Can The MIND Diet Help My Brain?

Eating healthy and exercise has been proven to help prevent diabetes, heart disease, obesity and many forms of cancer. It’s also key to memory, focus and preventing disease as we age,  to remember that your brain is a muscle.

The brain is like a muscle. When it is in use we feel very good. Understanding is joyous.” -Carl Sagan


Focus on the brain as a muscle demands maintenance through healthy fuel and fitness. This healthy attitude requires you to integrate its’ maintenance with the focus you attend to your body.  Rebecca Katz, the author  of The Healthy Mind Cookbook: Big Flavor Recipes To Enhance Brain Function, Mood, Memory, and Mental Clarity attributes brain fog and depression as proof of the brain-body connection. She believes “the kitchen and the gym may hold the keys to clear thinking.

An emerging study has been investigating the connection of the heart-healthy Mediterranean diet with its blend of olive oils, whole grains, vegetables and lean meats and brain health. reports, The MIND diet, which stands for “Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay,” was developed by Martha Clare Morris, a nutritional epidemiologist at Rush University Medical Center, through a study funded by the National Institute on Aging and published online February 2015.

Morris’ team followed the food intake of 923 Chicago-area seniors. Over 4.5 years, 144 participants developed Alzheimer’s disease. The longer people had followed the MIND diet patterns, the less risk they appeared to have. Even people who made “modest” changes to their diets – who wouldn’t have fit the criteria for DASH or Mediterranean – had less risk of developing Alzheimer’s. The study found the MIND diet lowered Alzheimer’s risk by about 35 percent for people who followed it moderately well and up to 53 percent for those who adhered to it rigorously.

  • Every day, you eat at least three servings of whole grains, a salad and another vegetable.
  • The MIND diet recommends drinking a glass of wine. (While a little alcohol consumption seems to be better for the brain than none at all, you could skip the wine since it’s not necessary to follow the guidelines to the letter to benefit.)
  • On most days you snack on nuts, and every other day you eat half a cup of beans.
  • You eat fish weekly, and poultry at least once per week.
  • A half-cup serving of berries (blueberries are best) are recommended and olive oil is preferred.

The brain connection with exercise is not completely understood, but it’s accepted that exercise changes your brain chemistry 

Also, that “exercise helps the brain factor that helps new brain cells to form, while keeping existing neurons young.” (

The research on the MIND diet continues and there is support for its healthy diet recommendations for brain health.

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The Astonishing Impact School Lunches Have on Childhood Obesity Rates

Issues surrounding the nutritional value in school lunches is a significant issue impacting childhood obesity rates in the United States. states that kids who buy lunch at school had a 30% greater risk of obesity than those who brown bag theirs.

The stats revealed were a part of a University of Michigan study of over 1000 sixth graders, and results were published in the American Heart Journal.

The study found that in addition to the nutritional quality of the food as a factor in the statistics, was a lack of activity for those children.

Two or more hours of sedentary activity in front of a TV or video games increased the risk of obesity by 19%.

These two factors can lead to an unbalanced, dysfunctional metabolic profile (see my blog on Metabolic Syndrome from Feb. 28, 2013).

The solution involves

  • creating opportunities for activity for the young people
  • reducing their screen time
  • improving the nutritional profile of their lunches

Previously, the theory on childhood obesity centered around behavioral factors and hereditary or genetics factors.

According to the study, obese children had three common markers.  They were:

1.       Less likely to have consumed milk with in the previous 24 hours to being involved in the study 983% VS, 90%)

2.       More likely to consume school lunches on most school days (45% vs. 34% that home-pack)

3.       More likely to consume regular soda’s and soft drinks daily (40% vs. 30% who don’t consume daily)

4.       Had significantly less exercise.  Less than 20 minutes a day in the week before the study and less likely to participate in school or after-school organized sports.

Making positive changes to the growing problem of childhood obesity impacts everyone in the US, even if they don’t have children themselves.  If the upcoming generation is plagued with health issues due to an increase in metabolic profile issues, it burdens the healthcare system, doesn’t allow for the children to reach their potential in education, and creates mental health issues for them as a group. Let’s all get involved in some way to create positive change.

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A Healthier Lifestyle Might Be The Best Medicine

Our fast-paced society has lengthened our 8 hour work day to what is literally or figuratively becomes a 12 hour day.  We hope to get more work done, and if it didn’t get completed then we bring our work and electronics home to ‘finish’.  Seems that we are trying to eek out the most productivity we can out of every day in hopes of succeeding in

1) finishing our work

2) getting noticed by the boss

3) closing the sale

4) getting more accomplished.  

But do we really? Is the best way to get more done, to spend more time doing it?  More and more studies say, NO!

Strategic Renewal of Energy

More research is showing that strategic renewal of energy through forms such as

  • morning workout
  • short afternoon naps
  • longer sleeping hours
  • frequent 4 day vacations

make for a more efficient and productive employee.  

Americans left an average of 9.2 vacation days unused in 2012.

According to an article in the New York Times (2/10/13), “Physicists understand energy as the capacity to do more work. Like time, energy is finite; but unlike time, it is renewable”.

It seems counter-intuitive that if we take more time off, we would be more productive.  But just like a child’s toy that uses batteries, if the batteries run low, the toy doesn’t work as well.

Systems Need a Break

Our bodies communicate to us that the systems need a break; fatigue and even illness are often a body’s way of demanding that we take a break.  We often override those signals by ignoring them, squashing them with caffeine, OTC stimulants and power drinks, or with prescription or illegal drugs.  These options may resolve the problems temporarily but for long-lasting resolve, a healthier choice must be made.

More major companies comprehend this connection.  They are providing workout/yoga classes and facilities, on-site child care that allows their employees to have lunch with their children, and require that employees honor at least part of their given vacation benefits for time off. 

“Using dirty energy today for faster results” as the article describes, will not achieve the long-lasting goal of creative, positive, efficient work results.  Taking care of yourself allows you to provide the best service or results for your work community.

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A Fat Is A Fat…Isn’t It?!

Whether we’re trying to lose weight or just avoid gaining it, many of us think steering clear of dietary fat is the first step. Rather than cut out all fat, however, we’d be better served if we focused on what types of fats we eat.

Fat gives your body energy, keeps your skin and hair healthy, helps you absorb certain vitamins but needs to eaten in moderate portions.

The average adult should get about 20-30 percent of their daily calories from fat and less than 10 percent of their daily calories from saturated fats, according to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 

Keep Fat Portions Moderate

To keep portions moderate, remember that eating a whole avocado (30 grams of saturated fat) does not mean your body gets MORE healthy fats because you ate it all, versus half.  No more than 30 percent of your daily calories should come from fat and each fat gram contains 9 calories.

Saturated and Unsaturated Fats

A diet high in saturated fat, found in animal products and some vegetable oils, can lead to heart problems. Eating the right amount of unsaturated fats can help your heart It’s recommended to get a daily maximum of 22 grams of saturated fat.

Unsaturated fats, including monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, are considered good-for-you fats.

Omega-3, Omega-6, and Polyunsaturated Fats

Omega-3 and omega-6 fats, which are both considered unsaturated, are both considered essential fatty acids, because our bodies can’t make them on its own.

Polyunsaturated fats can help lower total cholesterol, while monounsaturated fats can raise “good” cholesterol, or HDL, and lower “bad” cholesterol, or LDL.

So where can you find these unsaturated fats?

  • Avocado
  • wild-caught salmon
  • and other fatty fish such as
  • tuna or mackerel
  • almonds and other nuts (1-2 ounces)
  • olives
  • olive or coconut oils one tablespoon of flaxseed that’s been ground which makes it easier for the body to absorb the health benefits which include the over 4 grams of healthy fat. 

A quick way to remember this all-too-confusing information is to steer toward whole foods, in appropriate portions, and stay away from processed foods (shop the exterior aisles of the grocery, instead of the interior ones).  If needed, consult a nutritionists for food choices and recommendations.

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Muscle Is Made In The Kitchen & The Gym!

Wouldn’t it be great if you could work out hard and eat whatever you’d like, even after your metabolism changes after 40?! The reverse would also be the preferred choice of many; to eat healthy foods but never need to work out to maintain your desired weight and muscle tone.

Now it’s back to reality, and both of the groups described above will be disappointed. You need both the gym and the kitchen to maintain muscle tone and to achieve better health and desired weight over time.

Fuel for Your Body and Your Workout

Consider the food you choose to eat as fuel for your body and your workout.

If you expect your engine to work at peak-performance while filling it with processed foods, saturated fats, sugar and alcohol regularly, you’ll experience sputtering, clogging and inefficiency.  

To the contrary, if you use lean, quality proteins and non-meat proteins to support your muscles’ recovery after exercise, you will be rewarded with better quality energy and verve.


Carbs, having been portrayed as the ultimate villain in the weight loss world, have been redeemed. Carbs, in conjunction with proteins and healthy fats, all play a critical role in tissue, muscle repair and growth.

When You Eat

It is also important when you eat.  Protein works most efficiently when spread out throughout the day.  

When combining carbs and protein, you boost the nutritional value of both, which benefits muscles, mood and your mind.

Carbohydrates increase the presence of tryptophan (think Thanksgiving) which makes you feel happy. Win-win!


Exercise is equally important as the nutritional aspect! Exercise promotes

  • bone density
  • helps manage ideal weight ratios
  • helps maintain and increase muscle tone
  • improves balance as you age.

The harder you train at regular exercise, the higher your calorie burn during those efforts, and that extends even after you’ve hung up your sport shoes.  

According to, “The best time for women to increase food consumption is around exercise; before, during and after. This strategy takes the greatest advantage of heightened sensitivity of skeletal muscle to absorb and utilize carbohydrates to refuel, recover and grow lean muscle.” (October, 2014).

Remember that workouts and choosing high quality fuel for your body is a blessing, not a chore. Be the biggest cheerleader for your own best-health!

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Oatmeal Could Be A Perfect Breakfast Choice!

Need some healthy breakfast ideas?  Look no further than oatmeal.  Just a cup of cooked oatmeal contains 4 grams of fiber;  nearly the same amount that’s in an apple or a cup of cooked brussels spouts. It’s incredibly versatile and you can find it just about anywhere. I enjoy old fashioned oats, steel cut oats and when I travel I take pre-packaged high fiber oatmeal packs. Get a cup of hot water and you have a filling snack or healthier airport choice.

More Filling

Oatmeal is more filling than other breakfast choices because it’s loaded with fiber.  A 2014 study published in the American Journal showed that participants who ate oatmeal felt fuller for longer than those who ate the same serving size of standard breakfast cereals. 

Can Lower Cholesterol

Oatmeal can lower your cholesterol as many high-fiber foods do.  The soluble fiber in oatmeal helps to reduce the body’s absorption of “bad” cholesterol that can increase the risk for heart attacks and strokes. It is a good choice for people with diabetes because it helps regulate blood sugar levels.

Budget Booster

Oatmeal can be a budget booster as well.  Because I eat it every day, I buy it in bulk at a warehouse grocery.  It can cost as little as 20 cents per serving.

Ease in Cooking

Ease in cooking makes it a healthy and easy breakfast choice to make, though different varieties range in cook times. Old fashioned oatmeal cooks in 15 minutes. I cook one cup oats with 4 cups of water. I add ground cinnamon and turmeric (both have anti-inflammatory properties) to my cooking process, though it gives the flavor a bit of a bite.  I distribute the finished product into 4 separate containers adding 20 frozen blueberries to each portion.  I seal them securely and enjoy them everyday.  

Steel cut oats, though similar in nutrition as old fashioned oats, takes 25 minutes to cook. The texture is more rounded that old fashioned and many people prefer this variety. 

I have also pinned (Paulas Healthy Living on Pinterest) several options to cook oatmeal overnight in a slow cooker. This can be a great option when feeding large groups of people.

Try adding

  • chia seeds or ground flax for additional nutritional value
  • vanilla, cinnamon, real maple syrup or puréed pumpkin for different flavors

I also enjoy a cup of egg whites with vegetables, and have my oatmeal mid-morning. It keeps my energy levels and focus on target all morning.  It can help you make better choices at lunch as well.

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Kitchen Hacks That Improve Everything!

We all have busy schedules that leave us pressured for time to feed ourselves and our families in a healthy way. But there are ways to streamline jobs, otherwise known as kitchen hacks, in the kitchen to re-enliven your zest for creating dishes that energize your body instead of carry out or food out of a box.

Hard Boiled Eggs

Hard boiled eggs make a nutritious breakfast when sliced over whole wheat toast with thin slices of avocado and fresh basil, made into egg salad with mustard or curry and Greek yogurt or taken on the go in a snack bag for a mid morning pick me up.

The problem is that peeling them is time consuming and pre-peeled ones taste like rubber golf balls. Try steaming 6 at a time for 15-16 minutes in a steamer basket. After cooling, they peel in a snap!

Roasted Veggies

If you have a house with different tastes in vegetables, how do you feed them all? Roast the veggies!

  1. In a ziplock place carrots, onions, brussels sprouts, parsnips, and purple cabbage wedges.
  2. Add 2 tablespoons flavored olive oil and fresh thyme.
  3. Give them a quick sprinkle of sea salt and roast in a 400 degree oven till done to your liking, turning at lest once for even golden taste.
  4. Add lean protein and fresh fruit slices and your ready!


If your short on time and planning meatloaf, cook them in a muffin tin.

  1. At 450 degrees they will be fully cooked in 12-15 minutes.
  2. Be sure and add finely chopped zucchini or carrots to the mix before cooking to improve their nutrition.

Chicken Stock & Tea Bags for Flavor

Improve the flavor of complex carbs by cooking in chicken stock, or adding your favorite tea bags such as a smokey black tea or Earl Grey for an original flavor.  I also enjoy adding a stalk of rosemary or coconut oil for fragrant flavor.

Faster Clean Up – Line a Baking Sheet with Heavy-duty Aluminum Foil

For faster after dinner clean up, line a baking sheet with heavy-duty aluminum foil when cooking 4-6 ounce fillets of fish or chicken.

  • Drizzle with a small amount of flavored oil and cracked pepper or fresh herbs to add flavor.  
  • At 400 degrees fish can typically cook in 10 minutes.
  • Chicken will take longer depending on thickness.  
  • Then after enjoying, clean up is a snap!

Oil Portions

Healthy oils such as olive oil, grape seed and coconut oil come in aerosol cans now. This allows you to modify the portion used while enjoying the health benefits and flavor.  

There are also misters with a pump lid available that allow you to add your desired oil, peppercorns or fresh herbs to your liking.

Clean Serving Platter – Aluminum Foil

When taking chicken, pork or any protein to a grill,  take your serving platter and put aluminum foil over.

After adding meat to oiled grill, fold up foil and throw away leaving your clean serving platter at the ready.

Pre-freeze Wine in an Ice Cube Tray in Hotter Months

When serving wine during the hotter months, pre-freeze the wine your serving in an ice cube tray. This allows your guests to enjoy their libations chilled with out watering it down.  

You can also add these cubes to a cooking pan when flavoring fish and chicken when cooking. 

This concept also works for different oils/herbs/peppercorn while cooking. Pop out the flavor and mix you desire and cook in a snap!

Finding ways to make cooking at home faster, more delicious and healthier benefits everyone’s waistline, nutrition and brings the family together.

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Are You Eating Foods In A Rainbow Of Colors?

Are you stuck in a rut of eating the same fruits and vegetables that you did when you were a child, and that’s it?  It’s time to ‘branch out’ for your long-term health foods.  Plus, there are flavors out there you are missing out on.

Yellow Foods

Yellow foods are high in antioxidants like vitamin C which improves the mucus membranes (like when we have colds), helps to absorb iron, prevents inflammation, improves circulation, and therefore prevents heart disease.

Blue, Purple & Indigo Foods

The blue, purple and indigo foods are great for their anti-aging properties. These foods have tons of antioxidants.  They also help improve circulation and prevent blood clots, so they are great and can help prevent heart disease. They are known to help memory function and urinary tract health and to reduce free radical damage.

Greenish/White Fruits and Veggies

Some white foods prevent cancer and heart disease, and lower cholesterol levels. Celery is often dubbed as a useless vegetable because it has no calories, but it does have minerals like good sodium that help keep the joints healthy. Mushrooms help prevent cancer and keep your body in balance.

Orange Foods

Orange Fruits and Vegetables are loaded with carotenoids! They are the powerful phytochemical in orange foods, and they are what give the foods their color. Carotenoids repair DNA and help prevent cancer and heart disease, as well as strengthening our vision. These orange foods also give us vitamin A, which keeps our eyes and skin healthy, and protects against infections. They are also known to boost the immune system.

If you want to read more blogs on the fruits and vegetables that are recommended to buy organic, click here and read more.

Including fruits and vegetables to anyone’s diet is an excellent first step to lowering overall daily calorie intake and increasing nutrients.  But making sure that a variety of colors are being eaten is the next step to increasing your overall nutrient benefits, and improving your defenses against a variety of health issues.

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Energy Boosters or Energy Zappers?

Schedules are crazy for many between family, sports, work and volunteering.  Fatigue is one of the most common reasons people go see the doctor.  Many times the tiredness they feel does stem from a medical origin such as anemia, hyperthyroidism, cardiovascular issues and cancer, but sometimes changes in lifestyle issues can increase energy.

First thing, have a general physical to rule out health issues.

Understand the power of food!  

Ask yourself if you are filling your tank with high-powered foods or energy reducing, nutrient-void filler food?

Sugar and carbs often become a quick-fix-filler. But blood sugar balance can create a diabolical star roller coaster.  Simple carbs may make you feel full in the short term, but they leave you wanting, and quickly become fat pads.  

Quality protein, healthy fats, fiber and whole, unprocessed foods provide fuel for the long haul.  

Also eating smaller meals with snacks in between keeps your blood sugar levels even throughout the day.  

You’ve heard it since you were young, but a well balanced breakfast that includes protein, fiber and possibly vegetables starts your day off with fuel for the rest of your day, your memory and emotional health.

Give up the sugary drinks and drink flavored water or tea.

This is a key lesson to teach your children from a young age.  Role model that adding herbs, fruit or lemon/lime to water can be refreshing g and provides your body with the water it needs to function at top capacity.

Sleep & Energy

Getting enough sleep seems to be that unattainable goal we all reach for, but it’s so important to body function, memory and emotional stability.

Alcohol doesn’t help.  Creating a schedule that becomes a priority, and removing social media and TV from your room creates a den that is comforting and encouraging for sleep.  To many it may be surprising that regular exercise (not close in time proximity to bedtime) encourages better sleep.

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Sugar! Could You Do A Month Without Sugar?

Could You Do A Month Without Sugar?.pngI became more aware of the dangers of high sugar intake in American diets when I began blogging 6 years ago, and made diabetes a platform issue for my website, Our nation’s sugar habit is a driving force behind the diabetes and obesity epidemic in the US and it’s believed to be a contributing factor to cancer and Alzheimer’s according to The New York Times (January 1, 2017).

The questions is, if it takes three weeks to change a habit, could you go four weeks without added sweeteners?

I challenged myself with this concept after a doctor asked me to remove maladextrin, a sugar substitute, to help with stomach issues I was experiencing.  It’s a daunting task, but it could help you reset your sugar taste buds.

Sugar comes with many different names:

If you begin looking at ingredient lists, you may be shocked how frequently you will see these names within the first 3-4 names on ingredients lists. The higher they are on the lists, the more there is in the product.  See the level of sugar in commonly consumed drinks and products across the nation.

The American Heart Association recommends no more than 24 grams of sugar per day for women, and 36 grams per day for men.

A single 16-ounce bottle of Coke has 52 grams.

Could You Do A Month Without Sugar?You may find yourself reevaluating a lot of the ‘healthy’ foods you regularly consumed previously like

  • granola or packaged cereals which predominantly contain added sugars
  • processed orange juice
  • flavored yogurt
  • pizza sauce
  • sugar free snacks

One effort to assist in this challenge would be cooking, and therefore, controlling your own food.  

If you buy it from outside aisles of the grocery, instead of the inside aisles, it more likely to help you in your quest.

What you will find at the end of the experiment is the pure taste in things such as

  • honey crisp apples
  • oranges
  • sweet red peppers and
  • many other foods

I’m not an advocate of all-or-nothing diet plans, and a bit of 80% cocoa dark chocolate makes my heart sing in the afternoon sometimes, but you will realize a renewed, sensitive set of taste buds that have been dulled by processed foods.

It’s an awakening to the beauty and amazing nature of natural food items and improved health is a bonus!

Paul Maier, Contributing Editor for Indian Hill Connection Magazine

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