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Boost your Brain with Minerals

Minerals play a pivotal role in cognitive function, influencing processes such as memory, focus, and mood regulation. Key minerals like magnesium, zinc, and iron are essential for neurotransmitter synthesis and signaling — supporting cognitive clarity and mental acuity. By maintaining adequate mineral levels through a whole foods, nutrient dense lifestyle and/or supplementation, you can sharpen your cognitive abilities and support your long-term brain health.

Eat Fiber for Better Digestion and Brain Function

Fiber is a type of carbohydrate that your body can’t digest. It passes through your digestive system relatively intact, providing numerous benefits along the way.

  • fiber slows down digestion and helps keep you full
  • aids in weight management
  • helps regulate blood sugar levels by slowing down the absorption of sugar into your bloodstream
  • promotes healthy cholesterol levels
  • nourishes your microbiome, serving as fuel for the beneficial bacteria in your gut, helping to maintain a healthy balance of microorganisms
  • adds bulk to your stool, making it easier to pass through the digestive tract and reducing constipation and the risk of conditions like diverticulitis

By eating fiber-rich foods regularly, you are providing essential nutrients for the growth and diversity of your gut microbiota. This diverse community of bacteria aids in digestion, nutrient absorption, and influences aspects of your immune system.

How fiber improves brain function

A healthy gut microbiome is linked to better cognitive function, mood regulation, and reduced risk of neurodegenerative diseases.

Because fiber helps regulate blood sugar levels – which is essential for maintaining steady energy levels throughout the day – this stable energy supply to your brain supports optimal cognitive performance, concentration, and memory retention.

Because fiber reduces inflammation in the body, it has a protective effect. Chronic inflammation is associated with cognitive decline and various neurological disorders. By consuming fiber regularly, you can help protect your brain from inflammatory damage.

Fiber-rich Foods

Incorporating more fiber into your daily diet is a fantastic way to boost your overall health and well-being.

Fiber rich foods are nutrient dense foods and include:

  • Leafy greens: arugula, kale, lettuces, collard greens, mustard greens
  • Cruciferous vegetables: broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, cabbage
  • Root vegetables: beets (tops too!), carrots, potatoes, sweet potato, rutabaga, turnips
  • Beans and legumes: chickpeas(garbanzo, black bean, red bean, all beans, lentils, peas
  • Whole grains: barley, buckwheat, oats, quinoa, brown rice

What to do

  • 🌿 Start Your Day with Fiber: Kickstart your morning with a high-fiber breakfast such as chia pudding or protein oatmeal, topped nuts and fruits. This will set a healthy tone for the rest of the day.
  • 🌿 Bulk Up Your Meals: Add beans, lentils, chickpeas, or quinoa to soups, salads, and stir-fries to increase the fiber content of your meals without compromising on taste.
  • 🌿 Choose Whole Grains: Swap refined grains (pasta and white rice) for whole grains like brown rice, quinoa, , and barley to increase your fiber intake while enjoying delicious meals.
  • 🌿 Get Creative with Vegetables: Experiment with different vegetables in your dishes – spiralize zucchini for “zoodles,” roast cauliflower as a tasty side dish, or blend spinach into smoothies for an added nutrient boost.
  • 🌿 Snack Smart: Instead of reaching for processed snacks, opt for fiber-rich options like raw veggies with hummus, apple and cheese, celery and almond butter

By incorporating these practical tips into your daily routine  you can easily elevate the fiber and nutrient density of your meals while tantalizing your taste buds at the same time!

A well-balanced lifestyle rich in fiber is key to supporting optimal digestive function and overall wellness.

Note: If you are not currently practicing a high fiber lifestyle, it’s important to gradually increase your fiber intake and drink plenty of water throughout the day to help prevent any discomfort or bloating that may occur when increasing fiber consumption.

Delicious, Nutritious Fiber Rich Recipes and Resources

High Protein Overnight Oats – Haute and Healthy Living

Chia Pudding Meal Prep – Downshiftology

4 Nutrient Dense Coleslaws

10 Ways to Boost Your Mood and Immune System with Leafy Greens

One Pot of Black Beans for Four Meals

Flavored Hummus – Love Eat Learn

Avocado Hummus Snack Jars – The Girl on Bloor

 

10 Tips to Drink Water Daily – Better Digestion, Gut Health, and Brain Power!

In the hustle of daily life, it’s easy to overlook one of the simplest yet most powerful tools for your health: water. Hydration isn’t just about quenching your thirst; it’s the key to unlocking your body’s potential, especially when it comes to fueling your digestion, fortifying your gut health, and supercharging your brain function.

Energize Your Digestion

Proper hydration helps break down your food, absorb nutrients, and move waste through your digestive tract efficiently. Without an adequate water intake, your digestion can slow down, leading to issues like constipation and bloating. By staying hydrated, you can support optimal digestion and ensure that your body can effectively extract and utilize nutrients from the foods you eat.

Nurture Your Gut

The gut (gastrointestinal tract) is home to trillions of bacteria that play a vital role in your overall health. These beneficial microbes help digest food, produce essential nutrients, and support your immune system. A well-hydrated body promotes a healthy balance of gut bacteria, which is crucial for proper digestion and immune function. Water also helps maintain the mucosal lining of the gut, protecting it from damage and inflammation. Cheers to a hydrated gut and a flourishing ecosystem within!

Ignite Your Brainpower

Believe it or not, hydration is closely linked to brain health and cognitive function. Your brain is a powerhouse that relies on water to fuel its every move. It is made up of about 75% water, and even mild dehydration can impair memory, concentration, and mood. Adequate hydration is essential for maintaining proper brain function, supporting neurotransmitter production, and ensuring efficient communication between brain cells. By keeping your brain hydrated, you can enhance mental clarity, focus, and overall cognitive performance.

Tips for Staying Hydrated

💦 Challenge yourself: Set daily water intake goals and challenge yourself to reach and exceed them for a fun and motivating hydration journey. Aim for half your body weight in ounces of water (140 lbs. = 70 oz of water). When exercising, or on a hot day you may need more. How to know you’re hydrating adequately? Quick bathroom check –plentiful and clear urine indicates you are. Dark urine is a reminder to drink more water.

💦 Start your day with a glass of water: Kickstart your morning hydration routine by having a refreshing glass of water as soon as you wake up.

💦 Keep a trusty water bottle by your side as your hydration sidekick – sip, refill, repeat!

💦 Create a water schedule: Break your day into segments and assign specific times to drink water, ensuring consistent hydration.

💦 Set reminders: Use alarms, apps, or sticky notes to prompt yourself to drink water throughout the day.

💦 Jazz up your H2O game with infused water using zesty herbs, crisp veggies or fresh fruit for added flavor and nutrients.

💦 Tune into your body’s cues. Feeling hungry? Drink more water. Thirst is often mistaken for hunger.

💦 Dive into water-rich foods like crunchy veggies, juicy fruits, and nourishing soups to boost your hydration levels deliciously.

💦 Add electrolytes. Skip the Gatorade, instead add a pinch of sea salt to your water a couple times a day. When I do need more than sea salt, sugar-free Liquid IV is my preferred electrolyte option.

💦Reward yourself: Celebrate your hydration achievements with a bubble bath, a massage, a special treat to stay motivated and reinforce the habit of drinking more water.

In a nutshell, hydration isn’t just a drink – it’s your ticket to a thriving digestive system, a resilient gut microbiome, and a razor-sharp brain. So, grab that water bottle, take a sip and let the habit of hydration increase your energy and boost your health. Salud!

How will you drink your water today? 😊

Additional tips

The Ultimate Guide to Infused Water – Wondermom Wannabe

Homemade Electrolyte Drink – Wellness Mama

The Emerging Science of Hydration – Deanna Minich

Hydration is an integral component of health and should be considered alongside nutrition for promoting optimal wellbeing. Dehydration accelerates aging and diseases of aging. Skip to the end of her article for a recap of what to keep in mind with hydration

#functionalnutrition #hydration

Celebrating 57 and Getting Personal

If you’ve followed Color My Food for a while, you’ve heard that my dad’s experience with Parkinson’s changed my career and my life.

My Motivation

I’ve shared before what I wish I’d known about brain health when he diagnosed.

I became a functional nutritional therapist practitioner (FNPT) to help slow down the progression of Parkinson’s. Right away we applied what I was learning. And the mental decline began to reverse. Then suddenly he was gone.

To a great extent what moved me through my grief was the conviction that I had to complete my FNTP training to help others be proactive about brain health and overall wellness.

My Journey

As crazy as it sounds, here I am 3 years in, but I’ve only now realized functional nutrition has also become MY wellness journey.

I gave a nutrition presentation last week at the River Oaks Women’s Breakfast Club, and mentioned it was my 57th birthday which met with astonishment. A woman came to talk to me afterwards and wanted to know how? What I was I doing to look so vibrant? Was I not afraid of aging?

I explained I embrace every birthday. My beloved mother was 43 when she died instantly in a car accident. I miss her still, yet I am grateful to know that love is ever strong.

My 44th birthday was hard; I’d outlived my mother’s lifespan. But I’ve always seen every year as a joyful celebration of life. Never a fear of getting older.

50 was a genuine celebration with Georgette, one of my lifelong friends, an hermana del alma (soul sister). Together we celebrated 100 which made 50 a piece of cake. 😂 More than 50 girlfriends dressed in red – a grand celebration.
My dad in his tux, as the only man at the party, kept saying he felt like it was his party. 😎 ❤️

50 + 50 = 100! A joyful 50th birthday celebration !

55 no big deal, 56 either. But I confess, 57 briefly stalled my breath. It’s closer to 60 than 50. 😅
So, I made time to sit outside and feel on it – rather than just think about it. One of the gifts of midlife was to get out my head and connect with my heart.
That’s when I realized how much functional nutrition has become part of my daily lifestyle. Part of me.

That birthday morning of introspection also made me realize that I that pound the drum of food/nutrient density constantly, but I don’t share the foundations that make function nutritional powerful

✅ Hydration

✅ Digestion

✅ Blood sugar regulation

✅ Fatty acids

✅ Minerals

✅ Lifestyle: stress resilience, sleep, and movement

Nor have I made it personal. Fear of vulnerability? Maybe. Privacy concerns? Probably.

I will step out of my comfort zone and make this personal, because I know it’s the personal that makes it real.

I can’t pack into one blog post my personal journey over the last three years, so today I will share daily actions that I know make a difference in my physical, mental and emotional wellbeing.

✨Drink filtered water with about 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar after waking up to help my brain and body detox from the night’s internal repairing and cleansing work

✨Stay hydrated daily drinking half my body weight in ounces of filtered water (adding a pinch of sea salt a couple times of day)

✨Prioritize daily nutrient density

  • Get quality protein, fats from nature, and carbs from plants at every meal
  • Eat leafy greens and/or cruciferous every day – in a hefty salad with protein for lunch, a protein smoothie, salad with dinner, greens in soups/stews…
  • A minimum of 3 plant colors every meal
  • 9 – 10 plant foods per day: rainbow vegetables, beans, ancestral grains, nuts, seeds, herbs, spices — it all counts

✨Meditation (2021 daily habit starting with 5 minutes – took me 2 years but proud to say I am consistent now with 20 minutes daily. Working on making it 2x daily)

✨Consistent sleep routine (2023  daily habit). It took a year, but I am SO proud to say I can now wake up consistently feeling rested without an alarm clock – and I NEVER before considered myself a morning person.

✨Daily movement –  Rather than circling for the the nearest parking spot at the grocery store or wherever I’m going, I park further away so I walk on a regular basis. 10 sun salutations when I get up to move body and energy – took me 2 years to make this a daily practice 😅

What daily habit have you set for 2024?  

I invite you to share! I know from experience writing it out makes it more do-able and sustainable. And I can cheer you on!

Prep Your Kitchen to Support your Brain Health this Holiday Season

Prepping your kitchen is an essential step towards supporting a nutrient-rich lifestyle. Clean out and organize, stock up on fresh and frozen produce, healthy fats and proteins, beans and whole grains to set yourself up for success in nourishing your body.

3 Food Tips for Better Brain Health

Eat Better Fats

One of the best steps you can take to protect your brain is to choose real fats from nature at every meal. Foods in their natural form are high in brain-healthy omega 3 fatty acids. A diet rich in omega-3 fats supports cognitive function.

Choose

  • Fatty fish, such as salmon, tuna, anchovies, or trout
  • Nut butters, nuts, and seeds – especially chia, ground flaxseed and walnuts
  • Coconut oil – Coconut is rich in fats, protein, B vitamins, iron, selenium, sodium, calcium, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus
  • Olive oil – improves brain and nervous system function
  • Sesame oil – has anti-depressant properties
  • Avocado oil – helps regulate blood sugar
  • Grass-fed butter – has an ideal balance of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, contains vitamins A, D and E and essential minerals iodine and selenium.

Eliminate industrialized fats
Highly processed oils:

  • soybean oil
  • corn oil
  • canola oil (made from rapeseed)
  • cottonseed, sunflower and safflower oils

They contain a lot of omega-6 fatty acids. Excess consumption of omega-6s can trigger your body to produce chemicals that can lead to inflammation in the brain.

Dairy

  • If you consume dairy, choose whole milk and milk products kefir, yogurt, cheeses, butter) from grass-fed cows. It is a complete protein, high in enzymes, contains brain essential vitamins B6 and B12 and fat-soluble vitamins A and D.
  • 2% milk and low-fat milk spike your blood sugar and can contribute to inflammation
  • Goat milk products are also a nutritious option. Goat milk has more nutrients because of the rich and varied diet of the goats and is more digestible.

Swap Refined Carbs with Carbs from Nature

  • Leafy greens and cruciferous vegetables: rich in brain essential B vitamins associated with better cognitive function and keep your brain healthier and sharper as you age. They contain vitamin K shown to boost memory, and phytochemicals that protect neurons from damage caused by oxidative stress.
  • Rainbow vegetables: Every color represents a different group of protective, healing chemical compounds found in plants called phytochemicals. Red/purple foods are especially nourishing for your brain. They have especially powerful anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and DNA-enhancing properties that help keep your brain fighting fit.
  • Whole grains, especially ancestral grains such as buckwheat, farro, quinoa, millet, and wild rice
  • Lentils and beans

Think of refined carbohydrates (pasta, bread, and baked goods) as a treat instead of an everyday food. If you must have bread, choose minimally processed breads such as

  • Sourdough – uses a mix of wild yeast and lactic acid bacteria, rather than baker’s yeast, to leaven the dough. It’s richer in nutrients, less likely to spike your blood sugar, contains lower amounts of gluten, and is generally easier to digest than bread made with baker’s yeast
  • Pumpernickel – is also made with sourdough starter, is high in fiber and is rich in B vitamins and essential minerals (manganese, selenium, and magnesium)
  • Sprouted breads – made from sprouted whole grains are more nutrient dense and have lower impact on blood sugar. The sprouting process breaks down the carbohydrates and proteins in the grain, which may make it easier to digest and absorb nutrients.

Always add good fats from nature fats and/or protein on your bread. Here are a couple of ideas

  • Avocado
  • Nut butters
  • Cream cheese or goat cheese
  • Hummus
  • Pesto
  • Chia jam (blend 2 cups pureed/mashed berries with 2 tablespoons chia seed)

Eliminate Refined Sugar

Excessive sugar consumption slows down your thinking, causes memory difficulties, mood imbalances and can literally shrink your brain.

If you can’t live without sweets, use sweet sources from nature in moderation – honey, maple syrup, molasses.
Enjoy baked goods and sweetened foods as an occasional treat, rather than daily.

[su_expanding_quote_without_link alignment=”right” source=”Leslie Korn, Nutrition Essentials for Mental Health” full_quote=”High blood sugar levels affect mental function. When blood sugar drops, it can lead to irritability, anxiety, nervousness, and foggy thinking. High blood sugar is one of the biggest risk factors for depression. Children and adults with severe mood swings and irritability experience significant improvement when blood sugar imbalances and carbohydrate addiction are addressed.”” short_quote=”High blood sugar levels affect mental function. “]

Recipe Ideas

Pesto Crusted Fish – Color My Food

Bean Salads that Beat Brain Fog – Color My food

Nutrient-Dense Lentil Salads  – Color My food

Healthy Quinoa Bowls: 6 Healthy Ways – Simply Quinoa

You can mix and match these recipes with other ancestral grains

For More Empowerment
Which Food Group is a Proven Brain Booster?

High Blood Sugar Levels Tied to Brain Shrinkage

How Healthy Is Sourdough? How to Make It and More

Pumpernickel Bread Nutrition Facts and Health Benefits

 

References
1. Brain foods: the effects of nutrients on brain function (2008). Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2805706/

2. Sourdough Microbiome Comparison and Benefits. (2021). Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8306212/

 

Good Mood Food

Do you experience brain fog, mood swings or constant anxiety?

Eating more nutrient-dense whole foods can help balance your emotions, your mood and improve your cognitive function. Good mental health, just like physical health, depends on adequate nutrition. If you are low on a few key vitamins or minerals, you are more likely to experience issues with mood swings or anxiety.  Give your brain the building blocks it needs to thrive.

[su_expanding_quote_book alignment=”right” source_author=”Drew Ramsey, MD” source_title=”Eat to Beat Depression and Anxiety” full_quote=”There are a variety of food categories that can aid in your quest for a healthier brain –and remission from depression and anxiety symptoms. They are leafy greens, rainbow fruits and veggies, seafood, meat, eggs and dairy, fermented foods, dark chocolate. Foods from these groups contain the important nutrients you need to feed the good bugs in your gut, reduce inflammation, and put your brain into grow mode. All things that can help with depression and anxiety” short_quote=”Foods from these groups contain the important nutrients you need –and can help with depression and anxiety symptoms.”]

You can get brain essential nutrients in these food categories. Make greens and rainbow foods the major components of your meals.

Greens and Cruciferous Vegetables

Leafy vegetables are the most nutrient-dense (nutrients per calorie) foods on the planet. Spinach, kale, arugula, watercress, beet greens, collards, Swiss chard are all great options. Cruciferous vegetables include broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts and cabbage.

Rainbow Fruits and Veggies

Every color in our vegetables represents a different family of phytochemicals (protective, healing chemical compounds found in plants).

Red/purple foods are especially nourishing for your brain. Berries are the rock stars for brain health, but all red/purple foods have especially powerful anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and DNA-enhancing properties that help keep your brain fighting fit.

[su_expanding_quote_book alignment=”right” source_author=”Leslie Korn” source_title=”Nutrition Essentials for Mental Health” full_quote=”There are a variety of nutrients that act as antioxidants to reduce inflammation and oxidative stress in the brain. Carotenoids found in fruits and vegetables, especially the dark leafy greens and red spectrum, are anti-inflammatory and antioxidant and they improved cognitive health. Several high fat foods like avocado or avocado oil significantly increase absorption of the carotenoids” short_quote=” There are a variety of nutrients that act as antioxidants to reduce inflammation and oxidative stress in the brain.”]

Quality-sourced Protein:

  • Pastured eggs: Rich in nutrients needed to build brain cells, linked to lower rates of anxiety symptoms.
  • Fish and seafood: Anchovies, sardines, oysters, mussels, salmon, cod are among the most nutrient dense foods you can eat –  rich in brain nutrients omega-3 fatty acids and B vitamins.
  • Sustainably raised meat (beef, lamb, goat, and chicken).  Loaded with essential amino acids, vital healthy fats, rich in B12 and E, vitamins, essential minerals iron, selenium, and zinc.

Essential Fats: Avocado, coconut, olives, nuts and nut butters, olives, grass-fed butter. Omega-3 fatty acids are vital to the brain. They also help you absorb the vitamins, minerals and other nutrients essential for brain health.

Fermented Foods: Kefir, yogurt, miso, sourdough, sauerkraut, kombucha and kimchi add beneficial bacteria to your system to help support brain health. These feed the good bacteria in your gut that support brain health.

Nuts, Beans and Seeds: A small serving nuts and seeds gives you a mix of plant-based protein, healthy fats and slow burning carbs, fiber, zinc, iron and essential vitamins. Think of nuts and seeds as a condiment; add to overnight oats, salads, grain bowls, curry, and meatloaf.

What to Do?

Choose the foods in these categories that you enjoy eating. Experiment and gradually add in those you’re not familiar with. Try new ways of eating foods you may think you don’t like. Here are a couple of ways to are just a few fun ways to add in more of these foods on a regular basis.

Be mindful of what you eat. Keep a food journal for a week and jot down the foods from each category that you every day. How many colors did you get? How many plant foods? Quality protein? This about progress, not perfection. Wherever you are is ok, just build up one food, one day at a time.

Eating nutrient dense, whole foods from nature is a powerful way to care for  your brain and your body.

References

Ramsey, Drew (2021). Eat to beat depression and anxiety. New York, NY: HarperWave.

Korn, Leslie (2016). Nutrition essentials for mental health. New York, NY: W.W. Norton and Company.

Learn more:

Mood Food: Nutrition for Your Brain – GBC Nutrition

20 Foods to Naturally Increase Your Brain Power – Mind Body Green

Eat to Beat Depression and Anxiety – Drew Ramsey MD

Updated  – original posted August 2021 

Nourish your Brain, Boost your Mood

The foods you eat impact the structure and health of your brain. It is the most complex organ in your body — home to tens of billions of neurons and cells. It uses 20-percent of everything you eat. Give it plenty of good fuel to maintain concentration throughout the day.
Your brain also requires certain nutrients to stay healthy. When it doesn’t get enough of these essential nutrients, your cognitive function, mood and overall brain health will suffer. Nutritional deficiencies such as vitamin B12, B9 and zinc, can cause symptoms of depression and dementia — low mood, fatigue, cognitive decline, and irritability.

A food lifestyle rich in brain food can help you

A quick look at these brain essential nutrients and their benefits.

Brain Essential Nutrient Benefit
Folate (Vitamin B9) Helps create new cells
Iron Builds hemoglobin, a protein in red blood cells that transports oxygen from your lungs to your brain.
Omega-3 fatty acids Builds and repair brain cells
Magnesium Helps regulate several important neurotransmitters, including those that facilitate mood
Potassium Needed for every electric impulse that travels along a neuron
Selenium Helps create powerful antioxidant in your brain and is necessary for proper functioning of the thyroid gland which is involved in regulating mood, energy, and anxiety
Thiamin (Vitamin B1) Fundamental to your brain health because of its role in energy production
Vitamin A It is linked to neuroplasticity – your brain’s ability to grow and adapt in response to the environment
Vitamin B6 Plays a pivotal role in brain development and function
Vitamin B12 Vital for production of mood-regulating brain chemicals serotonin and dopamine; helps, transmit signals more efficiently and effectively across brain cells
Vitamin C antioxidant that can counteract damage caused by free radicals in your brain cells
Zinc helps to regulate your brain signaling and neuroplasticity

Bottom line: You can choose the building materials you provide your brain

What to do?

Always aim to first get your nutrients from whole foods from nature. The power is in the synergy, they way the work together with other nutrients in food, rather than supplements only. Mix and match from your favorite foods in these brain nutrient-rich food categories.

  • Leafy greens and cruciferous
  • Rainbow vegetables and fruits
  • Seafood and fish
  • Beans, nuts and seeds
  • Sustainably sourced meat, poultry, eggs

What will you feed your brain today?

Recipes ideas
4 Nutrient Dense Breakfast Casseroles – Color My Food

Sheet pan dinners – Cooking Classy

15 Healthy Buddha Bowls – Fit Food Finds

Mix and Match Stir Fry Recipes – Fannetastic Food

For More Empowerment
Brain Food – Scientific American

Eating with Mental Health in Mind – Mental Health America

Eating for Your Neurotransmitters – Deanna Minich

 

 

References
Ramsey, Drew. (2021). Eat to beat depression and anxiety. New York, NY: HarperCollins.

What I Wish I’d Known about Brain Health

I walked into the waiting room with my brilliant, charismatic father, my mentor, my friend. He had come all the way from Bolivia to see a neurologist in the Texas Medical Center. “I don’t look like that, do I?” he asked, noticing the patients already there. I shook my head, reinforcing his notion that he didn’t belong there.

A few months earlier he had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s in our hometown Cochabamba, Bolivia. As often happens with the diagnosis of any major disease, particularly one that has no cure, disbelief was forefront. After careful research and months of waiting, we were able to get this appointment with a world-renowned specialist in Parkinson’s disease.

I will always remember that summer day. Going from sweltering Houston heat that sticks clothing to your skin in seconds between the parking garage and the frigid blast of air-conditioning upon entering a building.

Disbelief is the first stage of grief. It would morph into a roller coaster of bargaining, anger, grief, depression, acceptance, resistance and learning over the next fourteen years.

This is what I wish I had known that fateful day when my beloved daddy received confirmation of a Parkinson’s diagnosis. Cognitive decline is not inevitable. We can reduce the risks, and progression, of degenerative brain diseases.

  1. Food REALLY matters – Eat real food from nature. Get the right balance of macronutrients: quality protein, fats from nature, and carbs from plants. Essential fatty acids are especially critical for the brain. Avoid processed foods, minimize sugar and refined grains (wheat flour especially). There is a strong correlation wiht sugar and Alzheimer’s, so much that Alzheimer’s is called Type 3 diabetes.
  2. Micronutrients matter. Vitamins, essential minerals and phytochemicals (natural chemical compounds in platn foods that have protective and healing effects). Key micronutrients like Vitamin B and D and Omega-3 fatty acids are critical for normal brain function across the lifespan. Low levels can increase the risk of neurodegeneration. Get your micronutrients by eating a WIDE diversity of plant foods, including nuts and seeds, herbs and spices.
  3. Digestion matters – Digestion is the chemical and mechanical breakdown of food. Proper digestion releases nutrients for absorption through the lining of into the bloodstream and carried wherever needed. If digestion doesn’t function properly, nutrients are not adequately absorbed and delivered to the brain and rest of your body.
  4. Gut health mattersGut is the gastrointestinal system (GI) made up by the esophagus, stomach, small and large intestine. Gut health is directly linked to brain health. People suffering from Parkinson’s have different patterns of gut dysfunction than healthy people. Gut dysbiosis (dysfunction) plays a pivotal role in the development and progression of Parkinson’s disease, and is also linked to depression and anxiety.
  5. Sleep matters – Improving your sleep promotes brain health and may reduce risks of developing Parkinson’s/cognitive decline. Your brains is most active when asleep — storing memories, removing toxins and waste, making repairs. Build a regular sleep routine in and in a dark room free of light pollution from electronic devices.
  6. Stress matters – Stress, anxiety, depression and strong negative emotions decrease brain activity. The communication between the brain and gut is clearly related to chronic stress. Excess cortisol (stress hormone) over time interferes with neuronal plasticity—the brain’s ability to adapt and learn, can lead to a suppressed immune system, and to full-blown depression.
  7. Toxins matter – Environmental toxins, toxic mold, and air pollution are significant contributing factors in the development of Parkinson’s disease. Avoid, or minimize, the most pesticide-laden produce. There is a direct correlation with pesticides in Parkinson’s patients, and also with dry cleaner chemicals. Drink filtered water, invest in a water filter at home. Heavy metals such as mercury and aluminum can present dementia-like systems.
  8. Movement matters – Aerobic exercise (like walking) enhances neuroplasticity, promotes the growth and survival of neurons and appears to have the most favorable effects on brain health and Parkinson’s disease progression.

What to do?

  • Eat food as close to nature as possible. To support a healthy gut and a healthy brain, gradually increase consumption of plant foods until you reach 8 servings/day. Eat a variety of types and colors: leafy greens, cruciferous vegetables, rainbow vegetables and fruits, beans, nuts and seeds, herbs and spices. Aim for 2 – 3 colors at each meal. Purple/blue/red foods are especially beneficial for brain health
  • Improve your digestive function and your gut health
  • Build sustainable stress resiliency practices — mindful breathing, movement, gratitude, nature…whatever works best for you.
  • Honor your sleep
  • Reduce your exposure to toxins

I will always wonder –  what if we had known this information years ago? How different would the outcome have been for my dad, for his quality of life? For all of us who loved him?

Former Congressman, senator, ambassador, powerful historian that he was, visionary and architect of democracy, how much more could he have contributed to the nation he so dearly loved? And to the cause of democracy he dedicated his whole life to?

I will never know. What I do know is that with this knowledge about functional nutrition and the brain, I can help others to improve cognitive function, physical vibrancy and reduce risks of degenerative brain diseases. Change-maker that he was, my amazing father would love that.

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Updatedfrom December 2021 post.

 

Good Mood Orange Foods: 8 Pumpkin Breakfasts

Eating more rainbow foods boosts mental fitness and brain health. Each color is caused by specific phytochemicals phytochemicals (natural chemical compounds) that

Orange and yellow fruits and vegetables are rich in vitamin C and carotenoids. There are more than 600 different types of carotenoids! These beneficial nutrients can

  • protect you from disease and enhance your immune system
  • some carotenoids convert to vitamin A in your body
  • Vitamin A helps promote healthy vision, cell growth and is essential nutrient for your brain health. It  facilitates neuroplasticity – your brain’s ability to build new neurons and create new connections
[su_expanding_quote_book alignment=”full” source_author=”Drew Ramsey, MD” source_title=”Eat to Beat Depression and Anxiety” full_quote=”Eating rainbow fruits and vegetables is a great way to not only get important phytochemicals, but also fiber for the good bugs in your gut to thrive on. Flavonoids are responsible for the bright colors of these foods – and you can only get these health-promoting molecules in the plants you eat. Orange options get their sunny color from carotenoids, which convert into brain-boosting vitamin A.” short_quote=”Orange plant foods get their sunny color from carotenoids, which convert into brain-boosting vitamin A.”]

An easy way to eat more good mood orange foods is to put pumpkin into your breakfast.  Here are 8 of my favorite pumpkin breakfast recipes because they are delicious and nutrient dense. All can be made with canned pumpkin puree (not pie filling) – a great time saver. These recipes are good sources of:

  • healthy fats from nature
  • carbs from vegetables and fruit
  • Vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals
  • Fiber
  • spices

Boost the protein content by enjoying with Greek yogurt or kefir, or having hard boiled eggs or breakfast sausage on the side with the baked oatmeal and pancakes.

Pumpkin Pie Smoothie Bowl – Hummusapien

I add plain Greek yogurt or kefir for protein, and 1 tablespoon of flax or hemp seeds.

Skinny Pumpkin Granola – Minimalist Baker

Granola is a staple in my kitchen. I always make a double batch, usually a variation of CMF Granola, but this caught my attention for the additional nutrients: flaxseeds and the combination of oats and quinoa. It’s delicious, nutritious!

Enjoy granola over a plain-Greek yogurt, with a tablespoon of hempseed/ground flaxseed and tossed with seasonal fruit.

Pumpkin Pie Chia Pudding – Eat the Gains

This makes a marvelous breakfast parfait – simply layer chia pudding with plain Greek yogurt  or granola, or both!

OR add 1/4 cup of cooked quinoa to the chia pudding for more nutrient density. Add more milk of choice to desired texture.

Pumpkin Pie Overnight Oats – My Whole Life

A favorite because I can make it ahead. I always multiply by 4 and put in mason jars so breakfast is easy.

Toppings:

  • Chopped nuts (pecans or walnuts usually)
  • Dried cranberries
  • Fresh, chopped pear on occasion

Make Ahead Pumpkin Spice Oatmeal – Kiwi and Bean

When the temperature drops and calls for hot breakfast, this is a delicious, nutritious option that you can make ahead. I love the option of millet as an extra grain. Replace with quinoa or buckwheat – I cook the additional grain with the oatmeal rather than toasting to put it on top.

Top with

  • Ground flaxeed or hempseed
  • Granola
  • Chopped nuts
  • Dried cranberries

Double (or triple depending on your family size)

Creamy Pumpkin Quinoa Breakfast – Cotter Crunch

In winter months I alternate between hot oatmeal breakfasts and this type of quinoa breakfast. Make the night before and warm up individual portions the morning as needed. Add a dollop of plain Greek yogurt and sprinkle with granola for texture contrast.

Pumpkin Baked Oatmeal – Joy of Sunshine

Use old-fashioned oats. I really like the apple sauce in this and reduce maple syrup by half. Make it the night before. Keep the cream cheese separate. Warm up in the morning and top with some of the cream cheese.

It also freezes nicely in individual portions. Makes a great after school snack.

Pumpkin Quinoa Pancakes – Simply Quinoa

Pancakes are always popular at our house, so I’ve searched out more nutrient-dense options. These are hearty and filling. As always, make a double (or triple batch) and freeze for later in the week. In general I make sausage too. They freeze well.

Top with:

What to Do?

  1. Make a double batch of the pumpkin granola as a staple for the month
  2. Choose either chia pudding or overnight oats and make enough to have a couple times throughout the week
  3. OR instead of cold chip pudding/overnight oats, make oatmeal one week and quinoa the next
  4. Make pancakes or muffins on the weekend. Double batch to have throughout the week.

Voila! You have a whole week of breakfast.

Originally published November 2021