Sunday, January 18, 2009

The Joy Diet

Taken from a chapter in This is Your Brain on Joy, the following information is truly worth the price of this blog. Okay, well, yeah... the blog is free. So let me rephrase that: its worth whatever amount of money you'd place on your brain health. There's more information in the book (which is REALLY worth the $15.99 price on Amazon) but this should give you good news and a great start!
(This is Becky's grandson, Georgie, joyfully chomping down on his first ear of fresh corn!)
Now heeeeeeeeeeeeeeere's Earl, with some suprisingly great news about brain food.

Joy Food!

The good news is that what is good for your mood is good for your brain, good for your heart, and good for your weight!

Fat Heads
One of the surprising, and perhaps most delightful, bits of brand-new research is that two kinds of “saturated fat”—from whole milk products and butter, and also coconut oil—do not impact your body negatively like some of the other saturated fats (corn oil, vegetable oil, etc.) in normal doses. And in fact, they add just the yummy touch of comfort and taste in small portions to calm, soothe, and lubricate your brain. (See The Mood Cure and Real Food—both excellent books that speak to the subject of healthy fats, with news that may surprise and delight you. Another fascinating book on the physiology of eating quality food with mindful, relaxed, pleasure is The Slow-Down Diet by Marc David.)

When our nation went fat-free for a decade (remember the T-Factor Diet Fad of the ’80s and ’90s?), not only did we get fatter but we got more depressed . . . in droves. We were feeding our bodies more sugar and less healthy fat and creating one giant brain crisis. Your brain is largely made up of fat, and therefore needs regular amounts of it in small doses to keep the membranes nourished and healthy, and for you to remain calm and clear.

Farm-raised Folks
The old-fashioned, natural way of eating—a lean protein, a glass of milk, some veggies and whole grains, with fruit as snacks and dessert—was pretty much the best “diet” our country ever had for nourishing the brain. Basically, anything that brings us “back to the farm” the way a family would eat if they had to grow their own food, milk their own cows, churn their own butter, and kill their own chickens seems to be best diet for the brain after all. And of course, adding in the exercise of plowing and harvesting and milking and churning to your daily routine couldn’t hurt.
Looking back on my childhood, I was basically raised on a “Minnesota Farm Diet” where we grew and ate our own veggies and always had a large freezer full of what would now be called organic beef. Our neighbors, who had time to go fishing in the Land of 10,000 Lakes, would bring us fresh fish. Milk came straight from the cow each day. (We did pasteurize it first.) Actually, there was very little purchased at the store.

How we can improve today on that classic Happy Days diet is to emphasize even more fish than beef and get really creative with fruits and veggies until we are eating a quart of them a day. Also, by adopting the Mediterranean’s heart-healthy use of olive oil in our cooking, we are protecting our brains and hearts.

For those who can tolerate milk and milk products, raise your frosty mug and enjoy that milk mustache again! In studies where people ate the same amount of calories, but half the group had a good amount of dairy in their diet, the dairy eaters lost more weight and were healthier and felt more satisfied overall. If you can’t tolerate milk, you can try the lactose tablets, yogurt, or substitute soy products, or try the organic, hormone-free milk products. You may be surprised that it wasn’t the milk, but the hormones in them, that caused negative reactions.

A word on organic: I know it is expensive! However, the fewer toxins your body has to process, the happier your liver will be and the more vitamins you’ll be getting. By shopping for what’s on sale and stocking up if you can, it isn’t hard these days to eat organic, or at least partially organic, on a budget. Trader Joe’s and Sunflower Market often offer great deals on organic produce, dairy, and meat. And most major grocery chains have jumped into the organic pond, cutting costs for all of us. It is safer to eat the non-organic produce if it is “thick skinned”—like bananas or navel oranges or pineapples. In fact, most tropical fruits are generally less exposed to toxic chemicals. So use your budget to buy organic berries, peaches, apples, and other thin-skinned produce.

Also, if you are consuming a lot of one product—like milk or hamburger—try to use the organic or antibiotic-free brands. Sam’s Club carries milk products that are hormone-free (though not organic) . . . and at a very reasonable cost.

Buy bags of frozen organic berries in bulk when they go on sale, because they’ll last a long time and can be used to make ice cream-like frozen desserts in seconds with the addition of a little yogurt and honey in a blender. Sprinkle with toasted nuts or wheat germ and you’ll never know you aren’t eating Italian gelato! When you do decide to sweeten a sauce, smoothie, hot tea, or other recipe, try real maple syrup, honey, agave nectar (90% fructose but low glycemic), stevia, or a spoonful of frozen apple juice or white grape juice concentrate instead of refined white sugar or artificial sweeteners. A little goes a long way and does less harm to your blood/brain balance. The absolute worst (and commonly used) sugar you can put in your body is corn syrup—it gets to your blood even faster than table sugar. Try to avoid buying products that use this as an ingredient whenever you can.

(To be continued: next up -- More Brain Food!)

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