Exercise for Brain Health

Which Type of Exercise is Best for the Brain?

 

 

A new study indicates that some forms of exercise may be much more effective than others at bulking up the brain. Scientists compared head-to-head the neurological impacts of different types of exercise: running, weight training, and high-intensity interval training.

The surprising results suggest that going hard may not be the best option for long-term brain health.

Researchers know that exercise changes the structure and function of the brain. Studies have shown that physical activity generally increases brain volume and can reduce the number and size of age-related holes in the brain’s white and gray matter.

Exercise has also been shown to aid in the creation of new brain cells in an already mature adult brain (neurogenesis). In studies with animals, exercise, in the form of running wheels or treadmills, has been found to double or even triple the number of new neurons that appear after in the animal’s hippocampus, a key area of the brain for learning and memory.

Researchers found varying levels of neurogenesis depending on the kind of exercise performed.

Those rats that had run on wheels showed the highest levels of neurogenesis. In people, the greater the distance that a runner had covered during the experiment, the more new cells its brain contained.

There were far fewer neurons in the brains of the animals that had completed high-intensity interval training. They showed somewhat higher amounts than in the sedentary animals but far less than in the distance runners.

And the weight training rats, although they were much stronger at the end of the experiment than they had been at the start, showed no detectable increase in brain volume. Their hippocampal tissue looked just like that of the animals that had not exercised at all.

While rats are obviously not people, the results of the study do suggest that sustained aerobic exercise might be most beneficial for brain health in humans as well.

So, if you currently weight train or exclusively work out with intense intervals, continue. But perhaps also add in an occasional run or bike ride for the sake of your hippocampal health. And if you don’t exercise, this is persuasive evidence to get moving!


Free Apps to Simplify Your Life

These mobile apps help even the busiest people boost productivity and stay organized.

 

  • SavingStar

E-coupon app SavingStar gives you coupons for the things you need and want (diapers, soap, snacks) at your favorite grocery and drugstores. You pay the normal price in the store and the savings from the coupons you choose add up inside the app. Once you reach $5, you can choose to put the savings in your bank account, redeem them for an Amazon gift card, or even donate them to charity. Think of it as a modern and more fun version of the spare change jar.

  • Key Ring

If you live by rewards cards, then you’ll love the simplicity of this app, which stores all your rewards information and lets you scan your phone in the store instead of carrying around those bulky cards on your key ring. Even if you are not a rewards junkie, you can put your gym membership on here for easy scanning.

  • Cozi

Cozi makes it easy to manage your family’s busy schedule. Through the calendar feature, you can input everyone’s appointments on your family’s shared Cozi account and set reminders so that no one misses a game or doctor’s appointment. The app also helps you create grocery shopping and to-do lists to keep you super organized. There is also a recipe box to help get dinner on the table and a journal to share family photos and memories.

  • ZipList

ZipList streamlines your grocery shopping by allowing you to search the app’s recipe database (there are over 300,000 recipes from popular sites like Martha Stewart and Food.com) and add the ingredients directly to your shopping list. It also allows you to email the list to others.

  • RedLaser

A helpful comparison-shopping app that lets you scan barcodes for various items to see how much they would cost if you purchased them from a competitor. The app pulls up comparative prices from almost anywhere online, including Best Buy, Walmart, Amazon, as well as local stores. In addition to price comparisons, it also shows you nutritional information for different foods and even the nearest library stocking the book you have been wanting to read.

  • BigOven

Named “Best App for New Moms” by Time Magazine, BigOven aims to take the effort out of cooking and meal planning. It offers a database 200,000 delicious recipes to help you do so. Need to meal plan? Drag and drop recipes onto a calendar for a day, a week, or a month. You can also share recipes via email, Facebook or Twitter and scan in written recipes that the app converts to digital text. This app emphasizes basic, easy-to-cook meals and ingredients and is guaranteed to simplify mealtime.


Gluten-Free Guacamole Recipe

Mango & Cilantro Guacamole

The mango brightens up the guacamole and adds a hint of sweetness. This easy guacamole is perfect for a Cinco de Mayo celebration!
3 Hass avocados
1 ripe mango
1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1/3 cup chopped red onion
1 serrano chili pepper, seeded and finely chopped
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
Tortilla chips, for serving
Directions:
Cut each avocado in half lengthwise. Remove the pit from the avocado and discard. Remove the avocado from the skin, and place the avocado flesh in a bowl.
Using a vegetable peeler, remove the skin of the mango. Using a sharp knife, slice the wide, flat part of the fruit off to one side of the pit. Repeat this process on the other side of the mango. Transfer the 2 mango slices to a cutting board and cut into ½ inch pieces.
Add the mango, lime, cilantro, red onion, chili, lime juice, salt and pepper to the bowl. Mash with a fork until half smooth and half chunky. Taste and add more salt and pepper if desired. Serve immediately with tortilla chips.

 

 


Pimento Cheese Gluten-Free Recipe

Gluten-Free Recipe of the Month

The Masters Pimento Cheese

Of all the many things golf fans rave about after attending the Masters Golf Tournament in Augusta, one of the most popular is the famous pimento cheese sandwiches that sell for just a $1.50.  The Masters Pimento Cheese recipe is a classic southern tradition, full of creamy cheddar and parmesan cheese mixed in with just the right amount of pimentos. If you are eliminating gluten from your diet, serve on gluten free bread for a sandwich or with gluten free crackers and vegetables for an appetizer.

¼ cup cream cheese, room temperature

½ cup Dukes mayonnaise

½ cup sour cream

¼ teaspoon garlic salt

2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese

½ cup shredded Parmesan cheese

½ cup diced pimentos

Whip cream cheese until smooth. Add in mayo, sour cream and garlic salt. Whip until smooth. Stir in remaining ingredients. Cover and refrigerate 30 minutes or until ready to serve.


Sugar Addiction Advice

candy brainHealthy Eats: April 2017

How to crack your sugar addiction:

The average American consumes an average of 128 pounds of added sugars each year and it affects our bodies on every level. Research has found that people who got between 10 and 25 percent of their calories from added sugar were almost three times more likely to die of heart problems than those who consumed less than 10 percent of their calories from sugar. Previous studies have found links between sugar intake and higher levels of triglycerides and LDL cholesterol and lowered levels of HDL cholesterol. Excess sugar is also associated with inflammatory chemicals that can raise heart disease risk, and linked to obesity, type 2 diabetes and even certain cancers.

Sugar interferes with your body’s ability to tell you when you are full and excess sugar hinders fat burning enzymes, encouraging fat storage. Even if you know the health consequences of sugar, it can be very difficult to stop eating because sugar is so highly addictive. Research has shown that when rats eat sugar, their brains flood with dopamine, the same chemical released during gambling and cocaine use. As the rats eat more sugar, their brains reward systems adjust, so the animals need more food to get the same effects. Human brains appear similarly vulnerable and addictive.

World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines propose that people consume less than 5 percent of their daily calories from added sugar. That’s about six teaspoons a day, or about the amount in one 8-ounce bottle of sweetened iced tea. The average American consumes almost quadruple the WHO recommendation – 22 teaspoons of added sugar a day. Sugar has infiltrated so much of our modern food supply that its commonly found where you might never think to look, including healthy cereals, salad dressings and yogurt. So, now that you know the dangers of excess sugar, what are some steps you can take to begin cutting back on your daily consumption of sugar?

Eat no more than 24 grams (or 6 teaspoons) of added sugar in a 24- hour period

Pay attention to labels and try to track your sugar intake for a week. When you see sugar grams on a label, divide by 4 to get the total number of teaspoons. Once you learn how much added sugar is in the foods you consume, you may find those foods just don’t seem quite as appealing.

Cut out trigger foods

It’s often said that sugar begets sugar. If you know that certain foods are your trigger foods – for example, taking one bite of ice cream leaves you scraping the bottom of the carton, try to eliminate those foods from your house. Instead replace sugary treats with fresh fruit, which is naturally sweetened and a much healthier option.

Hydrate correctly

Proper hydration gives you energy, but not if your drinks are loaded with sugar and chemicals. Beverages can be a sneaky source of hidden sugars. Eliminate soft drinks and sugary juices, as well as coffee drinks loaded with sugary syrups and creamers and strive to replace those with water. Adequate water intake can suppress your appetite, boost your metabolism and combat bloating.


9 Garden Plants That Repel Mosquitoes

cat plant9 Garden Plants That Repel Mosquitoes

 

 

As the days get longer and the weather gets warmer, the return of pesky bugs can be a huge nuisance. Instead of spending money on chemical treatments, try planting some of these naturally mosquito repelling plants in your garden.

  1. Marigolds – this flower’s strong aroma not only repels mosquitoes, but also squash bugs and tomato worms.
  2. Lavender – as a bonus this plant is also drought resistant so it can grow in areas with little rainfall after it is established.
  3. Lemon grass – this herb can grow up to 4 feet tall and naturally contains citronella.
  4. Garlic – this can be toxic when mosquitoes ingest it.
  5. Rosemary – this plant’s pungent scent drives away flies, mosquitoes, and cabbage moths, and does well in hot, dry weather.
  6. Basil – by growing basil you can keep mosquitoes and flies away and as a bonus you have a tasty ingredient for cooking.
  7. Catnip – grow this in pots because it can spread rapidly.
  8. Petunias – these come in a variety of beautiful colors and have a licorice- like scent that repels aphids, tomato hornworms and squash bugs.
  9. Mint – this hearty herb can deter ants and mice but because it also spreads quickly you might want to plant it in pots.

How Does the Brain Smell?

smell brainSmell and the Brain

Why do certain smells evoke specific memories or feelings? One theory involves the way your brain processes odors and memories. Our sense of smell involves the detection and perception of chemicals floating in the air. Chemical molecules enter the nose and dissolve in mucous within a membrane called the olfactory epithelium. In humans, this is located about 7 cm up into the nose from the nostrils.

Hair cells are the receptors in the olfactory epithelium that respond to certain chemicals. Those cells have small hairs called cilia on one side and an axon on the other side. In humans, there are about 40 million olfactory receptors; in contrast, a German Shepherd dog has about 2 billion olfactory receptors.

We don’t know exactly what causes these receptors to react, it could be a chemical molecules shape or size or electrical charge. The electrical activity produced in these hair cells is transmitted to the olfactory bulb and relayed to mitral cells located there. The olfactory tract transmits the signals to the brain to areas such as the olfactory cortex, hippocampus, amygdala, and hypothalamus. Many of these brain areas are associated with the limbic system, which in turn is involved with emotional behavior and memory. That’s why when you smell something, it often brings back memories associated with the object.

Smell can be used therapeutically to stimulate areas of the brain to enhance outcomes of physical or mental tasking. Different smells can stimulate focus, relieve stress and anxiety, and general state of arousal (i.e., state of energy and feeling awake).

Smell Facts:
  • About 2 million people in the US have no sense of smell. This disorder is called anosmia and can be caused by a head injury. Most likely this results in damage to the olfactory nerves as they enter the olfactory bulb. It is also possible that damage to the frontal lobes caused by a tumor or surgery can cause anosmia.
  • Elderly people often have a reduced sense of smell.
  • People are very sensitive to the smell of green bell pepper. This smell can be detected when it is mixed with air at only 0.5 parts per trillion.
  • People can detect at least one trillion distinct scents.
  • Smell is the oldest sense.
  • Women have a better sense of smell than men.
  • Scent cells are renewed every 30 to 60 days

March Healthy Eats

4 leaf cloverMarch Healthy Eats: 

Sneaky Sources of Gluten to Avoid When Eating Out:

In our March addition of Healthy Eats, learn about some of the sneaky sources of gluten when eating out. And, of course, enjoy our March GF recipe of the month, which is perfect for St. Patrick's Day.

Sushi

Most soy sauces can contain wheat, and other common Asian sauces such as teriyaki, hoisin and even miso can also contain gluten. Another culprit to watch out for is imitation crab meat, which is often used in California rolls.

Sauces and Soups

Many cream sauces, soups and gravies use gluten as a thickening agent. Even some broths can contain gluten so be sure to check the label before assuming they are gluten-free.

French Fries

Some restaurants toss their fries in a batter that contains flour. If you are very sensitive to gluten, you may want to avoid fried foods altogether, as they are often cooked in the same fryers as gluten containing foods, leading to cross contamination.

Hot Chocolate and Coffee

Some brands of instant cocoa and coffee mixes contain wheat in the form of starch, used to add bulk to the mixture. This is often true with non-dairy creamers, beverage flavoring syrups and flavored coffees.

Eggs

Although eggs are naturally gluten-free, some restaurants add baking mix or even pancake batter to their scrambled eggs and omelets to make them fluffy. Make sure to clarify with your waiter before assuming eggs are always a safe bet.

 

Slow Cooker Corned Beef and Cabbage Soup

This slow cooker corned beef and cabbage soup is everything you love about Irish comfort food, made even more delicious and comforting when simmered together into a stew. Enjoy a bowl this St. Patrick’s Day.

Ingredients:

5 cups chicken stock

1.5 pounds corned beef, cut into large chunks

1.5 pounds Yukon gold potatoes, diced into bite-sized pieces

2 carrots, peeled and diced

2 stalks celery, diced

1 medium white onion, peeled and quartered

1 small head green cabbage, quartered, cored and shredded

1 bay leaf

Generous pinch of salt and freshly-ground black pepper

For serving: chopped fresh parsley

 

Directions:

Add all ingredients to a large slow cooker bowl, and toss to combine. Cover and cook on low for 7-8 hours or on high for 3-4 hours, or until the beef is tender and shreds easily.

Transfer the beef chunks from the stew to a separate plate, and use 2 forks to shred it into bite-size pieces. Return the beef to the stew, and stir to combine. Taste and season with additional salt and pepper, if need be, then remove the bay leaf.


Useful Travel Planning Apps

Spring Break Travel Planning

Give your brain a stress-free holiday this spring break! travel busWhether you are dreaming of a spring break getaway to warmer weather, or thinking ahead to summer vacation plans, technology can be a huge help. From finding and booking the perfect vacation spot, staying up to date with road and traffic conditions, or mastering the airport wait, there really is an app for that. Vacation should be stress-free, so let technology help with the planning!

TripIt:

This single app, my personal favorite, keeps all travel itineraries, tickets, booking details, reservations and confirmations in one place. It’s easy to share travel plans with anyone needing specific details, which is great when traveling without the kids. TripIt also sends notifications about where your gate is and directions to things like the rental car area. TripIt makes unwinding my brain as soon as I start my vacation a reality, every time.

GateGuru:

For those who want to master air travel with ease, this is a one stop app. When in transit, you will get up to the minute notifications about security wait times, flight delays, gate changes, amenities and more. It also provides a simple, easy guide to all the shops and restaurants in your airport terminal, along with reviews. Fueling your brain and body has never been easier.

Waze:

Make the most of your road trip with this constantly updated app that tracks interstate delays, speed traps, and road construction that might impede drive times and drive up your brain's stress response. Let Waze send good vibes so you and your brain can relax.

SeatGuru:

This app provides a map of every airplane with a color-coded guide to the best and worst seats in the cabin. Sometimes you don’t even need to pay extra to grab one of the best seats, thanks to this insider information. I can hear your brain saying, "download this app!"

Google Translate:

Never fear getting lost in translation, no matter where you are. This app has been helping travelers interact in just about every language for years. Just speak into your phone and instantly have it translated into a foreign language. Google Translate is available “offline” allowing you to use it even without phone service or roaming charges. Your brain just went from fear to "ʻaʻole pilikia, I got this."

Hipmunk:

If you need travel inspiration, this app offers easy recommendations such as “beach,” “city break,” “ski,” or “live music” before finding you the best possible deals for your selection around the world. There is even a link to book everything at the best prices, and they will alert you if prices on your bucket list trip drop. Dreaming and imagining about all the places you want to go is a great way to exercise your brain in a calming way.


Your Brain and Sleep

Sleep Spring Cleaning5 Amazing Things Your Brain Does While You Sleep

We spend nearly a third of our lives sleeping, an activity as crucial to our health and well-being as eating. We know that sleep makes us feel more energized and improves our mood. But, does the brain actually rest? Here we will take at what is happening in the brain and body when we’re at sleeping.

Research has identified a number of reasons that sleep is critical to our health. When we’re sleeping, the brain is not inactive. In fact, during sleep, neurons in the brain fire nearly as much as they do during waking hours — so it should come as no surprise that what happens during our resting hours is extremely important to many of our brain and cognitive functions.

Here are 5 incredible things your brain does while you are sleeping:

1. Makes decisions

The brain can process information and prepare for actions during sleep, effectively making decisions while unconscious. The brain processes complex stimuli during sleep, and uses this information to make decisions while awake.

2. Preserves important memories

Getting enough sleep is vital for our brains to be able to form new memories. While you’re asleep, the brain is busy forming new memories, consolidating older ones, and linking more recent with earlier memories, during both REM and non-REM sleep. Lack of sleep can impact the hippocampus, an area of the brain involved in memory creation and consolidation. Getting adequate sleep helps us to cement the new information we are taking in for better later recall.

3. Locks in what you learn

The brain works to restore information that wasn’t ingrained during the day, such as a new password you need to remember. This is called consolidation and is important in protecting against further information loss as well as boosting your ability to learn while you are awake.

4. Clears out toxins

An important function of sleep may be to give the brain a chance to do some housekeeping. Cerebral spinal fluid is pumped more quickly throughout the brain when you sleep. It acts like a vacuum cleaner, whisking away waste products and toxins. If we do not get enough sleep, our brains don’t have adequate time to clear out toxins, which could potentially have the effect of accelerating neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.

5. Learns and remembers how to perform physical tasks

The brain stores information into long-term memory through something known as sleep spindles, short bursts of brain waves at strong frequencies that occur during REM sleep. This process can be particularly helpful for storing information related to motor tasks, like driving, swinging a tennis racket, or practicing a new dance move, so that these become automatic. During REM sleep, the brain transfers short-term memories stored in the motor cortex to the temporal lobe, where they become long-term memories. So, if you really want to improve your golf game, make sure you are getting enough sleep!