Train Your Brain in August: With Nutrition

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!

Brain Food chalk board sign with food in backgroundYour blood vessels (arteries and capillaries) carry oxygen and nutrients into your brain and then deliver them to the neurons to keep them healthy. If your blood vessels are unhealthy, they can clog up, or break open. Both of these are called strokes (the first is ‘ischemic’ and the second is ‘hemorrhagic’). When this happens inside your brain it can lead to permanent impairment or death.

So it’s critical to keep blood vessels as healthy as they can be. One easy way to do this is through nutrition, and the Mediterranean dietary approach is associated with healthier hearts for exactly this reason.

It starts with a focus on real foods that are minimally processed. This includes fruit (rather than fruit-flavored jolly ranchers, rollups, Fruity Pebbles cereal, etc), vegetables (other than the fried potato), nuts (without nougat, sugar encrusted products), meats that lean on fish and chicken, and desserts that are small and naturally lower in sugar.

The nutritional impact of this approach is that the omega-3 fatty acids found in the fish and nuts and veg you consume turn out to be healthy for your blood vessels, keeping them elastic and strong. Likewise, other parts of this traditional dietary approach include the walnuts, high-cocoa chocolate, olive oil, berries, and green leafy vegetables that make sure blood pressure stays under control.

Finally, as with anything, moderation is key. In healthy cultures they eat all these wonderful foods, but they eat small. Truly following a Mediterranean diet requires that we control food quality AND quantity, and can help move the needle of health in a positive direction by giving your arteries their best chance to stay healthy for life.

 

 

Sauerkraut

Cruciferous vegetables such as cabbage are super foods! Enjoy this veggie in the form of sauerkraut.


You’ll Need

  • 1 Medium Cabbage (green or red)
  • 2 Tablespoons Pickling Salt
  • Distilled or filtered water (non-chlorinated)

Directions

  • Shred the cabbage.
  • In a large bowl, mix shredded cabbage and salt together.
  • Pound the cabbage mixture to expel the juices.
  • Place pounded cabbage and juices in a medium sized glass jar (1 Quart Sized).
  • Press down firmly on the cabbage.
  • Add distilled water until cabbage is fully submerged.
  • Solution should be at least one inch from the top of the jar.
  • Cover the jar and let sit for 3 to 7 days at room temperature.
  • Store in the refrigerator.

 

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Train Your Brain in August: By Being Social

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!

Friends Walking Together

Your brain is so well connected, and you should be too! In fact, interacting with one another is like food for the brain. This may be why regular contact with others decreases the risk of early onset of dementia.

A study at the University of Chicago found that loneliness has doubled in the U.S. since the 1980s, affecting up to 60 million Americans. All these feelings of isolation can increase a person’s chances of premature death by 14 percent and early death in the elderly by 45 percent. This may be because loneliness actually suppresses your immune system, boosts inflammation and is associated with heart disease, arthritis, diabetes and even dementia, cancer and fatigue.

The neuropsychological impact of isolation in the general population is clear, but how does this apply to you?

Isolation in the workplace is costly. Lack of social support can lead to mental sluggishness that impairs productivity, stifles creativity, and hinders decision-making.  Several papers have documented a link between loneliness and lowered organizational commitment among hotel workers, school principals, medical workers, and others. A study conducted at five companies in China showed a relationship between loneliness and lowered creativity.

In this equation, subtracting social interaction in humans causes all the illness companies spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to prevent.

On the other side of the equation, data show that adding social interaction doesn’t just boost your mood, it basically feeds our brains. People who connect with others perform better on tests of memory and other cognitive skills. And, in the long run, people with active social lives are less likely to develop age related cognitive decline. In the workplace, positive social relationships strengthen employee retention and productivity.

Listen, social contact with others does not even have to be a deep conversation. Just being there with them and doing things together is enough to get the cognitive benefits. So, go have a coffee. Pick up the phone.

Your brain will thank you.

Train Your Brain in August: By Trying Something New

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!

Train Your Brain on a sticky note, on the bulls eye of a dart boardResearch demonstrates what we probably already knew. Learning new things is a process that exercises your brain, and makes it healthier. The same thing is true for having new experiences, which can aid in preventing memory loss and keep the brain alert in the process.

In fact, engaging in novel activities is like taking your brain tissue to the gym. It causes your brain to engage its learning and memory areas, and the critical appraisal areas as well. Plus, the dopamine arousal system that kicks in whenever there is something exciting or interesting going on is a key component in learning and memory itself.

By engaging areas involved in learning, the process of learning is exercised. By engaging critical thinking areas, those brain regions are also turned up so they don’t degrade as fast over time. In other words, the more you do, the more you can do.  Nowhere in the body is this truer than in the brain, as your actions encourage more connections to be formed and strengthened.

The outcome is that individuals who actively engage with their environment through fun new games and activities tend to have less age-related cognitive decline and memory loss.

Make it fun for you, and …

  • Cook a food you’ve never prepared before.
  • Pick a word and learn to say it in a variety of languages.
  • Give a new sport a try.
  • Learn a new dance.
  • Pick up a new hobby.

Your brain will be more likely to remember to thank you!!

 

Endive Beet and Red Onion Salad

This dish provides some great color and is a nutritious and delicious side.

You’ll Need

  • ½ pound raw beets, trimmed
  • 3 heads of Belgian Endives, medium
  • 1 red onion
  • 1 Tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 Tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • salt and pepper
  • 3 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 Tablespoons finely chopped parsley

Directions

  • Place the beets in a saucepan and add water to cover.
  • Bring to a boil until the beets are tender, about 30 minutes, depending on the size or age of the beets.
  • Drain and let cool.
  • Remove the skins and slice the beets.
  • Trim off the bottom of the endives and cut them into 1 1/2 inch strips.
  • Drop the pieces into cold water.
  • Drain and pat dry.
  • Peel and slice the onion.
  • Combine the mustard, vinegar, salt and pepper in a salad bowl.
  • Add the oil and blend well with a wire whisk.
  • Add the beets, endive, onion and parsley.
  • Toss well and serve.

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Spanish Rice

 Please share your recipes with us. This Spanish rice can complement a variety fish. Submitted by Ryan at Westinghouse. Thank you, Ryan!
You’ll Need:
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1 cup tomato sauce
  • 6 slices bacon
  • 2 onions, diced
  • 1 cup uncooked white rice
  • 2 tomatoes, diced
  • 2 green bell peppers, diced
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 (10 ounce) can sliced black olives, drained (optional)
  • 1 (10 ounce) can whole kernel corn, drained (optional)
Directions:
  • In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine chicken broth and tomato sauce.
  • Bring to a boil while cooking the following:
  • In a large skillet over medium heat, cook bacon until evenly brown.
  • Chop bacon, and set aside, reserving a small portion of the bacon fat.
  • Add onion to skillet, and saute until tender.
  • Stir in rice, and cook until lightly browned, 3 to 5 minutes.
  • Pour in boiling chicken broth and tomato sauce.
  • Add diced tomatoes, green peppers, and chopped bacon.
  • Season with chili powder, salt, and pepper.
  • Cover, and simmer for 30 to 40 minutes.
  • Stir in black olives and corn.

FOOTNOTE
If you are going to double the recipe (I usually make a doubled recipe), use the same amount of bacon strips and oil, and keep to 1 can of olives and 1 can of corn, double all other ingredients.

Tortellini Salad

This works well for a dish to take to a potluck or picnic. It’s very colorful and festive too!

You’ll Need:

  • 16 ounces dried tortellini
  • 2 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 small red onion, chopped
  • 1/4 cup black olives

Dressing – you’ll need:

  • 1/2 cup vinegar
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons fresh mint, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons lemon
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1/2 cup feta

Directions:

  • Cook tortellini per instructions on package. The place in bowl. 
  • Add chopped vegetables.
  • Combine ingredients for salad dressing, blending carefully.
  • Pour dressing over salad ingredients and toss gently.

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