Tag Archives: Nutrients

Eat This With That: Iron + Vitamin C For Energy

Iron is the vehicle that helps red blood cells carry oxygen throughout the body. Low levels of dietary iron make for oxygen-hungry cells and a fatigued, energy-deprived body. Unfortunately, iron can’t do much for the body if it can’t process it. Nonheme iron, the kind found in plants such as lentils, beans, and leafy, green vegetables, is difficult for the body to absorb—only 2-20% of the iron is actually used. Enter vitamin C: through a series of chemical reactions, this nutrient helps iron become more bio-available (up to three times) so the body can use the iron for energy.

Try this: Salad with spinach and citrus dressing; hummus with red pepper strips; chili with pinto, black, or kidney beans and crushed tomatoes; chicken cacciatore with tomatoes and peppers


Brain Foods That Get an A+ (Or a 170)

In my ultimate quest to become a nutritionist, my first official step is taking the GRE so that I can apply to Public Health School. I’m taking the new and revised GRE tomorrow, and I’ve been studying for weeks. While I can’t control how hard the test is, one thing I can take into my own hands is my diet. Certain foods have been shown to enhance memory, reasoning skills, and the ability to concentrate, so in a last-ditch effort to raise my scores, I’ve been eating these foods all day. Of course, to really get the most of their brain-boosting effects, you’d want to start including them in your diet a lot earlier – but I’m relying on the placebo effect here. Eat these smart foods for smart health!
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Our brain is partly composed of gray matter, neuronal cell bodies that are distributed predominantly throughout the cerebral cortex and cerebellum. One of the elements that allows the gray matter to function properly is docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), a type of omega-3 fatty acid. These fatty acids increase the fluidity of cell membranes, allowing for better synaptic communication to and from nerves – thereby enhancing learning and memory. DHA also protects the brain by reducing oxidative stress. A lack of omega-3s in the diet can have the opposite effect: in one study, rats deficient in omega-3s experienced impaired learning and memory. Salmon is one of top sources of DHA; walnuts, flaxseed, and seaweed are good vegetarian sources of omega-3s.

Green Tea
Green tea has long been touted as a fat-burning, antioxidant-filled alternative to coffee. Its claim to fame is its high levels of EGCG (epigallocatechin-3-gallate), a polyphenol. These compounds have been shown to reduce age-related brain damage and to protect the brain from neurotoxic substances, such as viruses. In a study reported in the Journal of Nutrition, rats were given either differing amounts of a mixture containing EGCG or a mixture containing none for 26 weeks. At the end of the period, the rats were tested in a difficult maze to measure their learning abilities. The rats who received the EGCG-spiked drinks performed better on the maze, demonstrating increased short-term learning ability; in addition, these rats showed decreased free radical damage in their hippocampi, the brain structure that deals with memory and information processing. Japanese researchers suggested that EGCG may have brain-protecting abilities beyond their antioxidant activity, including the supervision of cell survival. Sip matcha for the greatest EGCG content; decaffeinated and bottled green teas contain significantly less.

Whole Grains
Replacing refined carbohydrates with whole grains is one of the most popular tips for overall health. They contain healthy vitamins and minerals, unique antioxidants, provide energy and mood-boosting serotonin, and reduce the risk of certain cancers, diabetes, and other health problems. In terms of brain health, however, their most important quality is their cardiovascular-health promoting qualities. By improving your cardiovascular system, whole grains boost blood flow to the organs – including the brain. Just like your body requires adequate blood flow to your muscles while you exercise and to your stomach while you digest food, ample blood flow to the brain improves brain function. In addition, whole grains provide a steady stream of glucose, the fuel your brain uses to function. While subsisting on refined flours results in spikes and dips in blood sugar, whole grains provide balanced energy for optimal brain function. For an early-morning boost, eat a bowl of oatmeal sprinkled with wheat germ or whole grain toast smeared with a nut butter.

If you’re nervous before a big test, include lysine- and arginine-rich yogurt in your test-day breakfast. In a study from Slovakia, scientists gave two groups either a placebo or three grams each of the amino acids lysine and arginine. Measurements of stress hormones circulating in the blood confirmed that those who had taken the amino acid supplements demonstrated half as much anxious behavior during a public speaking test. Taken together, lysine and arginine reduce stress hormones such as cortisol in order to normalize stress responses. Yogurt is also one of the best sources of calpain, a unique calcium-dependent protein found in yogurt as well as leafy greens such as kale. Studies have shown that calpain plays a role in long-term potentiation, a fancy phrase for the strengthening of firing between synapses, thereby increasing long-term memory. Combined with yogurt’s protein, these three nutrients will increase alertness and memory, giving you the ammo you need to ace your test.

Plenty of other foods can boost brain health as well, such as curry, nuts and seeds, berries, citrus fruits, green, leafy vegetables, sage, eggs, and even chocolate. And just as nutritionists advise eating a rainbow of fruits and vegetables to get the maximum amount of nutrients possible, eat a wide range of these brain-loving foods to reap their benefits from every direction.

Tomorrow, I’ll be eating a pre-GRE breakfast of yogurt with multigrain flakes, ground flaxseed, chia seeds, walnuts, cinnamon and green tea. Here’s to the placebo effect!

Eat This with That: Vitamin A and Lutein + Monounsaturated Fats for Better Vision

The benefits of adding healthy fats to your meals stretch far beyond that of increasing the absorption of lycopene. Vitamin A and other fat-soluble phytonutrients, such as beta carotene, vitamin D, vitamin E, and lutein, require dietary fats in order to be absorbed. One study found that subjects who ate a salad with spinach and other vegetables tossed with a fat-based dressing absorbed five times as much lutein and fifteen times as much beta-carotene than those who ate a dry salad. So if you think you’re doing yourself a favor by skipping the salad dressing; hold your fork: add a tablespoon and you’ll reap the benefits up to fivefold.The specific combination of lutein and vitamin A, two nutrients found in spinach that protect the eyes, along with monounsaturated fats, leads to a tasty nutritional powerhouse that will keep your peepers happy.Try this: Spinach salad with avocado and olive oil dressing; chicken, fish, or vegetarian tacos made with spinach and guacamole

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Eat This With That: Combining Nutrients for Better Health

Nutrition articles often market single nutrients for health benefits: we know that calcium builds stronger bones, and that vitamin A yields glowing skin. Recent research, however, has shown that certain nutrients, when combined, work synergistically to enhance the beneficial effects of one or both nutrients. This is why nutritionists advocate a balanced and varied diet, filled with a rainbow of fruits and vegetables, as well as whole grains, nuts, and animal products. By combining certain nutrients, you not only increase their effectiveness exponentially, but you can also treat your palate to a variety of tastes and truly get the most bang for your buck.

Lycopene + Monounsaturated Fats for Cardiovascular Health
Lycopene is a fat-soluble antioxidant that gives produce like tomatoes, watermelon, and grapefruit its rich red color. Among other superpowers, it has been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease. Monounsaturated fats, which also protect against heart disease and show other cardiovascular benefits, help the body absorb fat-soluble nutrients like lycopene. In fact, one study showed that those who ate a salad containing avocadoes (a source of monounsaturated fats) and tomatoes, they absorbed five times as much lycopene as those who ate just tomatoes. Cooking tomatoes, instead of eating raw ones, also increases the absorption of lycopene up to three or four times.

Try this: Caprese salad with tomatoes, olive oil, mozzarella, and basil; guacamole and salsa; spaghetti tossed with tomato sauce and olive oil; pesto with roasted tomatoes; turkey sandwich with avocado and tomatoes
Check back for the next super-nutrient pairing!