Train Your Brain In August: With exercise

All month we will explore the brain. Specifically, we’ll walk you through the methods for training your brain to be stronger, smarter, and faster!

CG Brain Lifting Weights

In my former life as a neuroscientist, I recorded brain cells to understand how the nervous system controlls behavior. I have this memory of speaking with some of the physicians at the time, saying that I thought exercise should provide strong positive benefits for brain health.

“What’s your evidence,” I was asked? Well, kinda common sense really. It’s associated with better blood flow in other parts of the body, and healthier arteries as well, and both of those things should benefit the health and therefore performance of neurons.

This conversation didn’t go well for me though because at the time there was just no research support for the idea. It was just a guess that seemed like it should be true.

Fast forward to today, and a great deal of research has been generated since that time showing the relationship between regular activity and measures of a healthy brain. It is associated with slower age-related cognitive decline, a reduced risk for Alzheimer’s Disease, and reduced risk for the arterial problems that lead to stroke, including cerebral stroke.

In fact, both aerobic and strength training exercises lead the brain to release neurohormones that have positive effects on brain health. These chemicals improve the health of brain cells, encourage the growth of new blood vessels, and increase the longevity of new brain cells when they are formed. Exercise also improves cognition by reducing insulin resistance, chronic inflammation, and by releasing “growth factors”.

The key is to focus on activities you love doing. When you enjoy what you are doing, you will stick with them longer!


Carrot Loaf

Here is a recipe for a different kind of loaf. And it makes a great gift! Enjoy this, especially, right out of the oven with a little pat of butter.
You’ll Need
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ cup vegetable oil
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 ½ cups flour
  • 1 cup grated carrots
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ cup chopped walnuts or pecans
    • Preheat oven to 350 degrees
    • Mix all dry ingredients together.
    • Add carrots, nuts, oil and eggs, mix well.
  • Place mixture in a greased loaf pan and bake for 35 to 60 minutes in oven.


Ginger-Citrus Chicken

The more we cook in the home the more we have control over quality of ingredients used. Give this recipe made with basic ingredients try.

You’ll Need

  • 6 chicken thighs, boned and skinned
  • 1 cup orange juice
  • 1 orange, peeled and sectioned
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons pepper
  • 3 Tablespoons butter
  • Juice of one lemon
  • 2-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and cut into strips


  • Season the chicken with the salt and pepper and marinate in a ½ cup of the orange juice for 10 minutes.
  • Drain and set aside.
  • Heat the butter in a large skillet and sauté the ginger over medium-high heat until lightly browned.
  • Add the chicken and cook until lightly browned on both sides. Add the orange sections, the remaining orange juice and lemon juice. Simmer for 10 more minutes.


Italian White Beans

Beans are great cancer fighters. Try this easy and tasty recipe. This recipe is an all around winner. Enjoy! 

You’ll Need

  • 2 cups cooked great northern beans
  • ½ cup chopped, drained, marinated sun-dried tomatoes
  • ¼ cup sliced ripe olives
  • 1 Tablespoon chopped fresh basil, or 1 teaspoon dried
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • Salt and pepper as needed

Continue reading “Italian White Beans”

Chocolate For Skin Health? Yes Sir!

Chocolate ChunksThose of you who know me saw this coming from a mile away. Hmmm, wonder what the number one good-for-your-skin food is going to be?? It turns out that the cocoa in the chocolate that you love to love can also protect your skin from UV damage from the sun.
In a study in London, researchers gave two very happy subject groups chocolate to eat for 12 weeks. However, one of them received a high–flavanol chocolate, such as you might get with a high-cocoa chocolate. The second received a low-flavanol chocolate, such as you might get with lighter milk chocolates and “chocolate” confections. After 12 weeks, they tested the skin of these participants with a challenge of UV light to see whether the cocoa flavanols did anything more that make the subjects happy every day.
Over the 12 weeks of chocolate eating, the skin of those who ate the low-flavanol version was no more or less protected from UV radiation.
No change.
However, those who ate the high-flavanol chocolate doubled their protection compared to the baseline. In other words, after less than 2 weeks of eating high-flavanol chocolate, subjects’ skin was protected from burning even at twice the UV level. Why would this be? What explanation can make that make sense?
Why would this be? What could be going on physiologically that could explain the outcome? One rationale come from the fact that high-cocoa chocolate can increase microcirculation into the skin itself.
Increased blood flow to the topmost layers of the skin (those within only 1 millimeter of the surface) can provide the healthy oxygenation your skin needs to help protect itself.
Another potential route to skin protection could be the particular polyphenols (catechins and epicatechins) themselves. These specific antioxidants are also found in high concentrations in drinks like green tea, which have a well established effect on suppressing the effects of photoaging, UV-induced radiation, immunosuppression, and carcinogenic activity.

The precise biochemical blah bitty blah is less important for most people than learning that high cocoa chocolate is amazing for your heart, your mind, and now even your skin. In fact, you should treat it like your daily vitamin (vitamin Ch)!

Basil Carrots

Try this dish, it is an easy side dish to complement a variety of meals.

You’ll Need

  • 6 medium carrots
  • 1 Tablespoon butter, melted (or olive oil)
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon dried basil or 1/4 Tablespoon fresh, chopped


  • Slice carrots into half inch slices.
  • Simmer, covered, in water until tender, about 10 to 15 minutes; drain.
  • Combine remaining ingredients, toss with carrots.


Good-For-Your-Skin Foods!

Best Foods for Healthy Skin InfographicThe largest organ of your body is your skin. To care for this organ, so it can better take care of you, proper nutrition is important. But what foods are good for the skin?

One group of good-for-your-skin foods are those rich in omega-3 fatty acids. They can be found in, Anchovies, Mackerel, Salmon, Soybeans, Walnuts.

Another group of good-for-your-skin foods are those containing beta-carotene. The carotenes can become deposited in your skin, and serve as a natural sun block for you. Beta-carotene can be found in orange colored produce such as carrots, squash, papaya, and pumpkin.

Some of the tastiest good-for-your-skin foods are those high in water content! Proper hydration is important for skin health and can come from food sources such as fruits and vegetables. Watermelon, tomatoes, and cucumbers are over 90 percent water. To make sure you are properly hydrated, use your urine as an indicator. If it is not clear, you may be under-hydrated. Certain medications and supplements can affect the color as well.


Vitamin D, Foods, and Sun Safety Tips in the Summer versus Winter Months

Vitamin D sources infographicVitamin D is known as the “sunshine vitamin” because it is produced in your body when your skin is exposed to sunlight. However, there are times when this is not advisable or even possible.

If you have very fair skin and are susceptible to sunburn, you will need to protect yourself from exposure through sun screens and clothing that protects your skin area.

In addition, in winter months the angle of the sun’s rays are not direct enough to cause the reaction that creates Vitamin D. For this reason, it is important to add foods with vitamin D in them:

  • Salmon
  • Herring
  • Sardines
  • Tuna
  • Oysters
  • Shrimp
  • Egg yolks
  • Mushrooms (especially Shiitake)

To attain enough vitamin D, it is helpful to get a healthy amount of exposure to the sun. But the advice changes from summer to winter months.

Summer Months

If you are planning to be outside for many hours in a day, give yourself the first 10 minutes of sun exposure on your skin before applying sunscreen. This will allow it to produce vitamin D before blocking exposure by applying sunscreen.


Winter Months

During the winter months when the day lengths are shortest, your skin is not able to make vitamin D from sun exposure. Once the season moves into spring, try to give yourself at least 10 minutes outside with either your face or hands being exposed. Do this when the sun is highest, between 11am and 1pm.