All posts by Maritza Pedraza

Food for the Brain

College and university studies demand long study hours, a lot of concentration, energy, and the ability to learn, understand, and eventually remember large amounts of information.  Therefore, to be able to keep up with the academic demands, our brain and body need to be well nourished. However, the lack of time and the stress students handle make them take food for granted, seeing it only as a way to be filled instead of being feed. Food therefore, becomes a matter of just grab and eat whatever, without realizing if what we are eating could be beneficial or detrimental to our memory and overall health.

 

Some might not know, but the brain has a nutritional part which consists of fats, proteins, amino acids, glucose and micronutrients. These components, according to a TED-ed video produced by Mia Nacamulli[1], have a big impact on our functioning, development, mood and energy.  The most important fats in the brain are Omegas 3 and 6, which according to this video are key to prevent degenerative brain conditions. Good sources of these omega are nuts and seeds and fatty fish such as salmon, sardines and tuna. On the other hand, proteins and their building blocks, the amino acids, are essential for growth and development. What it is key to understand is that a great part of our body is composed of protein, consequently we need to include it in our diet.  A website called Psychology Today, states that brain’s neurons communicate with each other through the protein we ingest[2]. This communication happens through chemical messengers called neurotransmitters, some of which are synthetized by amino acids. Neurotransmitters affect mood, behaviour, memory, as well as sleep, attentiveness and weight. According to Psychology Today, proteins raise the level of tyrosine, an amino acid that makes the brain produce norepinephrine and dopamine, other chemical messengers in the brain, that keeps us energized because they promote alertness and activity. Good sources of protein are fish, lean meats, white-meat poultry, seafood, eggs and beans[3].

 

However, since a healthy brain releases different neurotransmitters, a diet with a varied content of amino acids will help to maintain a proper combination[4].  Therefore, it is also vital to include in our diets good sources of carbohydrates, as well as micronutrients.  According to Nacamulli, the antioxidants found in fruit and vegetables strength the brain to fight free radicals which destroy brain cells. Consequently, the brain is able to work well for long periods of time. Blueberries, for example, are very rich in antioxidants, which are good at protecting the brain from degeneration and stress. A research made by the University of Cincinnati[5] found that this fruit can have a real benefit in improving memory and cognitive function in older adults. However, to be able to synthetize micronutrients, the brain needs carbohydrates for fuel. Carbohydrates are found as starch, sugar and fiber.  What it is key in consuming carbohydrates is to choose the ones that release a steady amounts of glucose, such as oats, grain and legumes, in order to have stable levels of attentiveness and mood, instead of getting quick peaks of glucose that will make us feel sluggish afterwards.

 

In addition to consuming food that is beneficial to maintain a good health, being hydrated is also very important since our bodies and brain are mainly composed of water. The water content of an average adult is between 55% and 60%, and the heart and brain are ¾ water. Since we lost water through sweat, urine and bowel movement it is important to intake water to compensate for this lost. Water helps to cushion and lubricates joints, regulate temperature and nourish the brain[6]. On the contrary, being dehydrated lowers energy, mood, skin moisture and blood pressure, causing also cognitive impairment. Additional to water, another good hydration sources are fruits and vegetables such as strawberries, cucumber and broccoli, as well as juices and tea.

 

To be able to keep up with the high demands of studying, it is important to have a healthy body and a well nourished brain that will help us stay focus and with energy for long periods of time. Since our brain has a nutritional contain, we need to maintain this contain balanced so our body functions properly. The main nutritional components of the brain are fat, and protein therefore, it is important to include them in our diets. The importance of proteins stays in their ability to break down in amino acids, which will generate the neurotransmitters that will affect among others, our mood, energy and concentration. However, since the brain produces different neurotransmitters, it is necessary to ingest a variety of food that will allows us to generate a balanced production. Additionally, micronutrients found in fruit and vegetables also contribute to our health because they can fight free radicals and help prevent brain degeneration. Moreover, to be able to process and break the nutritional content necessary to function, our body needs energy which can be obtained through carbohydrates. Ideally, these carbohydrates will come from sources that gave us a steady release of glucose so we can keep active longer. Finally, the high contain of water that our muscles, bones, organs and tissues have, demands us to keep hydrated, so our bodies will be lubricated, nourished and with proper levels of energy. Ultimately, making the right choices that allow us to keep a good health, will not only be beneficial to have a good performance during our studies, but also will provides a good quality of life.

[1]  Nacamulli, Mia. “How the food you eat affects your brain” Web YouTube. 21 June 2016. Web 29 Nov 2016

 

[2] Psychologytoday “brain-power-why-proteins-are-smart” Web 26 Nov 2016

[3] webmd. “good-protein-sources” Web n.d. Web 26 Nov 2016

 

[4] Nacamulli, Mia. “How the food you eat affects your brain” Web YouTube. 21 June 2016. Web 29 Nov 2016

 

[5] University of Cincinnati Academic Health Centre. “Blueberries Could Help Fight Alzheimer’s, UC Research Shows” Healthnews. Web 14 March 2016. Web 30 Nov 2106

 

[6] Nacamulli, Mia. “What would happen if you didn’t drink water?” Youtube. Web 29 March 2016. Web. 29Nov 2016

Chickpeas salad

This simple recipe is great when we don’t have enough time to cook but we need something nutritious and fulfilling.

Serves 2  Prep time 15 to 20 min

Ingredients

1/2 cup cooked chickpeas or a 14 onz can (No PBA if  possible)

1/2 cup sweet corn cooked or canned

1 medium cucumber diced

a handful of cherrie tomatoes halved

small red onion finely chopped

1/2 cup coriander finely chopped

Dressing

1 tbsp Olive oil

1/2 to 1 tbsp lemon juice

salt and pepper to taste

1 tsp maple syrup (optional for a mixed savoury/sweet flavour)

For a non vegetarian option you could replace the chickpeas with tuna or chicken.  Feel free to change the dressing with one that you think will enhance the flavours of the ingredients.  Enjoy!

 

Food can make you sick or food can heal you

Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food. — Hippocrates, father of medicine, 431 B.C.

When Hippocrates wrote this famous quote, he was probably referring to food as it is defined in the dictionary: “Edible or potable substance (usually of animal or plant origin), consisting of nourishing and nutritive components such as carbohydrates, fats, proteins, essential mineral and vitamins, which (when ingested and assimilated through digestion) sustains life, generates energy, and provides growth, maintenance, and health of the body”[1]. What he didn’t imagine though, was that today’s way of nourishment has also the power to make people sick. Food nowadays, is not as simple and nutritious as it sounds, most of it consists of refined sugar, trans fats, genetically modified organism and chemicals and hormones that have a direct relation with illnesses such as diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure, crohn’s disease and even cancer. Therefore, when trying to look for healing or having a better life, some people attempt to come back to the purest and healthiest version of food.

There are numerous testimonies of individuals who after being affected by illnesses, healed or better copped with them, after changing their diet and life style. This is the case of Rich Roll who after finding himself in his 40’s overweight and leading a sedentary life that could lead to a hearth attack, changed his diet to a plant based one and started exercising. Few years later he has been a top finisher at the 2008 and 2009 Ultraman World Championships in Hawaii and completed 5 ironman-distance triathlons on 5 islands of Hawaii in under a week. He is as well a full-time wellness and plant-based nutrition advocate, motivational speaker and writer. Another example is Kris Carr, also a wellness advocate and author of the documentary Crazy Sexy Cancer, where she tells how after being diagnosed with a rare, incurable stage-4 cancer back in 2003, she has been able to live a healthier life since after turning to a plant based diet. Finally, Sarah Wilson a former newspaper, magazine and TV journalist, who was affected by an autoimmune disease that attacks the thyroid, saw her health improving after experimenting quitting sugar. Sarah is the author of the international best-seller I Quit Sugar, and is director and founder of IQuitSugar.com a wellness program that has helped many people quit sugar and see the benefits of this decision.

These few experiences are a clear example of the power of food, and most importantly the power of our own choices. Even though some diseases may be congenital or acquired, some are also our responsibility. Hence, it is within the individuals’ willingness and power to make wise decisions that will lead to a healthier body and a better life.

[1]Business dictionary. www.businessdictionary.com/definition/food.html. Accessed 13Nov.2016.

 

Bite Me Event “Growing food year round”

The Concordia Food Coalition organizes (for a week) a series of public lectures and workshops related to food politics and food security. The purpose of these activities is to inspire and motivate people to act in supporting and creating food systems that are socially, environmentally, and economically just. One of these workshops was “Growing food year round”. This lecture, taught at the Concordia’s Green house, explains the different alternatives that people could use to grow food during all seasons. Therefore, a few techniques and alternatives were briefly explained using different options that each season offers. For example, during spring and summer, it is definitely important to take advantage of the weather and grow food outdoors. Hence, planting in the back yard, or the balcony and/or participating in community gardens or farm sharing are great options. On the other hand, during the cold seasons, indoors growing is the best alternative. Consequently, window farming, micro greens sprouting, hydroponic or aquaponics cultivation and having or volunteering in greenhouses are ones of the best suggestions. This conference was very informative and useful because it gives the participants different alternatives for food growing, that could fit their particular resources and needs, helping them at the same time to support better food systems.  To know more about the Concordia Food Coalition visit their website at http://www.concordiafoodcoalition.com

Cowspiracy

Cowspiracy is a documentary that reveals that global warming is not only and mainly due to human production of CO2. Kip Andersen and Keegan Kuhn, the writers, directors and producers of this film, discovered that the livestock industry is the main reason why despite all the efforts to reduce CO2, climate change, pollution and depletion of our planet’s resources are still soaring.

The foundation of this claim is based initially on an UN article stating that one cow produces more greenhouse gases (18%) than the whole transport system (13%). This is because the methanol produced from the digestive system of a cow is around 25 to 100 times more destructive than the CO2 of automobiles. In addition, livestock agriculture in the U. S. consumes more water per year than natural gas production, even though their methanol production is the same. For example, one quarter pound hamburger needs around 660 gallons of water. Further researches made by the authors reveal that the actual green house production of animal agriculture is 51% instead of 18%. Moreover, raising animals for food production uses 1/3 of fresh water of the entire earth, takes 45% of earth’s land and causes 91% of amazon forest destruction. Surprised by these revelations, Kib was willing to go deeper into this matter and find the reasons why not a lot has been done to remediate the situation, and make everybody aware of it.

He tried to reach the main environmental activists organizations and agricultural authorities to address the matter. However, he encountered complete rejection from organizations like Green peace and got elusive responses or silence when talking to some organizations such as Oceana, Surfrider foundation, California Department of Water Resources, and Animal Agriculture Alliance. Consequently, Cowspiracy reveals that the reason behind all this resistance is that the animal agricultural industry monetary supports some of these organizations.

Furthermore, he also discovered that some of those who have tried to write or say something regarding this matter have been victims of threat, lawsuits and even found dead. This is the case of a nun in Brazil, Sister Dorothy Stang who was killed because she wanted to talk about how animal agriculture was the main cause of the amazon deforestation. Or Howard Lyman, a former cattle rancher, who was sued by cattlemen who spoke in the Oprah show about the truth about animal agriculture.

With alarming statistics, controversial information and interesting interviews, Cowspiracy is a must seen documentary that restates the seriousness of global warming and the urgency to truly know about it and take action against it.

  1. faoNewsroom “Livestock a major threat to environment”. faonewsroom.fao.org. 29 Nov 2006. Web Nov 1 2016