5 Brain Fuel Hacks

Every September is the beginning of a new academic year – an opportunity to create new habits and routines, after all of the summer festivities. With the new school year, it is a great time to refocus on eating well for best mental and cognitive health for every member of the family. Not only does improved nutrition enhance learning, it also decreases the number of absences due to sickness and improves overall behaviour, in children and adults alike. Refuel your brain with these five tips for best brain health:

1. Balance your meals.

Stable blood sugar levels are critically important for brain functions such as thinking, memory and learning.  The brain depends on glucose, as its main fuel source.  If there is not enough glucose available, the brain’s ability to produce neurotransmitters, the brain’s signalling chemicals, decreases. Low levels of glucose can also lead to a loss of energy for proper brain function, resulting in poor attention and cognition.

Ensuring meals contain relatively equal proportions of complex carbohydrates, protein and fats allows for balanced blood sugars for hours at a time (which also reduces the need for snacking).  We need to stop eating dessert for breakfast! Most “breakfast foods” like cereal, toast, muffins and waffles are rich in simple carbohydrates, which usually results in chasing your blood sugar all day long.  Better breakfast options include protein shakes made with plain yogurt/protein powder(for the protein), fruit (1/2 cup) and coconut milk or avocado (for the fats), veggie omelette, toast with almond butter and berries, oatmeal with berries (with a Tbsp or two of nut butter or nuts/seeds added in), or chia seed pudding.

2. Ditch the sugars.

Probably the worst food you could eat for your mental and physical health is sugar. It is shocking to learn that in North America, the average child under age 12 eats about 49 pounds of sugar annually in addition to 32 pounds of high fructose corn syrup, only 3 pounds less of each than the average adult (compared to 8 pounds of average broccoli consumption).

Sugar has many effects on a child’s learning ability.  It decreases attention span and memory. Eating sugar at an early age has been shown to impair memory function long-term as well as increase inflammation in parts of the brain. Other effects of sugar consumption an increased incidence of depression, anxiety, addiction and dementia.  All good reasons to cut back, if not eliminate it entirely from your diet.  I recommend using stevia glycerite to sweeten food & drink, which gives the sweetness without the compromise.

3. Add more fish.

We can’t make omega 3 fatty acids, so we have to get it through dietary sources such as wild salmon, flaxseed and walnuts.  When it comes to memory and brain health, most of the research indicates that is is specific to the effects of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).  It is not only neuroprotective but is a major structural component of brain tissue.¹

Though there is no upper limit, a little can go a long way.  According to one study in Rotterdam indicated that even one meal per week consisting of fatty fish could reduce cognitive decline by up to 60%.²

People with Alzheimer’s have been shown in several studies to have severely low levels of DHA in key parts of the brain needed for memory formation.³,⁴

So not only is it important not only to increase DHA intake, but also drastically reduce intake of omega 6 fatty acids commonly found in vegetable oil, vegetable oil, canola oil, cottonseed oil, soybean oil, and other common polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA’s). Historically, the human diet consisted of omega 3 intake in a ratio of 1:1 to omega 6 fatty acids.  With processed foods this has shifted upwards to a ratio of about 1:16 to 1:36. ⁵

DHA has also shown to benefit cognition in both older and younger rats in the absence of neurodegenerative disease. DHA is good for both the young and the old, and the sick and the healthy.⁶,⁷

4. Take a multivitamin/mineral.

Once you have the major macronutrients covered (though eating a balanced plant-based diet will usually suffice), ensure that your micronutrients aren’t lacking. Iron deficiency, for example, even in early stages can decrease dopamine (one of the four main brain neurotransmitters) transmission, thereby decreasing cognition.  Cognition and mental concentration are also shown to be affected by deficiencies in B vitamins (especially thiamine), vitamin E, iodine and zinc.⁸,⁹,¹⁰

5. Hydrate adequately.

Most North Americans are chronically dehydrated and mistake thirst signals for hunger signals. Even the most minimally dehydrated brain is 15% less efficient than a hydrated one.

The best choice for drinking for people of all ages is pure, filtered water.  Ideally, about 50% of your body weight in ounces everyday.  While plain water might get tedious, there are plenty of sugar-free flavoured water options now available, which makes it easier to change things up.  With autumn around the corner, other good choices include bone broth and herbal teas.

References:

(1) Morris MC, Evans DA, Bienias JL, et al. Consumption of fish and omega-3 fatty acids and risk of incident Alzheimer disease. Arch Neurol. 2003 Jul;60(7):940-6.

(2) Kalmijn S, Launer LJ, Ott A, Witteman JC, Hofman A, Breteler MM. Dietary fat intake and the risk of incident dementia in the Rotterdam Study. Ann Neurol. 1997 Nov;42(5):776-82.

(3) Soderberg M, Edlund C, Kristensson K, Dallner G. Fatty acid composition of brain phospholipids in aging and in Alzheimer’s disease. Lipids. 1991 Jun;26(6):421-5.

(4)  Prasad MR, Lovell MA, Yatin M, Dhillon H, Markesbery WR. Regional membrane phospholipid alterations in Alzheimer’s disease. Neurochem Res. 1998 Jan;23(1):81-8.

(5) Kris-Etherton PM, Taylor DS, Yu-Poth S, et al. Polyunsaturated fatty acids in the food chain in the United States. Am J Clin Nutr. 2000 Jan;71(1 Suppl):179S-88S.

(6) Morris MC, Evans DA, Tangney CC, Bienias JL, Wilson RS. Fish consumption and cognitive decline with age in a large community study. Arch Neurol.2005 Dec;62(12):1849-53.

(7) Gamoh S, Hashimoto M, Sugioka K, et al. Chronic administration of docosahexaenoic acid improves reference memory-related learning ability in young rats. Neuroscience. 1999;93(1):237-41.

(8) Pollitt E. (1993). Iron deficiency and cognitive function. Annual Review of Nutrition, 13, 521–537.

(9) Chenoweth, W. (2007). Vitamin B complex deficiency and excess. In R. Kliegman, H. Jenson, R. Behrman, & B. Stanton (Eds.), Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics, 18th edition. Philadelphia: Saunders.

Greenbaum, L. (2007a). Vitamin E deficiency. In R. Kliegman, H. Jenson, R. Behrman, & B. Stanton (Eds.), Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics, 18th Edition. Philadelphia: Saunders.

Greenbaum, L. (2007b). Micronutrient mineral deficiencies. In R. Kliegman, H. Jenson, R. Behrman, & B. Stanton (Eds.), Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics, 18th Edition. Philadelphia: Saunders.

Bryan, J., Osendarp, S., Hughes, D., Calvaresi, E., Baghurst, K. & van Klinken, J. (2004). Nutrients for cognitive development in school-aged children. Nutrition Reviews, 62(8), 295–306.

Delange, F. (2000) The role of iodine in brain development. Proceedings of the Nutrition Society, 59, 75–79. Sandstead, H. (2000). Causes of iron and zinc deficiencies and their effects on brain. Journal of Nutrition, 130, 347–349.

(10) Lieberman, H. (2003). Nutrition, brain function, and cognitive performance. Appetite, 40, 245–254.

Frisvold, D. (2012). Nutrition and cognitive achievement: An evaluation of the school breakfast program. Working Paper, Emory University.

 

Is Your Water Bottle Making You Fat?

Did you know that most plastic water bottles contain substances that can cause weight gain?

By now, many of us have heard of bisphenol A (BPA), which has been used since the 1950s to make reusable water bottles, baby bottles, pacifiers, plastic utensils, children’s toys, compact discs, and certain microwaveable and reusable plastic containers. After it was determined that BPA acts as a endocrine disrupting chemical (EDC) as well increase one’s susceptibility to cancer, many companies switched over to using bisphenol S (BPS), to make their plastics “BPA-free”.

Bisphenol-A (BPA)and its similar counterpart bisphenol-S (BPS) belong to a class of substances called obesogens.  An obesogen is a chemical that, you guessed it, disrupts normal development and fat metabolism and can, in some cases, lead to obesity.

According to a Canadian study, BPS, like BPA, can actually trigger fat cell growth.1  Cells when exposed to BPS were stimulated to accumulate fat as well as signalled to produce proteins that allowed the cell to become more efficient in fat deposition.  One study actually found BPS to be more effective in stimulating fat accumulation than BPA. 2

The mechanisms by which these toxins disrupt the body’s metabolism is complex.  They include the dysregulation of several hormones, disruption in regulation of hunger and satiety, and a reprogramming of metabolic set points. Both BPA and BPS have also been shown to affect the proper functioning of beta and alpha cells in the pancreas, fat cells, and liver cells which can contribute to the development of Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes. 3,4,5 Exposure to even small amounts of these substances in unborn children can trigger obesity later in life. These substances are not benign and have a significant impact on many aspects of our health.

So while drinking water is certainly beneficial for your health (it can speed weight loss by 550 percent and rev energy by 89 percent), you need to give your water container some serious consideration.

Here are five strategies to reduce your exposure:

  1. Carry your own water bottle (stainless steel or glass) with you. If you must buy water when you are on the go, choose water that comes in either a glass bottle or a box. Avoid plastic water bottles, as most are made from polyethylene terephthalate (PET), another EDC which increases estrogenic activity.
  2. Avoid drinking from plastic cups or using other plastic kitchenware.
  3. Avoid touching cash receipts – as the paper is usually coated with BPA or BPS.
  4. Reduce your consumption of canned food – choose dry or fresh foods whenever possible. If you do buy canned items, try to find BPA and BPS-free versions, such as those made by Eden Foods.
  5. Don’t reheat foods in the microwave if they are in plastic containers. Instead, use ceramic or glass containers.  Better yet, reduce/eliminate your reliance on plasticware and plastic wrap to store food and go with glass instead whenever possible.

 

References:

  1. Boucher, JG, Ahmed, S, Atlas E. 2016. Bisphenol S Induces Adipogenesis in Primary Human Preadipocytes From Female Donors. Endocrinology. 2016 Apr;157(4):1397-407.
  2. Ahmed, S, Atlas, E. 2016. Bisphenol S- and bisphenol A-induced adipogenesis of murine preadipocytes occurs through direct peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor gamma activation.  International Journal of Obesity volume 40, pp.1566–1573
  3. Bodin, J, Kocbach Bolling, A, Wendt, A. Eliasson, L, Becher, R, Kuper, F, Lovi, M, Nygaard, C. 2015.Exposure to bisphenol A, but not phthalates, increases spontaneous diabetes type 1 development in NOD mice. Toxicology Reports, Volume 2, pp.99-11
  4. Mirmira, P, Evans-Molina, C.  2014.  Bisphenol A, Obesity, and Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus: Genuine Concern or Unnecessary Preoccupation?. Transl Res. Jul; 164(1): 13–21.
  5. Provvisiero, D, Pivonello, C, Mucogiuri, G, Negri, M, de Angelis, C, Pivonello, R, Colao, A.   2016.  Influence of Bisphenol A on Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus. Int J Environ Res Public Health. Oct; 13(10): 989.

6 Simple Steps to Start a Fast (for Anything)

A fast is simply abstaining from something for a period of time.  Fasting is a time honored, often spiritual, tradition.   Though it is often associated with food, there are many elements that can insidiously insert themselves into our lifestyles when we are not paying attention.  Bad habits happen to all of us.  .

Fasting in all of its forms, is an exercise in self-control.  Whether it is caffeine, sugar, video games, shopping, cybersurfing, social media or television – pick your “vice.”. And self-control holds benefit for all—regardless of your spiritual background.

Here’s how to start:

  1. Choose your element – ask yourself what is the one thing you don’t think you could live without.
  2. Choose a timeframe – I recommend starting small and working your way up – can be one day, a week, a month, or even one day per week.
  3. Prepare yourself for the commitment you have made for yourself. If you decide to give up coffee, you might want to ensure you have an alternate beverage to replace it with. If you decide to give up eating out, you will need to make sure you take the time to prepare your meals.
  4. Expect it to be difficult – especially at the beginning. Let it be hard, accept that the difficulty is part of the process. If you don’t find it difficult, maybe your choice wasn’t as much of an issue for you as you may have thought.
  5. Be gentle with yourself. If you don’t manage to achieve your goal, be humbled by your efforts to try.
  6. Once the fast is over, then re-introduce the item back into your life gently and consciously. Let yourself decide if and/or how much this space this item/habit is permitted in your new routine. Choosing to do/eat something consciously changes the experience completely. Moderation will often be the “new normal.”

Fasting isn’t sexy, but it is of great value.  You will discover things about yourself from this practice.  You will regain self-control over all of the elements in your life.  You will feel better about yourself – you deserve it.

 

5 Tips to Help you Keep your New Year’s Resolution(s)

The beginning of a new year always holds such promise – an era of newness, filled with the optimism to better oneself.  A chance to start fresh, yet change is hard.  Many of us come up with all sorts of New Year’s resolutions – whether it is increasing your physical fitness, losing weight, saving more money or learning a new language.  The reality is only 9.2% of people actually achieve their goals and manage to break free from their bad habits.  The vast majority of us don’t even manage to make it past the first month!

Often we fail because we are not making the right resolutions.  This year, make a real difference by implementing this SMART strategy to make lasting change in your life, not just in  your resolutions, but any goals you might have in life (at any time of the year).  I hope you find them useful to increasing your chances for lasting success and a healthier more fulfilling life.

  1. S is for specific. Make your goal absolutely clear – eg. if you want to save more money for your RRSP, decide what specific amount of money you would like to save and by when
  2. M is for measurable. It is incredibly important not only to write down your goal, but also to log your progress.  Whether you use old fashioned pen and paper, or track your results on a suitable app, the difference between tracking your results and not will significantly affect your ability to successfully achieve your goal
  3. A is for achievable. There is nothing wrong with setting big goals for yourself, but you are more likely to realize your goals if you break it down into smaller goals. When you tackle a larger task, it may interfere with your lifestyle in such a way as to really affect its sustainability. We are much better at implementing small changes successively, rather than tackling a big goal for a few days (or weeks) and then ultimately fail at it.
  4. R is for relevant. You need to ask yourself what your motivation is for your goal – is it intrinsic (and therefore based on a value that is important to you), or something that someone (or society) thinks you should do better? Ask yourself what are your reasons for working towards this goal.  When it is important to  you, you will find it much easier to make to implement changes.
  5. T is for timebound. We often are not very kind to ourselves. I think one of the most popular resolutions is to lose weight.  We give ourselves plenty of time to gain weight, but then want to lose it in a matter of weeks, or even days!  Giving yourself enough time to reach your goal, with plenty of intervals to measure the intermediate success along the way.  In this way, you building a better habit for years, instead of a short term fix over a few months.  Remember, it takes 66 days to change a habit.

Mini Chocolate Pies

Ingredients:
Chocolate Coconut Cookie Crust:

1/2 cup almonds or nut of choice
1 cup unsweetened dried coconut shreds
3 1/2 Tbs raw cacao powder
3 Tbs maple syrup*
3 Tbs coconut oil**
1/4 tsp Himalayan pink salt
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Water if needed to help blend

Chocolate Filling:

1 1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips (Enjoy Life brand is dairy-free, use Lily’s for sugar free option)
1 1/4 cup canned coconut milk shaken
3.5 Tbs maple syrup to taste*
2.5 Tbs coconut oil melted**
1 tsp vanilla extract

Coconut Whipped Cream:

1 13.6 oz coconut milk solid cream only (Thai Kitchen brand)
1 Tbs maple syrup*
1 tsp vanilla extract

*maple syrup can be substituted for sugar-free maple syrup for sugar free option
** use refined coconut oil if you don’t like the coconut flavor

Instructions
To make the crust:

Pulse all ingredients together in a food processor until sticky crumbles form.
Press into a silicone muffin pan OR use parchment liners. Set in the freezer while you prepare the filling.

To make the filling:

Place chocolate chips in a medium bowl. In a small saucepan on the stove (or glass bowl in the microwave), heat coconut milk to just boiling.
Pour hot coconut milk over the chocolate chips and let it sit for about 5 minutes to melt the chocolate. Whisk smooth.
Add in the remaining ingredients and stir until well-combined. Taste and adjust for sweetness.
Pour chocolate mixture over crust and freeze for 2 hours or until solid. Remove from muffin pan.

To make the whipped cream:

Refrigerate a can of coconut milk overnight. Scoop out the solid cream into a mixing bowl. Add maple syrup and vanilla.
Whip with a hand mixer for about 1 minute until light and fluffy.
Spread whipped cream on top of each pie. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

This recipe is from: http://prettypies.com/recipe/mini-chocolate-pies/

Grain Free, Dairy Free Easy Blender Pumpkin Spice Muffin Recipe (with Sugar-free option)

Ingredients

  • 1 cup nut butter
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla (try making your own!)
  • 2 tablespoons of raw honey (or other sweeteners such as maple syrup, stevia, etc.)
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Place all ingredients into a blender or food processor. You can also use a stick blender if you have one.
  3. Blend until well mixed.
  4. Pour batter into a greased muffin tin. You can also use a mini muffin tin to make 24 mini muffins.
  5. Add additional toppings of your choice to each muffin and lightly stir into each cup
  6. Cook time: 15 minutes for full size muffins and 10 minutes for mini muffins.
  7. Reheat in a toaster oven for about 4 minutes at 350 degrees F, or eat at room temperature.

15 Household Spots You Should Be Cleaning

There are about 150 different species of bacteria found on the average human hand – some harmless, some beneficial and some capable of causing serious illness. Germs get spread every time you touch something.  On average, about three hundred different surfaces get touched every thirty minutes.  Regular household germs are thought to be responsible for causing over 65 percent of colds, 50 percent of diarrhea and 50-80 percent of food-borne illness.  Frequent hand washing is probably one of the simplest and most effective strategies for keeping household germs at bay.  Another is ensuring germ hotspots get cleaned regularly – here are fifteen household sources that are easily overlooked.

    1. Toothbrush

      According to researchers at the University of Manchester in England, your toothbrush is home to more than 100 million bacteria including E. coli and staphylococci (Staph) bacteria, including fecal germs. Every time you flush, bacteria are released into the air and can travel up to five feet away. The fix: Replace your toothbrush every three to four months, or more frequently if bristles are frayed, if you experience illness or your immune system is weakened.  For an electric toothbrush, replace the head as frequently as you would a regular disposable brush. Children’s toothbrushes may need to be replaced more often than adult brushes. If possible, store your toothbrush in the medicine cabinet (it still needs to be upright) or at least as far away from the toilet as possible.  Allow your toothbrush dry between uses (some people have a different morning and a bedtime brush).  Close the toilet lid when you flush.  Avoid using toothbrush protectors as they can harbour bacteria.

    2.  Toothbrush holder

      Given its location in the bathroom (and close to the toilet), it comes as no surprise that the toothbrush holder also showed high levels of bacteria (27% coliform, 14% staph, 64% had mold/yeast contamination).The fix: Either wash manually in hot soapy water or in the dishwasher twice per week. Better yet, get rid of it and store your toothbrushes (upright) in a covered part of the bathroom (like the medicine cabinet).

    3. Bath Mat

      Bath mats sit on the bathroom floor (one of the most contaminated parts of the bathroom) and provide a moist dark environment where mold spores, bacteria and fungus can thrive and survive for weeks.  The fix: Launder mats once per week on the highest heat and with bleach (follow manufacturer’s instructions).  Launder separately from bedding or other clothes.

    4. Hand towels

      Towels are such great bacteria traps because every time you use a towel, you transfer your natural skin bacteria, and any other germs you’re carrying, onto their surface. Towels are made to absorb water, which is great for drying your skin, but not so great when it comes to discouraging bacterial growth.  Face, hand and bath towels spread bacteria and viruses among family members who use the same towels.  To add insult to injury, most people don’t wash their hands properly – so you end up rubbing bacteria into an ideal growing environment. In one study, nearly 90% of bathroom towels were contaminated with coliform bacteria and about 14% carried E. coli. The fix:  Use your own individual towel (for face, hand and bath).  Wash all towels after two days of use, in hot water and bleach for best results.

    5. Loofah

      Like a kitchen sponge (full of holes and crevices), your loofah is a prime place for germs to accumulate.  It picks up germs from your body, plus anything it might contact from shower surfaces.  Using a germ-ridden loofah sponge can also contribute to acne.  The fix:  It is probably better not to use one at all, and swap it out for a washcloth instead.  But if you must, rinse them with super hot water at the end of a shower, allow them to dry between uses and always, always replace them every three months.

    6. Tub & Shower

      Your bathtub may have 100 times more bacteria than the trash can, according to an in-home bacteria study conducted by the Center for Hygiene and Health in Home and Community. The fix: Disinfect tubs and showers twice per week to get rid of dead skin cells left in the tub that can carry germs too.

    7. Sponge

      Your kitchen sponge is ironically the germiest item in your home.    In a recent study, 77 percent harbored coliform bacteria, and another 86 percent contained yeast and mold and another 18 percent contained staph bacteria. Bacteria flourish in moist environments offered by kitchen sponges and rags.  Using a dirty sponge or rag to wipe kitchen counters only transfers bacteria from one place to another.  The fix: Sponges should be replaced frequently, ideally weekly. Use a clean rag every day or two.  Dry sponges and rags between uses (ensure they are free of organic debris before drying). Kitchen rags and towels should be laundered in hot water with bleach for best results.

    8. Coffee Maker

      Fifty percent of reservoirs swabbed for the study had mold and yeast, and nine percent had coliform bacteria.  The fix: A simple way to disinfect it while also removing mineral buildup? Fill the water chamber with half vinegar/half water, then “brew” a pot halfway. Turn the pot off and let it sit for 30 minutes before finishing the brew. Run a clear water mixture through next (do this step twice) and you’ll have a clean coffee pot ready to brew delicious coffee.

    9. Oven handles/light switches/microwave screens

      Since a lot goes into cooking a meal/food preparation- handling uncooked meats and unwashed produce, cutting boards, opening cabinets/refrigerator/oven/microwave, it is easy to see how germs could be transferred from one surface to another.  The fix: Disinfect frequently used kitchen surfaces, especially before and after meal preparation   Keep a spray bottle of diluted vinegar and clean rags on the counter for easy access.

    10. Kitchen faucet

      After you handle raw meat in the kitchen, naturally you turn on the tap to wash your hands, and may not realize the transfer of bacteria that are left on the faucet (this also holds true for bathroom faucets)  More than half of faucets in American homes are covered in bacteria.The fix: Disinfect all surfaces regularly using hot water and soap or a diluted solution of chlorine bleach and water.

    11. Dishwasher

      Dishwasher detergents are designed to clean your dishes, but are not effective in keeping the insides of the dishwasher sanitized.  Food particles, soap scum and grease cling together and create an ideal breeding ground for various microorganisms.  In one study, 62% of the dishwashers tested positive for fungi, 56% of which were black yeasts. The fix:  Regularly run your dishwasher empty with a cup of vinegar and a cup of baking soda, and don’t forget to clean out the trap regularly.

    12. Remote

      The TV remote – gets dropped on the floor, coughed on, sneezed at and handled by every household member.  A remote control’s surface were found to be one of the germiest surfaces in the household (consider this when travelling in hotel rooms too). Almost half of remotes tested were contaminated with cold viruses.  The fix:  Clean the remote regularly using a microfiber cloth, a solution of 50/50 rubbing alcohol/water, a toothbrush to clean with and a cotton swab.  Buy a remote with a flat design for easier cleaning.  When travelling (remotes to be shown second only to a bathroom counter in the average hotel room for bacterial counts), don’t use the remote and use the TV on/off button instead.

    13. Makeup and makeup Brushes

      With every touch, you transfer all of the microorganisms from your skin into your product.  Same holds true for any brush or applicator.  So over time, your makeup becomes a ripe source of  microbial contamination, which gets spread around with every time you doll yourself up. 60% of women rarely wash their makeup brushes, if at all.  One survey revealed that 39% of women wash their brushes less than once a month and 22% admit to never washing them.

      The fix:  Clean your makeup (think pressed powders, foundation, metal tools and makeup bag liniing) with a small spray bottle filled with isopropyl alcohol (allow to dry before using) on a weekly basis.  Use alcohol wipes for items like lipstick, concealer, eye and lip liners and metal tools.  Wash makeup brushes and sponges brushes in warm soapy water on a regular basis. Discard and regularly replace expired products (every three months for mascara, every six months for liquid liners and foundations and every year for gloss, creams).

    14. Purse/Backpack/Computer Bag

      One study of office workers found that women’s purses were one of top three dirtiest things they touched throughout the day, with E. Coli on 25 percent of purses tested.  This holds true for any type of bag that is being used on a daily basis.  The fix: Don’t rest it on the bathroom floor, use the hooks provided in public restrooms whenever possible.  Clean the bottoms of all bags regularly with a disinfectant wipe (vinegar and water will suffice) every few days.  Purchase bags with a non-permeable fabric on the bottom for more effective cleaning.

    15. Keyboard/Tablet/Smartphone

      For most people, the cellphone is probably the one items that gets touched the most.  One study found one in six phones was shown to be contaminated with fecal matter (we have our own unwashed hands to blame).  The fix:  Power down the device once per week (more during cold and flu season) and wipe with a disinfectant cloth.

5 Steps to Kick the Habit

I started drinking coffee in my mid-20s and have been trying to quit since (now more than 20 years later).  It is easy to tell yourself, or a little bit can’t hurt, but before you know it, an innocent one cup a day habit can easily turn into 4 or even 8 cups/day.  Whether it is coffee, certain foods (think sugar), social media, cigarettes or alcohol, everyone has a tendency to addiction.  The good news is that we now have a better understanding of the underlying brain chemistry that makes us susceptible.  Following these five strategies will help rebalance your brain, and make it that much easier to overcome addiction.

Simple Gluten-free, Dairy-free Bread

 

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup whole tahini butter (from ground sesame)
  • 5 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • ¾ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon Himalayan Pink Salt

Directions:

  1.  Preheat Oven to 350 degrees
  2. Mix together tahini and eggs until very smooth
  3. Add in apple cider vinegar, baking soda and salt
  4. Transfer batter to pan greased with coconut oil
  5. Bake at 350° for 35 – 45 minutes depending on your oven.
  6. Enjoy!

 

5 Ways to Boost your Brainpower

It was once thought that brain decline happened due to brain cell (neuron) death or cease of function.  Recent research now shows that the neurotransmitter dopamine can trigger the formation of new neurons in adult brains. Not only do neurons regenerate, they are also able to reorganize themselves and form new neural connections (called neuroplasticity).  With our current knowledge, not only can we slow down cognitive decline,  but we can prevent it outright.  Try the following dietary and lifestyle tweaks to boost your brainpower, prolong your mental health and ultimately,  make yourself smarter.

1. Exercise

The brain is only 2% of our body mass but it consumes 20% of our oxygen and nutrients.Aerobic exercise improves blood flow and increases oxygen levels, which increase neuron growth. Exercise also increases the volume of white and grey matter in the brain. A minimum of 30 minutes three times a week is recommended.

2. Eat dark chocolate and other brain foods.

The brain is comprised of 70% fat. Healthy fats like avocados, coconut oil, MCT oil, fatty fish (like salmon and tuna) and/or supplement with a high quality fish oil. Foods like cocoa, blueberries, red wine and grapes contain compounds that have been shown to be beneficial for brain health.  The polyphenols in green tea have been shown to improve memory.  Egg yolks are a rich source of choline which is needed to make one of your brain’s main neurotransmitters.  Eating for best brain health also includes eating balanced meals (meals that include roughly equal amounts of protein, carbohydrate and fats – this is especially important at breakfast).  Avoid food additives like aspartame and food dyes, which have been shown to damage neurons.  Eliminate, or ideally, avoid consuming sugar due to its affect on blood sugars which is a known risk factor for developing Alzheimer’s (some researchers now call it Type III Diabetes).  

2. Sleep.

Sleep is needed not only to regenerate cells, but also helps strength synaptic connections. How many of us wake from a good night’s sleep with a new solution to an old problem?  That is because sleep allows your brain to analyze problems from a different perspective.  Aim to get 7-9 hours of sleep for adults and 8.5 – 9.25 hours for teens.

3. Try something new.

Challenge your mind by continuing to learn.  Activities that use both sides of your brain – like learning a new language, painting, dancing or playing an instrument are all particularly beneficial for brain growth.  Listening to music and reading fiction are also proven ways to enhance cognitive function.  Travel and engaging in social activity have also proved beneficial.  Doing puzzles like crosswords and Sudoku are also useful in keeping your neurons active.  Using the internet has also been shown to activate regions of the decision-making and complex reasoning parts of your brain, making it a much better choice than passively watching TV.

5. Fast

According to the Society for Neuroscience, there are many benefits to calorie restriction/intermittent fasting, such as increased synaptic plasticity,  neuron growth, decreased risk of neurodegenerative diseases, and improved cognitive function.  Some popular methods of intermittent fasting include fasting for 24 hours (only drink water) once per week, the 16:2 model in which eating is restricted to an 8 window every day (thereby “fasting” for 16 hours/day), or restricting your calories to 500 (for a woman) – 600 (for a man) calories per day 1-2x/week with five days of regular dietary intake.

With knowledge comes power, so I hope these tips inspire you to make changes that will improve not only your mental health, but ultimately your overall health, for years to come.  Hopefully, this article has already left you just a little bit smarter.