5 Keys to Eating for Better Brain Health
Although many people may see the value in the grain- and gluten-free diet proposed by Grain Brain, getting them to take the final step, to actually make a nutritional change in their life, can often prove difficult. That’s understandable, because the first few days and weeks of making any lifestyle change are challenging. In this case, those who have trouble cite an inability to find gluten-free recipes, uncertainty over conflicting gluten-free food lists, reliance on dining out, or any other of a multitude of issues. So, I decided to write this blog post. Eating to prevent brain disease and Alzheimer’s is, of course, my goal for all of us, but the below tips expand well beyond my objectives and speak to overall ways we can improve our diet.
1. Set aside cook time. What ruins many grain- and gluten-free diets is the on-the-go moment, when it’s easier to reach for a cereal, a granola bar, or a PB&J sandwich, instead of a hard-boiled egg, vegetables & hummus, or other Grain Brain-friendly snack. When we’re in a rush, we have little to no time to prepare a meal, and it’s often those grain-based foodstuffs that are easily accessible and available as we’re walking out the door. How can we prevent this? Set aside a few hours on Saturday or Sunday and use that time to cook all your meals and snacks for the week. Grill seven chicken breasts, hard-boil 12 eggs, sauté a few servings of vegetables, or whatever else your stomach desires. If you do this, you’ll have all of your meals and snacks prepared for the week, not only saving you time (consider you only have to clean up once!), but also saving you from making poor dietary choices.
2. If it can go bad, it's good for you. If it stays good, it's bad for you. This is one of my favorite sayings about the food we eat. I think we all have seen the famous image of the fourteen year-old McDonald’s meal that hadn’t aged a day. Upon seeing that, I think we all intuitively know that there’s something wrong with food that doesn’t “expire.” When at the supermarket, remember this adage when making the choices of what to stock your kitchen with.
3. The Anti-Alzheimer's Trio. It’s become one of my staples of conversation, and it should become one of the staples of your diet. When it comes to eating “memory food” there is no better trio of items to fight Alzheimer’s and dementia than grass-fed beef, avocados, and coconut oil. This group of high-fat, brain-smart foods are a staple of the Grain Brain diet, and should work their way into your weekly meal plan as well.
4. It's all about a cup of joe: I’m a big fan of coffee, and super thankful that it’s not only savory, but brain-healthy as well. Not only does coffee activate our Nrf2 pathways, helping to fight off oxidative stress and protect against neurodegenerative diseases, but have found that high levels of coffee consumption can be associated with up to a 65% reduction in risk for dementia. Drink up!
5. Make sure you get enough DHA. Your body is only minimally able to make DHA, a critical fatty acid for brain health. So supplementation is key. I recommend a total daily dosage of DHA of around 1000mg. This can come from eating wild fish or better, take either a fish oil supplement or a DHA supplement derived from algae.
And a new feature on my blog: At the end of each post, I am going to print a "Freethought of the Day" item from the Freedom From Religion Foundation. Come on, shake that straightjacket off of your mind.
Freethought of the Day
On this date in 1930, Barbara G. Walker was born in Philadelphia. In early childhood, she had her first disappointment with religion, when a minister told Barbara her deceased pet dog wouldn't go to heaven. She threw an uncharacteristic tantrum, telling him: "I don't want anything to do with your rotten old God and nasty old heaven." First reading the King James bible as a young teenager, she decided: "It sounded cruel. A God who would not forgive the world until his son had been tortured to death--that did not strike me as the kind of father I would want to relate to." She majored in journalism at the university of Pennsylvania, married research chemist Gordon Walker, and moved to Washington, D.C., where she worked at the Washington Star. Relocating to Morristown, New Jersey, she taught the Martha Graham dance technique. She is a knitting expert, writing ten volumes, including the classics, Treasury of Knitting Patterns and A Second Treasury of Knitting Patterns. In the mid-seventies she became part of the "new feminist wave," writing the monumental feminist/freethought sourcebook, The Woman's Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets(1983). Her many other books, published by Harper & Row, include The Skeptical Feminist. An atheist, she has also specialized in debunking irresponsible, New Age assertions about crystals.
“. . . the very fears and guilts imposed by religious training are responsible for some of history's most brutal wars, crusades, pogroms, and persecutions, including five centuries of almost unimaginable terrorism under Europe's Inquisition and the unthinkably sadistic legal murder of nearly nine million women. History doesn't say much very good about God.”
—Barbara G. Walker, "The Skeptical Feminist," acceptance speech for the "1993 Humanist Heroine" award by the Feminist Caucus of the American Humanist Association.
On this date in 1804, George Sand (nee Aurore Dupin) was born in France. She was tutored in the country, spent three years in Paris with the Augustinian nuns, then read widely on her own. She scandalously left her unsympathetic husband Baron Dudevant, whom she married in 1822, to embark on a career as a novelist. That career took off with the success of her second novel,Indiana (1832). Unwilling to have her freedom restricted by sexist codes, she adopted the nom de plume "George Sand," often appeared in public in liberating male clothing, and befriended the literarati of her day. Sand became a noted celebrity. She was prolific even for her era of romantic wordiness. Consuelo was a novel in eight volumes and Histoire de ma vie, her autobiography, is 20 volumes! Sand was an outspoken critic of clericalism for most of her life, but invoked "God" frequently in her writings and letters. She went through Deistic, spiritualistic and pantheistic stages, but never returned to Christianity. Her most famous liaison was with the composer Chopin, who, while far more orthodox than Sand in his political views, also refused to return to the Roman Catholic Church. Her enduring legacy is as a rebel and role model living life as freely and fully as men. She instructed there should be no religious rites at her funeral, which was presided over by freethinker Victor Hugo. D. 1876.
“[I reject Christianity's anthropomorphic God,] made in our image, silly and malicious, vain and puerile, irritable or tender, after our fashion.”