By Keri Glassman, MS, RD, CDN
We spend countless hours focusing on our bodies. We try to eat all the right foods to stay lean and fit; we exercise to improve our body’s muscle tone and we pamper ourselves, as we should, to simply look great. And while staying physically healthy is super important, we should also eat well to keep our minds as healthy as our bodies. After all, our minds are what instructs our bodies and directs our behavior. So, keeping alert, sharp and focused should be top concern. Remember the wise notion that a healthy mind leads to a healthy body. Some foods are especially perfect for keeping our mind in tip top shape so it can serve us for a long, long time.
You’ve heart it a million times. Salmon is a superfood! In addition to providing all essential fatty acids, salmon, especially wild salmon, is a great source of omega-3 fatty acids that protect your heart, nourish your body and feed your mind. Salmon is naturally low in saturated fat and a great source of protein. The omega-3’s in salmon help improve your mood, and your overall brain function to keep you focused, sharp and youthful. If it sounds like a perfect food, well, that’s because it is.
These true blues aren’t just a perfect handful of deliciousness. They are loaded with antioxidants, low on the glycemic index and are another super brain food. Studies have found that these tasty berries can improve short-term memory, slow down and potentially reverse brain decline associated with aging and even improve age-related loss of balance. Add a cup to your morning oatmeal, eat them as a snack in your yogurt or simply by themselves. Your mind and your taste buds will thank you.
If drinking green tea in elaborate ceremonies that preceded 12-hour meditation sessions was good enough for ancient Japanese monks, then it’s good enough for us. Packed with antioxidants, green tea also contains anti-cancer and anti-aging properties as well as vitamin C and A. As far as a focused mind goes, its effects are even better than coffee: it is stimulating yet calming, which allows us to focus without the jitters. Whether you are meditating in a monastery or in a yoga class, green tea is a perfect complement to your daily grind.
Raw or Dark Chocolate
Made from the cacao bean, an age-old “magical” bean revered by South American civilizations, chocolate can be a perfect dessert. But this doesn’t mean all chocolate is an ideal brain food. Raw chocolate or dark chocolate (75% or more) is made from minimally processed cacao beans, which have been shown to improve your mood and your cognitive abilities. Regular chocolate production refines and processes the cacao bean and adds tons of sugar and calories, so definitely stick with the raw or the dark kind.
In the past, coffee has been given a bad rap, but now it is valued for its delicious health benefits. Studies show that coffee drinkers have a lower risk of developing liver cancer, Parkinson’s disease and Type 2 diabetes. Roasted beans are loaded with antioxidants, and their energizing caffeine properties stimulate cognitive function. The amount of caffeine in brews varies but a single cup of black coffee typically delivers 95-200 milligrams. This is enough to give you an afternoon pick me up without disrupting sweet dreams at night.
These little nutrition power houses pack a powerful punch. Loaded with antioxidants, vitamin E, omega 3 fatty acids, fiber and protein, nuts are a great snack to keep your mind fresh and body healthy. Studies show omega 3’s in walnuts aren’t only good for heart health but also for reducing stress and increasing intellectual performance. Antioxidants help protect brain cells, reducing the decline of brain function during aging. A handful of nuts paired with some dark chocolate creates a sweet treat that will make you smile every time you indulge.
Join Keri for her latest member meeting, “Food for a Focused Mind,” on Tuesday, June 28 at 2 p.m. and 9 p.m. See you in the chat room!
Nationally recognized nutrition expert and published author Keri Glassman is the founder and president of Keri Glassman, Nutritious Life, a nutrition practice based in New York City. For years, Keri has been a leader in advancing a “whole person” approach to health and wellness. She has dedicated her career to creating services and promoting education through her “Nutritious Life” brand.
She has authored two books; the most recent is The O2 Diet. The Cutting Edge, Antioxidant-Based Program That Will Make You Healthy, Thin and Beautiful. (Rodale, December 2009.) This book translates complex scientific research on antioxidants and the ORAC scale into useful and useable tools that everyone can benefit from. It empowers people to live a more Nutritious Life by combining a nutrient dense, high antioxidant diet with the other components of the Nutritious Life Cycle. The O2 Diet follows the Snack Factor Diet, (Crown, 2007.)
Keri is a contributing editor and advisory board member for Women’s Health Magazine, and was the first registered dietitian to create a real food based snack bar, KeriBar. Additionally, Keri is the Nutrition and Health contributor for NBC’s LX New York, and is regularly featured on national television programs including The View, Dr. Oz, The Doctor’s, The Wendy Williams Show, NBC The Today Show, ABC Good Morning America, MSNBC and The Fox News Channel. Keri has a blog on AOL Health/That’s Fit, and writes a monthly newsletter for Ediets.com.
Keri resides in New York City with her husband Brett and their children, Rex and Maizy.