could consume regularly to help their minds keep fit.
In addition to omega 3….
Next on its list of measures that could help prevent brain deterioration, the APFR lists taking a comprehensive multivitamins on a daily basis. The organization postulates that brain damage has been linked to low blood levels of folic acid. Therefore, a multivitamin for brain health should contain 400 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid, as well as 500 mg of vitamin C.
The organization also recommends the antioxidant CoEnzyme Q10. It's said that this antioxidant will improve overall energy, especially if an individual is older than 35 years of age. While it occurs naturally in the body, the amount of CoEnzyme Q10 within humans starts to reduce over the years, which results in a loss of energy. In terms of dosage, the APRF says people should take between 200 and 400 mg of the antioxidant. Another antioxidant, alpha lipoic acid, and gingko biloba are also also on the APRF's compilation of potentially brain enhancing supplements.
You might think that you are really healthy because you eat salads, but you may be wrong. Some salads contain high-fat dressings that can actually do more harm than good, and certain ingredients may not be giving you the vitamins and antioxidants you need. This is why it's important to choose your salads carefully, and know what you're getting into.
Even though it's winter and it might not be prime-veggie season, that doesn't mean that you should write off salads for good. There are plenty healthy and delicious winter salads that can help you reach your weight loss goals all year long. However, it's important that you recognize that not all salads are created equal, and there are some things you should avoid if you want to stay fit.
If you're in a restaurant, you might be tempted to order a Cobb salad, which is a staple at many places. However, a traditional Cobb includes bacon, egg, blue cheese and creamy dressing, all of which are packed with fat and calories. Nutritionist Joy Bauer states that a standard restaurant chef's salad contains Swiss cheese, roast beef, eggs and dressing, which can add up to 1,000 calories and nearly 80 grams of fat. Does that sound healthy to you?
Eating Well Magazine has some tips for what you should be avoiding at the salad bar if you're trying to watch your calories. With some toppings it's just common sense, like bacon, which everyone knows is filled with fat and sodium. Along with bacon, you have to be careful about the crunchy toppings you choose for your salad. For example, one half of a cup of croutons can contain 100 calories and be packed with fat. Also, tortilla strips and crispy noodles should be avoided.
Most importantly, you have to be careful about dressings. When it comes to healthy or unhealthy salads, dressings care really make or break you. You want to avoid creamy dressings such as ranch, which can have 73 calories and nearly 8 grams of fat per tablespoon, and blue cheese, which is also packed with fat. As a rule, it's better to stick with oil-based dressings than creamy ones. Go for Italian or balsamic vinaigrette for a healthier option, or simply use olive oil, which contain healthy omega-3 fatty acids.
Create a better salad
So now that you know what to avoid, how can you create a healthy salad? First, you'll want to choose the right greens. The Huffington Post has a list of the most and least nutritious greens for your salad to help you make that decision.
First, choose your green based on color. Iceberg lettuce, which is usually light green, has some nutritional value but not a lot. You're better off choosing romaine, arugula or collard greens, which have more vitamins. If you really want to make your salad as healthy as possible, go with kale, which has more calcium than a glass of milk, and is packed with vitamin A.
Then, pile on as many vegetables as you like. Whether it's cruciferous vegetables like broccoli or cabbage, or sulfur-rich veggies such as onions or garlic, you really can't go wrong.
Finally, it's a good idea to have some sort of protein on your salad so you don't get hungry later, but be careful what you choose. For example, always select grilled chicken over fried, or tofu or chickpeas if you're a vegetarian. It's a good idea to stay away from high-fat meats such as ham, which is also packed with sodium. Finally, one hard-boiled egg is also a good choice for a healthy salad.
Have you become frustrated by seeing a lack of results, after you've tried many weight loss methods? Or, have you shed pounds with diet and exercise but then put some of the weight back on? If so, then don't worry, because you've still improved your health. According to a recent study conducted by scientists from the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev and Israel's Nuclear Research Center, low-carb and Mediterranean diets have long-lasting positive health effects, even if you put some pounds back on.
The study was published in the New England Journal of Medicine, as a follow-up to previous research that came to similar conclusions. These findings highlight the importance of eating a healthy diet, even if it doesn't always give you the weight loss results you want.
The scientists followed 322 individuals who originally participated in a study that examined the effects of the Mediterranean diet, a low-carb diet and a low-fat diet to see if they could help these people lose weight and improve their overall health.
Six years after the initial study, the researchers found that even if the individuals on the Mediterranean or low-carb diets regained some of the initial weight they lost, they still had significantly better cholesterol levels. This is extremely important for cardiovascular health.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that one out of every six Americans has high cholesterol, which may increase their risk of experiencing a cardiovascular problem. These findings suggest that eating a low-carb or Mediterranean diet may help these individuals improve their cholesterol levels and improve their heart health.
"This breakthrough, even years later, continues to yield valuable information that can help every one of us make healthier diet choices," said Doron Krakow, executive vice president of American Associates, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev.
The right kind of fat
Both a low-carb and a Mediterranean diet revolve around the concept of "good" fats. Some people may mistakenly believe that all fat is bad, but that's simply not true. In fact, certain fats are necessary for brain health and overall well-being.
According to the National Institutes of Health, the Mediterranean diet has fewer meats and carbohydrates, and includes more plant-based foods and monounsaturated (good) fat, compared to the traditional Western diet. Some of the staples of this eating plan are fish and nuts, which are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, a healthy lipid. This diet also encourages you to use olive oil whenever possible instead of butter. While the latter contains unhealthy, artery-clogging saturated fats, olive oil has omega-3s and is the much better choice.
You won't find a great deal of eggs or red meat in a Mediterranean diet. This is good if you're trying to improve your cholesterol levels, since a study conducted earlier this year showed that consuming egg yolks can be as dangerous to your arteries as smoking.
Cut that cholesterol
The Mayo Clinic has a list of foods that you should consider consuming if you want to improve your cholesterol levels. For example, you want to be sure to get plenty of fiber, which can be found in oatmeal, oat bran and whole grain bread. You'll want to get five to 10 grams or more of soluble fiber a day, which really isn't that much. According to the Clinic, one-and-a-half cups of cooked oatmeal can deliver 6 grams of soluble fiber.
Also, you want to be sure to get regular physical activity in order to maintain a healthy weight and keep your cholesterol levels low. Weight management can be difficult, but following a Mediterranean diet can be a delicious way to help keep yourself trim.
Vitamin D fanatics may spend hours at the beach catching tans to increase their levels, but there are also nutrient-rich foods packed with the key vitamin and available at a store near you.
According to Men's Health, only 3 ounces of wild salmon can provide 112 percent of your daily value of the vitamin. Not only is wild salmon delicious – it's also high in omega-3s, which are polyunsaturated fatty acids known for their potential to improve metabolism. According to the FDA, one three to six ounce canned salmon serving can provide as much as a week's worth of omega-3s.
People have been pairing salmon with bagels and cream cheese for years, but more varied options also exist, such as mixing it with avocado to get more heart-healthy fats, or adding lemon juice or capers for taste. If you're in a hurry, salmon even goes well with toast.
But salmon isn't the only chicken of the sea with vitamin D and omega-3s. Tuna, in addition to being a good source of protein, also has a healthy amount of vitamin D. This fish goes well with pickles, lettuce and mayonnaise. Just avoid buying tuna that comes packaged in a can. While canned salmon has mercury levels below FDA detection, canned tuna has at least 35 times more mercury, according to the ocean conservancy group Oceana.
Tuna with healthy mercury levels will be labeled as "chunk tuna" or darker meat tuna, provided by a different species than the "white" or "chunk light" tuna often found in cans. The darker tuna is smaller, and smaller fish take in less mercury.
Fruit & Dairy
Orange juice is also well-known for its richness of vitamin D, with one cup providing about one third the average daily value. Fortified Milk also includes the vitamin in moderate amounts, and you're likely to find vitamin D enriched milk in supermarkets. Other dairy products like yogurt also contain vitamin D. Yogurt is also a great snack for post-workout, when your muscles need protein for repair.
Vitamin D performs a number of key functions in the body, primarily in the absorption of calcium and phosphorus, which have been shown to boost bone health. In the body, the active form of the vitamin is called Calcitriol, and it has been linked to increased calcium absorption in the kidneys as well as greater percentages of the mineral in the bloodstream.
Data from the 2009 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey showed that nine percent of children in the United States are deficient in vitamin D (lower than 15 ng/mL in blood), with 61 percent vitamin D insufficient (15 to 29 ng/mL). While vitamin D is generated through sun exposure, the evidence is clear that many may not be getting enough sunlight to get optimal levels of the key compound. Increasing vitamin D intake through food may be a good way to supplement diet regardless of sunshine exposure.
Another vitamin easily available in foods is vitamin C, for which the most famous example is perhaps oranges. Vitamin C may raise immune system health and has been linked to higher levels of iron absorption.
Other foods high in the vitamin include guava fruit, kiwis, red and green sweet peppers, grapefruit, strawberries, cantaloupe and brussel sprouts. Strawberries are also high in fiber and antioxidants, and a red pepper can boast more than 100 mg of vitamin C, according to numerous studies.
Next time you go out to eat, you might want to try some lox with a side of orange juice, or there may be some yogurt or kiwis lying around to mix into a vitamin-rich snack for work. In the end, sunlight may be good for you, but it's not the only way to get your fix of vitamins.
Healthy aging is a lifelong process that involves maintaining a proper diet, a good exercise regimen and the right vitamin supplements. For example, a recent study from Ohio State University researchers showed that taking omega-3 fatty acid supplements may be able to help slow down the aging process and keep people feeling younger, longer.
Researchers examined overweight yet healthy middle-aged and older adults to reach this conclusion. They discovered that individuals who took omega-3 supplements for four months were able to help preserve segments of their DNA called telomeres. These exist in many different types of cells and shorten over time as the result of aging. The scientists found that the more omega-3s people consumed, the longer their telomeres seemed to be.
The scientists explained that telomeres are like the plastic around the tips of a shoelace. They are caps at the end of chromosomes that protect them.
"If that plastic comes off, the shoelace unravels and it doesn’t work anymore," said study co-author Ron Glaser, professor of molecular virology, immunology and medical genetics and director of the Institute for Behavioral Medicine Research (IBMR) at Ohio State. "In the same way, every time a cell divides, it loses a little bit of its DNA at the ends, and over time, that can cause significant problems."
Supplements make a difference
According to Jan Kiecolt-Glaser, professor of psychiatry and psychology at Ohio State and lead author of the study, these findings are exciting because they suggest that a nutritional supplement may actually make a difference when it comes to aging. Scientists are constantly searching for new ingredients that will be able to slow the aging process, and this study suggests that a long-known crucial fatty acid may have been one of the keys all along.
Kiecolt-Glaser added that people who experience chronic stress may gain even more benefits from taking omega-3 fatty acid supplements.
More tips for healthy aging
WebMD offers other tips for how people can age healthily. First, it's important for elderly individuals to remain active to keep their weight under control and their muscles and bones strong. Next, older people need to be sure to eat right. For example, low-fat quality protein such as poultry, fish, eggs and soy are important to keep people healthy.
Furthermore, carbohydrates are the body's preferred source of energy, so it's important to get healthy amounts of them. These include vegetables, whole grains and fruits, all of which are healthy sources of carbs.
The winter can be a time when many people experience the blues. This is because in many parts of the U.S., the winter means there is less sunlight, and insufficient exposure to the sun's rays may make a person feel sadder than they would on a bright day. However, there's no reason to worry, because with the right amount of vitamins and nutrients you can help beat the winter blues.
Recently, The Herald, a newspaper based out of Ireland, published some tips on how to eat to avoid feeling sad during the colder months. This country is notorious for it's cloud cover, so people from the northern parts of the U.S. should listen to their expertise.
Vitamins and antioxidants
First, the news source recommended that people consume more fish during the colder months. This makes sense, considering that salmon is one of the few foods that is rich in vitamin D, a nutrient that are our body produces in response to exposure to sunlight. The Herald added that insufficient vitamin D may contribute to seasonal affective disorder (SAD), where people feel blue during the winter months.
Also, bananas may help fight off the depressive effects of winter. The natural sugars in this fruit are released into the bloodstream and may help you feel more energized. For double the benefits, you may consider trying bananas dipped in dark chocolate. Chocolate is packed with antioxidants, and has been shown to activate feel-good receptors in the brain.
Eggs and walnuts are other foods that you may to seek out, since these are good sources of omega-3 fatty acids that may not only boost your mood, but also your cardiovascular health.
Snacks to avoid
So now that you know the foods that may enhance your mood, you should also know the ones to avoid. WebMD cited a study called the Coronary Health Improvement Project, which found that people who decreased the amount of saturated fat they consumed experienced a boost in their mood. This suggests you should avoid fried snacks and junk foods if you want to fight off winter sadness.
Also, while alcohol may produce a temporary feeling of euphoria, it's actually a depressant, so try to limit how much you drink, particularly in the winter. Finally, consuming too much caffeine may disrupt your sleep at night, and cause you to feel cranky in the morning, so cut back on the coffee after 2 p.m.
Meeting your weight loss goals can be a challenge, especially if you're spending all of your time counting calories. Luckily, there are ways to lose weight that don't require you to keep track of every single calorie that's on your plate. Recently, U.S. News published an article by Keri Gans, M.S., R.D., who explained ways that you can learn how to make sensibly portioned meals that are packed with vitamins and antioxidants.
Learning portion control is simpler and more effective than counting calories, and the right meals can leave you more satisfied than any 100-calorie bag of chips.
It's all about the right balance
According to the expert, a healthy plate is ideally divided into half vegetables, one-fourth lean protein and one-fourth high-fiber carbohydrates. For lean protein, Gans recommended beans, skinless chicken, egg whites and fish.
Out of all of these options, fish may be the best one. According to the Washington State Department of Health, many fish contain omega-3 fatty acids, which are healthy lipids that may benefit brain health. Also, fish has vitamins such as B12 and D.
With vegetables, you can't really go wrong no matter which ones you choose, but determining high-fiber carbohydrate options can be a bit trickier. Gans suggested oats, barley, quinoa, brown rice, whole-wheat pasta and whole-wheat bread.
Of course, you can't forget about fruits.
"Where does fruit fit in? Fruit can replace (or share) the veggie portion of your plate, or serve as your high-fiber carbohydrate. It can also simply be eaten as part of a snack or dessert," wrote Gans for U.S. News.
Tips for portion control
Gans explained some simple ways to figure out how much you are eating without using a measuring cup. For example, a one-ounce serving of cheese looks like six playing dice, while one ounce of nuts can fit inside a shot glass. Also, one cup of pasta is about the size of a tennis ball, and a medium potato should look like a computer mouse.
The Mayo Clinic states that one serving of most fruits is the size of a tennis ball as well. This is important to keep in mind, because while fruits are good sources of antioxidants and vitamins, they can also contain high amounts of sugar.
Are you looking to boost your brain health? What about the health of your children? Now that it's back to school time, it's important for children to eat well so that they can stay focused in the classroom. This means ensuring that their diet is rich in important nutrients such as omgea-3s, vitamin C and fiber. Of course, it isn't always easy to know the best foods to choose for your family, but there are some simple rules to follow for healthy eating.
Recently, The Washington Post spoke to experts on how the right foods can improve your brain health, and where to find them.
Healthy foods make for focused people
First, the news source spoke to neurologist Majid Fotuhi, chairman of the Neurology Institute for Brain Health and Fitness in Baltimore, who explained that food can affect the brain in a few short minutes. For example, you may have noticed that when you consume sugary snacks, you'll feel a burst of energy, followed by a bout of sleepiness due to a "sugar crash." This is why it's important to choose foods that will help the brain, not work against it.
According to the Post, all of the experts interviewed stated that omega-3 fatty acids are essential to brain health. These lipids can be found in salmon, walnuts, olive oil and many other foods that are part of the Mediterranean diet. Fotuhi recommended this eating plan, which has also been shown to help people reach their weight loss goals and potentially improve their cardiovascular health.
Prevention magazine suggests consuming leafy greens and cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kale, bok choy and brussels sprouts, which are packed with antioxidants that help fight off the effects of harmful free radicals in the body.
It's never too late
While it's especially important for children – who have still-developing brains – to consume these foods, adults should as well.
"One of the things that's so fascinating about the brain is its plasticity and ability to grow at any age," said Fotuhi, quoted by the Post. "Research has shown that if you change the diet in nursing homes, quality of life and cognitive performance changes. You can always improve brain function, no matter how old you are."
So what are you waiting for? Use these tips as a guide and start cooking meals that can help improve the health of your family!