Smarter Eats, Stronger Brainpower? The Grain Brain Challenge!
Walk around any mall, theme park, school, or office, and it’s pretty obvious that the American diet of processed carbs and sugary sodas and “snacks” is making a big chunk of us chunky, seriously overweight, or obese. Adults, kids, grandparents – the waistlines are growing and giving us diabetes, high blood pressure, achy joints, and lots of other ailments.
But could all those carbs and sugars also be making us dense? Could the inflammation they generate be dulling our brain function – and eventually leading to dementia, Alzheimers and other brain function problems? In Grain Brain, Dr. David Perlmutter effectively makes the case for a resounding YES.
But fear not. As jaw-dropping and scary as Grain Brain is in showing that a lifetime of eating processed carbs and sugars can absolutely increase the odds of brain function problems, Dr. Perlmutter also outlines a 4-week lifestyle challenge to keep our brains as fit as our quads and biceps! He should know, given his resume. He is an advisor to Dr. Oz, president of the Perlmutter Health Center in Naples, Florida, and president/co-founder of the Perlmutter Brain Foundation. He has spent years studying the interaction between brain function (and dysfunction) and nutrition (or lack thereof.)
His Grain Brain Challenge involves a regimen of nutrition, sleep, exercise and a few natural supplements aimed at keeping the brain sharp, healthy and strong.
I’m starting my Grain Brain challenge Sunday, and I am pumped! I would love for you guys to join, and in the days and weeks ahead I will be reporting back on how it’s going, so it would be great to have some comrades in this adventure!
Here’s the skinny:
Nutrition: The Grain Brain eating plan is similar to Paleo eating, though lower in total carbs and it allows dairy (I will leave that out, as it messes with my stomach if I do dairy more than occasionally). Much to my chagrin Dr. Perlmutter says no sweet potatoes (they have a higher sugar content that spikes the blood sugar more than is ideal just for this 4 weeks). Boo! Fortunately he says pumpkin and other winter squashes like butternut, kabocha, etc. are all good. So yeah, life is still OK! The eating plan is heavy on protein including eggs (second only to breast milk, nutritionally speaking) as well as lots of healthy fats and veggies plus lower-sugar fruits like berries. A daylong fast to kick off the challenge is recommended but not required. I am going to try to push through that Sunday – which means this will be a cranky day! Heheeee.
Still, I am looking forward to lots of eggs, coconut oil, grassfed vbeed and avocados in my life – which are all very tasty things! The book points out that back in the caveman days, their eating was like 70 percent fat and very low in carbs. The brain is actually 70 percent fat, so it NEEDS fat to function well. Yeah, low-fat diets STINK and make us lethargic. I have tried them years back before I knew better, and can attest to that!
Sleep: The challenge calls for at least seven hours a night. I work hard to get this, but often don’t succeed – which messes with hormone levels and mood and is just generally no good for the waistline or brain power. So for the next 4 weeks, I am making sleep a huge priority. It will mean less dithering around on Facebook, maybe shorter blogs and less Pinterest. But it will be worth it!
Exercise: Movement keeps us alert. Exercise releases serotonins and endorphins that elevate our mood and keep our thinking sharp. I definitely will have this pillar of the four-pillar plan mastered, given my busy teaching schedule and half marathon training! But your challenge doesn’t have to entail such intense exercise. Dr. Perlmutter just wants us to MOVE regularly. Very doable!
Brain supplements: In addition to the book that Dr. Perlmutter’s team sent through my work with Fitfluential, they sent three supplements that are key to the four-week challenge and lifelong brain health based on years of research by Dr. Perlmutter and others.
- GNC Preventative Nutrition ResVida: The purest form of resveratrol, the powerful antioxidant in red wine, this enhances blood vessel dilation and supports healthy blood flow – key to heart health.
- Spring Valley Omega-3 Fish Oil Soft Gels: These bad boys contain 1000 milligrams of the omega-3s DHA and EPA, key for brain and heart health.
- Brain Strong Adult DHA Supplement: This has 900 milligrams of DHA omega-3 from algae. (Taking this plus my daily Energy Bits should seriously send my brain power off the charts, no?!) DHA is a major structural fat in the brain and retina, so we really need it – yet the typical Western diet includes just 100 milligrams of DHA per day because we don’t eat fatty fish like salmon as much as other populations.
Studies have shown that adding a daily DHA supplement enhances memory and recall – including one study that found improvement in older adults who, previously, had complained of mild memory problems.
So there it is! The Grain Brain Challenge! Are you in? Have you ever thought about the link between brain and eating? This challenge won’t be easy, but I am always game for a new test to tackle! Plus I can’t wait to share a few Grain Brain recipes I plan to create!
Have a great weekend, and stay tuned for the first recipe next week! I’ll also report back on how the first few days go….Also coming up: The Plantain Nuttzo Muffin is perfected! And a few tricks for making your sleep more restful!
This entry was posted on Friday, October 25th, 2013 at 10:17 am
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