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Friday, November 21, 2014

What are some foods which are good for my brain?

As we age the brain starts to atrophy or waste away; this starts around age 30, and then increases rapidly after age 50.  Brain deterioration can look like memory loss, difficulty learning new skills, sleep disruption, scattered concentration, and so on. Certain lifestyles such as high stress, substance misuse, and dehydration can also led to the same signs of an aging brain.

The brain is the most delcate organ of the body and can use up to 30% of the energy we derive from food.

Allergies can affect the central nervous system (brain and spine) and can show as fatigue, slowed thinking, irritability, agitation, aggression, nervousness, depression, schizophrenia, hyperactivity, learning disabilities, all issues we associate with brain function.

There are certain foods which can help with maintaining optimal brain function:

1) Blueberries: this fruit has compounds which boost neuron signals, to help neurons "talk to each other", helping with balance, coordination, and motor function.

2) Salmon: this fish helps the brain have more grey matter in the hippocampus, the posterior cingulate, and the orbital frontal cortex.  Studies are showing people who eat salmon have more omega-3 fatty acid in thier brain which helps protect against Alzheimers. Other studies show that omega-3 helps with mood, bipolar, and alcoholism.

3) Coffee: Studies show that limited caffeine from coffe can protect against Parkinsons, Dementia, and Alzheimer.

4) Nuts: Nuts contain fatty acids which can help with insomnia, poor memory, and mental clarity.

5) Avocados: This fruit contains a healthy fat which promotes blood flow to the brain.

6) Eggs: Egg yolks contain choline, one of the B vitamins. THis essential nutrient helps with memory function.

7) Chocolate: Dark chocolate contains magnesium and many antioxidants which are good for focus and concentration.

8) Broccoli: This vegetable activates cell recptor sites ad therefore is seen as a protective food as well as slows down the aging process.

9) Vitamin C & E: These vitamins enhance memory under stressful conditions. 

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Are there sweeteners which are natural and not harmful?

There are 3 natural sugar substitutes which do not cause harm and are therefore excellent alternatives to sucrose (table sugar).

1) Stevia: Is plant based and about 250-300 times sweeter than sucrose (table sugar). It is heat stable, PH stable, and non-fermentable. It can be used in cooking and baking but because it is so strong, much less should be used.

2) Sugar Alcohols (SA): The most popular brand of SA is Xylitol and is made from adding hydrogen to sugar; consequently it looks like sugar but with less calories and glycemic load. SA also acts as an antibacterial so is often used in chewing gum to promote dental health.

3) Erthritol: This is often used as a substitute for Xylitol and is made by fermenting glucose with yeast. It's 60-70% as sweet as sucrose but is almost calorie free and does not affect blood sugar. Like Xylitol it doesn't promote tooth decay. 

Monday, November 10, 2014

Why should we play more?

There are reasons why playing is psychologically good for us.

1) Having fun eases tension and helps creativity. A study done at Northwestern University found that people could solve problems easier after watching comedy.

2) Happy emotions are generated after play, and help people become unstuck and therefore more productive in life.

3) People laugh more while playing and it is now commonly known that health improves with laughter.

4) Play brings us in the present moment, which is also called "flow" or mindfulness, Pleasure is greatest when not regretting the past or worried about the future.

5) Play brings us closer to other people which is a basic need for all humans.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

What are digestive enzymes?

Digestive enzymes are secreted by the pancreas and help metabolize foods so that their nutrients can be used by the body. Different kinds of enzymes target different nutrients.

1) Protease: digest proteins in an acidic ennvironment such as the stomach.

2) Lipase: digest fats and oils for the body can absorb fat soluable vitamins (A,D,E, & K). This enzyme also supports liver function.

3) Alpha/beta amylase: is found in the saliva and pancreatic juice and helps break down carbohydrates to thier simplest form of energy.

4) Cellulase: breaks down the fibrous walls of plant cells.

5) Lactase: helps digest lactose (milk sugar) found in dairy products.

6) Maltase: helps break down carbs fom grains.

7) Invertase: digests refined sugars.

8) Papain: found in papaya and helps digest protein.  

Saturday, November 1, 2014

What is an Enzyme?

Enzymes speed up the thousands of chemical reactions our bodies need to function. They are like our vital force and are needed for cellular energy, repairing tissues, stimulating the brain, and digesting food. Without them, we'd soon die.

Enzymes were discovered by Dr. Edward Howell in 1920 who thought that humans are born with a certain amount of enzymes at birth and that we can only replenish them with certain healthy foods such as raw fruits and vegetables. Research now shows that as age, we produce fewer enzymes than in youth. Some people see that aging and enzyme production are closely linked.

There are 3 classes of enzymes:

1) Metabolic enzymes: help manage reaction between cells such as turning phosphorus into bone, attching iron to our red blood cells, healing wounds, and making sure our hearts beat.

2) Digestive enzymes: are formed in the pancreas and help break down foods so that we can assimmilate nutrients into the blood stream. There are different types of digestive enzymes which break down different type of nutrients and this is described in another post (see:  What are digestive enzymes?)

3) Food enzymes: come from raw food and is what helps uneaten food decompose. Food enzymes help us "predigest" our food, before the other enzymes kick in.  One theory says that if you eat lot's of uncooked food, you are helping prolong the number of other enzymes in your system, as they do not have to work as hard. Saving enzymes slows down the aging process.