Feel Good Foods for the Brains & Body

I’d like to share some of the healthiest trends available: since I have collected a number of email alerts over the last few years from various health sources, I have now sorted most of them out into a small, neat list of the best of the best. Of course there is more, much more goodness out there and this is a starting point.

You’d be amazed at the vast amounts of quick, inexpensive snacks and foodstuffs that are good for the brains and the body in general.
Oats: God’s gift to a healthy lifestyle. Start with a bowl of lightly cooked oats in skim milk, and slice a banana or a couple of kiwi fruits…or a trick I use, a small handful of Goji berries and top it up with a dash of maple syrup or honey. Soak the oats for a good 10 minutes before you cook them. This will keep you full for several hours and the cost is minimal. Another booster in your porridge: add some blueberries, fresh, dried or frozen, they are packed with powerful phenolic antioxidants that help keep you young by combating oxidative stress.

Start your day with a steaming bowl of oats, which are full of omega-3 fatty acids, folate, and potassium. This fiber-rich superfood can lower levels of LDL (or bad) cholesterol and help keep arteries clear. Add Flaxseed which is full of fiber and omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, a little sprinkling of flaxseed can go a long way for your heart. Top a bowl of oatmeal or whole-grain cereal with a smidgen of ground flaxseed for the ultimate heart-healthy breakfast.

Remember, snacking between meals is the killer habit. If you feel pangs of hunger grab an apple, a low-fat yogurt or a banana. Or, as I write below, bread dipped into a little olive oil. Watch out for the calorific “health bars” (these so called “healthy” protein bars are loaded with hydrogenated oils & high fructose corn syrup.) Here is my list of healthy snacks: Air Popped Popcorn (no extra butter please!), Protein Bars (check for the real healthy ones), Nonfat Cottage Cheese, Sliced Chicken Breast (steamed, serve with a dollop of butter or olive oil), Hard Boiled Eggs (good for you), Green Salad (any kind, you can eat that as much as you like), Hummus (spread on spelt or rye bread), Steamed Cauliflower florets (with a dash of olive oil), Whole Oranges, Whole Apples, Bananas, Nonfat Yogurt, Smoothies: make your own with frozen berries and a plain yogurt, Sardines (in olive oil, preferably), Raw Peanut Butter on Rye, Dried Apricots, Almonds, Frozen Mango or Papaya slices, Walnuts, Sunflower Seeds, Soy Chips (most brands do not carry excessive salt), Bean Salad (with olive oil & lime dressing), Tuna & Green Beans (lean meat), Pickles, Olives. In other words, no snacks in the pic below: these types of snacks are all empty calories and lead to fat gain and out of control insulin levels which make you feel tired and sluggish. Your body needs clean fuel, remember the old adage: you are what you eat!

Consumers are reading nutrition labels more often but are increasingly skeptical of front-of-pack health claims, such as ‘high fiber’ or ‘low fat’, according to a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) survey. The FDA has carried out ten such surveys since 1982, examining Americans’ attitudes and knowledge about health and nutrition. The newly released results from a 2008 poll showed the percentage of people claiming to read a food label the first time they bought a product had increased from 44 percent in 2002 to 54 percent in 2008. And nearly half of those surveyed (49 percent) said that their decision to buy or use a food product had changed because they had read the nutrition label.

The survey, of more than 2,500 adults nationwide, found that 56 percent of respondents thought some or none of the claims made on food labels were accurate – including ‘cholesterol-free’, ‘high fiber’, and ‘low fat’.

Eggs: most people complain about the price of free range eggs. However, those same people will spend five bucks on soda, on a daily basis, which is nothing but water mixed with chemicals and high fructose corn syrup. A dozen eggs will give you several days worth of all of the B vitamins, selenium, phosphorus, and dozens of other vitamins and minerals that you need. The dozen eggs will also give you approximately 80-90 gms of some of the most bio-available protein available. Plus there’s the healthy fats, omega-3′s, lutein, and more.

Olive Oil: I’ve written several diaries devoted to olive oil and its amazing properties. One of the best device to keep hunger at bay while waiting for lunch or dinner is to get a loaf of rustic rye bread (or sliced black rye, or spelt loaf, anything but wheat) and dip a couple of slices into some olive oil, grind a little black pepper and if you wish you can add a couple of tomatoes (men should eat as many tomatoes as possible. Why? Read below in the tomato entry…)

Javier Menendez and Antonio Segura-Carretero led a team of researchers who set out to investigate which parts of olive oil were most active against cancer. Menendez said, “Our findings reveal for the first time that all the major complex phenols present in extra-virgin olive oil drastically suppress overexpression of the cancer gene HER2 in human breast cancer cells.” A tablespoon of olive oil contains 120 calories, 14 grams of fat, and no cholesterol. Seventy seven percent (77%) of the fat in olive oil is monounsaturated, and nine percent (9%) is polyunsaturated fat; fourteen percent (14%) is vegetable-derived saturated fat. Virgin olive oils also contain the antioxidants beta-carotene and Vitamin E, as well as the phenolic compounds tyrosol and hydroxytyrosol.

The Amazing Pair that Prevents Prostate Cancer:
some twenty five years ago I did come across a breakthrough report on how to minimize or avoid the dreaded prostrate cancer. I lost both my great grandfather and grandfather to this cancer so I had a personal interest in reading this report up. Not only are tomatoes our top source of the antioxidant lycopene, but also they deliver anti-cancer nutrients like vitamin C, folate, quercetin, kaempferol, and naringenin. Then there’s the king of the cruciferous family, the mighty broccoli (Bush 1′s evil vegetable). In addition to cancer-busting carotenoids and polyphenols, broccoli is rich in sulforaphane, a compound credited with clearing carcinogens from the body. Ever tried a few steamed florets of broccoli, topped with a handful of toasted almonds, a dash of olive oil & chopped green onions?

Celery: For a razor-sharp memory, give yourself a treat, a whooping 6-calorie snack to munch on! Why? Because celery is a top source of a high-powered flavonoid known as luteolin, and these compounds may help cool off destructive inflammation in the brain’s memory center (otherwise known as the hippocampus). Not a bad trade for 6 calories. You can also include a couple of sticks into a smoothie.

Blackberries: I have the sheer luck of living in a place called Blackberry Lane (named as such by us & neighbors because every September we can collect zillions of these!) Blackberries give an antioxidant kick of 5,75 millimoles per serving, that’s not to be looked over. They are also fat-free, and an abundant source of folic acid and vitamin C. Whip them into smoothies, make sorbets or sauces (coulis) to serve with your favorite dessert, or simply have them fresh in your breakfast or anytime at all.

Grapes: black or green Grapes are about 80 percent water, making them a delectable low-calorie snack. A cup of Concord or Catawba grapes contains only about 60 calories, so don’t hold back. Grapes also add fiber to the diet and are naturally low in sodium. If I feel really peckish late at night it’s the snack I would go for, if around.

Grains: Several books are devoted to grains and pulses, powerhouses in their own right and a welcome treat from the ubiquitous wheat. When combined well together in a meal they are tasty and nutritious, supplying vitamins, minerals, protein, and plenty of fiber. In contrast, refined grains such as white rice, couscous, or pearled barley are stripped of their bran and germ, causing a dramatic loss of nutrients.

Lately I have been experimenting with alternative grains such as Amaranth, Quinoa, Spelt, Millet, Buckwheat, Flax, Indian Rice Grass, Teff and Sorghum. These ancient, nonhybridized relatives of our modern staple grains are flavorful, richly textured and highly nutritious. If you happen to be sensitive to wheat then it’s the ticket for you.

Whole grains are made of a rich starch store (the endosperm) comprising from 60- 80% of the seed (depending on the species and variety), the embryo plant (the germ) rich in protein and fats and vitamins and comprising only about 3% of the seed, and the seed coat, the bran, which is where most of the B vitamins (and many of the minerals) are. At 80% carbohydrate, seeds are, like tubers, an excellent fuel for daily activity. And whole seeds contain the B1 vitamin necessary for carbohydrate metabolism. Grains are relatively ‘slow burners’, so they don’t push up your blood sugar levels and then suddenly drop them – they tend to keep blood sugars relatively stable.

Protein builds growing bodies, and protein is made up in turn of ‘building blocks’ called amino acids. Grains are low in the amino acid ‘lysine’, which makes their protein content less useful than it would otherwise have been. Wheat has about 8-15% protein, depending on the variety (ancient wheats had a higher protein content), rice has a low content, at 7%. So grains in general are perhaps best regarded primarily as an energy and vitamin and mineral source.

Legumes, on the other hand, are very good sources of protein. Peanuts, for example, are protein rich, with about 25% or more protein content (and with a favorable amino acid profile). Lentils have about 25%, cowpeas have from 23-35%, common beans (Phaseolus) have about 22%, and so on. Legumes tend to be low in the amino acids methionine and cystine, but are high in the amino acid lysine. Lysine is low in grains, so eating the two together leverages the protein content of both. Co-incidentally, legumes such as lentils and peas tended to grow as weeds among wheat and other grains at the time they were being domesticated; in South America maize, a grain, was (and is) grown with beans, a legume. In Asia rice and Soya beans complement each other.

Though wheat, corn, rice, and oats represent the largest market share of whole grain food sales, these old grains are getting traction in most places. With a grain as great as Quinoa (prized because it is the only food outside of the animal kingdom that contains all of the amino acids necessary to create a complete protein and it’s also high in iron and folate) it’s only natural that it should be available in most health food shops as grains but also now in prepared salads & healthy stews.

And a last word about our common enemy, salt. Read this article here, from the food processors point of view, it’s telling:

Working with the US food industry to establish voluntary sodium reduction targets could prevent around half a million strokes, a similar number of heart attacks and billions of dollars, says a new study.

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