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A Godly List of Brain Foods!

“Who endowed the heart with wisdom or gave understanding to the mind?”  (Job 38: 3)

I love lists and to this day create lists as I head out to the grocery or department store.  Internet lists are also enticing to me. I especially get hooked by those intriguing articles that bait: “The Best Cities for Dog Lovers,” “100 Best Movies in History!” or some such title.

th[7]Anyway, if you enjoy fun facts as much as I do, here is my personal list on “Food Facts to Keep Brain Cells.”

Did you know . . . ?

Prunes, raisins, garlic, blueberries and blackberries contain so far, the highest rated ORAC’s (oxygen radical absorbency capacity) which determine the strongest antioxidant values of any fruit and vegetable tested.

Commercial grape juice and tomato juice surprising contain more antioxidants than the same fresh produce in the produce aisle?

Spinach, blueberries and strawberries improve short term memory! Any antioxidant will protect brain cells but these three actually restore brain receptors.  Strawberries with walnuts on a spinach salad with a little olive oil is really brain food!

Blueberries will help restore balance and coordination. (Which is important since we tend to lose those as we age.)

Green tea versus black tea: Green is higher in one antioxidant (50 cent word alert: epigallocatechin gallate)  but black tea is higher in all-around antioxidant potency. Those pre-packaged mixes contain little if any antioxidants, so brew your own.

Pregnant mothers especially, should be consuming eggs for the brain health of their babies. (As we all should.)  Eggs are one of the few foods that contain the amino acid, choline. And many dieters stay away from eggs mistakenly believing they are fattening.

The brain feeds primarily on glucose derived from complex carbohydrates from fruits and vegetables. Fruits contain more ORAC’s overall than vegetables, although kale, spinach and Brussels sprouts rank very high. Although you will derive quick energy from a Snickers bar, you are consuming empty calories! Not recommended.

Monounsaturated fats such as olive oil, avocado, nuts, milled flaxseed and fish oils keeps your brain cells flexible and fluid.

Eat Fish! Fish oil is amazing! It restores concentration through the brain/blood barrier, speeds up brain waves, calms mental stress and relieves depression. So eat fish, especially the fatty fishth[5] like salmon, sardines, tuna and mackerel.  Brain cells are lined with Omega 3 fatty acids which reduce inflammation. Therefore these good fats keep cells fluid, elastic  and fights inflammation. If you absolutely hate fish, then at least take a fish oil supplement such as cod liver oil.

Dark Chocolate boosts antioxidant protective polyphenols properties higher than red wine.

Now Change These Habits:

Quit Smoking! Smoking constricts major blood pathways to the brain which eventually decreases memory and mental capacity. Quit this filthy habit which has no redeeming value and hurts all around you, either through the air they breathe or the pain they’ll suffer when you become incapacitated!

Cut down on sugar! Did you know that high blood sugar stimulates a thickening of the blood vessel walls? No pun intended but think about that! How long do you want to retain your brain cells . . . perhaps just a little longer?

Try reducing colas and caffeinated products which can cause an imbalance in our bodily functions; increasing anxiety, sleep disruptions, higher blood pressure and ages cells. (caffeine in moderation: 2 cups of coffee or tea is fine.)

God gave us a brain for a purpose and we should always aspire to honor God in the way it is used! Honor Him.

 “So I turned my mind to understand, to investigate and to search out wisdom and the scheme of things . . .” (Ecclesiastes 7:25) 

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“You believe whaaaat . . . ???

There have been many myths regarding nutrition; many I have already written about over the years.

My Litmus test for truth has always been, “What does God say about it?” Would God instruct us to consume anything in moderation and then say,”Whoops!” I doubt it because my God doesn’t make mistakes.

My go-to for accuracy has been the Bible. Contrary to science and some intellectuals, it holds no mistakes. The Bible declared the Earth round, a fetus has a beating heart and man lived with dinosaurs long before science had to retract their theories.

Over the past 15 years some “bad” foods have come back into acceptance again. Yet some diets still declare certain ones off-limits. For example, the Paleo diet plan claims lentils, beans & potatoes are forbidden. Silly, if God made it for food, it shouldn’t be unless you’re allergic to it.

Let’s address some nutritional fallacies you might have believed in the past.

Nuts: Yes they are loaded with calories but all foods should be eaten in moderation. Walnuts especially are helpful in reducing the bad LDL cholesterol while increasing the good which protects against heart disease.

Red Meat:  Do you know that red meat is one of the few places we can find B12, a vital nutrient in fighting fatigue and neurological damage? When given to dementia patients, most saw improvement. It also contains zinc, iron, B6 and niacin among other important elements. But choose wisely: select anything labeled “round” or “loin” as the best cuts for health. A 3 ounce serving is approximately 150 calories and 4 grams of fat which is less than dark meat chicken.

Eggs: When I first began my career in 1990, eggs were considered unhealthy. I wondered how a God who made everything good could make a mistake. Well, as I researched I discovered that eggs contained, A,D,E, B6, B12, thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, zinc, iron, choline, folate, selenium, potassium, magnesium, calcium and vital amino acids among other nutrients. Does that sound like something we should avoid? Of course not, my God doesn’t make mistakes!

Chocolate: Any food becomes fattening when we lose control and overindulge but chocolate has gotten a bad wrap. It’s like giving a child a bunch of crayons and when he draws on the walls, blames the wall. Use common sense and set up boundaries. An ounce or two of dark chocolate chips or two Hershey Kisses won’t destroy your health plan. Losing control does and that’s a counseling challenge!

“But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire.”   (James 1:14)

Chocolate contains many vital nutrients such as magnesium, iron,  selenium,  and  phenylethylamine which actually affects weight management, stimulates the nervous system and assists in digestion aid. It also of course emits the same emotion as love. When God told us to consume every green plant and tree in the garden, it didn’t surprise me to discover that the cocoa bean comes from a tree.

Pizza:  A good source of calcium and iron if you make your own with limited cheese and plenty of mushrooms, peppers, black olives, etc.. Pizza can be fattening if one consumes an overabundance of sausage, pepperoni, and 80% hamburger. However if you order one with Canadian bacon and pineapple why not enjoy a couple slices?  BBQ chicken is excellent too.

Shrimp: “Too much cholesterol,” they cry! It might surprise you to discover that the cholesterol in shrimp works to increase the good HDL while lowering the bad LDL type. Over the years, similar revelations were found with butter, coconut oil and nut butters.

Anything is fine in moderation (1 Corinthians 10:23) so choose wisely and enjoy God’s Bounty!

The Importance of Sleep, Heavenly Sleep

 “It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep.”  (Psalm 127:2)

sleepy personHave you ever had a friend or acquaintance who worked shift work, had too many activities to sleep, or joked, “Well, I’ll sleep when I’m dead.”  First of all that’s bad theology and second, they didn’t recognize the importance of sleep!  Sleep is essential for life’s regeneration and for renewed mental health and weight control.

Even God insisted on rest: Genesis 2:2. “By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work.”  A God of Balance, right?

In this high-tech world of computers, Kindles, iPods and cell phones, if we didn’t recharge our battery-operated devices every so often, they would eventually run out of steam.  Same with our physiological electrical systems as well.  In order to work properly, our bodies need recharging and sleep is how we do it. Sleep boosts our immune system, reduces stress and restores energy levels.

Our pineal gland, located in our brain, releases the hormone melatonin which monitors our sleep cycle. As we get older, our hormone levels and other systems start to decline. Thank Adam and Eve for that.

When one can’t sleep, it creates stress. We tend to toss and turn and our minds can’t relax! This produces physiological changes, increasing the risk of heart disease and a weakened immune system.

For sleep, we can take melatonin supplements but I recommend them only for a short amount of time, 1-2 weeks. Here’s why:  Current research is professing that if the body is receiving hormones from pills, medication and supplements, the body will stop creating its own hormone and begin to rely on outside sources. So be cautious about using any hormonal supplement for too long a period.

Some foods naturally contain melatonin so  I would highly recommend getting your supplementation naturally.  Melatonin is an amazing hormone and isn’t simply for sleep. It’s powerful benefits include antioxidants, cancer & heart disease fighters as well as anti-aging properties.

Here a list of nutritious foods to incorporate into your diet to get a good night’s sleep:

  1. Cherries! It’s cherry season and this wonderfully delicious fruit contains a great deal of natural melatonin. Try consuming a handful of cherries about an hour before bedtime.
  2. Having a small bowl of magnesium rich cereal has been known to help some people fall asleep at night.
  3. Tryptophan,a calming amino acid found in milk and turkey, is a solution too.
  4. Black and other beans, bananas, dark green vegetables contain a lot of magnesium which relaxes the body.
  5. Salmon, (also chicken, wheat bran, peanuts, apricots)  helps convert vitamins B3 and B6 ( found in bananas, rice, shrimp, carrots) into melatonin.
  6. Add oats, sweet corn, tomatoes, barley, chicken broth, avocados to your diet.
  7. Herbs like lavender, lemon balm, juniper or passion-flower will produce a soothing relaxation to your bath water.
  8. Having a cup of chamomile or Sleepy Time tea in the evening has seen results as well.sleeping baby

Sometimes our bodies can’t rest because we have too much on our minds. So have a piece of paper beside the bed, write down your anxious thoughts and get to them in the morning!

Best of all, when you can’t rest; pray, count your blessings or sing a hymn in your head and it’s amazing how quickly you’ll fall under His protection and sleep like a baby!

What in the World is Metabolic Syndrome???

If your doctor ever told you had metabolic syndrome, you probably wondered what that means. The term metabolize is simply how your body processes calories for energy. But what is metabolic syndrome? Is it good or bad? If diagnosed with it, you might be wondering, how did I get it and what can I do about it?

Let me provide a simple illustration to help you understand this term:

Have you ever seen dominos set up in intricate patterns before? Think about how those dominos line up and then fall after the first domino is pushed over.

Now relate the domino effect to health because it’s similar to how metabolic syndrome works. Many factors are involved in creating this pattern.

For example, the first domino could represent insulin resistance. Insulin is the hormone which regulates blood sugar. Insulin resistance is the term for insulin’s failure to be utilized (metabolized) properly. This can eventually lead to diabetic challenges, diabetes produces nerve damage, nerve damage leads to stress, stress to weight gain, which creates heart disease and on and on. One health challenge advances to many others.

This exact pattern can be applied to those who continually eat fattening foods, creating plaque which hardens and narrows arteries, which then creates extra stress on the heart, causing heart palpitations, chest pains and eventually heart attacks.

“Scary stuff. Okay, I’m in – how can I change my risk pattern?”

If you truly want to see improvement, change your lifestyle. Only you can do that; and only if you’re ready! As much as I want you to be healthy, you must want it more!

Metabolic syndrome is usually linked to obesity s0 improve your eating habits.Begin today to clean up your menu with more fibrous whole foods which will escort toxins and bad cholesterol out of your system. No need to suffer. Eat sensibly and balanced. (Avoid quick-fix, fad diets!!!) Add flavor with healthy herbs and spices instead of fat.

Do you consume many fast-food meals, donuts, and fatty meats like cold cuts or sausage? How about processed snacks like potato chips, Twinkies, or Cheez Doodles? STOP! This raises dangerous LDL cholesterol levels.

“LDL? HDL? What??? It’s Greek to me!”

Good cholesterol, HDL, (healthy) protects the heart and blood test results should be over 60mg/dl. (LDL (lousy) should be kept low. Strive for 130-150 mg/dl in a real world. Triglycerides are the blood fat levels created by consuming donuts, pies and other sugary snacks.

High blood sugar insulin is usually a sign of early diabetes. I’ve lowered many a diabetic patient’s levels simply by increasing their high fiber food intake; whole grains, beans, cruciferous vegetables, legumes, sweet potatoes . . . Still on the Adkins or Paleo Diet? Get. Off. It!

Another change I’d recommend is to incorporate sufficient exercise into your lifestyle. Finding exercises that are enjoyable to you is essential: dancing, swimming, tennis, walking, badminton, etc. If you get your children involved, the entire family benefits.

With each fall of a domino your risk of Metabolic Syndrome increases. I’d rather not play Russian roulette with my health and highly endorse the pure enjoyment of a high-energy lifestyle. Sure, sometimes there’s a genetic factor involved but don’t get discouraged. I inherited my mother’s osteoporosis and father’s familial cholesterol. Therefore I take medication, but also fight to be healthier with weight bearing exercises, avoiding dangerous fats while consuming a balanced Mediterranean diet.

“I will praise You because I have been remarkably and wonderfully made. Your works are wonderful, and I know this very well.” (Psalm 139:14  HSV)

Your life, your choices. Please choose an abundant life!

What in the World Does . . . Eating “Cleanly” Mean???

A new buzz word has been circulating the country for several years now; “clean” . . . a clean budget, clean fitness, clean health care bill, clean living . . .  isn’t it getting to be a cliché? No wants to eat “dirty” food.


 

Recently someone asked me what a clean diet actually means. So let me explain this concept as simply as I can: it’s God’s diet plan from the beginning: Genesis 1:29 & 9:3.   End of blog. Short and sweet. Okay, okay . . . I’ll clarify.

Solomon stated it best when he proclaimed in Ecclesiastes  that there is nothing new under the sun.”

“Ecclesiastes 1:10 ” Is there anything of which one can say, “Look! This is something new”? It was here already, long ago; it was here before our time.”
Now even those diet gurus who claim there is no God, are advocating consuming whole grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds.  Throw in lots of pure water and you’ve got a “new diet” plan that’s over 4,000 years old!! Wow, who knew?  Well, God did.

God told us in  Genesis 1:29 what to eat. After the Flood, He added meat to our diets. Then again in 1 Corinthians 10:23, confirmed that any food was fine in moderation but advocated that some were more beneficial to our health than others.

As Christians, you wouldn’t place illegal drugs into your system, because you would destroy your temple of the Holy Spirit. It’s not God-honoring.  But God doesn’t want you to ingest lots of over-the-counter drugs either!  And yet we continue to purchase and consume processed, chemically laden foods with intricate sounding names like Propyl P Hydroxybenzonate,  Norbixin, Sodium Metabisulfite, Orthophenyl Phenol, Polyxyl Stearate and Disodium Guanylate.

Names as difficult to pronounce as the kings of Genesis 14!
Those confusing names above are but a small sampling of additives, preservatives, sweeteners, emulsifiers, and flavor enhancers added to today’s foods.  These will chemically transform a body into one that’s susceptible to asthma, ADHD, allergies, hyperactivity and different cancers. The body becomes a chemistry tube. Look at your children’s faces before you reach for that fast food or packaged convenience food and decide which you love more, convenience or your family.  No contest right?

Years ago, manufacturers discovered that they could lengthen the shelf life of grain products by removing the germ, which was the good fat in grain, and bran which was the fiber and then add preservatives. However essential nutrients such as B vitamins, magnesium, calcium and fiber were lost in the process until they were “enriched” with vitamins and minerals again (but usually not fiber).  It’s important to realize that enriched doesn’t mean ‘better than’ it simply means ‘up to’ standards.

And eating cleanly doesn’t necessarily mean organic either. (Sorry, my dear nutritionist friends) If an organic farm is next to a regular farm, then it depends upon the water source or the spraying that occurs on the neighboring farm. I grew up on a dairy farm and ate a lot of dirt in my childhood. I’m hardly ever ill now and I still consume great amounts of regular farm produce – but I sure miss the taste of a flavorful, farm grown (New) Jersey tomato.

If organic works for you, great, I’m not advocating giving it up. I like organic too, but find it expensive. I view eating only organic, the same way I view the doctrines of some churches; if it doesn’t affect Salvation and isn’t spoken of directly in the Bible, then I live under grace and have the liberty to choose without condemnation.  God can judge – I can obey.

“you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.”  (1 Corinthians 6:20)

The Most Inspiring Young Lady I Know!

This post is dedicated to one of the bravest young ladies I know. She battles an illness many others would never reveal and does so with strength and courage. Can you imagine standing up and resisting any friend who pushes delicious (but harmful to her) foods like fried chicken, donuts, potato chips, soft drinks or spicy foods? That demonstrates incredible perseverance in resisting peer pressure and setting priorities! She’s truly independent and strong and I’m very proud of her!

Diagnosed last year with ulcerated colitis at age 9, she has shown remarkable determination and dedication to healthier living. UC is an inflammation of the colon causing bloating, gas, intense pain, bloody diarrhea and other embarrassing biological responses. Maintaining a strict diet is the only way to endure this debilitating illness.

One of her biggest daily challenges is consuming valuable nutrients which will remain in her system. Now vital nutrients are carried away without infiltrating the digestive system. The body  derives much of its nutrient balance through the intestines. Therefore it’s imperative to consume valuable vitamins, minerals and protein. But if one is constantly dealing with diarrhea that’s tougher. Consuming mini-meals and lots of water to avoid dehydration throughout the day will help.

ALSO IMPORTANT: Chew your food!

Chewing releases enzymes. Digestion can’t happen without enzymes.  No vitamin, mineral or hormone can work without enzymes. Without enzymes one can’t breathe, walk or complete any other function! Think of enzymes as the moving men who distribute boxes to the right room in your house; except enzymes move nutrients to the correct part of your bodily home.

Lipase is the enzyme which moves fats throughout the digestion system and is released through the intestines. If one is constantly battling diarrhea, digestion is poor and even the best eating plan won’t work, fatigue, weakness and anemia could occur. Consume good fats like avocado, coconut oil and milled flaxseed.

Probiotics

To build up the immune system eat probiotic and prebiotic foods. These foods will increase good bacteria in your gut so enzymes can work properly. Find these in garlic, onions, tomatoes (mmm, Italian food anyone?) They are also found in fermented foods like sauerkraut, kefir, sour cream, cheeses and yogurt.

Let’s talk about yogurt. Most contain too many fillers, chemicals and sweeteners and should be labeled junk food! It’s the beneficial bacteria that’s important and these contain little if any! Also avoid “light” yogurt which contain artificial sweeteners.

A good yogurt is one that states there are active cultures inside. This is the beneficial bacteria which keeps your colon healthy while fighting our body’s harmful bacteria. The label usually will have names like Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophiles along with active cultures.

I purchase Dannon Natural Vanilla but these brands are also good:  Fage, Stonyfield, Liberte’, Mountain High. Always check the label for “active cultures.” Add your own fruit, honey, milled flaxseed or cinnamon for flavor. You can also create smoothies with cultured yogurt, bananas, oranges, coconut, smooth peanut butter or other creation.

Those with UC have a harder time metabolizing insoluble fiber because it passes without breaking down, (think corn, seeds, apple skins.) Strive to consume soluble fiber which becomes a gel and won’t incite flare-ups. Applesauce, stewed pears, Guacamole, oatmeal, mashed sweet potatoes are suggestions. Baby foods, Ensure or Boost will help when you’re having an especially tough day.

Bottom line, eat for nutrients and reduce stress. Keep a food diary and recognize what works and doesn’t. Unfortunately there is “no-one-size-fits-all” diet plan. Resist discouragement and don’t allow the devil to steal your Joy! Count your blessings in all God has allowed you to do!

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”  (John 10:10)

 

 

 

 

 

Revving Up That Old Clunker: Metabolism

If you’ve been feeling more like a 1971 Pinto than a Ferrari, perhaps it’s time to rev up that old metabolism. Start modifying your engine. I know it seems like an impossible task but there are many easy lifestyle habits to incorporate into your routine to change for the better.

Let’s look at creating a healthy ritual:

First thing in the morning, consume a glass of water. This starts the digestive track moving and awakens your entire system. When your digestion is working better, nutrients can be absorbed more effectively.  Why does that matter? Because all vitamins have a purpose and B vitamins especially, convert carbohydrates, protein and fats into energy. Absorption means better metabolic function.

Drinking enough water is essential because this allows your kidneys to remove toxins and the liver to metabolize fat. Add a slice of lemon, lime or apple cider vinegar  to water during the day as well. Why? It will create a more effective alkaline pH.  A slightly higher alkaline pH protects you against disease and reduces stress. Stress destroys B vitamins (see above.)

Enjoy your cup of coffee without guilt. Anything is fine in moderation but too much destroys B vitamins.  Adding a bit of cinnamon or turmeric actually improves the health benefits.

I’m often asked when is the best time to exercise. Short answer: anytime! Exercise will rev up your metabolism for hours so try to get some in several times a day. For example, stretch and do leg exercises in the morning. Walk the dog or run up and down stairs, garden, vacuum, clean your home, etc. during the day, lift light weights watching television in the evening. Don’t feel like it? Do it anyway! It feels victorious to conquer lazy habits!

Exercising in the fresh air increases serotonin levels and is a great stress reliever. Stress increases cortisol and other destructive hormones, making you hungrier, increasing cravings. Another benefit of exercise is building muscle. Muscle burns fat. Get your BMR to a healthy rate. (Basal Metabolic Rate is the amount of calories it takes to maintain individual normal bodily functions.)

Consuming a healthy breakfast is imperative! Your body has been without food probably ten hours or more. Therefore it must “break-its-fast” or your brain will believe you are ill and will compensate by slowing down metabolism. A body protects itself at all costs so you’ll never starve yourself healthy!

It’s imperative to begin your day with a balanced diet containing all three food groups at every meal: protein, complex carbs and healthy fat.

What does “balanced” mean exactly? Well here’s some breakfast examples: Create an egg, cheese and veggie omelette. 2. Consume yogurt, berries, an ounce of walnuts and milled flaxseed. 3. Buckwheat pancakes with pecans, sliced bananas & drizzle of pure maple syrup, or 4. any fiber-based (5+ grams) healthy cereal, berries and 1% milk (which is 20% fat.) Each suggested example is balanced with all three food groups. Eat proportionately during lunch and dinner as well. (example: 60% complex carbs, 20% lean protein and 20% healthy fat.)

Balanced snacks should also be consumed throughout the day: peanut butter on a small apple or banana, white cheese (white has less cholesterol) and fruit, sliced avocado, turkey or ham on fibrous crackers, etc. You and your auto shouldn’t run out of gas during the day.

Hot spicy foods such as cayenne, wasabi, horseradish, spicy mustards revs metabolism and releases serotonin to the brain which reduce cravings.

God has given us a cherished gift. Life. What you cherish you take care of, so cherish your incredible, unique body! Don’t allow bad habits to overrule what you know is right!

“Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.” (Psalm 51:10)