Do You Love Snacks?

by Darcy Keith on June 26, 2014

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    I do.  I love snacks.  Not only do I love them, I eat them often.  Having hypoglycemia, my blood sugar dips every few hours or so.  If I don’t eat something that doesn’t spike my blood sugar, I become irritable (just ask my husband).   And when I do forget and my blood sugar plunges, I grab the nearest food item to munch on.  Of course, I may not necessarily make the best choices of a snack when this happens, so I have to plan ahead.

     Eating every three to four hours throughout the day helps balance your blood sugar.  Since I snack often, I have to select options which are low calorie and have a balance of protein and good fats.  If you stop me anywhere, you would find a snack bag with almonds or some granola at all times.  I try to have fresh, raw vegetables every day for lunch.  If you decide to buy dried fruits, look for ones which don’t add any preservatives or added sugar.  Lowfat yogurt with fresh fruit is a favorite at mealtime at my house.  My daughter also likes to make a banana smoothie consisting of bananas, skim milk, ice, and a dab of chocolate syrup.


     To optimize brain, body, and healthy nutrition, consider planning your snacks.  Not only plan what you eat, but when you eat them so that your blood sugar doesn’t drop, and impulsiveness to grab the nearest cookie sets in.  What are some other healthy snacks that you eat?

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Out with Velveeta, In with Lima Beans

by Darcy Keith on March 25, 2014

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     Salt.  A bad, four letter word that is associated with weight gain.  Or is it? 
     Sure, eating too much salt does help our bodies temporarily retain water, which can make our jeans harder to zip up.  How can we avoid getting too much salt in our diets?  First, stay away from high calorie, processed foods, which includes restaurants in general, including fast food.  Also, stay away from processed foods like Velveta cheese, foods fortified with nutrients such as fiber, vitamin D, and omega-3 fatty acids (source International Food Information Council Foundation/September 2010), just to name a few.   That knocks out several food items in my cupboard.  What about you?  What CAN we eat for brain health?
     On suggestion that Dr. Amen gives is to increase your potassium intake, which includes foods such as spinach, honeydew melon, kiwi, lima beans, oranges, tomatoes, bananas, and all meats.  Not only are these foods good for brain-body-health, eating twice as much potassium as sodium can cut the risk in half of dying from heart disease.  Good news if you don’t like to eat foods rich in potassium.  There are potassium supplements which can lower your blood pressure. 
     Bottom line is that eating a diet in high-salt foods is likely to make you gain weight over time.  I know that age has contributed to my weight game over time, and I don’t need any additional help from other sources.  If you reduce your salt intake and eat a diet of great brain foods, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, and healthy fats, it can lead to weight loss and enhanced brain function.  Sounds great to me.  How about you? 

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Who Wants a Young Brain and Body?

by Darcy Keith on February 25, 2014

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      Who wants to know what delicious foods are good for the brain and body to keep you staying young?  Me!  Sure, we know that antioxidants neutralize the production of free radicals in the body.  And, free radicals are chemicals that play a major role in the deterioration of the brain when it ages.  When produced in normal amounts, free radicals help rid the body of harmful toxins and keep it healthy.  Want to know which foods?
     Squirrels are smarter than we might think.  Could it be because they eat nuts, walnuts and almonds specifically?  Other foods rich in antioxidants are blueberries, otherwise known as “brain berries”, as well as strawberries, cranberries, among other fruit and vegetables.  It was studied in rats who ate a diet rich in blueberries as having lost abdominal fat, lowered cholesterol, and improved glucose levels.  Makes me want to go out a buy several pints of them!
     While fruits and vegetables are good antioxidants, it’s a good idea to include in your meals lean protein to balance blood sugar levels.  Since I have hyperglycemia, I have to keep a stash of almonds in my purse to keep my blood sugar levels consistent, not to mention that they are pretty yummy.
     Do you want to have a young brain and body?  I mean, who doesn’t right?  Try start eating fruits that end in “-berry”, as well as green vegetables.  You might find yourself a few pounds lighter and be able to think more clearly in the end.  What are some other eating habits that help keep a young brain and body?
 

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How to Give Up Starbucks and Survive

by Darcy Keith on January 26, 2014

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Continuing to look at how we can better our brains, this article will examine the topic of caffeine and your brain.  What?  You are now telling me that I can’t have caffeine?  Give up my Starbucks?  Not exactly. 

Caffeine intake is fine if limited to one or two cups of coffee per day.  Since caffeine is also found in tea, dark sodas, chocolate (ouch!), and energy drinks, it might be a good idea to limit your consumption of these items.  Why?  Here are some great reasons:

• Caffeine restricts blood flow to the brain.  Anything that alters blood flow leads to premature aging.  Women, take note of that. 
• Caffeine dehydrates the brain.  Since our brains are 80% water, if the brain dehydrates, it will be harder to think quickly.
• Caffeine can cause an upset stomach.  Gastrointestinal problems are common with excessive caffeine intake.
• Caffeine increases muscle tension.  Tight muscles have been linked to caffeine intake.  So, when are you working on your New Year’s resolutions, drinking a Coke before workout may not be the best idea.

I must admit, there are some studies which mention that coffee has its benefits.  However, you need to decide what’s best for you.  What are some other reasons that caffeine may or may not be good for you?

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What makes November 2013 so special?

by Darcy Keith on December 23, 2013

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     I will never forget last month for the rest of my life.  Why?  What was so special about it that makes it memorable?  It boils down to taking one week and experiencing life with those I love.  Let me ask you a question.  If there has been anything or anyone that you have been proud of, how did you feel at that moment? 
     This past summer, my 10 year-old daughter was crowned Miss Indiana Jr. Pre-Teen for National American Miss.  National American Miss is a pageant which focuses on growing confidence, poise, and communication skills.  Last month, she represented Indiana at the National Competition in California.  Ok, so what?  What is so special about this?  I’ll tell you what is so special.  It’s not about who wins what title or is at the top of the corporate ladder, it’s about enjoying life and each moment/chapter in life that it brings you.  It’s about attitude and how you face each day as a family. 
     Pageant week was a whirlwind of events, rehearsals, and competitions.  At times, it was a difficult to take in the moment.  I mean, here we are in sunny California experiencing Disneyland, touring Hollywood, and dining with awesome friends.  The week flew by with various activities, and we soaked all of them up.  So, what made it so memorable?
     We will never get this time back again with our daughter.  As each second passes, time ticks away.  What do you want to do with your time?  Despite everything going on during pageant week, our family took time to stop and enjoy the moments.  Our daughter just accomplished what thousands of other girls would love to and was competing on a national stage.  We are so proud of her and her desire to work so hard for this accomplishment at a young age.  
     What are you proud of?  Where do you want to spend your time to make it memorable?  When you experience life during each moment and chapter that comes, you will look back with no regrets.  I know that we will never regret the time invested in our daughter and the memories made in California last month.  Live 2014 as a new chapter, take in each day, and make it the year that is memorable.  You won’t regret it.

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Why Diet Drinks Don’t Help Diets

by Darcy Keith on October 27, 2013

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     I love sweet, yummy treats, especially this time of year where there are plenty available for Halloween!  Fortunately, there are many treats that are made with artificial sweeteners in them instead of sugar, including soft drinks, nutritional bars, candy, popcorn and others.  You know what this means, right?  Yea, no calories!  But, are things like diet soda and “diet” candy good for you?


     Dr. Amen’s book, Change Your Brain, Change Your Body, he explains why the artificial sweeteners found in these items can cause problems during your adult life.  Artificial sweeteners, such as aspartame, may be associated with arthritis, gastrointestinal problems, headaches, memory issues, and more.  Artificial sweeteners also may increase your sugar cravings.  Why?  The empty calories prime the brain’s appetite centers to expect something sweet, and when nothing comes, it wants more.  I’ve read that artificial sweeteners desensitize your taste buds so that when naturally sweet things come along, the regular amount of sugar doesn’t satisfy and you want more. Does any of this ring a bell? 


     What experiences have you had with artificial sweeteners?  Have you tried to stop using artificial sweeteners?  What happened when you did? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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No More Baskets of Free Bread

by Darcy Keith on September 25, 2013

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     What?  No more free garlic breadsticks, cheese biscuits, or piping hot dinner rolls?  You’ve got to be kidding, right?  Not unless you don’t want you blood sugar to spike or feel less motivated.  How can this happen? 
     According to Dr. Daniel Amen, bread makes you hungrier and encourages you to eat more.  Bread, especially white bread made from bleached and processed flour, boosts the natural feel-good neurotransmitter, serotonin, in the brain.   Serotonin helps to relax the front part of your brain, allowing you to feel happier and less anxious.  When the front part of your brain is relaxed, you become more impulsive and less worried about long-term consequences of eating so much.  Hence, the weight piles on, and the immediate feeling of happiness turns later into displeasure when you can’t fit into your clothes.
     When you eat bread at the beginning of the meal, it may help you feel better, but you may find yourself more impulsive when the desert menu is presented to you.  What to do now?  Pass on the bread (yes, this will be hard), wait for your meal, and you will be happier with the end result. 

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Last month, we looked at the first two rules to help you eat and feel great.  In this post, we’ll take a look at the next two: good/bad fats and carbs (this one is my vice).
     When you hear the word “fat”, do you picture the spare tire around your waist or thunder thighs?  Do you fear that if you eat too much, you will get fat?  We do need some fat in our diets, as 60% of the solid weight in our brain is fat.  The brain’s nerve cells need essential fatty acids to function.  Of course, too much of the wrong fat you eat can lead to heart disease and stroke.  Diets high in saturated fats tend to make your brain and body more sluggish.  These diets also alter your brain chemistry in ways which compel you to overeat.  However, there is good news!  Studies show diets rich in omega-3 fatty acids may help to promote emotional balance and positive mood, two things that can reduce a tendency to over eat.  Bring on the fish, avocados, and chicken!
    The next rule is to increase the good carbs and decrease the bad ones.  This rule is NOT my favorite. Complex carbs, which I love and include fruits, vegetable, whole grains, are great.  The bad carbs of table sugar, pastries, candy, white bread, soda, and pasta may promote disease and weight gain.  Take a look at me, and you will see why I struggle with staying away from the bad carbs.  I get that limiting how much a person consumes of sugary foods is important to better health, and sugar also affects your physical health (headaches), mood swings, and fatigue.  Ever experience a sugar crash?  Not fun.  The key to good brain health is to make sure that most of the carbs you eat are low-glycemic, which includes low-fat yogurt, broccoli, cherries, kidney beans, and low-fat milk.  I’m sure that if you “googled” glycemic index foods, you would get a whole slew of options.
     Changing the way and foods you eat is vital to maintaining brain health.  The biggest challenge for me is when that triple chocolate chip cookie is staring me in the face.  Temptation is always a factor, but if we want to have good brain health, it may be better to hold the sugar and grab some frozen grapes instead.   What are some other ways you can replace sugar and fat with more healthy options?

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Eleven Rules for Brain, Body and Healthy Nutrition

by Darcy Keith on July 24, 2013

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     In past articles, I’ve written on various facts about the food you eat, according to Dr. Daniel Amen’s book, Change You Brain, Change Your Body.  Now that you know these truths, how do you put them to use for brain, body and healthy nutrition?  In this article, let’s dive into the first two rules that can help you eat and feel great.
     We hear this every day: drink more water. But, I want to also add we should drink some green tea and not too many calories. With your body consisting of 70 percent water and your brain 80 percent water, drinking more water may seem like a “no-brainer” (couldn’t resist the pun).  When you don’t consume enough water, you may get irritable and not think clearly.  Even slight dehydration increases your body’s stress hormones.  Higher levels of stress are associated with memory problems and obesity over time.  To drink enough water, a good rule of thumb is to drink half your weight in ounces every day.
     Next, watch your calories.  For many of us, this goes without saying.  But, what you may not know is the fewer calories you eat, the longer you live.  How so?  In recent studies, researchers found that a nutritious but a reduced calorie diet diminishes aging and significantly delays the onset of age-related disorders, such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and brain deterioration.  Reducing your overall calorie consumption not only helps you control weight and decrease the risk for the above disorders, but also triggers certain mechanisms in the body to increase beneficial nerve-growth factors in the brain.
     What are some ways in which you can reduce your caloric intake without limiting nutrition?   Please share!

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The Last Three Facts about the Food You Eat

by Darcy Keith on June 26, 2013

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     In past articles, we have learned various facts about the food you eat. Here, we will look at the remaining three.
     Ever feel like you could take on the world after eating a candy bar? We’ve heard the jingle, “Snickers is satisfying”, yes? Truthfully, what they aren’t telling you is that eating a Snickers candy bar may make you feel good temporarily, but the key word here is “temporarily.” As Dr. Amen points out in his book, Change Your Brain, Change Your Body, good foods get your body pumped up for physical activity, while bad foods delete your stamina. Do you remember the food pyramid that we were taught in school? These foods, and the recommended amounts, keep our bodies going and operating optimally. I don’t see Snickers bars anywhere listed on it. What I see are fruits, vegies, meat, dairy, and so forth. You might say, “Garbage in, garbage out”, when it relates what you eat to how you perform.
     Do you think that Olympic athletes eat a candy bar or drink an energy beverage during their training? What about before they compete at their Olympic event? Probably not. I remember hearing one of the downhill skiers mentioning that her diet consisted of only organic foods. Why? They allowed her body to perform at an optimal level. Eating the wrong foods can dramatically decrease not only your physical activity, but your athletic performance, as well.
     Lastly and probably the fact, in which we relate the most, is that people with healthy diets tend to look healthier. That’s not to say that there aren’t exceptions to every rule, like when family genes come into play. But for the most part, it is true. If it wasn’t then we wouldn’t have obesity and the multi-billion dollar industry of weight loss products available. I know that I’ve been on a diet before, and I’m sure the extra pounds weren’t caused by eating fruits and vegies.
     This wraps up the important facts about the food you eat. Eating healthy not only improves your physical health, but also your ability to think clearly. What are some other ways not mentioned that add to eating healthy?

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