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Volume III
March 29, 2013

Weekly Home / Cook'n & Eat'n

Keep Your Brain Sharp and Blood Sugar Stabilized!

By Alice Osborne

Blood sugar issues play havoc with the body, internally. Even the brain is adversely affected - increasingly as we age. So we want to be diligent in doing all we can to protect the 'ol gray matter!

The best thing we can do is daily load up on high-antioxidant foods. And here's what you already know: The best sources of antioxidants are from whole foods, especially fresh fruits and vegetables - preferably organic and locally grown. Research is abundant that proves a vegetable-rich diet is key in preventing age-related mental decline.

For instance, veggies, particularly spinach, were found to retard central nervous system and cognitive behavioral deficits. I've already talked about the crucial importance of cutting sugar (especially fructose) out of the diet. But experts are now connecting eating a diet high in sugar and processed foods and low in fresh vegetables and fruits, as a form of brain starvation - Alzheimer's to be exact - and glucose metabolism appears to play an important role in the disease. It's already known that diabetics have four times the risk of Alzheimer's, and those with pre-diabetes have triple the risk.

Veggies are generally better than fruits because they are lower in sugar, but the exception is berries. Berries that have a low glycemic index, that is - blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, cranberries, boysenberries, gogi berries, acai berries, gooseberries. Berries contain pterostilbene, which helps reverse much of the negative brain effects of aging. Wild blueberries are high in anthocyanin and other antioxidants, and have been shown to improve learning capacity and motor skills.

Besides eating fresh vegetables and fruits, studies show that the sleep hormone melatonin plays and important anti-aging role by helping to slow down your brain's aging. Melatonin is produced in the body by the pineal gland and also produced in the gastrointestinal tract. While this hormone plays a key role in synchronizing circadian rhythms and helps regulate the sleep-wake cycle, it also is a powerful free radical scavenger and potent antioxidant.

As an antioxidant, it easily crosses cell membranes and the blood-brain barrier. Melatonin even slows the production of estrogen, which can activate cancer.

Melatonin is found naturally in many plants, including feverfew, rice, corn, tomato and fruits. In plant growth, melatonin regulates plant growth by its ability to slow root formation, while promoting above ground growth. This sort of explains its benefits to the brain - just as it slows root formation in plants, it slows deterioration in the brain. Good to know!

If you'd rather take melatonin naturally, rather than as a dietary supplement, you can find it in tart cherries, bananas, pineapple, oranges, grapes, rice and cereals, fresh herbs, tomatoes, walnuts, and olive oil. Of these fruits listed, pay careful attention to the fact that only tart cherries are lower on the glycemic index - keep your portions of the other fruits small to avoid a fructose overload.

Now here's something more to understand: It's important to know that altering the foods melatonin is found in can radically affect its availability and absorption. Specifically, cooking at high temperatures affects how much melatonin the body can obtain from the food. Ideally, food consumed should be fresh and unprocessed to obtain the maximum nutrient value. So you see the natural pattern of things? We've come full circle back to my original point - the best sources of protection via antioxidants, are from whole foods, fresh fruits and vegetables! Even if you decide melatonin is your preferred method of mental protection - you're still looking at eating fresh fruit and vegetables because that's where the best melatonin is.

So mix those berries into oatmeal, toss them into yogurt, and blend them into a smoothie. And when you make that smoothie, toss in some fresh baby spinach leaves. Drizzle high quality olive oil over fresh tomato slices and eat a handful of raw walnuts with gogi berries or dried cranberries. The possibilities to protecting the brain through optimal diet are endless and tasty.

The research keeps pouring in and won't go away - eating whole fresh food is the best way to protect our brain and stabilize our blood sugar!


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