Connect with us

Food

The Healthiest Foods for Brain Health

Published

on

Every single food we eat as its effects on our overall health and wellness and this includes our brain health. And our brain as a crucial energy-consuming organ needs every boost it can get for optimum function.

However, while just about any food can have beneficial effects on our health, we need the right kinds of foods to specifically improve our cognitive function. When it comes to cognitive decline, pharmaceuticals can only do so much, without the right diet for brain health, degeneration is bound to occur.

For one, our brains use about 20% of our body’s calories to function and this means that it needs ample supply of the necessary nutrients to regularly function.

The brain also requires specific health-boosting nutrients to stay active and this includes Omega-3 fatty acids for rebuilding and repair of brain cells, antioxidants to fight off the damage of free radicals and other helpful compounds.

In this article, we’ll look at some foods and their nutrients and why they are highly recommended for improving cognitive function.

Berries

Berries are not only great-tasting; they can be exceptionally beneficial for improving brain health. They contain high concentrations of flavonoids a beneficial compound; teas and cocoa are also rich in this compound. According to studies, flavonoids have been associated with a lower risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

A subtype of flavonoids, anthocyanins have shown favorable impacts on cognitive function. Adults suffering from mild cognitive impairment showed considerable improvements after they were placed on anthocyanin-rich concord grape and blueberry juice.

Overall, berries are great for brain health and eating blueberries, strawberries, blackberries directly or included in cereals daily is a simple way to introduce these highly helpful compounds into your diet and give your mental health a massive boost.

Fish

Fish, specifically oily ones are great sources of Omega-3 fatty acids. Unlike red meat that is high in artery-blocking saturated fat, fish is nutrient-dense and beneficial for not only the brain health but also for your overall wellbeing.

Omega-3 fatty acids are known to help in building cell membranes and these include the brain cells. In the brain, they also improve the structure of the brain cells. In one 2017 study, participants with adequate levels of Omega-3s had considerably increased flow of blood to the brain and this improved their cognition.

Salmon, herring, tuna, sardines, and mackerel are some of the oily or omega-3 rich fish you can include in your diet for your brain’s health. Omega-3 is also available in soybeans, nuts, flaxseed, and other healthy seeds.

Nuts and seeds

Nuts and seeds have been shown to be amazing sources of antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids. A high intake of nuts and seeds can help to enhance brain function.

They are also two other sources of vitamin E, a brain-friendly antioxidant. This vitamin helps to protect the brain from the ravages of oxidative stress caused by free radicals. As we age, we naturally become more prone to suffer from oxidative stress and vitamin E can help to counter this in older age.

Vitamin E has also been shown to aid in improving cognition and lessening the risk of Alzheimer’s diseases. Some of the nuts with significant amounts of this vitamin include; sunflower seeds, hazelnuts, and almonds.

Dark chocolate

Chocolates are some of the tastiest treats you can reward yourself with and if you’re like most people, you probably never fail to treat yourself to it the moment you get the chance. Thankfully, chocolates are not “empty delights”, they are a storehouse of nutrients and your brain benefits greatly from it.

But there is something you should know; you can only fully enjoy these benefits from dark chocolate. That is; chocolate containing at least 70% cocoa. This is simply because the brain-building nutrient in it (flavonoids) is derived from pure cocoa.

Also, caffeine and theobromine, two brain-boosting compounds have been found to improve working memory, visual accuracy, and concentration.

At mid-afternoon, dark chocolate has been shown to give a cognitive lift without the overstimulation you can get from caffeine late in the day.

In one study, consumption of 520mg cocoa flavonoids lessened subjective mental fatigue. Now, chocolate is not one food you’ll have to force down your throat, (none of the foods on our list are) so, indulge but ensure you get the dark chocolates consisting of mostly cocoa.

Red wine

According to studies, adults who moderately consumed red wine had a lesser risk of suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. Red wine is rich in flavonoids; a beneficial compound required for brain repair and improved mental health.

Tomatoes

Tomatoes are antioxidant-rich and one of such antioxidants is lycopene. Lycopene has been shown to help protect against oxidative stress from free radical damage that could lead to cognitive degeneration causing disorders like dementia.

While it can be eaten raw, for increased absorption and efficacy, cooked tomatoes may be better and can also be enjoyed with other equally healthy meals.

Eggs

B vitamins (B6, B12, and folic acid) have been shown to reduce homocysteine levels in the blood. In high amounts, homocysteine may increase the risk of stroke and cognitive impairment.

Eggs are rich in B vitamins and as such, makes a great food for brain health. In one study, a group of elderly patients showed significantly less brain damage after two years of intervention with high doses of B6, B12, and folic acid.

If you haven’t already, you should include B vitamins-rich foods such as eggs, fish, chicken and leafy green vegetables in your diet to enjoy these benefits.

Dark green leafy vegetables

Dark green leafy vegetables are amazing sources of vitamin E and folate. Kale, spinach, broccoli, collard greens are all recommended sources of these nutrients. Just one cup of uncooked spinach provides you with 15% of your daily vitamin E intake with the cooked one offering even more.

By breaking down and lowering blood homocysteine levels, folate protects the nerve cells in the brain. Also, high homocysteine is bad news for the heart as well; it has been linked to an elevated risk for heart disease, so, eating these veggies serves double functions; protects the brain and heart.

Avocados

Avocados are rich in health-improving unsaturated fat and this means it can be helpful for supporting the brain. Eating foods high in monounsaturated fats may reduce blood pressure, and as you may already know, high blood pressure is linked with cognitive degeneration.

By reducing high blood pressure, the risk of cognitive degeneration is not only lowered, but our overall health is also better for it. Aside from avocados, you can enjoy the goodness of unsaturated fat in the following foods:

  • Flaxseed and chia seeds
  • Almond nuts, cashew nuts, and peanuts
  • Sunflower, canola, and soybean
  • Walnuts and fish

Coffee

Even though we already mentioned cocoa in the part about chocolate, coffee deserves a place of its own. A known concentration aid, many drink coffee to keep awake and stay focused. This effect is possible because the caffeine in coffee blocks adenosine, a substance in the brain that can cause sleepiness.

The caffeine contained in the brain may increase the brain’s information processing capacity according to a 2018 study. In the study, the researchers discovered that caffeine caused an increase in complex and variable brain activity and when this is at a high level, the brain is able to process more information.

Coffee is also high in antioxidants that are super-helpful for improving brain health as we age. In one study, lifelong coffee consumption was associated with reduced risk of stroke, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s diseases and other symptoms of cognitive decline.

However, because caffeine can get in the way of sleep, caffeine consumption may not be suitable for everyone.

Cruciferous vegetables

Cruciferous vegetables contain a family of compounds known as glucosinolates. One in particular; sulforaphane has shown potential for brain health.

Sulforaphane has shown similar effects as anti-depressants, and this has been linked to its potent anti-inflammatory action.

If you’ve avoided vegetables rich in sulforaphane in the past, this is a time to rethink your stance on it. also, sulforaphane has also been found to protect against amyloid-β plaque buildup that could in turn lead to oxidative brain damage.

This is just one of the family of compounds in these vegetables that your brain may benefit from, there are several more. It’s not too late or early to start eating these veggies, as a diet rich in sulforaphane can protect your cognitive health against degeneration now and later.

Soy and soy-based products

Soybean and its products are high in polyphenols, an antioxidant. This antioxidant has been linked with a reduced risk of dementia and other conditions that may arise from brain degeneration. It has also been shown to improve cognitive abilities during the normal aging process.

The polyphenols are not only beneficial for the brain; they provide a wide range of benefits for your overall health and wellbeing.

Exercises and your brain’s health

Alongside a good, healthy diet, exercises are required for a healthy heart. In many studies, regular exercise was shown to improve mental health, slow cognitive decline and help the brain process information more effectively.

The food you eat will do little to improve your brain health without regular exercise. And luckily, there are simple routines you can incorporate into your lifestyle that are not only fun but highly effective. You can check our article on fun ways to lose weight to know these routines.

How to know a brain-boosting food

Our list of the best foods for brain health is not exhaustive. There are several others and you should be able to identify them by their contents. Every brain-boosting food contains at least one of the following;

  • B vitamins
  • Antioxidants such as flavonoids/Vitamin E
  • Healthy fats
  • Omega-3 fatty acids etc.

Brain improvement doesn’t stop at eating the right food for the brain and exercise. You should take it further by:

  • Avoiding overeating or under-eating
  • Getting sufficient sleep regularly
  • Staying hydrated and reducing alcohol intake
  • Incorporating mindfulness practices such as yoga and meditation into your lifestyle

Do all of these and your entire being, not just your brain will thank you for it

 

Final words

All of the foods on our list were included for their cognition-improving benefits. They have been found to reduce the risk of stroke and many other age-related neurodegenerative diseases including Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

The healthy fatty acids and compounds contained in them can be helpful for improving and rebuilding the structure of the brain cells unlike other compounds contained in some foods that may be damaging to the brain cells and their structures.

Dawn is a health and fitness enthusiast, a massage therapist and she also loves to write!

Continue Reading
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Food

Prevent Food Wastage: Tips For Preserving Leftovers, Why You Should Eat Your Leftovers And Mistakes To Avoid

Published

on

By

Yearly, billions of pounds of leftovers are discarded in just the U.S alone. While a huge chunk of this number is food that never makes it to our tables, a considerable amount of this food goes to waste from our kitchens.

Some people do not eat leftovers! And while some others would eat leftovers, it is only on the condition that they taste great when reheated or else, they are thrown out.

Unfortunately, not many know how to make leftovers taste great so they end up throwing them out. How wrong! Food is expensive and there is so much you can do with leftovers!

In this post, I’ll share some of the ways you can make the most of your leftovers, tips for using leftovers, how to preserve leftovers and some common mistakes to avoid with leftovers.  Read on!

                                  Tips For Using Leftovers

Establish A Leftovers Night Or Day

If you haven’t already, then start today. Establish a weekly leftovers night or even day. I mean, you just can’t let them go to waste. And even though consuming leftovers are not your thing, you’ll be wasting a lot of money by letting these foods go to waste. Do better; set aside a particular day each week for leftover consumption and let your family in on your plans. Again, depending on your relationship with leftovers, they may not be very inclined to join in but all that can change once you know how to prepare your leftovers.

Reheat Your Leftovers The Right Way

Depending on how long it’s been kept, your leftover can become stale. Thankfully, this can be corrected with the right reheating method. So now you don’t have to toss a meal in the thrash anymore because it has gotten bland or no longer taste as good as the first day. What you should do is re-spice, re-season, or do just about anything to bring back or even enhance the taste. Work your magic here, get creative and you’ll notice the flavor return to your food.

However, when reheating leftovers, spices and seasonings alone won’t do as most leftovers tend to dry out a little. You should add some moisture in the form of butter, sauce, sour cream, and then topped off with some cheese. You enjoy two benefits by doing this; improved texture and a better-tasting meal.

That said; note that any day can be a leftover day. You can always defrost and heat your leftovers whenever you feel like it, you do not have to wait until the leftover day.

First Foods First

With this method, you can identify the foods that need to be consumed first. And this is something you really should take seriously if you live in a household with children or have flatmates.

You can place these foods in an area of the fridge reserved exclusively for leftovers or have the meals labeled with “eat-me” first stickers. Now, everyone in the house knows where to pick food from when hungry.

Mix And Match Meals

Because leftovers are usually an assortment of food, one sure way to consume them is by mixing them up. Again, this would require re-spicing, re-seasoning and some level of creativity. Even when you have only one meal type available, you can always bulk it up by using regulars such as eggs, bread or wraps or veggies.

Make Your Leftovers Into Something New

Experiment! Get creative with the meals. Make your leftovers into something new. If you have plenty of plain white rice, you can make some fried rice with it or enjoy it with some tomato sauce or soup.

You can make your leftover chicken into chicken salad sandwiches and the enchiladas into a taco salad. Just do anything as long as the outcome is edible. You should be able to envision the meal’s outcome before starting and if it makes sense, then go for it.

Preserving Leftovers

Your leftovers will keep in a refrigerator for only a short time. If you’re not certain of consuming it within a day or two, you should freeze the meal.

Almost every meal can be frozen and defrosted later. This not only helps to ensure that you don’t waste food but also ensures that you have a supply of meals on days when you need to whip up something quickly for lunch or dinner. All you need are containers/Tupperware or sandwich-sized Ziploc bags. They are stackable and easy to defrost when needed.

Other effective ways for storing leftovers in the freezer include:

Pyrex bowls

Pyrex bowls are long-lasting and will hardly ever get scratches or stains even after multiple uses. However, opt for the ones with lids to keep your food covered in the fridge and after you take them out. Another reason you may want to opt for Pyrex bowls is that they are microwave safe. This means they can go from the fridge to the microwave with no hassle.

Mason jars

Using mason jars is another effective way to store your leftovers. However, using them can be tricky as they can shatter when contents expand in the freezer. You can prevent this by leaving some space at the top of the jars and freeze them with their lids off. Once frozen and fully expanded, you can replace the lids.

Freezer wraps

These include foil, waxed paper, and plastic. You can store chunks of leftovers such as large cuts of meat and bread in them.  They are compact, nice and so you get to fully utilize your freezer space.

Why You Should Consume Your Leftovers

You may already know why you should always consume your leftovers, but as a refresher, I’ll outline these reasons and more below. So, the next time you think about tossing that bowl of rice, you’ll have more than a few reasons not to.

Leftovers Save You Money

You work hard for your money, and while there are fancier things to spend it on, food is one essential that you never leave out. You spend good money on food! And of course, lots of time preparing it.

Now, think about it; you spent all that time and money shopping and standing in the kitchen prepping these meals only to have them go to waste. By eating leftovers, you keep the waste at bay and keep your food budget reasonable.

You Reduce Food Wastage

By choosing to include leftovers in your meal plan, you play your part in reducing global food wastage. You become part of the solution and also help yourself save money you’d have thrown away – yes; food wastage is the same thing as throwing money away.

Some Foods Taste Better As Leftovers

Soups, sauces and even casseroles are just a few of the foods that taste better with time. This is simply because their flavors have had enough time to blend well.

You should try it; make two meals at once; one that you consume today and the second for tomorrow, then refrigerate and reheat the second for tomorrow or the day after. You’ll notice it taste better than you’re used to.

It Saves You Time

Instead of starting all over with prepping a new meal, putting leftovers to use will save you valuable time.  You spend only minutes prepping and reheating leftovers instead of the hours you’d have spent on a new meal. Plus, your kitchen is cleaner and safer as cleanup is easier and quicker.

Making Use Of Leftovers: Before You Eat A Leftover

Before consuming any leftover, you want to make sure that it is safe. And this, of course, depends on how the meal is stored.

Before storing away leftovers, make sure you allow them cool, then cover and place neatly in the fridge within three hours of cooking. And while frozen foods will keep longer, you should consume foods you place in the refrigerator within two days. Depending on the food type, you can either consume them cold or heat until very hot.

Also, note that not all meals do well as leftovers. Leafy salads and pastries are best eaten fresh. For salads, then don’t dress it if you think that you might not finish it. You can always enjoy the crisp leftover salad without the dressing the next day.

Making Use Of Leftovers: Conclusion

Have you been tossing out your leftovers? Well, now you know better. Take out that Tupperware containing yesterday’s leftover, let your creativity soar, reheat and enjoy! Remember, your money doesn’t come easy, or does it? Even if it did, you don’t want it going to waste, do you?  Of course not! Now, go enjoy some leftovers!

 

Thoughts, questions, or tips on using leftovers? Share in the comment section below!

 

Continue Reading

Food

How To Make Almond Chocolate Milk At Home

Published

on

By

If you’ve tried making your homemade almond milk, you’ll agree that the quality of your product beats most store-bought varieties hands down.

Yes, buying ready-made products can seem more convenient but if you follow the making instructions, the time and effort you spend making yours are always worth it.  Plus, homemade products are often free of the many additives commonly present in many commercially-produced foods, and you also get to tell exactly what goes into your food.

It’s the same with making almond chocolate milk. You know exactly what goes into your food and what to avoid or include.

Homemade almond chocolate milk is a safe and healthy alternative to the store-bought varieties that are usually filled with thickeners, preservatives, sugars and other artificial taste enhancers even with the often ridiculously high price tags pegged on them.

Homemade Almond Chocolate Milk: Ingredients Needed

  • 3 cups of raw almonds
  • 5 cups of filtered water
  • 1 cup of pure dark chocolate
  • Optional: 6 dry dates (seeds removed), 3 tbsp vanilla bean paste

Homemade Almond Chocolate Milk: Making Instructions

First, soak the almond nuts in water for either a few hours, overnight, or for a few days. Ensure that the almonds are covered with enough water.

When soaked, drain and rinse under running water.

Scoop the soaked almonds into your blender or food processor, add the date nuts, water and cover the lid. Blend until smooth. A thicker or thinner consistency may require less or more water, so check after blending to see if you like the consistency of the mixture. You may need to blend the almonds and dates in batches but this depends on the size of your blender or food processor.

Pour the mixture into the cheesecloth or a nut milk bag after blending to strain into a clean already prepared bowl. With your hand, firmly twist the bag to extract as much liquid as possible from the pulp.

Once strained, you can set aside the leftover pulp for dehydration and for use later in baking or added to cereals or porridges.

Place the chocolate into a separate bowl and melt over a large bowl of water placed over a saucepan containing water. You can also melt in a microwave if more convenient.

When it melts, fetch some almond milk; add to the chocolate bowl, then mix to combine well. This is so your chocolate milk mixes easily with the rest of the milk.

Once well-combined, add the chocolate mixture to your bowl of almond milk and mix. At this point, you can add any other sweetener of your choice or even more cocoa powder for extra chocolate.

Pour the mixture into a glass jar or bottle for storage in the refrigerator. It can keep for up to five days. Before you serve each time, make sure you shake properly. If you’re freezing for long, use only tempered glasses or BPA-free containers.

 

Did you try the chocolate almond milk? How did you like it? Tell us in the comment section below. Also, don’t forget to check the article on making homemade almond milk and other homemade recipes.

Continue Reading

Food

How To Make Almond Milk At Home

Published

on

By

Don’t we all just love the convenience of store-bought varieties of our favorite food products?

Truth is, while the convenience of buying already made food products/ingredients is almost incomparable, oftentimes, it also means that we lose out on the quality that only the original can offer.

With homemade products, you actually know what goes into the product, the making process and you are able to control the taste to a large extent. What’s more? The satisfaction of creating and seeing your own finished work is second to none!

*enters almond milk*

Fast-becoming a number one go-to plant-based milk, almond milk is a favorite in many vegan/plant-based cooking and cooking recipes.

It is healthy, tasty, and requires minimal processing.  It is also one of the many non-dairy milk types that both adults and children can enjoy.

Making almond milk is not only an incredibly interesting process, but it is also a very old practice.  Several cultures have made almond milk way before the French reinvented it in form of blancmanges.

The almond milk making process simply involves leaving almonds soaked overnight in water for a few hours or a day or two. Now, depending on how creamy you want your milk, you may have to soak for even longer or shorter.  Simply rinse the seeds from the soaking water and blend/grind in fresh, clean water. The liquid you have after draining the blended almonds and water is your, fresh and tasty almond milk.

Of course, you can add some twists and bends to the process for extra sweetness or to make the delicious almond chocolate milk.

Making Homemade Almond Milk Without Carrageenan

If you like keeping your foods as addictive-free as possible, homemade almond milk gives you the liberty to do so.

One of the things many almond milk aficionados love about this plant-based milk is how it can be made without preservatives or additives like carrageenan. While carrageenan (derived from seaweed) is commonly used for thickening and emulsifying many commercially-produced food products, it can be inflammatory to the body.

It is best to make almond milk and other plant-based milk at home instead of consuming store-bought products. This way, you’ll be certain that it is completely free of additives and fillers.

Health Benefits Of Almond Milk

What are the health benefits of drinking almond milk? There are several reasons you should consume almond milk and some of these reasons are listed below.

  • Almond milk is non-dairy and so, it is free of lactose or casein. The two have been known to cause digestive issues in humans.
  • Just 1 cup of homemade almond milk provides you with up to 6 grams of protein!
  • In just one cup of homemade almond milk, you get up to 8% of your recommended daily calcium intake and 6% of your daily calcium need!
  • And finally, it is tasty! Not a health benefit alright but it still had to be mentioned for emphasis even though you already know : )

Before You Make Homemade Almond Milk: Things To Know

  • True, it would be more convenient if we could make several batches and store in the refrigerator, but we can’t.
  • Almond milk will only keep fresh for a few days and unless you intend pasteurizing it, (somehow defeats the whole idea behind making it at home) make only the quantity you need for a few days. You can always make another batch later, it takes just minutes to grind and strain after soaking.
  • When making almond milk, you can start with 1 cup of almonds to 2 cups of water. Increase or reduce or increase the quantity of water to thicken or lighten in subsequent batches if you want.
  • Almond milk can be made in a food processor or a blender. There is very little difference between the two but you can start with a blender then use a food processor the next time to see which you prefer the most.

How To Make Homemade Almond Milk

Again, one of the reasons homemade almond milk is better than the store-bought ones is that you get to tell exactly what gets into your milk. With homemade almond milk, you are certain that there are no sweeteners or fillers added to it. The recipe below is made with just two ingredients and is ready for use in less than 10 minutes (after soaking).

Soaking the almond nuts

Soak the raw almonds in water for a few hours, overnight or a few days. As the nuts absorb water, they soften and increase in size. Ensure that you cover with a cloth and allow to sit undisturbed until blending day.  Note that the longer you let the almond sit, the creamier the result.

Equipment Needed For Homemade Almond Milk

  • Strainer (cheesecloth or fine mesh nut milk bag)
  • Bowls
  • Blender/food processor
  • Measuring cup

Homemade Almond Milk: Ingredients Needed

  • 2 cups of water
  • 1 cup of raw almonds

Optional: sweeteners like maple syrup or dates can be added

Directions

  • Rinse the soaked almonds in clean water and drain.
  • Place almonds in a blender, add the water and blend at the highest speed until smooth and creamy.
  • Strain the almond blend with a cheesecloth or a fine nut-milk bag. Twist the cheesecloth or nut milk bag with your hands to extract as much liquid as possible.
  • You can add coconut oil and vanilla before blending for extra creaminess and flavor.

What Can I Do With Leftover Almond Pulp?

The leftover almond pulp can be added to porridges, homemade muffins, and cakes or any of your favorite oatmeal recipes. You can also dehydrate and store in sealed containers for use when needed.

 

Planning to make your first homemade almond milk or already given it a try? Let us know how you liked it in the comment section below.

Questions/thoughts? Also, share in the comments

 

Share This Article

Continue Reading