Friday, August 31, 2012


According to Peter Goadsby, MD, PhD, director of the Headache Center at the University of California San Fransico, explains that the area of the brain that triggers thirst also prompts migraines.  He says the less thirsty you are, the less likely the cells that cause migraines will be activated.  Also, a study in the European Journal of Neurology found that participants who drank just over 4 cups more water a day than their usual daily intake experienced 21 fewer hours of pain throughout the 12 week study.  Their pain was also less intense. 

For anyone who suffers from true migraines, and all bad headaches are not migraines, it could be very helpful to keep the above information in mind.  Drinking some extra water in exchange for less pain and less intense pain sounds like a good trade-off to me, a migraine sufferer.

Thursday, August 30, 2012


One of the questions that often comes up is whether or not one should eat their vegetables cooked or raw to recieve the most nutritional value.  Below is a list of the most often questioned vegetables and information to help you decide.  Personally I say have them both ways throughout the week, you will see why below.
  • Tomatoes: You receive health benefits from tomatoes no matter how you eat them.  They are one of the vegetables, however, that should be eaten cooked on a regular basis.  When tomatoes are cooked (think sauces) they give one a higher dose of their cancer-fighting lycopene.
  • Zucchini: Along with other squashes, zuccchini gives one more beta-carotene (a building block for vitamin A) when cooked.
  • Spinach: Spinach is somewhat unique in that it has more vitamin C and folate when left raw.  It has more calcium and zinc when cooked.
  • Bell Peppers: More vitamin B when consumed raw.
  • Garlic: Garlic's health-protecting antimicrobial is lowered by cooking.
In a well-rounded diet, it is important to eat vegetables everyday both cooked and uncooked.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012


If you have a lot of heartburn that you choose to treat yourself with OTC antacids, you should pay a visit to your doctor - especially if you are feeling tired.  Did you know that chewing a lot of antacids can cause a vitamin B12 deficiency?  Antacids interfere with the absorption of vitamin B12.  The occasional antacids are not what we are talking about here.  This is referring to those who are continually chewing antacids and not checking in with their doctors. 

A deficiency of vitamin B12 causes fatigue and according to Danine Gruge, MD, associate medical director of the Pritikin Longevity Center and Spa in Miami, Florida, this deficiency is often found in persons who don't eat much animal protein.

I have a deficiency of all the B vitamins due to having a lot of my colon removed therefore not having good vitamin absorption.  I can assure you that you should get any serious fatigue checked out by your doctor.  I can't even explain the difference my vitamin shots make.  (Don't get freaked out; I take shots because of the absorption issue.  Most people can take tablets!)

vitamin B12

Tuesday, August 28, 2012


If you don't like counting calories or have trouble following specific diet plans, don't dispair!  You can control and maintain your weight by following some simple guidelines when planning your meals.  For the past several days this blog has focused on different types of calories (yes, there are different types!) and how they affect how the body handles them.

Remember the following guidelines when planning your meals (you will find the details on all these recommendations on the immediate previous posts on this blog) and let the calories you eat help you maintain your weight.
  • You can forget counting calories.
  • Eat foods from each of the "Active Calories" lists every day.
  • Eat mostly foods from the "chewy" and "hearty" catagories.
  • Eat at least one "energizing" or "warming" food everyday.
  • Any snacks should contain at least one "active calorie" food.
  • Drink plenty of water; 2 glasses per meal is recommended.  You need the water to prevent digestive problems because of all the protein and fiber you are consuming.
By following these guidelines you will keep your fat burners active rather than allowing "couch potato" calories to take over and go straight from digestion to fat storage.

Note: Healthy fats such as nut butters, avocados, healthy salad dressings, etc can also boost fat burn.  The key is amount controll.  Keep nut butters and salad dressings to around 1 tablespoon.  1/8 of an avocado is the recommended amount.
And don't forget this; beverages count too!  You can destroy a lot of the good you do by eating the right foods if you drink unhealthy beverages.

Monday, August 27, 2012


We all know how easy it is to fall into the Binge Food trap; foods that are starchy, high-carb, start eating and you can't stop foods.  I venture to say that everyone reading this article has some food/foods that you crave and can't stop eating.  One of the big problems with that is these Binge Foods are also Couch Potato Foods.  Beware of getting trapped by The Binge Brigade because these couch potato calories will all be absorbed and stored as fat.  Following is a list of foods known as Binge Foods:
  • regular pasta
  • white rice
  • refined bread
  • muffins
  • bagels
  • French fries
  • potato chips
  • biscuits
  • cookies,
  • pies,
  • pastries
  • cakes
  • doughnuts
  • ice cream
Remember when you are eating the above foods, they are couch potato calories and will not create activity therefore whatever amount you eat will probably become fat in your body.

Does that mean you have to give up these foods?  Not necessarily.  Just keep in mind to eat these foods sparingly and don't fall into the binge trap!  Also you can enjoy pasta, use whole-grain pasta, don't even buy white rice, eat brown rice.  Don't buy regular white bread, eat whole-grain breads, whole-grain bagels and muffins.  If you do indulge in French fries, choose fries with the skin on (and remember 10 fries is considered a serving!).

Limit your couch potato calories, eat active calories, and keep the foods you eat working to help you lose and/or maintain a healthy weight.

Doughnuts - Tasty Binge Foods

Sunday, August 26, 2012


The last four posts have been about "active calories." But just as we eat active calories, calories which keep our furnance running, we also eat "couch potato calories."  Couch Potato Calories  are calories that are so easily digested we are likely to absorb every calorie and store it as fat!  When you eat Couch Potato Calories, even if you don't overeat, you may still gain weight because the calories are so easily absorbed and stored as fat.

Some Couch Potato Calories are easy to recognize such as refined and sugary foods that take 0 energy to digest.  Here are a few of the obvious ones:
  • Candy
  • Fruit Punch or Fruit Juice Cocktails
  • Sweetened Cereals
  • Sodas/Colas
  • Sweet Tea
However, there are imposter Couch Potato Calories.  These are processed foods advertised as the real thing but they are actually anything but!  There is really no "meat" or substance to them and they are full of fillers.  Here are a few of these types:
  • Breaded Chicken Patties - read the label!
  • Chicken Nuggets - again, read the label!
  • Premade Burgers that are not 100% meat.
  • Lunch Meats such as Bologna and Salami
  • Hot Dogs
Tomorrow's post will discuss another type of Couch Potato Calories - The Binge Foods

Oh no! Candy is Couch Potato Calories!

Saturday, August 25, 2012


Continuing on the the 4th food type of active calories, today's post is about warming foods.  Warming foods include peppers, cinnamon, ginger, garlic, cloves, mustard, and vinegar.  Capsaicin is the chemical giving peppers their burn.  A UCLA study found that dieters taking in capsaicin doubled their energy expenditure for several hours after eating.  Even mild peppers contain a compound that helps erase up to 100 calories a day by binding to nerve recptors and sending fat-burning signals to the brain.

             Garlic - One of the Warming Foods

I'm sure you have seen something in each of the four groups you can eat everyday, maybe even every meal.  Help your body to help you burn calories!

Friday, August 24, 2012


Today's post continues the posts of the past couple of days regarding active calories.  Today we will talk about Energizing Foods.  Energizing foods are basically foods that boost your metabolism.  Examples are coffee, black tea, green tea, and dark chocolate.

You get metabolism-boosting caffeine in coffee and in black tea.  The key here is to drink these beverages without loading them down with sugar and/or cream! 

Green tea doesn't have much caffeine in it but it does have catechins, an antioxidant that raises  resting metabolism by 4% and that amounts to about 80 calories a day. Had you ever realized you could burn calories with a cup of green tea?

Dark chocolate does double duty since it contains both caffeine and catechins.  The downside here is to not overeat it.  You should only eat 1-ounce per day and it should be dark chocolate!

Thursday, August 23, 2012


This is a continuation of the post below regarding Active Calories.  Yesterday I mentioned 4 types of active calorie foods; chewy, hearty, energizing, and warming.  Today's post will deal with Hearty Foods.

Hearty foods include fresh fruits, fresh vegetables, brown rice, whole-grains, cereals.  As you can see from this list, it is very easy to eat at least one food from this group per day.  Actually, if you even try just a little, you can include one in almost every meal.  You will notice some of these foods also are chewy foods giving you a double touch of active calories help.  These foods not only require more work to eat and digest than many other foods, they are also packed with fiber and that means taking up more room in your belly compared to some other foods with the same number of calories.  The more room your calories take up in your belly, the less room you have for other calories including second helpings. Just another little tip to help you change your eating habits for the better.
Delicious Fresh Fruit-an example of a hearty food.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012


Eating does require lots of energy if you eat the right kinds of foods.  The following 4 types of foods have active calories to stimulate the body into burning more calories.  These same foods also help curb appetites.
  1. Chewy Foods
  2. Hearty Foods
  3. Energizing Foods
  4. Warming Foods
We will discuss chewy foods here.  The other three groups will be covered in the next three days.

Chewy foods include lean meats, nuts, whole fruits, and whole vegetables.  The calories used just to chew and digest these particular foods puts the body to work immediately off the fork.  Maximize the chew factor by eating whole foods versus processed foods.  Example: Chewing a steak takes more calories than chewing ground beef.  Eating whole almonds uses more calories than eating ground nuts.  Eating an apple uses more calories than eating applesauce.  Eating a baked potato with skin uses more calories than eating peeled mashed potatoes.  Not only does it take more energy to eat these foods, it takes more energy to digest them, too.  I'm sure you get the idea, make what you eat work for you!  Keep this in mind as you plan your daily meals and be sure you are eating active calories at every meal!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012


Calories come from things you may not have even considered.  Some things you may have never suspected contain "active calories" that stimulate your body to burn more calories!  Some things that are so easy to add to your meals can give you an even bigger calorie burn than others.  Caffeine and other compounds in coffee, tea, and such spices as chiles, cinnamon, and ginger fire up your central nervous system and can boost your metabolism by as much as 12% according to research.  Be sure you are adding some of these things to your diet everyday and keep that metabolism fired up and burning calories for you!  Active calories when they become a regular part of your diet can set your fat-burning engines on high all day helping you to lose weight or keep your weight down without going hungry!

Monday, August 20, 2012


Adding curry to your diet does more than just add flavor.  Turmeric's yellow pigment, curcumin, helps to ward off disease.  Turmeric is a key ingredient in curry. Studies show that curcumin inhibits the growth of cancer, particularly colon cancer cells and may even reduce the risks of getting Alzheimer's disease.  Curcumin may also help prevent and treat a type of fatty liver disease than can lead to cirrohis of the liver. 

Some suggestions for adding curry to your diet; sprinkle over scrambled eggs, add to lentil soup, sprinkle over roasted sweet potatoes, chicken salads, etc.  There are also certain ethnic foods, Indian for example, that use curry liberally.  Turmeric is also the ingredient that gives mustards their yellow color.

Sunday, August 19, 2012


Did you realize the body stores calories differently?  Therefore when it comes to weight loss, calories are nowhere near alike.  For instance, some foods take more work to eat and therefore burn more calories while you are digesting them.  Just the act of chewing foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, etc can up your calorie burn by 30%.  And that's before the stomach and intestines even do their work.  A Japanese study found that women who ate foods that required the most work had significantly slimmer waistlines than those who ate the softest, easiest to eat foods.  The fiber and protein in such foods take so much effort to digest that the body doesn't absorb some of their calories.  Include lots of foods that take effort to digest and let your body burn more calories just digesting your food!  Now how easy is that?

Saturday, August 18, 2012


According to Dr. Andrew Weil, research suggests people with anxiety have lower than normal levels of Omega-3 fatty acids and adding them to the diet may help with the symptoms of anxiety.  You can get more Omega-3s in your diet by eating more fatty fish such as salmon, sardines, or mackerel, walnuts, and/or freshly ground flaxseed.  If you don't like any of those foods, take a fish oil supplement daily - 2 to 3 grams a day with meals.

Caution:  If you are taking coumadin or other blood thinning drugs, be sure to check with your doctor before taking fish oil supplements which can react with your medication.

Friday, August 17, 2012


Flaxseed is a natural skin soother!  If you have sensitive skin you should add flaxseed to your diet as some newer studies show that flaxseed oil - rich in polyunsaturated fatty acids - can not only reduce skin sensitivity but also increases hydration and smoothness.

Store whole flaxseed in fridge and sprinkle a tablespoonful or two of freshly ground seeds over cereal, salad, or potatoes daily.


1 ounce of pumpkin seeds is packed with the amino acid tryptophan.  Tryptophan is used by the brain to make serotonin, known as the "happiness chemical."  Have the munchies?  Nibble on some pumpkin seeds, especially if you have the munches because you are nervous or have the blues.

Thursday, August 16, 2012


Dr Weil, famous for his health and nutrition advice, said the following about fighting anxiety: "Sip green tea."  The reason:  The amino acid L-theanine, which gives green tea its unique flavor, also has calming effects.  Studies show it increases alpha brain waves, which are linked to increased relaxation.  He suggests drinking green tea throughout the day and says not to worry about "the jitters."  Green tea is naturally lower in caffeine than regular or black tea and L-theanine seems to neutralize the caffeine effect.  Decaf green tea is fine, too.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012


Did you know that blackstrap molasses was the most popular sweetener in the United States until the 1880s?  You might want to replace some of the granulated sugar in your diet with such molasses.  Backstrap molasses contains vitamin B6, magnesium, manganese, calcium, copper, and selenium.  Backstrap molasses also has more iron than a chicken breast.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012


If you are one of those people who only eat the breast meat of chicken, you should consider adding some dark meat to your diet.  The meat from the legs and thighs has greater amounts of nutrients such as zinc and iron than does the white breast meat.

Monday, August 13, 2012


Don't be confused by pure maple syrup and pancake syrup.  Pure maple syrup contains minerals such as manganese, zinc, and calcium.  The syrup most people buy to use with their pancakes, etc is not pure maple syrup!  It is a mix of high fructose corn syrup and caramel colored dye.  Spend a little more and make sure you are buying pure maple syrup for yourself and your family!

Yes, I went to my pantry and look what a disaster I found.  I have been feeding this sugar blob to my grandchildren!  Notice how the label makes it look like maple syrup with the name and maple leaf when it is really only a pancake syrup.  I knew it wasn't pure maple syrup but I must admit I had never really read the label (shame on me) to see exactly what it was.

Sunday, August 12, 2012


Are you aware that high sugar intake and depression go hand in hand?  If you battle depression and you crave sweets, try substituting honey for some of the sugar you normally consume.  Honey contains traces of B vitamins, folate, iron, manganese, plus 181 different bioactive compounds such as quercetin, caffeic acid, etc which boosts enery production in the brain.

I wonder if this strange connection has anything to do with the fact that people who get depressed about something tend to overeat and put on weight.  Perhaps they get into a cycle where the depression feeds the sugar cravings and the sugar cravings feed the depression.  Keep this in mind the next time you feel depressed and reach for a candy bar, piece of cake, etc.

My husband is a sugarholic!  He also suffers from clinical depression.  All he wanted to do was sit in his recliner and eat sweets.  I have managed to replace some of his sugar intake with honey and I sneak him more of my sugar-free diabetic foods.  He still eats sugar but his depression is better.  He was on 3 different psycological medications for well over a year.  He has been able to drop one medication.  I'm sure the changes in his diet are not the only reason for this but I am convinced they have been helpful!

Saturday, August 11, 2012


Chili Peppers are good for the brain and for your mood!  You probably never thought of them that way, did you?  I know I didn't.  I love hot foods so I eat a lot of foods with peppers.  I have always known they were good for helping me fight the inflammation my body has a problem with.  But I had never thought of them as helping my mood until I started doing some research on foods and their relationships to the brain, dementia, and mood.  (Yes, my husband suffers from those illnesses; thus my research.) 

You may know chili peppers contain a fat-soluble molecule called capsaicin.  I knew this was the molecule that helps with my pain and inflammation but until recently I never knew how much this affects our moods.  The brain is loaded with receptors for capsaicin and we respond by releasing endorphins, natural compounds that have a calming effect on us!  If you don't like the heat of peppers, introduce them into your diet gradually in some casseroles, Tex-Mex foods, etc.

Friday, August 10, 2012


Before you gasp, yes, you read that title correctly.  I did say add potatoes to your diet.  But not just any potatoes!  And, as with everything, eat potatoes in moderation.  Since I became diabetic I have had to totally change the way I eat potatoes.  The good news is that I am healthier for it!  Potatoes get a bad reputation, especially here in America where we seem fixated on french fries.  We also love our potatoes, peeled and mashed with loads of fattening ingredients.  But there are healthier ways to enjoy potatoes.  Would you believe that potato skins, the part we usually discard, have as many phytonutrients as broccoli especially if we eat the more colorful varieties.  Some unusual nutrients found in potatoes, know as kukoamines, can lower blood pressure and that protects the heart and the brain.  Iodine is also found in potatoes.  Did you realize one of the first things doctors check in a patient suffering from depression is the thyroid which needs iodine to function properly?  And how about this little surprise?  Iodine deficiency is the most common cause of preventable brain damage in the world!

So the next time you go to the grocery store or market, check for the colorful varieties of potatoes.  Buy a few and experiment with healthy ways of preparing them.  And don't peel them!

If you grocer doesn't carry a big variety of potatoes in the produce section, check for healthy varieties in the frozen food section.  Below is an example.

Thursday, August 9, 2012


Don't make the mistake of thinking calcium is only in dairy products.  If you need more calcium in your diet, think green leafy vegetables including broccoli.  Broccoli and other green leafy vegetables are rich in calcium.  Be sure you are getting adequate vitamin D to help your body absorb the calcium.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012


Studies show that countries with the lowest rates of depression, bipolar disorder, postpartum depression, and seasonal affective disorder - known as the winter blues - have the hightest fish consumption.  Fish, especially wild salmon, have been found to have fish oil that is as effective as Prozac for treating major depression.  Perhaps that is why Alaskans are able to tolerate their long stretch of days without sunshine.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012


We all know tomatoes are good for us and are a food we definitely need as a part of our diets.  Here is a reason that might surprise you; tomatoes are a happiness food.  Tomatoes are rich in lycopene and lycopene helps maintain good mood by preventing the formation of inflammatory compounds that are associated with depression.  There are other mood enhancers in tomatoes, too, such as folate, magnesium, iron, vitamin B6.  The iron and vitamin B6 are both needed by the brain to produce important mood-regulating neurotransmitters such as serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine.

So eat your tomatoes and tomato products and be happy!

Monday, August 6, 2012


Walnuts are sometimes called the multivitamin designed by nature!  If walnuts are not currently a part of your diet, they should be!  Consider this list of vitally important nutrients packed into a little walnut:
  • trace minerals
  • macronutrients
  • magnesium
  • copper
  • iron
  • manganese
  • zinc
  • calcium
  • omega-3s
  • folate
  • other B vitamins
And I have probably missed one or two!  And by the way, walnuts are also considered 'happiness food."

Sunday, August 5, 2012


Or should we say coffee is a happiness beverage?  However you look at it, coffee with caffeine causes an increase in dopamine, which is how it boosts confidence, focus, and mood.  No wonder some of us are unbearable until we get our morning shot of coffee!  And did you know that 1 cup of coffee has more antioxidants than a glass of grape juice or one serving of spinach?  Coffee also has 2 phytonutrients - norharman and harman - which function like a class of antidepressants called monoamine oxidase inhibitors.  A few cups a day of coffee and people have a decreased risk of brain disorders such as depression and dementia.  Coffee has been shown to boost mental ability, focus, and mood.  So go ahead and enjoy a couple of cups (unless your doctor has told you otherwise!) but be wary of adding sugar and cream!  Learn to enjoy your coffee black!

Saturday, August 4, 2012


Continuing on the theme of happiness foods or brain foods, let me say that your mother was right; eat your vegetables, especially the dark leafy ones such as arugula.  Dark leafy veggies are among the most nutrient-dense foods we eat.  Folate, which helps to protect us from depression, originates in the leaves of plants.  It's name even comes from the Latin word folium which means leaf.  Greens are also rich in calcium, important because calcium triggers the release of neurotransmitters every time a neuron fires.  Greens are also good fiber foods.  Many may wonder what fiber has to do with the brain since we always think of it as for the gut.  And that is true.  Fiber is essential to maintaining a healthy gut and a healthy gut is crucial for the proper absorbtion of nutrients.  Here is a surprising fact; diets low in fiber have been linked to depression and increased risks of suicide!  So yes, fiber is a happiness food.  These healthy leafy greens also contain another of our happiness nutrients - magnesium.

Friday, August 3, 2012


There is a reason we have so many different types of foods and one should be careful about eleminating any one particular food from ones diet.  Beef has often gotten a bad rap and many try to avoid it in their diets.  But as I repeatedly state on this blog, never eleminate a food on a permanent basis without discussing it with your doctor.  Again, I repeat, eat everything in moderation for a healthy balanced diet.  Would you believe red meat is brain food?  Red meat contains heme iron, the most absorbent form of iron.  The brain needs a constant flow of oxygen to operate and oxygen depends on having iron.  Red meat helps to maintain the iron needed for our blood cells to keep that oxygen flowing to the brain.

Red meat is also a good source of vitamin B12, one of the components needed for our happiness quotient.  It is also one of the very best sources of zinc.  Research suggests that good zinc levels improve academic performance!

When possible buy grass-fed beef and you will get 300 to 500% more CLA (congugated linoleic acid - increases blood flow to the brain) than you will with conventional beef.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Butter For The Brain?

Continuing on the theme of the last few days, today's post is on butter and it's effect on your happiness.  Yes, butter, especially from grass-fed cows, does contribute to your happiness.  First and foremost, this is not to say you should start smothering your food in butter; absolutely not!  When it comes to food, moderation is always the key!  In other words, throw out the artificial margarines and add a little butter to your food on a daily basis because butter is a brain food.  Consider:
  • Butter has vitamin A which is used to promote the production of neurotransmitters such as dopamine that are the key players in mood and memory.
  • Vitamin D is present in butter (see the previous post for benefits to your happiness).
  • Vitamin B12 is also in butter (again, see the previous post for benefits).
  • If possible buy butter from grass-fed beef.  This adds the critical omega-3 fatty acids which help to keep down inflammation and promotes the growth of new brain connections.  This butter also contains higher levels of a special fat known as CLA or congugated linoleic acid which increases blood flow to the brain, extends the life of brain cells, and counteracts the effects of the stress hormone cortisol.
Foods  have a positive effect your health when used in small amounts on a consistent basis.  Gorging on a particular food once in a while is not helpful and often can be harmful.  Use a small amount of butter daily, not gobs of it when you want.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012


In spite of the negative press eggs received several years ago, the standard barnyard egg is a nutrional powerhouse!  If you wanted to create the perfect brain food, you would find most of what you need in the egg.  Here is a list of these "happiness" compounds found in the egg:
  • Vitamin B12 - This vitamin is crucial for the nerve cells and deficiancy in vitamin B12 causes irritability, depression, and cognitive decline!
  • Folate - Needed to keep the brains neurotransmitter factories humming along.
  • Iodine - Iodine is essential for proper thyroid functioning.  This is important because an underactive thyroid causes lethargy, depression, and weight gain.  And weight gain also has an effect on happiness.
  • Vitamin D - When your supply of vitamin D gets low, chances for depression, dementia, PMS all increase.
The above list is only a partial nutrition list of the egg, but it is the main nutrition in the egg that does play a role in your happiness!

Did you ever think that a simple egg could be so important to your "Happiness Quotient?"