Nourish Your Noggin with These 5 Brain Foods

The human brain is one of our most powerful and valuable organs. Though it accounts for only 2% of our body’s total weight, the brain requires a lot of energy and several key nutrients to function at its best. Last month, I had the opportunity to talk about nutrition for brain health on Local Memphis Live, and of course, I didn’t want you to miss out, so here are 5 brain-boosting foods to help you ensure your noggin stays nourished…

berries, brain food, antioxidantsBerries

Berries contain flavonoids, a specific group of potent antioxidants that give berries their beautiful colors. They also play a role in numerous cognitive skills like learning and decision making all while protecting brain cells from oxidative damage.

Incorporating berries into yogurt, oatmeal, or salads not only adds fresh, natural sweetness. Berries also contain antioxidants that help boost cognition, coordination, and memory.

Think you can only get a brain boost from berries during summer months? Think again…You can get your berry fix year round! Buy them fresh in the summer, frozen in the winter.

Eggs Brain Food

Eggs

If you’ve been avoiding eggs out of concern for the cholesterol and/or fat content, it’s time to add them back in. Research is now suggesting that eggs do not contribute to cardiovascular disease risk. In fact, our brains need cholesterol and fat to function at their best. With the brain being our fattiest organ, made up of 65% fat, including 25% of our body’s total cholesterol, you can be confident eggs are an egg-cellent choice and nutritional powerhouses.

Eggs contain choline, one of the superstar brain nutrients that many Americans are deficient in. Choline is necessary to produce acetylcholine, which plays a critical role in memory. For example, studies have linked acetylcholine deficiencies to memory loss and Alzheimer’s.

Eggs also contain B vitamins, folate, and vitamin D…nutrients that play a crucial role in brain health.

Tempted to ditch the yolk? Don’t do it! Eat the whole egg as the yolk contains most of the nutrients your brain needs. Plus, the protein and fat is likely to keep you satisfied much longer than that morning bagel alone!

Salmon, Brain Food

Salmon

When you’re researching (or googling) “what to eat for brain health,” you’ll begin to notice that DHA or omega-3 fatty acid is one of the single most important elements required for optimal brain health. With the brain being made mostly of fat, our brains need those Omega-3’s!

Omega-3s are strongly anti-inflammatory which is great news as inflammation has been linked to multiple mental health concerns. For example, increased Omega-3 intake may help to alleviate a spectrum of mental health concerns, from anxiety and irritability to depression and even schizophrenia. In contrast, insufficient DHA is a potential factor in depression, bipolar disorder, premature brain aging, age-related cognitive decline, brain shrinkage, dementia, and Alzheimer’s.

Omega-3 fatty acids containing DHA can be found in oily fish like wild Alaskan salmon, mackerel, and tuna. These types of fish are also excellent sources of protein which is needed to form mood-boosting neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine as well as B12, an essential vitamin for a healthy brain and nervous system. It’s ideal to include these types of fish twice per week.

Walnut, Brain Food

Walnuts

Well, if you hadn’t noticed yet, the low-fat diet trend has officially been a “big fat failure,” especially when it comes to brain health. So many “brain foods” are loaded with healthy fats, and walnuts are no exception…plus, they look like little brains!

Walnuts contain a number of compounds that protect our neurons from injury or degeneration, including vitamin E, folate, melatonin, omega-3 fats, and antioxidants. Bottom line: Research shows walnut consumption may support brain health.

Snack on walnuts, sprinkle them into your oatmeal, or even try out one of my favorite recipes: Walnut & Rosemary Oven Fried Chicken.

Steak, Vitamin B12, Brain Food

Beef

That’s right…BEEF is a brain food! Meat eaters can get a brain boost from beef, which provides plenty of energizing and balancing B vitamins, specifically B12 which is only found in animal foods.

Low B12 levels have been linked to Alzheimer’s disease and age-related memory loss. If your levels are lower than they should be, you may also experience symptoms like poor memory, depression and fatigue, so fire up the grill and enjoy this nutritious and delicious meat!


I recently came across a quote that said, “Essentially, fats build your brain, and proteins unite it. Carbohydrates fuel your brain, and micronutrients defend it.” Even though this post highlights only 5 specific foods, it’s clear that there are many more that give our brains a boost, so So if you want to keep your mind nourished and healthy, getting a variety and balance of nutrients is a no-brainer!

What’s your favorite brain food and how do you incorporate it into your meals or snacks?

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Food Trends and FNCE Highlights: Top 5 Food Trends


Welcome back! Yesterday, I shared a recap of the Academy of Nutrition and DieteticsFood and Nutrition Conference and Expo (FNCE). You saw all of that hard work I was doing (wink, wink!), so the time has come for me to share with you some of the trends I spotted and products I loved at FNCE 2015…

Focus on REAL FOOD

Real Food at FNCEEverywhere I turned, there were booths promoting REAL FOOD! It was nice to see simple and creative snack ideas that encourage people to get back to basics when it comes to eating. What do I mean when I say “real food?” In our office, we define real food as “anything that can be grown or killed.” I’m talking foods like eggs, tomatoes, raspberries, blueberries, beans, whole grains, avocados, nuts, fish, meat, honey, etc. Check out these snack ideas:

  • Hardboiled eggs on a stick…protein-packed, portable, and no need to touch the egg itself!
  • Grapes become a sweet treat when frozen.
  • Pre-portioned oatmeal cups…just add milk or water.
  • Harvest Snaps
  • Avocados can be mashed and stirred into a slaw or tuna salad instead of mayo.

Probiotics, Probiotics, Probiotics

Remember how I wrote about the importance of the gut microbiome yesterday? It’s probably no coincidence that probiotics are EVERYWHERE these days…in yogurt, kefir, your favorite beverage or smoothie, flavored powder, and pills and FOR EVERYONE…adults and kids.

So what is the gut microbiome?

The gut microbiome is the collection of microbes or microorganisms that inhabit your GI tract, creating a “mini-ecosystem”. Our gut microbiota contains trillions of microorganisms. Your gut microbiota is specific to you…like your own personal identity card.

Why probiotics?

Research on the gut microbiome and probiotics is in its infancy, but so far probiotics…

  • ProbioticsFacilitate digestion and absorption of nutrients.
  • May have benefits in people with non-digestive issues like eczema or other skin conditions.
  • Can serve as a complementary treatment for digestive diseases like IBS and Crohn’s disease.
  • Optimize the body’s immune system by increasing good bacteria in the gut (especially following a round of antibiotics which kills good and bad bacteria).
  • Keeps you “going” regularly (if you know what I mean 😉 … )

The Year of Pulses

PulsesHave you heard of pulses? Here’s a hint…you probably already have some of them hanging out in your pantry! They include dry peas, beans, lentils, and chickpeas. Pulses are packed with nutrients, giving you a big nutritional bang for your buck. For this reason and the fact that they feed much of the world’s population, they are being called the “superfoods of the future.” Pulses contain protein, fiber, antioxidants, iron, folate and other nutrients.

Sharing the Truth about Food

With all of the propaganda, documentaries, and unofficial/unscientific studies out there about various foods, my clients come to me with lots of questions about where food comes from, how animals are cared for, and how the food on their table was grown and produced. Leslie Schilling, Rebecca Scritchfield, and I spent quite a bit of time at the “Ask a Farmer Anything” booth. You’ve probably heard a lot about “Farm to Table” and sustainability lately, and my clients have the same questions. What better way to learn than by talking to farmers themselves and visiting their farms?

Boning Up on Bone Health

Bone health isn’t just about drinking your milk to get enough Calcium and Vitamin D and getting plenty sunlight for
vitamin D production these days (although there seemed to be a focus on dairy at FNCE this year, too). Beyond milk and sunlight, you and your kids can do more to promote bone health…

Did You Know?Bone Health

  • Potassium, Magnesium, and Vitamin K play a role in bone health…and prunes contain all of these nutrients!
  • Some mushrooms now contain Vitamin D.
  • Exercises that involve jumping are most effective for building healthy bones.
  • Eating leafy greens can promote healthy bones.

FNCE is a great place for trend-spotting, but so is your local grocery store! What trends with food and nutrition have you noticed lately? I’d love to hear from you!

Food Trends and FNCE Highlights: Conference Recap

From the moment I drove into Nashville, it was non-stop food and nutrition with around 10,000 of my closest Registered Dietitian friends. The Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics hosted their annual Food & Nutrition Conference and Expo (FNCE) on October 3-6th, 2015 at Music City Center. This conference never fails to provide great opportunities for networking, over 140 sessions on a variety of hot topics in the nutrition world, and an expo filled with over 300 exhibitors sharing the latest products and food trends.

Saturday

To kick off the conference, master innovator and former president of Trader Joe’s, Doug Rauch presented his keynote address: “An Innovative Solution to the Hunger Problem” at the opening session. He recently founded Daily Table (read their mission statement and story here). According to Rauch, Daily Table provides affordable food that moves people forward.

Did you know?

  • 1 in 6 Americans are hungry. Many may have enough calories but not enough nutrients.
  • Code dates and expiration dates are not federally mandated, and many Americans do not understand how to read code dates anyway. For example, Rauch showed a photo of honey with a code date on it, but did you know that honey never expires?
  • Between one-third and 40% of the food grown in the U.S. is never eaten. Lettuce is often thrown away simply because it won’t fit in a bag or box.

These statistics and facts about food waste were eye-opening, but Rauch says “All of us together can, and will, make a difference.”

Sunday

Sunday sessions began at 8:00am sharp. Whew! Here are the sessions I attended on Sunday (By the way, these sessions will soon be available to purchase, download, and listen to at home by following the links below):

Claim the Spotlight! Beyond Traditional Media: Videos, Podcasts, and Self-Publishing (Speakers: Julie Beyer & Melissa Joy Dobbins)

  • Who knows what you’ll see from me in the future?!

Interrogating Host Microbiota Dynamics in Diet, the Metabolome, and Disease (Speakers: Charlene Compher & Gary Wu)

  • What we eat shapes the composition of our microbiome which can in turn change our disease risk. Check back tomorrow, and you’ll see how all of this new research about the gut microbiome is affecting food trends…stay tuned!

Satiety Regulation and Measurement: Can Appetite Be Controlled? (Speakers: John Blundell & Richard Mattes)

  • We talk about hunger and satiety all the time in our office. This session focused on various factors that impact food choices and satiety (specific tastes, food labels, textures, food components, digestibility, etc.) and how eating frequency, portion sizes, and composition and timing of meals impact satiety levels throughout the day.

After brunching with Leslie Schilling on Sunday, we headed to the Expo floor to meet up with Rebecca Scritchfield…it was there the trend-spotting began…

Rebecca Scritchfield, Leslie Schilling, Blair Mize with Sabra HummusI promise we were working…

Sunday evening, I was invited to a Rooftop Reception and Tweet Up hosted by Food & Nutrition Magazine and sponsored by StarKist, Lekue World, CanolaInfo, and National Peanut Board. It was a great evening chatting face to face with many RDs I normally only get to chat with through e-mail and social media!

Networking with fellow RDs at Food & Nutrition Reception
It was an honor to share my Music City Barbecue Sauce recipe with Food & Nutrition Magazine this year! The recipe was featured in the FNCE 2015 issue of the magazine.

Food & Nutrition Magazine Music City Barbecue SauceMonday

After an early morning (hilly) run, I attended the following sessions on Monday:

The Young Female Athlete: Medicine & Physiology (Speaker: Albert Hergenroeder)

  • This speaker provided such a refreshing, realistic, and experienced perspective on health (especially bone health) and training for the female athlete.

Meant for Each Other: Health At Every Size and Motivational Interviewing (Speakers: Ellen Glovsky & Molly Kellogg)

  • This was probably my favorite session of the whole conference. You know from this post that I’m all about eliminating weight bias, and these speakers gave concrete examples of how to practice weight neutrality while using motivational interviewing. They encouraged practitioners to affirm patients and clients based on behaviors, attitude changes, and personal discoveries rather than on weight.
  • This session would be worth a listen for anyone who needs help addressing concerns about weight with a loved one.
  • Though there are mixed opinions about how a person should be counseled on nutrition, fellow RD Reba Sloan made a good point, “I’ve never treated anyone who didn’t diet their way to obesity.”

Food for Recovery: Resolving Malnutrition and Disordered Eating Patterns in Addiction and Substance Abuse Populations (Speakers: Steven Karp & Megan Kniskern)

  • Did you know that RDs can support mental health and play an active role in detox by getting the addict nourished? The body and brain must be fed before true recovery can begin. In other words, food is the best medicine!

With so many booths at the expo, I took a time-out from sessions for Day 2 of trend-spotting…

Angie Wallick, Blair Mize, and Sara Foley at Raspberry booth at FNCE
Siggi's Yogurt Booth at FNCE

What can I say? Work hard, play hard…

After stopping by the Ketchum Reception for a bit, it was time for dinner at Husk…delicious!

Tuesday

Tuesday morning wrapped up FNCE 2015 for this RD…I attended the following 2 morning sessions:

Mastering Your Domain: Using Technology to Grow Your Business Online (Speakers: Regan Jones & Anne Mauney)

  • I’ll be using lots of these tools and ideas discussed in this session starting on this blog post! Dietitian or not, if you blog or use social media, this session would be a great listen!

Supplement Savvy: Playing Safe, Smart, and Legal (Speaker: Ellen Coleman)

  • Ellen Coleman did a fabulous job of keeping us engaged on a topic where it could be all too easy to get bogged down in *potentially dangerous* ingredients you can’t spell or pronounce. 😉 One tip she gave, “If your supplement contains more ingredients than a Big Mac, don’t take it.”
  • Check out USA Today’s Supplement Investigations and this Supplement 411 YouTube video before taking any more supplements.

After this non-stop, whirlwind trip to the Music City, the only thing between me and home was a 3 hour drive! I was ready to get back to my family and my own bed (although my friend Emily’s cot was surprisingly comfy!), and I am looking forward to sharing even more information with you and my wonderful clients.

FNCE 2015 was a huge success!


Want to hear more FNCE highlights and food trends? Tomorrow, check out the Top 5 Trends that stuck out to me at FNCE 2015.