As the daughter of someone who lived with dementia, I do a lot of things to boost my brain health. I try to walk 10,000 steps a day, along with other exercise. I eat blueberries and broccoli. I do squats, try to memorize a few words of Spanish, and think about taking harmonica lessons. I try new things, laugh often, and practice drawing. But a recent study revealed that I was intuitively doing something else that was cheering on my brain, something I hadn’t even counted. Just in time for Halloween, it turns out Chocolate Boosts Brain Health!
I recently encountered a fascinating study on the Harvard Health website, and was intrigued when I read this headline: Cocoa: a sweet treat for the brain
Imagine being in Italy and contributing to scientific research by drinking a luscious dark cocoa drink every day for eight weeks. Then imagine feeling even more lucid, vibrant, and healthy after that experience. That is the essence of the Cocoa, Cognition, and Aging (CoCoA) Study, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in December 2014, with this flavorful title: Cocoa flavanol consumption improves cognitive function, blood pressure control, and metabolic profile in elderly subjects. (Note: It turns out some of the “elderly” subjects are as young as 61, an age some of us may argue is merely “middle-age.”)
A Chocolate Boost Makes Your Brain Boast
I am also in love with this Maine-Syracuse Longitudinal Study (MSLS), of 968 people that includes these mouth-watering assertions:
All cognitive scores were significantly higher in those who consumed chocolate at least once per week, than in those who never/rarely consumed chocolate.
“More frequent chocolate consumption was significantly associated with better performance on the Global Composite score, Visual-Spatial Memory and Organization, Working Memory, Scanning and Tracking, Abstract Reasoning, and the Mini-Mental State Examination,” said the research team, which included scientists from the University of Maine.
More Delicious Cocoa-flavored News
And another study from Loma Linda University, states:
“Dark chocolate, which is 70 percent cacao, is a major source of flavonoids –- powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory components that are known to be beneficial to cardiovascular health. The California team’s initial studies at Loma Linda University have shown that absorbed cacao flavonoids penetrate and accumulate in regions of the brain associated with learning and memory.”
“We are tremendously excited about what these findings could potentially mean for brain health,” said Lee Berk, DrPH, MPH, who led the team. “This may open the door for potential restorative uses for individuals with memory/recall or dementia and aging-related issues.”
Never Forget To Boost Your Brain
I now have a remedy for those days when I’m too tired to exercise, too busy for a crossword, too cranky for a brain game. Or for when I simply forget. On those days, I’ll simply treat myself to a taste of the dark side. And hope it leads me towards the light.
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“Remember, if you aren’t healthy and strong you aren’t able to properly care for anyone else.” Liana Werner-Gray
“I know you like a list,” my friend Sarah Grace wrote. She sent me a fascinating list with more than 80 tips for detoxing and eating healthily. I was so intrigued by this information that I emailed Liana Werner-Gray, author of the forthcoming New Earth Diet, and asked if she had ideas for caregivers. Liana created a special list for caregivers! Here are some of her quick and simple tips for those who are too busy or stressed to eat properly. I’d also love to learn from you—have you any tips to share?
Nourish Yourself Now
Lemon Aid Take three minutes and boost your immune system. Squeeze half a lemon into a cup of water. This drink is high in vitamin C and will keep your immune system strong. Lemon water is excellent for alkalizing your body and flushing away stress.
Fast Fruit Nation Imagine going through a drive-through and ordering, “One orange, two bananas and a side of apple slices.” Fruit is nature’s fast food. It’s great for on-the-go and will nourish your body with a lot of vitamins.
Raw Raw for Chocolate Order some raw chocolate so you always have healthy chocolate on hand. This chocolate pacifies cravings and is also high in magnesium and antioxidants; it can relax the body while providing energy.
Snack Simple Eat organic almond butter or peanut butter as a quick snack. Drink herbal tea. Snack on herbs like parsley and cilantro as much as possible.
Serve Up a Smoothie Week On a Sunday, make seven smoothies for the week. Keep three in the fridge and four in the freezer. Drink one each day! Be as creative as you wish, combining fresh fruits and greens.
Nurture and Stretch Yourself Now
Stretch your body when you have a spare moment. Bend over, like you’re touching your toes, head and hands hanging to the ground. This brings fresh blood to your brain.
Make time for a hot relaxing bath once per week. Add in Epsom salts, clay, lavender, or sea salt.
Walk as often as you can in nature. Even a five-minute outdoor stroll makes a difference.
Meditate before sleeping. Release the day so you can have a deep, nourishing sleep.
Laugh a lot.
Every day write down ten things you love about yourself.
Keep your dreams alive.
Have fun and visit Liana’s blog for more delicious and inspiring ideas: www.theearthdiet.blogspot.com/ I’m looking forward to reading her book . The Earth Diet is available for pre-order here: www.theearthdiet.org
Liana Werner-Gray is a sought-after speaker and advocate for natural healing using a healthy diet and lifestyle. After healing herself of many negative health conditions through embracing a natural lifestyle, Werner-Gray began lecturing and teaching about The Earth Diet internationally. Werner-Gray is the founder and owner of The Earth Diet, where she directs a team that helps people all over the world find recipes that work for them. Through her company, she has helped thousands of people improve, and in some cases even entirely heal, conditions such as cancer, diabetes, addictions, depression, acne, heart disease, obesity, and more.
“My mother has Alzheimer’s. What can I do so I don’t get the disease?”
Frequently worried caregivers ask Marwan Sabbagh, MD, author of The Alzheimer’s Prevention Cookbook: Recipes to Boost Brain Health, that question. Dr. Sabbagh is a geriatric neurologist, dementia specialist and the Research Medical Director of the Banner Sun Health Research Institute in Arizona. He understands the concerns and fears of caregivers and he is able to offer them hope.
“The changes in the brain that lead to Alzheimer’s or dementia start 25 years before the first day of forgetfulness,” Dr. Sabbagh says. “The dementia is at the end of the disease, not at the beginning.”
The more he researched the impact of spices and food on the brain, the more he realized the importance of diet in boosting brain health.
Foods are More Effective than Supplements in Protecting the Brain
* The nutritional values of food are well researched; the nutritional value of supplements varies widely from company to company.
* The body can break down food into small, transportable molecules that can permeate the brain’s protective barrier and reach the brain with the nutrients still intact; supplements aren’t as easily broken down and often cannot penetrate the blood-brain barrier.
“The road from our mouth to our brain is long and winding. Because of the way we digest food and nutrients, the best source of neurotransmitter precursors is almost always food; supplements are much less reliable,” Dr. Sabbagh writes.
Caregivers Need Nourishing Foods
“Caregivers take the disease on the chin,” Dr. Sabbagh says. “Their stress levels are higher than the people with Alzheimer’s.”
This stress weakens the immune system and puts them at risk for illness and disease.
Five Ways to Boost Your Brain Now
* Spice Up Your Life and Increase your Antioxidants
The spices that add the biggest boost of healing antioxidants include
cloves, oregano, rosemary, thyme, cinnamon and turmeric. Add turmeric to your eggs. Sprinkle cinnamon into your coffee or smoothie. Include rosemary in your salad.
* B is for Brain Health
“The three most important vitamins for brain health are B6, B9 and B12,” Dr. Sabbagh writes.
For B6, eat sunflower and sesame seeds, pistachios, bananas, spinach, and vegetable juices.
For B9, nibble on broccoli, kale, lentils, peas, and strawberries.
For B12, eat eggs, shellfish or fatty fish. For vegetarians, take a supplement.
* Dine Mediterranean Style
Reduce red meat, decrease saturated fats; add more fish and fruits and vegetables. The more fruits and vegetables, the healthier the brain.
* Believe it Can Happen
“You have to make a commitment to incorporate healthy eating into your life,” Dr. Sabbagh advises. “Part of this is psychological. If you believe this is hard, that belief will make it hard. It you believe that a whole foods diet is part of who you are and how you live, you can easily weave healthy eating into your life.”
* Don’t’ Wait: start today.
Q for U:
How do you add nourishing foods and spices into your daily diet?
For more information about boosting brain health, visit Dr. Sabbagh’s website:
Read his book The Alzheimer’s Prevention Cookbook: Recipes to Boost Brain Health, written with world-famous chef Beau MacMillan.