Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Strength Training Benefits As You Age

Sometimes it feels like the number of things that stop working in your body directly correlates to the number candles on your birthday cake.

But you can regain some control in a number of ways — and improving your strength is one of them.

Muscle strength is important for bone health, balance and just being strong enough for daily activities, such as climbing stairs or carrying groceries. Regular muscle strengthening has also been shown to help you manage blood pressure, blood sugar and blood cholesterol levels, as well as prevent and control heart disease and type 2 diabetes.  Research also shows it's good for your brain

There is evidence that both improvements in cognitive function and depressive symptoms in older adults are linked to the amount of strength gains or intensity of the strength training.

Why it's downhill from 30
Each decade from the age of 30 we lose 3 to 5 per cent of the muscle mass we naturally carry, which causes us to lose muscle function — a condition called sarcopenia.  But this doesn't mean you necessarily end up frail, there are studies on men in their 70s who'd been lifting weight for 15 to 20 years and their muscles looked identical to that of 20-year-old men in terms of size and strength.

The really good news — it's never too late to get started, even if you've never picked up a weight in your life.  There are muscle biopsies of people over 100 years old and you can see changes in their muscle cells, even at that age.
Size matters - but strength matters more

While having big muscles might hold some appeal for some of us, it's your strength that really matters when it comes to functioning well in old age. And if you're training right, getting stronger is relatively easy, even if your body type doesn't build muscle easily.

So what's the right kind of training? That depends on your fitness and health goals.
High-intensity resistance training is the best way to increase and maintain muscle function. The best results come from high-intensity interval training, which is lifting weight that's 80 per cent or more of the maximum amount you can physically do. Two, preferably three, sessions a week is ideal and the most important thing is intensity and progression — so increasing the amount of weight you're lifting once it stops feeling hard to lift. If you can tolerate it, increase your power as well as strength by performing high-velocity, high-intensity movements. An example of that would be lifting a heavy weight really fast (concentric phase), then slowly lowering it down (eccentric phase). If you don't have arthritis or other joint problems, adding high-impact movements, like jumping, improves bone density, can help to prevent osteoporosis.

Weight machines good for older people
It is important to get guidance from an experienced trainer, especially if you're new to lifting weights, have injuries or suffer any other health issues, cannot be underestimated. Training the older person needs to have a double-barrelled perspective. It's not just sarcopenia, you also want to prevent falls. So there needs to be two styles of programming: increasing strength and muscle mass safely, and preventing falls.  Machines are a great option for working on strength because they do all the stability work. The machine controls your movement which is great, especially if you haven't trained before and have poor body awareness — you can work hard with good control.

Adding in stability work will help to prevent falls, so include exercises like banded walks, single-leg balancing and woodchops on the cable machine.
Aerobic exercise still important

Despite all the benefits of strength training, it's not going to give you all the health benefits you need. So you still need to make the effort to get some regular aerobic exercise, such as walking, swimming or cycling.

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

The Importance of Shoulder Health

The shoulder is a very complex and important joint. Not only is it important to your training, but it is important in everyday life. Your shoulders play a part in just about every single upper body movement. Your shoulder can move in multiple planes of motion and perform multiple functions so any sort of limitation can be potentially dangerous and may even cause injury. But what makes shoulder mobility so important? How can you tell if your shoulders are adequately mobile and how do you address it if they aren't?

First, let’s talk about the general importance of shoulder mobility. One thing that needs to be understood when addressing shoulder mobility is that shoulder mobility itself also requires adequate stability of the scapula. Without a stable scapula, impingement can occur and your shoulder mobility and health could be compromised. But if your shoulders have too much stability, it can restrict your range of motion, affecting your ability to perform a wide variety of common movements in and outside of the gym. Speaking in terms of a gym setting, any overhead movement is going to be compromised by poor shoulder mobility. If you cannot get into a proper pressing position with your shoulders, you run the risk of putting unwanted stress on your shoulders in that position. This leaves a large amount of the shoulder structure susceptible to injury. Similarly, poor shoulder mobility can also affect your squat even though it’s a lower body movement. Hand placement in the squat will not only affect placement of the bar but also tension on your shoulders. The narrower your hands are on the bar in your squat, the better shelf you will have to place the bar comfortably; however, your shoulders need to be mobile enough for this narrow hand placement. Lacking that shoulder mobility can also potentially cause pain in the shoulders, regardless of hand placement. The list of movements affected by poor shoulder mobility can go on and on, but the idea is that you NEED proper shoulder mobility to safely and effectively perform a large majority of weight bearing exercises.

How do you know if your shoulder mobility is good enough? One of the most common tests performed to check for adequate shoulder mobility is called the reach test. To perform this, you will start with one arm high overhead and the other arm low at your side. Then you will bend each of your elbows in an attempt to have both of your hands meet in the middle of your back. You should repeat this on both sides. The goal is for your hands to be able to touch one another. If this is the case, your shoulder mobility should be considered good or even great if you can overlap your fingers. If your hands cannot touch, measure the distance in between your fingertips. If there is more than 2 inches between your fingers, you have some work to do to increase your shoulder mobility. 

If you discovered you have poor shoulder mobility, it should be made priority in your training to increase your shoulder mobility. But how do you improve it? Here are a few ways to improve your shoulder mobility that I've personally found to be helpful and I hope they work for you too!

Train your back muscles as much, if not more than your chest muscles. This will help prevent over-tightness of the chest which can cause forward rolled shoulders leading t poor positioning and a lack of mobility. I would argue that neglecting this is one of the primary causes of poor shoulder mobility and also one of the easiest ones to address.

Wall extension. For this, you will want your heels and back flat against the wall, the back of your hands to the wall and your elbows at a 90 degree angle. From there, try to reach up as far as you can while also keeping your arms pinned against the wall. This is an easily repeatable movement that you can do almost everywhere.

Door stretch. For this, you will walk through a doorway and grab each side of the doorway, walking forward so that your hands are behind you. You'll take a bit of a forward lean until you feel a good stretch in your chest and anterior shoulder.

“L-Arm Stretch”. For this movement, you will begin lying on your stomach with one arm crossed over your chest (you will be lying on your arm). From there, you will want to flatten your chest toward the floor to get a good stretch in the outside of the shoulder. Make sure to move in and out of this position a few times prior to holding the stretch.

Each of these movements should help improve your shoulder mobility. Continue to assess and monitor your improvements!

There needs to be a balance of stability and strength within your shoulder. Having both will help improve your movement quality and comfort as well as help keep you from getting injured when exercising. You also must be sure to assess your shoulder mobility. Do not make assumptions on your mobility just based on how you perceive you move, as you can potentially not notice poor mobility patterns if you have nothing else to compare it to. Whether you have low or high mobility, you should consistently monitor this. Poor mobility needs to be improved, while great mobility should be maintained!

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Remedies For Dry Itchy Skin

1. Coconut oil
Coconut oil has emollient properties  
Emollients fill the spaces between skin cells, creating a smooth surface. That’s why the saturated fatty acids that occur naturally in coconut oil can hydrate and smooth the skin.
You can use coconut oil daily on even the most sensitive parts of your body. These include the area underneath your eyes and around your mouth. Another advantage of coconut oil is that you don’t need to mix it with anything. Coconut is gentle enough for substantial everyday use.

2. Petroleum jelly
According to a study petroleum jelly products can heal skin in older adults. Petroleum jelly, also known as mineral oil, covers the skin in a protective layer. It traps moisture underneath. This helps heal dry, irritated skin patches.

3. Oatmeal baths
Oatmeal is common folk remedy for irritated skin. A 2015 study showed why grandmothers and great-grandmothers have been recommending this home remedy for centuries: It works.
Colloidal oatmeal has antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties that soothe irritation. This remedy is especially effective if you’re seeking to relieve itching. After you’ve taken an oatmeal bath, make sure you moisturize your skin to lock in the barrier.
You can make an oatmeal bath at home. Use a food processor to chop oatmeal into a fine powder, then stir it into warm water. You can also try one of the many commercial products available to make an oatmeal soak.

4. Antioxidants and omega-3s
When your skin is dry, it means you’re exposing it to elements that are damaging skin cells faster than your body can repair them. There are some foods that can help your skin appear healthier, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Foods rich in antioxidants can minimize damage from toxins and help your body make healthy cells. Some of the foods that contribute to skin health include:
Foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids like salmon, may also contribute to a glowing-skin diet.

5. Gloves
Hands tend to experience the most direct contact with environmental irritants. These include dish soap and laundry detergent.
Get in the habit of wearing gloves when your hands are in water. Your hands also take a lot of abuse when temperatures drop and you’re working outside in the cold.
Wearing insulated gloves while doing household chores, or when you’re outside in extreme temperatures can cut down on dry, irritated skin.

6. Adjust your shower temperature
The American Academy of Dermatology notes that relieving dry skin is sometimes as simple as changing your shower routine. While most people tend to take hot showers, these can scald the skin and cause damage.
And some soaps that claim to moisturize and repair the skin can cause the opposite effect. They can trigger allergic reactions and make the skin thinner with harsh chemicals.
Take short showers with water that’s warm, not hot. And look for soaps that are fragrance-free and gentler on skin than traditional soaps.

7. Use a humidifier
Keeping a humidifier in your home can help minimize the dryness caused by home heating systems. Though gas and electric heat strip moisture from the air, a humidifier set to 60 percent is enough to offset this effect, according to the Harvard Medical School. 

8. Avoid allergens and irritants
A sudden occurrence of dry skin might be connected to the clothes you’re wearing or what you’ve exposed your skin to.
Sitting by the fireplace, spending time in chlorinated or chemically-treated water, or even wearing wool clothing can all irritate your skin and make it feel dry. Check what you’re putting your skin through, and try to treat it gently.

It’s important to preserve healthy skin. Your skin is the first line of defense against bacteria and viruses. When your skin is compromised by itching, an infection can occur. You may want to incorporate a good moisturizer into your daily routine, even when your skin isn’t bothering you.
In fact, maintaining a healthy skin barrier daily is one of the best ways to prevent outbreaks of dry skin. Another essential skincare tip is to use a moisturizing sunscreen every day to prevent skin damage and dryness.
Make sure to wear loose-fitting, cotton clothing that draws sweat away from the skin when you’re exposed to high temperatures or skin-irritating conditions.
Remember that extremely dry skin can be an indication of a more serious condition. If home remedies aren’t helping, you may need to see a doctor to get a prescription treatment to relieve your dry skin.

Monday, November 25, 2019

How To Successfully Navigate Thanksgiving Day

1. Exercise 1st Thing in The Morning Thanksgiving Day
There are all kinds of 5k Turkey Trots going on which is a fun and festive way to start your day with a really good calorie burn. Does this mean you get to eat extra because you worked out? Not really. It means your workout will help you to burn off the extra calories you are bound to consume!

2. Don’t Starve Yourself All Day
Most people think if they don’t eat they will be able to eat all they want at the Thanksgiving dinner table. The reality is, you have now put your body into starvation mode. The minute you finally do eat, #1 you are going to be so ravenous that you eat all that is in sight, and #2, your body is going to take everything you eat, healthy or not so healthy, and store it for reserves since you put your body into starvation mode. Your best bet is to still eat small meals throughout the day. Ex: 1 Egg or 2 egg-white omelet with veggies and a ½ cup berries for breakfast,  a nice chicken salad for lunch and some deli turkey and crackers for a snack to keep you going before dinner. Then, even after all that eating, you still eat dinner! This will keep your  metabolism revving all day making it much easier burning off the excess calories.

3. Eat Everything But in Small Portions
Don’t go eat-crazy as if you’ll never see this food again. The reality is, you most likely will have mini Thanksgiving feasts for days with leftovers. So go light, try everything, and try really hard NOT to stuff yourself! This is key! The minute you stuff yourself, whatever your body cannot use for muscle repair and energy, will be stored as fat. So make a decision to not overeat.

4. Take a Walk After Dinner or a Bike Ride
Something active will help in the digestion process and it will also add to your calorie burn vs. the alternative go-to of lounging on the couch in front of the football game as the tryptophan sinks in and your body goes into hibernation for the remainder of the day.

5. Don’t Take Too Many Leftovers
Do you really need to be eating this kind of food every day, for every meal for the next week? Let me help as you try to justify that answer. The answer is NO. Resist the mashup of potatoes, turkey, gravy, stuffing, corn, and everything else you can cram into that double-duty  zip lock. Just take one more meal’s worth. Trust that your meal will taste that much better.

6. Workout Hard The Next Day
The next morning, hit the gym, the outdoors or your home to get another really good calorie burn in.

7. Get Right Back on Track the NEXT Meal
Come breakfast the next day, get  back on top of things! They healthier you eat, the better you will feel post Thanksgiving.
You don’t have to deprive yourself when trying to lose weight, just do, think, eat and move smarter! Stuffing yourself with food is never the answer. Eating small portions is!

Monday, November 11, 2019

Healthy Sources of Vitamin D

1. Salmon
Salmon is a popular fatty fish and a great source of vitamin D.
According to the USDA Food Composition Database, one 3.5-ounce (100-gram) serving of salmon contains between 361 and 685 IU of vitamin D.
However, it’s usually not specified whether the salmon was wild or farmed. This may not seem important, but it can make a big difference.
On average, wild-caught salmon packs 988 IU of vitamin D per 3.5-ounce (100-gram) serving, or 165% of the RDI. Some studies have found even higher levels in wild salmon — up to 1,300 IU per serving.
However, farmed salmon contains only 25% of that amount. Still, a serving of farmed salmon provides about 250 IU of vitamin D, or 42% of the RDI.

2. Herring and Sardines
Herring is a fish eaten around the world. It can be served raw, canned, smoked or pickled.
This small fish is also one of the best sources of vitamin D.
Fresh Atlantic herring provides 1,628 IU per 3.5-ounce (100-gram) serving, which is nearly three times the RDI.
If fresh fish isn't your thing, pickled herring is also a great source of vitamin D, providing 680 IU per 3.5-ounce (100-gram) serving, or 113% of the RDI.
However, pickled herring also contains a high amount of sodium,  which some people consume too much of.
Sardines are a good source of vitamin D as well — one serving contains 272 IU, or 45% of the RDI.
Other types of fatty fish are also good vitamin D sources. Halibut and mackerel provide 600 and 360 IU per serving, respectively. 

3. Cod Liver Oil
Cod liver oil is a popular supplement. If you don't like fish, taking cod liver oil can be key to obtaining certain nutrients unavailable in other sources.
It’s an excellent source of vitamin D — at about 450 IU per teaspoon (4.9 ml), it clocks in at a massive 75% of the RDI. It's been used for many years to prevent and treat deficiency in children.
Cod liver oil is also a fantastic source of vitamin A, with 90% of the RDI in just one teaspoon (4.9 ml). However, vitamin A can be toxic in high amounts.
Therefore, be cautious with cod liver oil, making sure to not take too much.
In addition, cod liver oil is high in omega-3 fatty acids, in which many people are deficient.

4. Canned Tuna
Many people enjoy canned tuna because of its flavor and easy storage methods.
It’s also usually cheaper than buying fresh fish.
Canned light tuna packs up to 236 IU of vitamin D in a 3.5-ounce (100-gram) serving, which is nearly half of the RDI.
It’s also a good source of niacin and vitamin K.
Unfortunately, canned tuna contains methylmercury, a toxin found in many types of fish. If it builds up in your body, it can cause serious health problems.
However, some types of fish pose less risk than others. For instance, light tuna is typically a better choice than white tuna — it's considered safe to eat up to 6 ounces (170 grams) per week.

5. Oysters
Oysters are a type of clam that lives in saltwater. They’re delicious, low in calories and full of nutrients.
One 3.5-ounce (100-gram) serving of wild oysters has only 68 calories but contains 320 IU of vitamin D — over half the RDI.
In addition, one serving packs 2–6 times the RDI for vitamin B12, copper and zinc — far more than multivitamins. 

6. Shrimp
Shrimp is a popular type of shellfish.
Yet unlike most other seafood sources of vitamin D, shrimp are very low in fat.
However, they still contain a good amount of vitamin D — 152 IU per serving, or 25% of the RDI.
They also contain beneficial omega-3 fatty acids, although at lower amounts than many other foods rich in vitamin D.
Shrimp also pack about 152 mg of cholesterol per serving, which is a significant amount.  Yet, this should not be a cause for concern.
No strong evidence supports the idea that dietary cholesterol intake increases heart disease risk.
Even the US Department of Health and Human Services has removed its upper limit for cholesterol intake, stating that overconsumption of cholesterol is not an issue.

7. Egg Yolks
People who don't eat fish should know that seafood is not the only source of vitamin D. Whole eggs are another good source, as well as a wonderfully nutritious food.
While most of the protein in an egg is found in the white, the fat, vitamins and minerals are found mostly in the yolk.
One typical egg yolk from chickens raised indoors contains 18–39 IU of vitamin D, which isn't very high.
However, pasture-raised chickens that roam outside in the sunlight produce eggs with levels 3–4 times higher.
Additionally, eggs from chickens given vitamin D-enriched feed have up to 6,000 IU of vitamin D per yolk. That’s a whopping 10 times the RDI.
Choosing eggs either from chickens raised outside or marketed as high in vitamin D can be a great way to meet your daily requirements.

8. Mushrooms
Excluding fortified foods, mushrooms are the only plant source of vitamin D.
Like humans, mushrooms can synthesize this vitamin when exposed to UV light.
However, mushrooms produce vitamin D2, whereas animals produce vitamin D3.
Though vitamin D2 helps raise blood levels of vitamin D, it may not be as effective as Vitamin D3. 
Nonetheless, wild mushrooms are excellent sources of vitamin D2. In fact, some varieties pack up to 2,300 IU per 3.5-ounce (100-gram) serving — nearly four times the RDI.
On the other hand, commercially grown mushrooms are often grown in the dark and contain very little D2.
However, certain brands are treated with UV light. These mushrooms can provide anywhere from 130–450 IU of vitamin D2 per 3.5 ounces (100 grams).

Monday, November 4, 2019

Vitamin D To Help Fight Colds and The Winter Blues

Vitamin D plays a major role in disease prevention and maintaining optimal health.  It has long been known to be important for bone health, but it serves many other functions. Vitamin D has been linked to the prevention of cancer, immunity to the cold, and the reduction of depression.  It supports cardiovascular health and proper immune function, making you much less likely to get the flu when you have optimal levels!  

Your body can make its own vitamin D when you expose your skin to sunlight.  The UVB rays react with your skin and produce vitamin D3, which is sent to your liver and converted to calcidiol, also known as 25(OH)D.  Generally, 20-30 minutes of mid day sun exposure is sufficient for light skinned people, if you have darker skin you may need to double the time.  Interestingly, once your body has produced enough vitamin D through sun exposure, those same UVB rays will begin to prevent excess vitamin D production.  This means there’s no need to worry about getting too much vitamin D from sunlight.

This is a great natural system, however, if you live the US (or other northern latitudes) it’s very difficult and likely impossible to meet your Vitamin D needs from sunlight during the winter months. 

During this time just about everyone in the US is in need of vitamin D supplementation.  One caveat with taking vitamin D orally is that it is possible to take too much.  However, this is unlikely as you would have to take large amounts very frequently.  As an oral supplement vitamin D3 is preferred over D2 as researchers have found that vitamin D3 is twice as effective as vitamin D2 in raising levels in the body.  Recent research indicates that taking 4000 IU  - 8000 IU per day will put you at an optimal level.  When you take vitamin D orally it is sent to your liver where it is converted to calcidiol, or 25(OH)D, the same as when your body creates it from sunlight. Since vitamin D is fat soluble it’s beneficial to take your vitamin D supplement with a healthy fat for better absorption.  The only way to know for sure the proper supplementation amount for you is to get a blood test for 25(OH)D before you begin supplementing and check it after 6-8 weeks.  An optimal level for 25(OH)D is 50-60 ng/mL.  

In addition to playing a part in your emotional health maintaining optimal Vitamin D levels will support and enhance your athletic performance.  Studies have shown that athletes with optimal serum vitamin D concentrations bounced back better after intense exercise.  As athletes, we know that being able to get out there and feel good in our training also plays a part in our sense of well being!

Monday, October 28, 2019

The Truth About Carbohydrates

1. Carbs Are Not Uniquely Fattening
Scientists once hypothesized that carbs increased the risk of obesity more than fat and protein.
According to this hypothesis, carbs are the primary cause of obesity  due to their ability to raise insulin levels, which in turn promotes the storage of calories as fat. This idea is known as the carbohydrate-insulin model of obesity.
Of course, excessive intake of any calorie-providing nutrient — fat, carb, or protein — is an effective recipe for weight gain and obesity.
But no compelling evidence supports the idea that high-carb diets are especially fattening. In fact, many studies suggest that there is no significant association between high carb intake and obesity.
Nevertheless, healthy low-carb diets have been proven effective for weight loss — at least in the short term.
Scientists believe that their effectiveness is due to the elimination of refined carbs like sugar and an increased focus on healthy, high-fiber carb sources, as well as protein and fat.
Still, one large, 12-month study that compared the effectiveness of a healthy low-carb diet with a healthy low-fat diet detected no significant differences in weight loss.
In short, the quality of the carbs you eat is of greater importance than the proportion of carbs in your diet.
Thus, you should avoid eating a lot of sugar and other refined carbs, and instead focus on whole, carb-rich foods like fruits, vegetables, roots, and tubers.

SUMMARY Carbs don’t cause weight gain unless they contribute to excessive calorie intake. Carb quality is of greater importance. Avoid unhealthy, refined carbs and focus instead on healthy, high-fiber carb sources.

2. Early Humans Frequently Ate Carbs
Learning to cook was a game-changer for early humans, as cooked meat provided increased protein, fat, and calories.
Yet, new evidence indicates that carb-rich foods like root vegetables, legumes, and even grains were cooked and consumed by human ancestors as well.
Cooked carbs would not only have been more nutritious but also more appealing to a hungry hunter-gatherer.
This theory is supported by emerging biological evidence showing that early humans began developing extra copies of the amylase gene, which helps produce the enzymes you need to digest starchy carbs.
In fact, this change in DNA occurred long before humans started farming.
That's why people today can have up to 18 amylase gene copies, indicating that humans have evolved to digest starches more efficiently.
Also, consider that every single cell in your body runs on glucose, which is a carbohydrate sugar. Even the most fat-adapted brain requires at least 20% of its energy from carbs.

SUMMARY Genetics and archaeological evidence suggest that humans ate high-carb foods long before they started farming.

3. Gluten Intolerance Affects Few People
Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye. By cutting carbs from your diet, you automatically cut out gluten, too.
A gluten-free diet  is necessary for the small number of people with celiac disease or some other types of autoimmune disease.
Gluten-free diets may also benefit people with non-celiac gluten sensitivity or wheat intolerance.
However, studies indicate that few people with self-reported gluten sensitivity have this condition at all. One study showed that only 3 out of 59 participants who believed they were gluten sensitive reacted to gluten.
New research strongly suggests that the condition known as non-celiac gluten sensitivity is not sensitivity to gluten at all.
Instead, it appears to be sensitivity to fructan, a type of soluble fiber or FODMAPs found in wheat.
FODMAPs like fructans cause digestive symptoms like gas, diarrhea, and stomach pain in some people — especially those with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
If you have FODMAPs sensitivity, there is no reason for you to avoid carbs altogether. Instead, try to identify and avoid only those foods to which you’re sensitive.

SUMMARY Though removing gluten is crucial for some people, current evidence suggests that most people don't benefit from a gluten-free diet.

4. Fiber — a Carbohydrate — Is Important for Optimal Health
Nutrition is rarely black and white.
Still, most experts agree that eating fiber is good for your health.
In particular, soluble fiber is known to benefit heart health and weight management.
The thick and sticky soluble fiber found in high-carb foods like legumes, fruits, and oats helps slow down digestion.
Fiber also increases the time it takes to digest and absorb nutrients, contributing to reduced body weight and improved health.

SUMMARY Most dietary fiber is made of carbohydrates. Soluble fiber is particularly beneficial for weight maintenance and heart health.

5. Gut Bacteria Rely on Carbs for Energy
The balance between beneficial and harmful gut bacteria may influence your risk for many lifestyle diseases, both physical and psychological.
To grow, your beneficial gut bacteria need carbs that they can ferment for energy.
As it turns out, soluble fiber appears to be the important nutrient they feed on.
Once again, some of the best food sources of soluble fiber include legumes and oats, which are high in carbs.

SUMMARY Eating soluble fiber may play a crucial role in maintaining a healthy balance of gut bacteria.

6. Legumes Are a Superfood — on a Nutrient-To-Cost Basis
Legumes are edible plant seeds that include beans, peas, chickpeas, lentils, and peanuts.
They’re naturally high in carbs and thus often excluded from low-carb eating patterns. They’re also eliminated on a strict paleo diet. 
However, legumes are nutritionally unique.
They’re one of the few foods rich in both protein and fiber. Legumes are also high in vitamins and minerals. Plus, calorie for calorie, they’re one of the most nutrient-dense foods available.
Additionally, they’re very cheap to produce and package compared to other high-protein food sources like meat and dairy.
This remarkable nutrition-to-cost ratio is why legumes are an important food staple in many developing countries.

SUMMARY Legumes are incredibly healthy and amazingly cheap. They’re rich in protein, fiber, and other valuable nutrients. Calorie for calorie, they’re one of the most nutritious foods.

7. Cutting Carbs Does Not Improve Exercise Performance
It’s a myth that a low-carb diet can outperform a conventional high-carb diet for athletes.
In a well-designed study in cyclists performing a 62-mile (100-km) trial with intermittent sprints, participants followed either a low-carb or a high-carb diet for the week leading up to the test.
Though both groups had similar race times, the high-carb group outperformed the low-carb group's sprint output on all four occasions.
While a single study is insufficient to draw solid conclusions, the weight of evidence overwhelmingly supports these results.
If you're fat-adapted on a low-carb diet, you can still perform very well, but no high-quality studies show that cutting carbs allows you to outperform those on higher-carb diets.
This holds true for cardio endurance events like cycling, as well as weight training and bodybuilding for muscular strength and endurance.
For those who simply exercise to keep fit, a low-carb diet will likely not have a negative impact on your performance — but it probably won't improve it either.

SUMMARY Athletes don’t perform better on low-carb diets than higher-carb ones. Performance is similar for endurance but worse for sprinting if you’ve cut down on carbs.

8. Carbs Don't Cause Brain Damage
Some claim that carbs cause harmful brain inflammation. However, this idea is not based on scientific evidence.
Unlike refined grains, whole grains are high in magnesium and fiber — both of which are linked to less inflammation.
In fact, the extensively studied Mediterranean diet, which is rich in whole grains, is strongly associated with slower age-related mental decline and a lower risk of Alzheimer's disease.
On the other hand, high intake of refined carbs and added sugar should be avoided. As part of an unhealthy lifestyle, these ingredients reduce overall health, adversely affecting your body as a whole.

SUMMARY There is no evidence linking whole carb sources to brain damage or diseases like Alzheimer's. In fact, the Mediterranean diet, which is rich in whole grains, is linked to improved brain health.

9. The World's Longest-Lived Populations Eat Plenty of Carbs
The Blue Zones — the regions where people live measurably longer — provide scientists with unique insights into certain eating patterns.
The island of Okinawa in Japan has the most centenarians (people who live over the age of 100) in the world.
Their diet is very high in carb-rich sweet potatoes, green vegetables, and legumes. Prior to 1950, a whopping 69% of their calorie intake came from sweet potatoes alone.
Another long-living population inhabits the Greek island of Ikaria. Nearly 1 in every 3 people lives to be 90, and they eat a diet rich in legumes, potatoes, and bread.
Several other Blue Zone regions share similar dietary traits, indicating that carbs are not causing problems for these people.

SUMMARY Some of the world's longest-living populations eat diets with plenty of high-carb plant foods.

The Bottom Line
It's important to think about foods as a whole and not just consider their individual nutrients. This is especially true when it comes to carbs.
For instance, carb-laden junk foods are unhealthy, providing no nutritional value. They’re today's biggest contributors to excess calories. 
And though low-carb diets can be an effective tool for weight loss and diabetes control, that doesn't mean carbs alone cause weight gain or disease — nor are they the sole cause of the current state of public health.
This depends entirely on the context and varies between individuals.
Some people do well with fewer carbs, while others function just fine eating plenty of carbs from healthy food.  
In any case, whole-carb foods can be part of a healthy diet and don’t need to be avoided at all cost.

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Super Healthy High Carbohydrate Foods

It is a myth that carbs are unhealthy. The truth is that some of the world's healthiest foods are high in carbohydrates and are important nutrient sources.  
While refined carbs may be unhealthy in high amounts, whole food sources of carbs are very healthy.

Here is a list of 12 high-carb foods that also happen to be incredibly healthy.

1. Quinoa
Quinoa is a nutritious seed that has become incredibly popular in the natural health community.
It is classified as a pseudocereal, a seed that is prepared and eaten like a grain.
Cooked quinoa is 21.3% carbs, making it a high-carb food. However, it is also a good source of protein and fiber.
Quinoa is rich in many minerals and plant compounds. It has been linked to health benefits including improved blood sugar control.
It does not contain any gluten, making it a popular alternative to wheat for those on a gluten-free diet. 
Quinoa is also very filling since it is relatively high in fiber and protein. For this reason, it may aid in weight loss.
Summary Quinoa is highly nutritious. It numerous health benefits include improved blood sugar control. Quinoa is also high in protein and fiber, so it may be useful for weight loss.

2. Oats
Oats may be the healthiest whole grain food on the planet.
They are a great source of many vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.  
Raw oats contain 66% carbs, nearly 11% of which is fiber. They are particularly high in a powerful soluble fiber called oat beta-glucan.
Oats are also a relatively good source of protein, containing more than most grains.
Research suggests that oats may reduce the risk of heart disease by lowering cholesterol levels.
Eating oats may also lower blood sugar levels, especially in people with type 2 diabetes.
Furthermore, oats are very filling and may help you lose weight.
Summary Oats contain many beneficial nutrients, including fiber and protein. Oats have been shown to lower blood sugar and cholesterol levels.

3. Buckwheat
Buckwheat is also a pseudocereal.
Despite the name, buckwheat is not related to wheat and does not contain gluten.
Raw buckwheat contains 71.5% carbs, while cooked buckwheat groats contain about 20% carbs.
Buckwheat is very nutritious, containing both protein and fiber. It also has more minerals and antioxidants than most grains. Additionally, it may be particularly beneficial for heart health and blood sugar control, especially in people with diabetes. Buckwheat is the main ingredient in soba noodles, which are popular in Japan.
Summary Buckwheat is highly nutritious and contains more antioxidants and minerals than most grains. Eating buckwheat may have benefits for heart health and blood sugar control.

4. Bananas
Bananas are among the world's most popular fruits.
They are made up of about 23% carbs, either in the form of starches or sugars.
Unripe, green bananas are higher in starches, which transform into natural sugars as the bananas ripen, turning yellow in the process.
Bananas are high in potassium, vitamin B6 and vitamin C. They also contain several beneficial plant compounds.
Due to their potassium content, bananas may help lower blood pressure and improve heart health.
Unripe bananas also contain decent amounts of resistant starch and pectin, both of which support digestive health and feed friendly gut bacteria.
Summary Bananas are high in potassium, which may help regulate blood pressure. Unripe bananas also contain resistant starch and pectin, which can improve digestive health.

5. Sweet Potatoes
Sweet potatoes are a delicious, nutritious tuber.
Cooked sweet potatoes contain about 18–21% carbs. This carb content consists of starch, sugar and fiber. 
Sweet potatoes are a rich source of provitamin A (from beta-carotene), vitamin C and potassium.
They are very rich in antioxidants and may help reduce oxidative damage, lowering the risk of several diseases.
Summary Sweet potatoes are an excellent source of provitamin A (from beta-carotene), as well as several other vitamins and antioxidants.

6. Beetroots
Beetroots are a purple root vegetable, commonly referred to as beets. 
Raw and cooked beets contain about 8–10% carbs, mainly from sugar and fiber.
They are packed with vitamins, minerals, potent antioxidants and plant compounds.
Beets are also high in inorganic nitrates, which transform into nitric oxide in your body. Nitric oxide lowers blood pressure and may decrease the risk of several diseases.
Beet juice is also very high in inorganic nitrates and is often used to enhance physical performance during endurance exercises.
Summary Beets are loaded with vitamins, minerals and plant compounds. They contain high amounts of inorganic nitrates, which can improve health and boost physical performance.

7. Oranges
Oranges are among the world’s most popular fruits.
They are mainly composed of water and contain 11.8% carbs. Oranges are also a good source of fiber.
Oranges are especially rich in vitamin C, potassium and some B vitamins. In addition, they contain citric acid as well as several very potent plant compounds and antioxidants.
Eating oranges may improve heart health and help prevent kidney stones. They may also increase your uptake of iron from food, reducing the risk of anemia.
Summary Oranges are a good source of fiber. They also contain high amounts of vitamin C and other healthy plant compounds. Eating oranges may benefit heart health and help prevent anemia.

8. Blueberries
Blueberries are incredibly delicious.
They are frequently marketed as a superfood due to their high amounts of plant compounds and antioxidants.
They consist mostly of water as well as about 14.5% carbs.
Blueberries also contain high amounts of many vitamins and minerals, including vitamin C, vitamin K and manganese.
Studies have shown that blueberries safeguard your body from oxidative damage. They may also improve memory in older adults.
Summary Blueberries are phenomenally healthy. They contain many vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, and protect your body from oxidative damage.

9. Grapefruit
Grapefruit is a citrus fruit with a sweet, bitter and sour flavor.
It contains about 9% carbs and has high amounts of several vitamins, minerals and plant compounds.
Eating grapefruit can aid weight loss and reduce insulin resistant. Furthermore, eating grapefruit may help prevent kidney stones, lower cholesterol levels and protect against colon cancer.
Summary Grapefruit contains various vitamins, minerals and plant compounds. It may help with weight loss and provide numerous health benefits.

10. Apples
Apples are a popular fruit with a sweet flavor and a distinctive crunchy texture.
They are available in many colors, sizes and flavors, all of which generally contain 13–15% carbs.
Apples boast many vitamins and minerals, but usually only in small amounts.
However, they are a decent source of vitamin C, antioxidants and healthy plant compounds.
Eating apples may benefit health in several ways, such as improving blood sugar control and reducing the risk of heart disease. Apples may also decrease the risk of some types of cancer.
Summary Apples contain a decent amount of vitamin C, antioxidants and plant compounds. Eating apples may improve blood sugar control as well as reduce the risk of heart disease and some cancers.

11. Kidney Beans
Kidney beans are a variety of the common bean. They are part of the legume family.  Cooked kidney beans contain 22.8% carbs in the form of starches and fiber. They are also high in protein.   
Kidney beans are rich in many vitamins, minerals and plant compounds. They’re also rich in antioxidants like anthocyanins and isoflavones.
Their numerous health benefits include improved blood sugar control and reduced risk of colon cancer. However, never eat them raw. Raw or improperly cooked kidney beans are toxic.
Summary Kidney beans contain many vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Cooked kidney beans are also a good source of protein and are linked to several health benefits.

12. Chickpeas
Also known as garbanzo beans, chickpeas are part of the legume family.
Cooked chickpeas contain 27.4% carbs, 8% of which are fiber. They are also a good source of plant-based protein. 
Chickpeas contain many vitamins and minerals, including iron, phosphorus and B-vitamins.
Chickpeas are linked to improved heart and digestive health. They may also help prevent cancer.
Summary Chickpeas are an excellent source of plant-based protein and contain many vitamins and minerals. Eating chickpeas has been linked to benefits for heart and digestive health as well as cancer prevention.

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Healthy Ways To Transition Into Fall

1. Journal About Your 10 Best Summer Memories
Gratitude or happiness journals can help retrain your mind to focus on the positive. Put a new spin on the gratitude journal and spend 20 to 30 minutes (or longer, if you like) writing about each of your top 10 favorite memories from summer. 
The act of writing accesses your left brain, which is analytical and rational. While your left brain is occupied, your right brain is free to create, intuit, and feel. Journaling about positive memories from your summer can evoke a state of mindfulness as you close the chapter on summer and focus on the present.

2. Preserve Your Memories in a Photo Collage
Photos are one of the best ways to induce positive memories. Think about how happy you are when you look back on pictures of yourself and your loved ones enjoying the summer season. Surround yourself with fun photographs that will keep you in happy spirits for months to come. They're also a great conversation piece when friends and family come to visit.

Put together a collage of photos from the summer that you can put in your home or office. Perhaps you can select one photo from each of the fun times you spent time journaling about to represent your "Summer 2015" memories.
Another fun project is to make photo books (you can do this through online photo galleries like Snapfish or iPhoto) to put on your coffee table, or calendars that you can send as gifts.

3. Organize and Pack Away Your Summer Gear
Set aside time to wash and purge this season’s supplies. Now is a good time to wash all summer clothing and determine what you want to hold on to for another season and what can be donated, or given to younger relatives as hand-me-downs.
Do the same with your outdoor supplies like tents, tablecloths, grilling supplies, pool toys, and other items you collected over the summer. Box everything up and store them for next year.

4. Find Your New Flow
Our routines tend to shift with the seasons. For many families, fall is when kids begin a new school year and join extracurricular activities. For others, it may be a time to focus on work, whether it’s at an office or starting new projects around the house.
Going back to school or work doesn't have to be a bummer. It can be an exciting new chapter in your life, if you place your intention on setting new goals and having fun.

As you set your new routine, consider your responsibilities, health and wellness as well as your favorite leisure activities. Make a list of what is most important to you and your family. Your list might include exercise, sleep, proper nutrition, setting new goals, scheduling down time, beginning (or getting back into) a meditation practice, organizing activities, making time for fun and leisure, and establishing a new hobby.
Get the whole family involved to ensure everyone is on ready and excited for the fall routine.

5. Create a New Meal Plan
Fall means new seasonal fruits and vegetables will hit store shelves and your local farmers’ market. Revisit your meal plan and design one that includes fresh seasonal veggies and fruits, and explore new recipes for more grounding foods as you move into the cooler months.

Remember to shop around the outside perimeter of the grocery store, where all the fresh foods can be found. Minimize processed foods that are frozen, come in a box or a can; do your best to get all the colors of the rainbow in your diet each day.
Make it fun and involve the whole family when preparing your meals. Cooking together can be a lot of fun.

Plan and prep your snacks and meals for school or work in advance. Pack smaller containers with seeds, nuts, fresh-cut veggies, and fruits to keep you healthy when you’re on the go. Having healthy snack-size portions to munch on between meals will keep you satisfied and away from the vending machine or cookie jar. The key is to get creative and have fun, while keeping it healthy.

6. Get Daily Exercise or Movement
An active body is an important component to physical, emotional, and mental well-being. Try to get at least 30 minutes of exercise or movement every day. Do your best to make sure you're doing some form of cardio to get your circulation moving, strength-building exercises to develop strong bones and muscle, and stretching to loosen and lengthen your muscles. Whether you're hitting the hiking trails, taking a yoga class, cycling, or swimming, choose an activity that you enjoy. If it’s fun, you'll keep doing it! 

*Remember to check with your doctor before starting a new exercise program, especially if you haven't exercised for a long time or have chronic health problems such as heart disease, diabetes, or arthritis.

7. Get Social
Research shows that individuals who lack social connections or report frequent feelings of loneliness tend to suffer higher rates of infection, depression, and cognitive decline, according to an article published in Journal of Health and Social Behavior. 

Plan fun get-togethers with friends regularly. Whether it’s a weekend getaway, lunch, dinner, a social gathering with friends, or an event in your community, be sure to take time to stay connected with others and have fun. When we maintain a social connection with friends we tend to laugh more, have engaging conversations, and feel more supported through life's challenges.

8. Find an Activity for Shorter Days
Hobbies or activities that keep us mentally stimulated and bring us joy are a great way to pass the time indoors when the temperature falls and the days get shorter. Many people take on various creative projects such as expressive writing, arts and crafts, reading, and re-arranging interior spaces to keep them actively engaged during the fall and winter seasons when outdoor activities aren't as accessible.

You might find that this is a good time to explore taking an online course in an area that you want to learn more about. Coursera is a resource for free online courses offered by top universities and organizations worldwide. Here you can find more than 1,000 options for different topics to study at your own pace. Whatever you choose, find a class that inspires you to learn and keep growing, or one that brings you happiness, joy, and fulfillment.

9. Take Some Down Time
The Western world has trained us to be intently focused on the frenzy of doing, accomplishing, and acquiring. We spend the majority of our days outwardly focused. Unless we’re able to balance our lives with down time, we may find ourselves overloaded or exhausted. Many people think of down time as watching television, running errands, or scrolling through their social media feeds.
For Dr. Deepak Chopra, down time means doing no mental work and just letting the mind and brain simply be. Taking a hot bath, gazing at a fire in the hearth, meditating, or cozying up on the couch with a good book can be incredibly nourishing down-time activities. Down time allows you to rest and reboot, which should give you the focus and stamina to take on work or other challenges.

"The space and quiet that idleness provides is a necessary condition for standing back from life and seeing it whole, for making unexpected connections and waiting for the wild summer lightning strikes of inspiration—it is, paradoxically, necessary to getting any work done," essayist Tim Kreider wrote in The New York Times.

Transitioning gracefully from free-spirited, rule-breaking, and fun-loving summer back into fall routines can be fun, if that is your intention. A smooth transition to fall comes down to identifying how you want to spend your time and creating healthy new habits for the next six months. A small shift in perspective and a bit of self-discipline will help get you into a great new routine in no time at all.

Remember to design your routine with balance in mind and you’ll set yourself up for success as you transition into the fall season.

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Shift Your Mindset For Weight Loss

Shifting your mindset about how to lose weight is the biggest factor in losing weight.  We can't shift our weight from the outside without realizing the correct inner resolve and intention. Most people try to lose weight with the worst state of mind possible: wanting to "fix" themselves. They jump into diets and exercise plans out of self-deprecation, all the while pinching their "trouble" spots, calling themselves "fat" and feeling altogether less-than. They get obsessed with results, focus on quick fixes and lose sight of sustainability and even health.

This type of thinking can be destructive, rather than focusing on the good that can come of weight loss – such as better health, a longer life, more enjoyment in everyday activities and the prevention of diabetes and heart disease – these folks focus on negative thoughts. Ultimately, a negative mindset leads to failure.
Yes, shifting your attitude around weight loss isn't just about feel-goodery; it's about results. In fact, research from Syracuse University shows that the more dissatisfied women are with their bodies, the more likely they are to avoid exercise. And simply thinking that you're overweight predicts future weight gain, according to 2015 research published in the International Journal of Obesity.

While psychologists stress that how you see yourself and your core identity predicts your actions (see yourself as overweight, averse to exercise or unworthy, and you'll act accordingly), biology may also play a role. Research published in Psychosomatic Medicine even show that the stress hormone cortisol, which your adrenal glands secrete every time you get down on yourself or worry about how you measure up on the scale, increases distribution of fat around the abdomen. 

Fortunately, the mind is a flexible thing. Follow these 10 expert-approved tips to change your mindset and make your weight-loss approach healthier, happier and way more effective.

1. Change Your Goals
Losing weight might be a result, but it shouldn't be the goal. Rather, your goals should small, sustainable things over which you have full control.  Did you eat five servings of fruits and veggies today? There's one goal met. What about eight hours of sleep; did you get them in? If so, you can check another goal off of your list.

2. Gravitate to Positivity
Surround yourself with positive people. Doing so provides you an encouraging, emotionally healthy environment in which to invest in yourself. Don't be afraid to ask for help or support. 

3. Rethink Rewards and Punishments
Keep in mind that making healthy choices is a way of practicing self-care.  Food is not a reward, and exercise is not a punishment. They are both ways of caring for your body and helping you feel your best. You deserve both.

4. Take a Breath
Taking a few minutes at the beginning of your workout, or even at the beginning of your day, to slow down and simply focus on the act of breathing can help you set your intentions, connect with your body and even lower your body's stress response, Hutchins says. Lie on your back with your legs extended and place one hand on your stomach and one on your chest. Breathe in through your nose for four seconds, hold for two and then exhale through your mouth for six, she says. With each breath, the hand placed on your stomach should be the only one to rise or fall.

5. Throw Out the Calendar
Patience is also important when you are losing weight in a healthy and sustainable matter. Plus, if you focus on meeting truly actionable goals, like taking 10,000 steps each and every day, there's no need to get wrapped up in a timeline of goals ahead. Every 24 hours comes with new successes; focus on those.

6. Identify Your 'Trouble Thoughts'
Identify the thoughts that get you into trouble and work to stop and change them. Maybe it's your internal dialogue when you look into the mirror. Or cravings when you get stressed. Consciously make them stop by saying 'stop' out loud.  It might sound silly, but that simple action will break your chain of thought and allow yourself the opportunity to introduce a new, healthier one. The best way to do this is to count from one to 100 as many times as you need until the destructive thoughts subside.

7. Don't Step on the Scale
While the scale isn’t intrinsically bad, a lot of us have learned to associate it with self-destructive thoughts and actions. If that's you, don't even bother stepping on the scale until you get to a place in which the number on the scale doesn't define your worth.

8. Talk to Yourself Like You Would a Friend
When it comes to ideals of beauty and body image, we are incredibly hard on ourselves. The standards we adopt for ourselves are punishing. And we'd never hold our friends or loved ones to many of those standards. You deserve the same respect and compassion as anyone else; treat yourself like it.

9. Forget the Whole 'Foods Are Good or Bad' Mentality
Somewhere along the line, we've learned to feel either proud or guilty about every food choice we make. But it's just food, and you shouldn't have to feel guilty about wanting the occasional cookie. Give yourself permission to have a glass wine or a piece of chocolate cake. Remember, all foods fit.

10. Focus on the Attainable
If you have never stepped into a gym before, your goal shouldn't be doing 30 minutes on the elliptical on day one. A better goal may be to go for a 20-minute walk.  If you want to cook more, but have little experience with healthy recipes or are strapped for time, don't expect yourself to craft new healthy recipes every night after work. Maybe consider using a delivery service such as HelloFresh or Blue Apron in which pre-portioned ingredients and recipes are sent to your door, helping you to get acquainted with new ingredients, try out new recipes and build fundamental cooking skills. Start where you are and build from there.

Thursday, October 3, 2019

Healthier & Tasty Pumpkin Spice Latte Alternatives

It’s the start of fall, and we all know what that means: pumpkin spice lattes are back! And while the fans of the so-called “PSL” are everywhere, most people don’t know much about the ingredients or nutritional value of their beloved drink. Let’s take a closer look.

A medium, 16-ounce pumpkin spice latte made with reduced fat milk that’s topped with whipped cream is about 380 calories. While that might seem like a compromise — no whole milk, and not the largest size – it’s still the calorie equivalent of a meal! The medium PSL contains 14 grams of fat (half of it saturated) and 50 grams of sugar (12 teaspoons!).

It’s not all bad news, however. A PSL has a good protein boost with 14 grams (the amount in nearly two eggs or half a chicken breast).
The bottom line: If the PSL is part of your fall tradition, enjoy it – but in moderation. Look at it as a special indulgence, rather than a daily go-to drink.

Keep the same taste you know and love, but consider downsizing your portion. Going down a size saves 100 calories and cuts the fat and sugar by 25 percent. If you also swap out the reduced fat milk to skim milk (or unsweetened soy or almond milk) and skip the whipped cream, you’ll save about 140 calories, and wind up with a drink around 250 calories. And if you think 140 calories isn’t much — if you saved that every day, you’d lose a pound at the end of a month!

There are also a number of good alternatives to get the PSL experience, without the added calories, fat, and sugar.

1. Try a pumpkin pie spice ready-to-drink creamer. 
At a mere 35 calories per tablespoon, you can get the essence of the PSL with a tablespoon or two added to your coffee. Add a splash of the milk (or alternative) of your choice to boost the flavor.

2. Try this 60-calorie pumpkin spice coffee drink.
Take a large mug and add eight ounces hot coffee (regular or decaf), four ounces reduced fat milk (or unsweetened almond, soy or your choice), one teaspoon pumpkin pie spice, ½ teaspoon vanilla, one teaspoon sugar (or low calorie sweetener).

3. Consider this pumpkin spice chai.
Take a large mug and add one cup of oat milk (or milk of your choice), one chai tea bag, ½ teaspoon pumpkin pie spice, ¼ teaspoon ginger, ½ teaspoon vanilla, and one teaspoon sugar (or low calorie sweetener). Heat in a small pan or the microwave. Stir and enjoy. (around 150 calories).

4. Go to town with this frappuccino-esque PSL.

Blend together one medium banana, 1/3 cup canned pumpkin puree, one cup unsweetened milk of your choice (non-fat or low fat milk, almond, soy, oatmeal), ½ teaspoon pumpkin pie spice, one teaspoon sugar (or low calorie sweetener). Mix and enjoy — serves two and has just 125 calories per serving.

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Eating For Optimal Brain Health

The brain is an energy-intensive organ, using around 20 percent of the body's calories, so it needs plenty of good fuel to maintain concentration throughout the day.
The brain also requires certain nutrients to stay healthy. Omega-3 fatty acids, for example, help build and repair brain cells, and antioxidants reduce cellular stress and inflammation, which are linked to brain aging and neurodegenerative disorders, such as Alzheimer's disease. 

This article explores the scientific evidence behind the best brain foods.

1. Oily fish
Oily fish are a good source of omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3s help build membranes around each cell in the body, including the brain cells. They can, therefore, improve the structure of brain cells called neurons.

A 2017 study found that people with high levels of omega-3s had increased blood flow in the brain. The researchers also identified a connection between omega-3 levels and better cognition, or thinking abilities.
These results suggest that eating foods rich in omega-3s, such as oily fish, may boost brain function.

Examples of oily fish that contain high levels of omega-3s include:

People can also get omega-3s from soybeans, nuts, flaxseed, and other seeds.

2. Dark chocolate
Dark chocolate contains cocoa, also known as cacao. Cacao contains flavonoids, a type of antioxidant.

Antioxidants are especially important for brain health, as the brain is highly susceptible to oxidative stress, which contributes to age-related cognitive decline and brain diseases.

Cacao flavonoids seem to be good for the brain. According to a 2013 review, they may encourage neuron and blood vessel growth in parts of the brain involved in memory and learning. They may also stimulate blood flow in the brain.

Some research also suggests that the flavonoid component of chocolate may reverse memory problems in snails. Scientists have yet to test this in humans.

However, a 2018 study in humans also supports the brain-boosting effects of dark chocolate. The researchers used imaging methods to look at activity in the brain after participants ate chocolate with at least 70 percent cacao.

The researchers concluded that eating this type of dark chocolate may improve brain plasticity, which is crucial for learning, and may also provide other brain-related benefits.

3. Berries
Like dark chocolate, many berries contain flavonoid antioxidants. Research suggests that these may make the berries good food for the brain.

Antioxidants help by reducing inflammation and oxidative stress. The antioxidants in berries include anthocyanin, caffeic acid, catechin, and quercetin.

A 2014 review notes that the antioxidant compounds in berries have many positive effects on the brain, including:
improving communication between brain cells
reducing inflammation throughout the body
increasing plasticity, which helps brain cells form new connections, boosting learning and memory
reducing or delaying age-related neurodegenerative diseases and cognitive decline

Antioxidant-rich berries that can boot brain health include:

4. Nuts and seeds
Eating more nuts and seeds may be good for the brain, as these foods contain omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants.

A  2014 study found that a higher overall nut intake was linked to better brain function in older age.

Nuts and seeds are also rich sources of the antioxidant vitamin E, which protects cells from oxidative stress caused by free radicals.

As a person ages, their brain may be exposed to this form of oxidative stress, and vitamin E may therefore support brain health in older age.

A 2014 review found that vitamin E may also contribute to improved cognition and reduced risk of Alzheimer's disease.

The nuts and seeds with the highest amounts of vitamin E include:
sunflower seeds
Fully exploring vitamin E's effects on the brain will require further research.

5. Whole grains
Eating whole grains is another way to benefit from the effects of vitamin E, with these grains being a good source of the vitamin.
Whole-grain foods include:
brown rice
bulgur wheat
whole-grain bread
whole-grain pasta

6. Coffee
Coffee is a well-known concentration aid — many drink it to stay awake and encourage focus.

The caffeine in coffee blocks a substance in the brain called adenosine, which makes a person feel sleepy.

Beyond boosting alertness, a 2018 study suggests that caffeine may also increase the brain's capacity for processing information.

The researchers found that caffeine causes an increase in brain entropy, which refers to complex and variable brain activity. When entropy is high, the brain can process more information.

Coffee is also a source of antioxidants, which may support brain health as a person gets older. One study has linked lifelong coffee consumption with reduced risk of:
cognitive decline
Parkinson's disease
Alzheimer's disease

Caffeine can, however, affect a person's sleep and doctors do not recommend caffeine consumption for everyone.

7. Avocados
A source of healthful unsaturated fat, avocados may support the brain.
Eating monounsaturated fats may reduce blood pressure, and high blood pressure is linked with cognitive decline.

Thus, by reducing high blood pressure, the unsaturated fats in avocados may lower the risk of cognitive decline.

Other sources of healthful unsaturated fats include:
almonds, cashews, and peanuts
flaxseed and chia seeds
soybean, sunflower, and canola oils
walnuts and Brazil nuts

8. Peanuts
Peanuts are a legume with an excellent nutritional profile. They contain plenty of unsaturated fats and protein to keep a person's energy levels up throughout the day.
Peanuts also provide key vitamins and minerals to keep the brain healthy, including high levels of vitamin E and resveratrol.

Resveratrol is a natural non-flavonoid antioxidant found in peanuts, mulberries, and rhubarb. Evidence from a review article suggests that resveratrol can have protective effects, such as helping to prevent cancers, inflammation, and neurological diseases, including Alzheimer's and Parkinson's.

9. Eggs
Enjoyed by many for breakfast, eggs can be an effective brain food.

They are a good source of the following B vitamins:
vitamin B-6
vitamin B-12
folic acid
Recent study suggests that these vitamins may prevent brain
shrinkage and delay cognitive decline.

10. Broccoli
As well as being a low-calorie source of dietary fiber, broccoli may be good for the brain.

Broccoli is rich in compounds called glucosinolates. When the body breaks these down, they produce isothiocyanates.

Isothiocyanates may reduce oxidative stress and lower the risk of neurodegenerative diseases.

Broccoli also contains vitamin C and flavonoids, and these antioxidants can further boost a person's brain health.

Other cruciferous vegetables that contain glucosinolates include: 
brussels sprouts
bok choy

11. Kale
Leafy greens, including kale, may support brain health.
Like broccoli, kale contains glucosinolates, and leafy greens also contain other key antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. This is why many consider kale to be a superfood.

Supplements for brain function
In addition to making dietary changes, some people consider taking supplements to improve their brain function. But do these supplements actually work?

Taking vitamins B, C, or E, beta-carotene, or magnesium may improve brain function if a person has a deficiency in any of them. If a person does not have a deficiency, these supplements are unlikely to improve mental performance.

Research suggests that taking ginseng may improve this performance. However, further studies are needed before doctors can recommend ginseng to enhance brain function.

The foods listed above may help improve a person's memory and concentration. Some may also reduce the risk of stroke and age-related neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's.

Some of the foods contain compounds such as healthful fatty acids, which can help improve the structure of brain cells called neurons. Other compounds, such as sugars and saturated fats, may damage brain cell structures.

Brain-boosting foods tend to contain one or more of the following:
antioxidants, such as flavonoids or vitamin E
B vitamins
healthful fats
omega fatty acids

Beyond adjusting the diet, a person can optimize their brain function by:
not eating too much or too little
getting enough sleep
keeping hydrated
exercising regularly
reducing stress through yoga mindfulness, or meditation
reducing alcohol intake

Eating a brain-boosting diet will also provide many benefits for the entire body.