Monthly Archives: July 2018

3 Nutrients for Better Brain Health

Good nutrition plays a big role in brain health.

There’s a long list of nutrients that help support brain health and development, and no lack of information on the internet about them. Here are three unsung heroes of brain health that are particularly worthy of your attention, too.

Choline

Twenty years ago, the Institute of Medicine deemed choline an essential nutrient, one that you must get from the diet because your body doesn’t make enough. Yet, choline still flies largely under the radar.

Consumer surveys suggest that just two out of five consumers (40%) are familiar with choline. That’s surprising, given that choline is part every nerve and brain cell, and every other cell in the body, too.

How choline builds and maintains the brain 

Studies show that choline is critical for brain development during pregnancy and in a child’s early years. Choline is linked to a lower risk for neural tube defects, which affect the brain, spine, and spinal cord. Choline also plays a particularly important role in the development and maintenance of the hippocampus, the brain’s “memory center,” and continues to support the hippocampus, one of the only areas in the brain that produce cells well into late adulthood.

Choline is critical during pregnancy and breastfeeding, and throughout the rest of life, too.

Some studies show a link between better verbal and visual memory and other benchmarks of brain function in adults with higher choline intakes and higher blood levels of choline. People with Alzheimer’s disease have lower levels of the enzyme that allows the brain to use choline.

How to include enough choline

More than 90% of U.S. adults don’t consume adequate choline, including pregnant and breastfeeding women. Here’s how much choline you need every day:

Adults, ages 19-50 (not pregnant):

Female: 425 milligrams; Males: 550 milligrams

Pregnant: 450 milligrams

Breastfeeding: 550 milligrams

Choline is found in a variety of foods, but high-protein animal foods, such as eggs, meat, and seafood, have the most choline. If you avoid, or limit, animal foods, and even if you don’t, you probably need a choline supplement.

Egg yolks are rich in choline; two whole eggs supply nearly half of the daily suggested choline intake.

The amount of choline in foods can be found in the Nutrient Facts panel on food labels, and on dietary supplements labels. The Daily Value for choline is 550 milligrams.  Most multivitamin pills and prenatal supplements do not supply suggested choline intakes, so you will likely need additional choline in pill form. Limit choline intake to 3,500 milligrams daily.

Iodine

Nearly all the iodine in your body is found in the thyroid gland, which stores this mineral for the production of hormones that support brain development and growth, and for energy metabolism. Iodine is vital to proper brain development during pregnancy and breastfeeding, and we all need iodine every day to keep the body in working order.

Salt with added iodine is best. Check to see if you’re using iodized salt.

How iodine builds and maintains the brain

During pregnancy, thyroxine and other thyroid hormones are necessary for the myelination of baby’s nerve cells. Myelination ensures speedy and correct communication among the nerve cells and in the brain.

Adequate iodine intake during pregnancy and breastfeeding maximizes baby’s brain to its fullest potential. Severe iodine deficiency in mom’s diet can lead to serious effects for her child, including mental retardation, but even moderately insufficient intakes may take a subtle, irreversible toll on a child’s brain, including increasing the risk for Attention Deficit Disorder.

How to include enough iodine

Iodine needs increase during pregnancy and breastfeeding.  Yet, women in their childbearing years are among those most likely to consume inadequate amounts of iodine, likely because of a lack of awareness. Iodine is not listed in the Nutrient Facts panel, making it difficult to know how much iodine is in packaged food.

Here’s how much iodine you need every day:

Adults, ages 19-50 (not pregnant):

Males and females: 150 micrograms/day

Pregnancy: 220 micrograms

Breastfeeding: 290 micrograms

Seafood is a good source of iodine.

All salt is not created equal

People who avoid iodized table salt, seafood, and dairy, or all three, may be at risk for an iodine deficiency.

Dairy milk is rich in iodine, but many people are drinking less than the recommended amounts

Seafood and sea vegetables, such as kelp, are reliable iodine sources, which is one of the reasons why it’s important to eat the suggested minimum of eight ounces of seafood weekly, and eight to 12 ounces a week when pregnant and breastfeeding.

Salt with added iodine, known as iodized salt, is an excellent iodine source, but the same isn’t true of salty processed foods. While the majority of salt intake in the United States comes from processed foods, manufacturers almost always use non-iodized salt in the process.

Dairy milk is a good source of iodine.

Iodine is so important to brain development and future brain health that the  American Thyroid Association (ATA) recommends that women who are pregnant or breastfeeding, or may become pregnant, take 150 micrograms of iodine as a dietary supplement every day to fill in iodine gaps. Choose a multivitamin with potassium iodide, as this form of iodine is well absorbed by the body. More iodine is not better, so there’s no need to overdo it.

Vitamin B12

During pregnancy, vitamin B12 is necessary for peak brain development and to prevent developmental abnormalities. Vitamin B12 is critical for brain health from birth on, too.

How vitamin B builds and maintains the brain

Vitamin B12 is essential for the preservation of the myelin sheath around nerve cells. Throughout life, vitamin B12 helps to keep your body’s nerve cells healthy and allows them to communicate with each other and with the brain.  It’s also involved in the production of neurotransmitters, which help nerve cells relay signals.

Vitamin B12 is necessary at all ages and stages of life.

How to include enough vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 deficiency is common, affecting between 1.5% and 15% of the general population. Deficiency symptoms include poor memory, confusion, depression, and dementia.

With the exception of pregnancy and breastfeeding, you need 2.4 micrograms of vitamin B12 daily after age 14. During pregnancy, the suggested intake is 2.6 micrograms, and 2.8 micrograms daily during breastfeeding.

Animal foods such as yogurt are naturally rich in vitamin B12.

Vitamin B12 is found naturally in animal products, including seafood, meat, poultry, eggs, and milk, and milk products. Vitamin B12 is not present naturally in plant foods. Fortified foods, such as breakfast cereals and nutritional yeast products are readily available vitamin B12 sources. It’s possible to become deficient in vitamin B12 when you completely avoid animal products or eat inadequate amounts, and don’t eat enough fortified foods or take a vitamin B12 supplement to fill in the gaps.

Exclusively breastfed infants of women who consume no animal products may have very limited reserves of vitamin B12 and can develop vitamin B12 deficiency within months of birth. Undetected and untreated vitamin B12 deficiency in infants can result in severe and permanent neurological damage.

Fortified breakfast cereals are typically excellent sources of vitamin B12.

People with celiac disease and Crohn’s disease and those who have had gastrointestinal surgery, such as weight loss surgery, may absorb less vitamin B12.

The long-term use of common medications may affect how your body uses vitamin B12, too.

Metformin, a drug used to treat diabetes, and medications known as Proton Pump Inhibitors (PPI) and (H2)-receptor antagonists that treat gastric reflux disease and stomach ulcers, respectively, also interfere with the body’s absorption and use of vitamin B12. People taking these medications may need vitamin B12 in supplement form to counteract the effects of the drugs. Ask you doctor or pharmacist about how any medication you take, including the over-the-counter kind, influences your vitamin B12 needs.

Age affects vitamin B12, too. Experts suggests that people over the age of 50 consume the majority of their daily vitamin B12 in the synthetic form, which is added to foods such as breakfast cereal, and is found in dietary supplements. With increasing age, the levels of acid in the stomach necessary to separate vitamin B12 from food decrease, making less vitamin B12  available to the body. Synthetic vitamin B12 does not require stomach acid during digestion so that body can use it easily.

 

 

How to Make the Best Smoothie

Peach Melba Smoothie is a riff on the classic dessert.

Smoothies run the gamut. They can be sugary, low-nutrient drinks, or healthy enough to serve as a meal or substantial snack. They can be bone-building beverages, particularly kid-friendly, or both! Concoctions that are mostly fruits and vegetables supply enough fluid to stand in for plain water, and make better-for-you substitutions for soda and other sugary soft drinks.

I asked my nutritionist friends for their favorite drink recipes and they sent me enough mouthwatering ideas to keep me busy for months! Even better, no two of these smoothies are the same, which just goes to show the possibilities smoothies possess. Be sure to explore all of the links below for inspiration, no matter what your goal.

Hydrating Smoothie Recipes

Every smoothie supplies fluid, but some have more than others. These picks are super refreshing, especially on hot days.

 

Carrot, Mandarin, and Cayenne Smoothie looks like sunshine in a glass!

Carrot Mandarin and Cayenne Smoothie from Patricia Bannan, MS, RD

Pineapple Ginger Smoothie from Nourishing Plate

Vegan Energy Boosting Smoothie from The Foodie Dietitian

Strawberry Lime Watermelon Smoothie is a delicious alternative to sugary soft drinks.

Strawberry Lime Watermelon Smoothie from Smart Nutrition

Nearly a Meal Smoothie Recipes

A substantial amount of protein and fiber qualifies smoothies as nearly a meal. Depending on your needs, add a slice or two of whole grain bread, some whole grain cereal, or more protein for balance.

 

Wild Blueberry Lemon Coconut Smoothie packs 17 grams of protein, which is more than two eggs!

Wild Blueberry Lemon Coconut Smoothie from Bite of Health Nutrition

Yellow Superfood Smoothie from Fork in the Road

Peach Melba Smoothie from Nourishing Plate

Orange Carrot Smoothie with Ginger and Turmeric from Healthy Ideas Place

Chocolate Peanut Butter (Secret Ingredient) Breakfast Smoothie from C &  J Nutrition

Wild Blueberry Pancake Smoothie from Snacking in Sneakers

Grape Juice Avocado Energizing Smoothie from Amy Gorin Nutrition

 

Mexican Chocolate Banana Almond Shake provides more than 35% of your daily fiber. And it’s chocolate!

Mexican Chocolate Banana Almond Shake from Spicy RD

Peanut Butter Oatmeal Smoothie from Your Choice Nutrition

Orange Strawberry Layered Smoothie from Amy Gorin Nutrition

Vegan Energy Boosting Smoothie from The Foodie Dietitian

Frozen Mochaccino from Amy Gorin Nutrition

Peanut Butter Breakfast Shake from Real Mom Nutrition

Blueberry Cheesecake Smoothie from Triad to Wellness

Here’s how to make a post-workout smoothie.

Kid-Friendly Smoothie Recipes

Kids crave smoothies, and they love to make up their own flavor combinations. Start with these recipes, and let children and teens create their own sippers.

 

Strawberry Beet Smoothie is pretty in pink!

Strawberry Beet Smoothie from The Crowded Table

Purple Power Smoothie from Eat Real Live Well

Basic Green Smoothie from Curing Vision

Orange Strawberry Layered Smoothie from Amy Gorin Nutrition

Mama’s Berry Smoothie from Toby Amidor Nutrition

Mexican Chocolate Banana Almond Breakfast Shake from Spicy RD

Peanut Butter Oatmeal Smoothie from Your Choice Nutrition

Grape Juice Avocado Energizing Smoothie from Amy Gorin Nutrition

Easy Summer Smoothie for the Busy Mama from Crystal Karges Nutrition

PB-Breakfast-Shake-Text

Entice your kids with this peanut butter breakfast shake. Adults love it, too!

Peanut Butter Breakfast Shake from Real Mom Nutrition

Blueberry Cheesecake Smoothie from Triad to Wellness

Pear and Pomegranate Green Smoothie from Patricia Bannan, MS, RD

Peanut Butter Banana Smoothie from Triad to Wellness

Snack Smoothie Recipes

Think of snacks as nutritious mini-meals, not meal wreckers. These recipes supply fruit, vegetables, and protein, so you won’t have to worry if you, or your child, eats less at the next meal.

 

Arugula meets apple in this smoothie and it’s spectacular!

Arugula Apple Smoothie from Snacking in Sneakers

Creamy Chocolate Cannellini Bean and Cinnamon Smoothie from Patricia Bannan, MS, RD

Wild Blueberry Beet Smoothie from Kroll’s Korner

Mama’s Berry Smoothie from Toby Amidor Nutrition

Chocolate Chunk Blueberry Smoothie from Patricia Bannan, MS, RD

Bone-Building Smoothie Recipes

Smoothies are perfect for including the nutrients to make and maintain a strong skeleton, such as protein, calcium, and vitamin D.

 

Frozen Mochaccino has no added sugar, unlike most coffee-shop drinks that may contain more than a day’s allowance.

Frozen Mochaccino from Amy Gorin Nutrition

Chocolate Chunk Blueberry Smoothie from Patricia Bannan, MS, RD

Mama’s Berry Smoothie from Toby Amidor Nutrition

Wild Blueberry Pancake Smoothie from Snacking in Sneakers

Blueberry Cheesecake Smoothie from Triad to Wellness

St. Patrick’s Day Green Smoothie from Foods with Judes

Creamy Chocolate Cannellini Bean and Cinnamon Smoothie from Patricia Bannan, MS, RD

 

 

 

 

 

 

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