Brain Food

20161213_183954Last night I drank caffeinated green tea after dinner and it kept me awake half the night. When I finally gave up on sleeping, I went downstairs and watched the YouTube videos of Dr. Daniel Amen. The guy knows the brain inside out and is passionate about the care of this amazing organ. Ironically, sleep is one of the brain’s critical needs.

And I’ve known this. I’ve stressed the importance of sleep to my kids over the years, to the point of sounding like a broken record. When we haven’t had enough sleep, we don’t function as well, we are more prone to poor eating habits, skipping exercise, irritability and accidents. I knew it would not bode well for me to be wide awake at 3 a.m., and yet I was not sorry to be taking in Dr. Amen’s knowledge.

20160602_170831-2Diet and exercise are also critical to healthy brain functioning. We know this already, right? But I usually think of these things as important for my body and my heart. Rarely do I focus on the fact that I am caring for this incredible, elastic bundle of nerve cells. And what really makes me want to jump up and down is how the brain’s upkeep affects our overall happiness in a BIG way. Our mood, judgement, creativity and attention are all  results of the brain. I would say all those things together affect the spirit. As Dr. Amen says, when your brain works, your life works. 

What are you feeding your brain? 

That is the question I am going to ask myself from now on.
20160503_111231I am feeding it eight hours of sleep most nights, plus exercise and meditation. And I am feeding it some pretty yummy things too, like spaghetti squash and shredded zucchini and quinoa stuffed peppers and salmon over spinach. 20160801_171519-1

 

Our brains needs a lot of water, and of course, intellectual stimulation and empowering thoughts. We can nurture and stretch our brains, or let them atrophy. We can feed them well or neglect them.

We can literally grow and heal our brains by making healthy choices. 

I’m drinking the decaf tea tonight.

My brain has some sleep to catch up on.

 

 

 

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Simple things that I love

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Mason jars have made a comeback, partly due to the resurgence of canning.  These jars have been around forever, yet have become a new shabby chic trend. Now they are wedding centerpieces, candle holders, Christmas gifts filled with muffin mix or soup or crafts. I love them, not just because they are BPA-free and dishwasher safe, but because they are clear and unfussy. I am a sucker for anything polished- rustic, so I am on board for this trend. They are the “where have you been all my life?” containers, and I am in love. They match any decor and can be bought inexpensively, by the case. They come in many sizes, and are easily replaced, given away, and stored. I use them to hold grains, and to make chocolate and vanilla chia pudding. I fill them with a breakfast mix that can be stored in the fridge the night before, shaken, and eaten or brought on the go in the morning. Mostly, I just love how simple they look and feel.

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I’m not real big on accessories, especially if they are big, cumbersome or complicated. But I am a fan of the Infinity scarf.  I find most scarves to be too long for me, and I struggle with how to tie them so they don’t take me over. But I like the idea of using a simple piece to add a splash of color to a basic black or white blouse. So when the infinity scarf was born, I embraced the trend. They fall obediently over a t-shirt and can be easily and prettily tucked into a jacket.  When it comes to accessorizing, my love goes to infinity.

Lists. Nothing trendy here, just pen and paper. I am not sure I could ever give up my lists. I have them going all the time- grocery lists, to do lists, to write lists, books I want to read lists, and then there is the never changing list, such as whose birthday is when. I like to have sticky notes readily available to jot things down on, then add them to my lists. Songs, items, things I want to google, podcasts I want to hear, authors I want to be.  I recently started keeping my lists in a small binder. I’ve divided it into “to do” “to write” and “to buy”.  I love knowing all my lists are in one place, and can be torn out, added to, or rewritten. A new blog post or essay idea? Ran out of yogurt? Came across the name of a book I must read? I simply must list it.

Olive oil.  I’ve liked cooking with olive oil for as long as I’ve been cooking. I also love drizzling it over avocado and tomato salads. But I have a new use for olive oil which has  reignited my appreciation for it. Hair. Yup, I recently learned, thanks to chef Giada De Laurentiis, that this oil is great for the hair. I guess it’s not surprising that Giada would get her beauty products from the kitchen. But after years of trying many products on my sometimes unruly, curly hair, I never would have thought of this one on my own. Thanks, Giada. I love it.

Our Nutritional Guru: The Body

The mind’s first step to self-awareness must be through the body.   –George Sheehan

Recently, while at a writers seminar, one woman wrote about how she used to get in fights w/ another girl every day after lunch, before she knew it was caused by her body’s severe mental and physical  reaction to sugar and wheat.  Are you kidding me, I thought. I actually asked her to repeat herself. I’d heard her correctly.  These foods took over her mind and body, as she described it.  She reacted with rage, pummeling the other girl to the ground, causing her opponent to call her “crazy eyes”.

As extreme as this sounded to me, it was a reminder of what I already knew. What we eat affects the way we feel, and this truly is a gift.  When the information of what is good for us and what is not is overwhelming, all we have to do is tune in to our bodies. As a yoga instructor and student, I am very familiar with the mantra, listen to your body.  It’s our key to knowing when we are pushing too hard or not hard enough.  Even more importantly, it’s where we feel our intuition,  hence the terms,  “gut feeling” and “heart wrenching”.  Our body is our instrument for feeling everything.

So when it comes to diet, it really can be that simple.  Listen to the body. It never lies. Though just some of us have food allergies, all of us have foods that fuel us and food that makes us sluggish, cranky or bloated.  Sugar makes me tired, as does anything made from flour- bread, pasta, baked goods.  I don’t even get the surge in energy I hear others talk about. I go right to the crash. A bowl of spaghetti leaves me wanting a nap.  Likewise, a plate of cookies can send me to bed.  I am fine with dairy, meat, nuts, rice, and of course fruits and vegetables, especially when raw.  Water is my magic elixir.  I feel icky when I eat anything packaged.

Though people react differently to different foods, it is generally accepted that hydrogenated oils, excess sugar, or basically any processed food versus whole foods, should not be consumed in excess. Some prefer to eliminate them altogether.  Some studies suggest raw foods are far superior to cooked.  And now there is also a lot of hype around gluten, and to quote from the article below, “There is an ever-growing body of research to support the fact that gluten sensitivity is not just an in-fashion health fad, but a real, pressing phenomenon that deserves our attention in a large-scale way.”  Anyone who is curious or interested in this suggestion can read from the following link: http://fixyourdigestion.com/the-trouble-with-gluten/

Chances are, if your body is not tolerating gluten or any other food very well, you won’t feel great after eating it. Foods should be healing, energizing, and we should actually feel vibrant after eating them. Live foods make us feel alive. The information is out there in excess. Whatever we want to research- raw food diets, sugar addiction, gluten intolerance, foods that cause obesity and foods that help us maintain a healthy weight- there is no shortage of information, and often some of this information changes over time:  The importance of dairy. The detriment of dairy.  The merits of a vegetarian or vegan diet. The pitfalls of such diets.   But where do we turn when all this information is just too much? Turn inward. Tune in. The body’s wisdom is always available, silently telling us what to do. We just have to pay attention.