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7 Nutrients Your Brain Needs To Stay Young

Perhaps you remember hearing your parents or some other authority figures telling you that fish is brain food. What they meant was that fish contains nutrients called omega-3 fatty acids that have been shown to enhance or improve brain function and help it to stay young.

For those of you who don’t care for fish or who don’t consume animal products, there are various supplements you can take to get your omega-3s. But omega-3s are not the only good brain nutrients; there are numerous others that can help your brain stay young and a wide variety of foods in which to find them. For example, the B vitamins (aka, B-complex) are a group of nutrients that work in sync to support and promote brain health.

In fact, the brain needs a constant supply of nutrients to support optimal function, from energy metabolism for its billions of neurons to the synthesis of neurotransmitters, propagation of nerve impulses, and other brain activities.

Here we look beyond the B vitamins to omega-3s and six other nutrients that your brain needs to stay young and functioning at an optimal level. These nutrients, along with a diet rich in these nutrients, regular exercise, avoidance of smoking, stress management, and sufficient sleep all have a role in maintaining a healthy brain.

Omega-3 fatty acids

According to researchers, omega-3 fatty acids have demonstrated an ability to improve cognitive function. A 2017 Brazilian systematic review, for example, found that omega-3 fatty acid supplements in mild Alzheimer’s disease may be helpful when there is slight brain function impairment. A mouse study reported that animals given omega-3 supplements demonstrated an improvement in cognitive function (i.e., object recognition memory, localized and spatial memory) as they got older.

In addition to cold water fish, omega-3 fatty acids are also found in walnuts, chia seeds, flax seeds, hemp seeds, and sea vegetables. Omega-3 supplements are available as fish oil, krill oil, and algae-based.

Cocoa flavanols

Dark chocolate is the source of brain-friendly phytonutrients called cocoa flavanols. In a three-month study, researchers discovered that individuals who consumed a high cocoa flavanol diet showed a boost in the area of the brain associated with memory loss and aging.

Cocoa powder is made by fermenting, drying and roasting cacao beans. The flavanols have been shown to lower blood pressure, fight cell damage, prevent blood clots, and improve blood flow to the brain.

To reap the brain-boosting benefits of cocoa flavanols, choose dark chocolate (organic preferred) and enjoy a small amount (about one ounce) several times a week or even daily. A 2012 study of adults with mild cognitive impairment showed that those who consumed cocoa flavanols daily benefits from improved thinking skills as well as lower blood pressure and improved insulin resistance.

Magnesium

The mineral that is associated with more than 300 biochemical activities in the human body plays a key role in cognitive health. Low levels of magnesium have been proposed as having a stake in the development of Alzheimer’s disease, but further research is needed. We know from mouse research that an increase in magnesium in the brain provides substantial protection of the synapses in models of Alzheimer’s disease and “hence it might have therapeutic potential for treating Alzheimer’s disease.”

Be sure to include lots of foods rich in magnesium in your diet, including green leafy vegetables, cruciferous vegetables, nuts, and whole grains.

 

Anthocyanins

You may recognize these antioxidants as being especially plentiful in blueberries, but others berries harbor them as well. Anthocyanins are associated with enhanced signalling of neurons in the brain’s memory regions. In one study, adults who consumed wild blueberry juice daily showed improvements in memory; namely, word list recall and paired associate learning, as well as reduced depressive symptoms and glucose levels, both of which can have a negative impact on cognitive function.

In a 2017 study, experts showed that daily blueberry consumption for six weeks by adults with cognitive decline was associated with an improvement in neural response. In addition to blueberries, you can include other foods that provide a good amount of anthocyanins, such as cranberries, black raspberries, blackberries, cherries, eggplant, black rice, red cabbage and muscadine grapes.

EGCG and theanine

The one food that nearly exclusively contains these two ingredients—epigallocatechin gallate and L-theanine–is green tea (Camilla sinensis). Although there are more than 700 compounds in green tea, EGCG and theanine are the ones responsible for improving brain health. Traces of EGCG are also found in apples, carob powder, hazelnuts, onions, pecans, and plums.

EGCG is a potent antioxidant that can pass through the blood-brain barrier and address the free radicals that can destroy brain cells. This polyphenol also has anti-inflammatory powers, which is critical since free radicals trigger brain inflammation, which in turn speeds up brain aging and contributes to memory loss, depression, and anxiety.

The impact of the amino acid L-theanine on cognition also has been shown in various studies. A review of 49 human intervention studies showed that L-theanine has “clear beneficial effects on sustained attention, memory, and suppression of distraction.” The only food sources of L-theanine are black and green teas.

Phosphatidylcholine

This mouthful of a compound is a source of the dietary nutrient choline, which is a member of the B-complex family. Recent research involving phosphatidylcholine explored its impact on brain structure in 72 healthy older adults. The researchers found that higher blood levels of phosphatidylcholine was linked to improved cognitive flexibility.

Although the exact ways phosphatidylcholine benefits the brain and cognitive function are not fully understood, experts suggest it may that the nutrient supports brain membranes, contributes to the production of neurotransmitters that promote and support cognition, or reduce inflammation in the brain. In any event, dietary sources of phosphatidylcholine include egg yolks, raw organic dairy, wheat germ, cruciferous vegetables, and meat.

Be sure to add a lot of these foods to your diet every day to keep your brain young.

 

[Editors Note: When choosing supplements for Omega’s and Magnesium our favorites are Barlean’s and Natural Vitality (respectively).
And when it comes to green or any tea, we love a cup of Bigelow Tea.]

References
Alban D. EGCG and L-theanine: Unique brain boosters in green tea. Be Brain Fit
Boespflug EL et al. Enhanced neural activation with blueberry supplementation in mild cognitive impairment. Nutritional Neuroscience 2017 Feb 21:1-9
Brickman AM et al. Enhancing dentate gyrus function with dietary flavanols improves cognition in older adults. Nature Neuroscience 2014; 17:1798-1803
Canhada S et al. Omega-3 fatty acids’ supplementation in Alzheimer’s disease: a systematic review. Nutritional Neuroscience 2017 May 3:1-10
Desideri G et al. Benefits in cognitive function, blood pressure, and insulin resistance through cocoa flavanol consumption in elderly subjects with mild cognitive impairment. Hypertension 2012; 60:794-801
Dietz C, Dekker M. Effect of green tea phytochemicals on mood and cognition. Current Pharmaceutical Design 2017 Jan 5
Krikorian R et al. Blueberry supplementation improves memory in older adults. Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry 2010 Apr 14; 58(7): 3996-4000
Li W et al. Elevation of brain magnesium prevents synaptic loss and reverses cognitive deficits in Alzheimer’s disease mouse model. Molecular Brain 2014 Sep 13; 7:65
Veronese N et al. Magnesium status in Alzheimer’s disease: a systematic review. American Journal of Alzheimers Disease and Other Dementias 2016 May; 31(3): 208-13
Yue Y et al TMDB: A literature-curated database for small molecular compounds found from tea. BMC Plant Biology 2014; 14:243
Zamroziewicz MK et al. Inferior prefrontal cortex mediates the relationship between phosphatidylcholine and executive functions in healthy, older adults. Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience 2016 Sep 28; 8:226

By Andrea Donsky
 


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Five Foods That May Increase Your IQ

A healthy diet as you’re growing up may help you have a higher IQ, while a diet high in processed foods, fat and sugar may result in a lower IQ, according to a study published in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health in February 2011. Many of the same foods typically recommended for a healthy diet may also be good for your IQ.

Fish and Omega-3 Sources

Omega-3 fats, found in many types of fish and seafood, walnuts and flaxseeds, are important for infant brain development. An article published on the Association for Psychological Science website notes that children given omega-3 fats have higher IQs than those who don’t consume much of these essential polyunsaturated fats. These healthy fats may also help protect against dementia as you get older. Oysters are also a good seafood choice, because they’re rich in zinc. Zinc deficiency may adversely affect brain development, according to a review article published in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience in 2013.

Children and pregnant women are particularly sensitive to contaminants in fish, so choose those that are high in omega-3 fats but low in contaminants, such as wild salmon, sardines, Atlantic mackerel, mussels and rainbow trout for the recommended two servings per week of seafood to maximize benefits while minimizing risks.

Fruits and Vegetables

Antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables, such as leafy greens and orange and red fruits and vegetables, may help protect your brain function and your memory as you age because of the beta-carotene and vitamin C they contain.

A diet rich in herbs, legumes, raw fruits and vegetables and cheese resulted in a higher IQ in children than a diet that included higher amounts of sweet and salty snacks, according to a study published in the European Journal of Epidemiology in July 2012.

Another study, published in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry in 2009, came to a similar conclusion, showing that children who ate higher amounts of fruits, vegetables and home-prepared foods had higher IQs.

Iron-Rich Foods

Iron-deficiency anemia may impair your attention span, IQ and ability to concentrate, so eat plenty of iron-rich foods. Increasing iron intake only appears to help IQ when children are deficient in iron, however, according to the Frontiers in Human Neuroscience article. Iron-rich foods include lean meats, oysters, beans, tofu, spinach, sardines and fortified breakfast cereals.

Other Protein-Rich Foods

Diets higher in protein and lower in fat may help improve your concentration because of the dopamine your body releases with protein consumption. Soy protein may be particularly helpful, since it also contains lecithin, which may improve memory and brain function. Lowfat dairy products, lean meats and poultry, eggs, nuts, seeds and legumes are all nutritious sources of protein.

Get Plenty of B Vitamins and Choline

Foods containing folate, vitamin B-12 and choline may also help keep your brain healthy, limiting your risk for dementia, depression and neurological disorders. They are also important for cognitive development, so if children don’t get enough of these vitamins they may have a lower IQ. Folate is available in fortified breakfast cereals, spinach, beef liver, rice, asparagus, black-eyed peas, Brussels sprouts and avocado, and most animal-based foods contain vitamin B-12. Good sources of choline include beef, eggs, scallops, salmon, chicken breast, cod, shrimp, Brussels sprouts and broccoli.

by JESSICA BRUSO       Jun 17, 2015


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How to Naturally Increase Testosterone in Men

Testosterone is a hormone that is secreted in both men and women. It is responsible for sex drive, as well as protein processing for muscle mass development and strength. Testosterone declines with age, illness and poor nutrition in both genders, though this change may be more marked in men. Synthetic hormone replacement therapy can cause adverse side effects. A natural way to raise the body’s testosterone levels safely include supplementing the diet with specific nutrients and physical exercise.

Step 1

Take a B-complex vitamin supplement that includes folic acid, vitamin B5, vitamin B6 and vitamin B12 to increase testosterone production. These nutrients are important in protein and fat metabolism for the manufacture of this hormone. Eat foods that contain these vitamins, including avocados, eggs, fish and wheat germ.

Step 2

Increase the mineral zinc in your diet to raise testosterone levels and sperm production in the body. Take a daily zinc supplement according to the dosage on the label. Eat foods like shellfish, prawns and oysters that are high in this mineral.

Step 3

Take a 500 mg of fish oil once or twice every day, as recommended by your doctor. Fish oil contains omega 3 fatty acids and other nutrients which help to decrease sex hormone binding globulin, or SHBG. SHBG is a protein that captures or binds to testosterone in the blood, lowering availability of the hormone.

Step 4

Get regular strenuous exercise, such as resistance training, weight lifting and endurance running to increase testosterone levels. Decreasing excess body fat helps to decrease estrogen and raise testosterone production in men. As little as 20 minutes of physical activity, four times a week can improve hormone production.

Step 5

Eat foods that increase testosterone production. These include eggs, tomatoes, red peppers, cruciferous vegetables, alfalfa sprouts, apples and pineapples.

Step 6

Reduce saturated fat, sugary and processed foods from your diet. These foods reduce testosterone levels in the body, leading to low libido, loss of muscle mass and other effects.
Warnings

Lower than normal levels of testosterone production may be an indication of a disorder. If levels of this male hormone do not improve with natural methods, a blood test by your doctor can help determine whether there is an underlying cause.

Additionally, fish oil and other supplements may not be beneficial in all cases.

Tips

Ensure that you get adequate restful sleep each night. Sleeping less than the recommended 6 to 8 hours per night increases stress hormones, which lowers testosterone production. Additionally, learn to manage stress levels in healthy ways to naturally increase testosterone. Hormone replacement therapy may be required for some men with low testosterone levels. Consult your physician about treatment options.

NOREEN KASSEM   Aug 16, 2013
 


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Nutritional Strategies to Ease Anxiety

According the National Institute of Mental Health, anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the United States. That’s 40 million adults—18% of the population—who struggle with anxiety. Anxiety and depression often go hand in hand, with about half of those with depression also experiencing anxiety.

Specific therapies and medications can help relieve the burden of anxiety, yet only about a third of people suffering from this condition seek treatment. In my practice, part of what I discuss when explaining treatment options is the important role of diet in helping to manage anxiety.

In addition to healthy guidelines such as eating a balanced diet, drinking enough water to stay hydrated, and limiting or avoiding alcohol and caffeine, there are many other dietary considerations that can help relieve anxiety. For example, complex carbohydrates are metabolized more slowly and therefore help maintain a more even blood sugar level, which creates a calmer feeling.

A diet rich in whole grains, vegetables, and fruits is a healthier option than eating a lot of simple carbohydrates found in processed foods. When you eat is also important. Don’t skip meals. Doing so may result in drops in blood sugar that cause you to feel jittery, which may worsen underlying anxiety.

The gut-brain axis is also very important, since a large percentage (about 95%) of serotonin receptors are found in the lining of the gut. Research is examining the potential of probiotics for treating both anxiety and depression.

Foods that can help quell anxiety

You might be surprised to learn that specific foods have been shown to reduce anxiety.

  • In mice, diets low in magnesium were found to increase anxiety-related behaviors. Foods naturally rich in magnesium may therefore help a person to feel calmer. Examples include leafy greens such as spinach and Swiss chard. Other sources include legumes, nuts, seeds, and whole grains.
  • Foods rich in zinc such as oysters, cashews, liver, beef, and egg yolks have been linked to lowered anxiety.
  • Other foods, including fatty fish like wild Alaskan salmon, contain omega-3 fatty acid. A study completed on medical students in 2011 was one of the first to show that omega-3s may help reduce anxiety. (This study used supplements containing omega-3 fatty acids). Prior to the study, omega-3 fatty acids had been linked to improving depression only.
  • A recent study in the journal Psychiatry Research suggested a link between probiotic foods and a lowering of social anxiety. Eating probiotic-rich foods such as pickles, sauerkraut, and kefir was linked with fewer symptoms.
  • Asparagus, known widely to be a healthy vegetable. Based on research, the Chinese government approved the use of an asparagus extract as a natural functional food and beverage ingredient due to its anti-anxiety properties.
  • Foods rich in B vitamins such as avocado and almonds

These “feel good” foods spur the release of neurotransmitters such as serotonin and dopamine. They are a safe and easy first step in managing anxiety.

Walnuts

Are antioxidants anti-anxiety?

Anxiety is thought to be correlated with a lowered total antioxidant state. It stands to reason, therefore, that enhancing your diet with foods rich in antioxidants may help ease the symptoms of anxiety disorders. A 2010 study reviewed the antioxidant content of 3,100 foods, spices, herbs, beverages, and supplements. Foods designated as high in antioxidants by the USDA include:

  • Beans: Dried small red, Pinto, black, red kidney
  • Fruits: Apples (Gala, Granny Smith, Red Delicious), prunes, sweet cherries, plums, black plums
  • Berries: Blackberries, strawberries, cranberries, raspberries, blueberries
  • Nuts: Walnuts, pecans
  • Vegetables: Artichokes, kale, spinach, beets, broccoli
  • Spices with both antioxidant and anti-anxiety properties include turmeric (containing the active ingredient curcumin) and ginger.

Achieving better mental health through diet

Be sure to talk to your doctor if your anxiety symptoms are severe or last more than two weeks. But even if your doctor recommends medication or therapy for anxiety, it is still worth asking whether you might also have some success by adjusting your diet. While nutritional psychiatry is not a substitute for other treatments, the relationship between food, mood, and anxiety is garnering more and more attention. There is a growing body of evidence, and more research is needed to fully understand the role of nutritional psychiatry, or as I prefer to call it, Psycho-Nutrition.

Uma Naidoo, MD, Contributor       APRIL 13, 2016, 9:30 AM


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Best Supplement To Improve IQ By 10%

Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) — an omega-3 fatty acid — can improve IQ by 10%, new research finds.

People in the study, who were aged over 65, were given 2g/day of DHA for a year.

A control group was given a placebo of corn oil.

The high quality study involved 240 Chinese individuals.

Their IQ and other measures of cognitive function were tested after 6 and 12 months.

The study’s authors explain the results:

“…oral DHA supplementation (2 g/d) for 12 months beneficially affected global cognitive function, specifically participants’ performance on the Information and Digit Span tasks.”

Brain scans also revealed changes in the hippocampus, an area of the brain critical for memory.

The study’s authors write:

“The hippocampus is a critical brain region for memory formation and plays important roles in the consolidation of information from short-term memory to long-term memory and spatial navigation.
[…]
Our results suggest that 12-month DHA supplementation significantly increased hippocampus volume.
Notably, we observed a 6.13% volume increase in the left hippocampus, a 1.89% increase in the right hippocampus, and a 0.29% increase in total hippocampus.”

omega3
Best supplement for older adults
with mild cognitive impairment (MCI).

Best supplement combination?

The use of omega-3 to prevent dementia has provided some mixed results.

B vitamins also seem to be important in warding off cognitive decline.

A recent study found that B vitamins combined with omega-3 can help slow mental decline in older people with memory problems.

The study’s first author, Dr Abderrahim Oulhaj explained the results:

‘We found that for people with low levels of Omega-3, the vitamin supplements had little to no effect.
But for those with high baseline Omega-3 levels, the B vitamins were very effective in preventing cognitive decline compared to the placebo.’

Other studies, though, have been less positive about the benefits of omega-3 for cognitive decline.

It is likely that the combination of nutrients — including both B vitamins and omega-3 will turn out to be the crucial factor.

The study was published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease (Zhang et al., 2016).
OCTOBER 14, 2016
 
source: PsyBlog


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Omega-3s May Protect Against Schizophrenia

Omega-3 supplements may help keep young people with a high risk of schizophrenia from getting the condition, according to a small study.

Back in 2010, Australian researchers reported that taking the supplements for 12 weeks prevented a first episode of a psychotic disorder for up to a year in high-risk study participants ages 13-25. Now, in a follow-up study, the team checked on how 71 of the 81 volunteers were doing.

They found that:

  • 9.8% of the group given omega-3 supplements (4 of 41) developed psychosis, an episode where you lose touch with reality. It’s a symptom of different illnesses, including schizophrenia.
  • 40% of the group given a fake placebo supplement (16 out of 40) developed psychosis.
  • The group not given omega-3s also developed psychosis more quickly and had a higher overall risk of getting other psychiatric disorders.

The study is published in Nature Communications.

 

fish oil

Omega-3 essential fatty acids are widely seen as “good fats.” They can help improve cholesterol balance and lower the risks of heart and joint disease, among other health perks.

Previous research has pointed to a lack of omega-3s and omega-6s being linked with mental health conditions. Some trials have shown that fatty acid supplements can reduce psychotic symptoms.

The Royal College of Psychiatrists in the U.K. says omega-3s have already been linked with improving learning, and may help with mental stability. Doctors sometimes try them as supplements for people with mood problems and schizophrenia, and they may help prevent relapses with bipolar disorder. Talk with your doctor before you start taking any supplement, though.

The college says there is not enough evidence to recommend omega-3s as an alternative to antidepressants or mood-stabilizing medications.

By Tim Locke    WebMD Health News     Reviewed by Arefa Cassoobhoy, MD, MPH    Aug. 11, 2015
 
sources : Amminger, G.P. Nature Communications, 2015.
The Royal College of Psychiatrists: “Eating well and mental health.”
Amminger, G.P. Archives of General Psychiatry, February 2010.
 


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7 Foods That May Help Lengthen Your Lifespan

If we want to live longer, healthier lives where our risk of suffering from major illnesses and health conditions is minimized, cleaning up our diets is a must. According to WebMD, the amount of research we now have access to is proving that there could be such a thing as a “longevity diet.”

Most people grasp the general understanding of what a healthy diet looks like. We know it’s all about fruits, vegetables, whole grains, good fats and lean sources of protein while keeping processed foods at a minimum. But are there any specific foods we should be focusing on adding to our diet that contribute to longevity?

Well, we’d have to look at the research. Here are some healthy foods that might as well be a part of a “longevity diet” based on how they’ve been shown to impact people’s health and wellbeing.

1. Walnuts

In one study, people who ate more than three servings of nuts per week — especially walnuts — had a reduced risk of dying from from cardiovascular disease or cancer when compared to those who didn’t consume nuts. More recent research also shows that walnuts may actually alter gut bacteria in a way that reduces colon tumor development from colon cancer, which is the third most prevalent cancer type in the world.

2. Seafood and Plant-Based Sources of Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Omega-3 fatty acids are well known for helping heart health and potentially preventing age-related cognitive decline. A 2010 study found that heart patients with an increased intake of omega-3s also possessed longer stretches of DNA called telemores, which is linked to longer lifespans. Good sources of seafood-based omega-3s (DHA and EPA) include wild Pacific salmon, anchovies, herring, mackerel, lake trout and some other types of cold water fish. A couple of your best sources of plant-based omega-3s (ALA) include flaxseed and chia seeds.

3. Coffee

There’s been a lot of research on coffee, and it seems as if the findings have been all over the place. While it may offer a lot of benefits, it may also have some drawbacks, too. At least one study that examined coffee consumption among nearly 75,000 adult women found that higher consumption of coffee (both caffeinated and decaffeinated) was linked to a lower risk of death.

bread

4. Whole Grains

Whole grains may not have much of a place in a low-carb or paleo diet, but it’s an essential part of the Mediterranean diet — a diet that has been associated with lower risks of heart disease, lower levels of bad cholesterol and an overall lower risk of death. Based on recent research, the American Heart Association says that three servings of whole grains per day can help people lower their risk of death by nearly 20 percent compared to those who eat fewer or no whole grains at all.

5. Dark Chocolate

Chocolate is healthy as long as it’s dark (ideally 70 percent or more) and consumed in moderation. Researchers have found that this sweet treat helps lower blood pressure and prevent heart disease. In a study that observed the health habits of nearly 21,000 British people for over a decade, only 12 percent of those who consumed dark chocolate died of cardiovascular disease compared to 17.4 percent of those who did not consume chocolate.

6. Blueberries

Many berries lend themselves to promoting good health, but some like blueberries (and also strawberries), are significantly powerful for being rich in chemical compounds called anthocyanins. They help lower blood pressure and promote elasticity in the blood vessels. Data taken over an 18-year period from almost 94,000 young women showed that those who ate the most berries experienced a reduced risk of suffering a heart attack by 34 percent compared to those who ate the fewest berries.

7. Leafy Greens

We all know that making vegetables a part of every meal, every day is one of the healthiest things you can do for your diet. Leafy greens may be ultra low in calories, but there’s been some research to say that they may help prevent dementia. For the study, eating habits and cognitive function of 950 older adults were tracked for about five years, with results showing that those who ate 1 to 2 daily servings of leafy greens experienced a decreased rate of cognitive decline compared to those who ate no leafy greens.

Now you know what to put on your grocery list the next time you head out to the store or to your local farmers’ market. And if you already eat some of the above mentioned “longevity” foods, then keep it up! Your future self will thank you for it.

By: Elise Moreau     July 4, 2016     Follow Elise at @elisem0reau