If you’re younger than middle-age, I know what you’re thinking, “What is it with drivers these days?” Well, being that I entered a new decade a few weeks ago, let me enlighten you, my young friends…your time is coming too. Or is it?
Now, I’m not condoning poor driving but I can tell you that for most of us on the roads, we’re not driving with reckless abandon, as if we were 19 years-old again. We’re not driving while texting because we know that’s just stupid, and we’re not intentionally trying to make you mad or late or both. Honestly, most of the time we don’t even know you’re there. In my mind, I like to think my brain is just filled with so much “knowledge” that there’s no room left for remembering to put my turn signal on before I get to the intersection. (And of course, that truck behind me thought I was going straight.)
But the truth is, as we age our minds seem to “slip.” Phrases such as “brain fog” and “memory loss,” “attention deficit” and “lack of concentration and focus” are not new in describing the mind of our older generation. We’ve all seemed to accept this as a fact of aging – but we don’t have to.
Here are some things you can remember (or write them down, if you think you might forget) to do in order to keep your mind healthy.
These are the Seven Keys to UltraWellness by Dr. Mark Hyman from his book, UltraMind Solution. His website is www.ultrawellness.com and there is a ton of important information there. By the way, he’s one of Bill Clinton’s favorite go-to docs for health and wellness.
Key #1: Optimize Nutrition – the Key to Mental Health and Brain Health
Key #2: Balance Your Hormones
Key #3: Cool Off Inflammation
Key #4: Fix Your Digestion
Key #5: Enhance Detoxification
Key #6: Boost Energy Metabolism
Key #7: Calm Your Mind
Figs and Function will address each one of these areas in the weeks to come, but today it’s all about food and nutrition.
So, let’s get this party started….
Top Brain Foods
Good source of essential Omega-3 fatty acid.
Good non-fish sources of Omega-3 fatty acid.
- Pumpkin Seeds
Antioxidant-Rich Fruits and Vegetables
The greater the variety of fruits and vegetables that one eats, the wider the range of nutrients you will get. Eat the rainbow, as we like to tell the kids: red, orange, yellow, green and purple.
Good Source of Complex Carbohydrates
- Brown Rice
- Wild Rice
- Buckwheat (Kasha)
Nuts and Seeds
Good sources of B vitamins, iron, magnesium, calcium, vitamin E, selenium, potassium, zinc, and omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.
Beans, Legumes, and Lentils
Good sources of memory-enhancing minerals including B vitamins, calcium, iron, magnesium, manganese, and zinc.
Here are some of my favorite ways to enjoy these brain-boosting foods.
Grilled Lemon Dill Salmon, Broccoli with Peppers & Pine Nuts, and Wild Rice with Cranberries
I can’t take credit for this one – it’s Whole Foods Prepared Food Take Out.
Sometimes it’s just one of those nights. And a special shout-out to Vinnie, my new prepared-foods pal. He’s warm, friendly, and knowledgeable. What else would you expect from Whole Foods?
This recipe originally came from Body + Soul Magazine, which is now called, Whole Living Magazine.
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
½ cup finely chopped carrots
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 ½ cups lentils, rinsed
½ teaspoon dried thyme
1 can (28 ounces) whole tomatoes in puree
2/3 cup low-fat plain yogurt (optional)
1 ½ pounds spaghetti or linguini (wheat or gluten-free pasta)
Grated Parmesan (optional)
- In a large pot, heat oil over medium heat. Add onions, carrots, and garlic; cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes.
- Add lentils and thyme; cook, stirring, until lentils are coated, about 2 minutes.
- Break up tomatoes using hands or a spoon and then add along with puree.
- Add 4 cups water and bring to a boil.
- Reduce heat, cover tightly, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until lentils are tender and starting to break down, about 45 minutes.
- Season with salt and pepper. Remove from heat.
- If eating right away, stir in yogurt.
- Meanwhile, in a large pot of boiling salted water, cook pasta until al dente according to package instructions; drain.
- Toss with sauce and top with grated Parmesan cheese if desired.
*You can make this recipe dairy-free by eliminating the yogurt and Parmesan cheese.
*Feel free to substitute any pasta or grain, or just eat it as is over steamed vegetables. That would be yummy and really healthy!
*You can also freeze this sauce; just don’t add the yogurt before you freeze it.
This is our, “walking in the door at 7pm and starving,” dinner
Dairy-Free cheddar cheese (or cheese of your liking)
Corn Tortilla Chips
I don’t use the microwave often but when it’s late and we’re so hungry, I make an exception.
- Heat rice in the microwave.
- Drain beans, and rinse. Put in bowl.
- Place rice on plate.
- Put some beans on top of rice.
- Top with chopped cherry tomatoes.
- Top with slices of avocado.
- Sprinkle with cheese (or not.)
- Serve with corn tortilla chips on the side.
- Dig in.
Meal 4: My favorite breakfast
Oatmeal with chopped apple, prunes, nuts and flax meal
1 tablespoon of flax meal
½ apple, chopped (no core or seeds)
1 or 2 prunes, chopped
Nuts of choice (I like almonds, walnuts and pecans)
A dash of cinnamon
A tiny squirt of agave nectar
A splash of almond milk
* Feel free to use whichever brand of oatmeal you like best. I happen to enjoy this gluten-free instant 7 whole grain hot cereal from Eco-Planet Organics.
* Flax meal is ground flaxseeds. You can buy either whole flax seeds and grind them in a coffee grinder, or you can buy already ground flax seeds, known as flax meal. Whole flax seeds however, should be ground to offer the most nutrients. The whole seeds tend to go through your digestive system and come out in your poop, whole.)
Breakfast of Champions!
Keys, keys, has anyone seen my keys?
Well, hopefully you’ll experience this predicament less often after including some of these brain-boosting foods into your daily diet.
But while we’re on the subject of keys, here’s your function for this week. I promise it’s the quickest one so far.
Locate your key ring. (Possibly easier said than done.)
Remove any keys from your key ring that you don’t know what they open.
Place these unfamiliar keys in either an envelope or sandwich bag, labeled, “Keys to Something,” and save them, just incase one day you realize what they’re for.
You can go around your house looking for all of your “keys to something.” I happened to find some in a kitchen drawer, a few in my desk drawer and even one in the linen closet.
So my friends, young and not so young, I hope this week you’ll try to eat some of these awesome foods to increase your memory and concentration, enhance your power to focus and to ease some of that brain fog. And this, to my young friends in particular…be patient with us. We have a lot to offer, both from our wisdom and experience. Our driving though is a different story. In honor of Martin Luther King Day on Monday, why not give an older relative or friend a call this week? See if there is anything they need, or just say, “Hi, I was thinking of you.” They could be someone you care for, or maybe even someone you just met. I can almost guarantee, you’ll feel just as good as you’ve made them feel, maybe even better. Remember, caring is contagious!
Until next time,
P.S. Check your coat pocket…your keys may be there!