Tag Archives: eat healthy diet

16 Ways to Exercise Your Brain

shiny-brain-1254880-mAs I stood in front of the refrigerator, wondering why I had walked into the kitchen, it made me think about my brain. I blame my kids for making me dumber. Or maybe it’s just because I’m approaching my mid-40s. I really feel like I’ve lost some of my brain function.

Can we exercise our brains? Why yes, we can!

Here are 16 ways you can work out your brain and keep it strong:

Do daily puzzles
Simple puzzles like crosswords, Sudoku, word search and anagrams can challenge your brain. Logic puzzles help your brain’s deductive reasoning and teach you to organize your thinking. Lateral thinking puzzles – which challenge your preconceptions – train your brain to think outside the box. You can even find free puzzles to work online.

Use your peripheral vision
When you’re riding in a car or walking down the street, try to view things at the edge of your vision without turning your head. Actively challenging your peripheral vision helps improve your brain performance and allows you to better navigate your world safely.

Put down the calculator
Math is the basis of all things logical and technological. Doing math has been shown to increase your fluid intelligence, or your ability to think logically and solve problems in novel situations. The next time you need to make some calculations, try to work them out in your head. Mental math trains your working memory and helps you better store information for immediate use.

Learn to play an instrument
Playing an instrument exercises many interrelated parts of your brain function, including listening, control of refined movements, memory and ability to concentrate.

Read anything and everything
Reading is great exercise for your brain. You can read newspapers, magazines, books and blogs. Just keep in mind that the more challenging the text, the better the workout for your brain.

Take a class
You can take a class in just about anything online. Or, sign up for a class at a community college, join a dance class or learn to make pottery. Attending a class in person also gives you a chance to talk with people, and having interesting conversations can help workout your brain.

Pick up a ball
Play catch with friends or your kids. Or practice throwing a ball up in the air and catching it. Using your brain’s visual, tactile and hand-eye coordination responses can have a positive impact on your brain.

Turn off the TV
Watching TV takes very little brain power. TV tells you what to think and how to think it. Of course, that’s why we like to veg out in front of it. If you want to give your brain some activity, then turn off the TV. Or if you can’t live without TV, watch educational programs or movies with complex plot lines and highly developed characters. You can also turn the TV volume down to a conversational level so that you have to concentrate to hear it.

Reminisce about the past
Take out the photo albums or play the old home movies. Work at recalling the actual events and what else was going on in your life at that time. Recall the dates, names of people and other details that will help reinforce your long-term memory.

Build something
When I was a kid, we played with erector sets, Lincoln Logs and Legos. Now, there are even more opportunities to build or assemble something in order to work out your brain. Putting something together without a manual or instructions is even better because it involves spatial reasoning.

Shut off the GPS
Instead of letting the GPS tell you where to go, sharpen your navigation skills. You can even get lost on purpose – just remember to bring a map! Finding routes and navigating on your own helps the brain create new neural pathways that are needed for storing complex spatial relationships.

Play games
Play chess, checkers or a card game. These are all tactical games that help exercise your brain. It’s even better to play with other people so that you can socialize and have stimulating conversations.

Eat a healthy diet
Eating a well-balanced, nutritious diet also plays a role in your brain health. By including foods rich in both protein and omega 3 fatty acids, you can keep your brain physically fed.

Physical activity is important for a healthy heart but also benefits the brain. Walking and cardio exercise are great for brain health.

Get plenty of sleep
Sleep is crucial to your overall health and plays an important role in keeping your brain healthy. While you’re sleeping, your body cleans toxins out of your brain and makes repairs. To protect and rejuvenate your brain, make sure you get a full night’s sleep as often as possible.

Vary your routine
Drive a different route to work. Change your lunch routine by taking a walk, window shopping or running some errands. If your day becomes too monotonous, your brain may feel neglected.

When you stop learning and challenging your brain, it stops growing. Exercise your brain as often as possible to keep it strong!

9 Ways to Control Your Food Cravings

sweet-love-1407387-mDo you ever get an overwhelming craving for a certain type of food? Sometimes, I want mini Reece’s Peanut Butter Cups. Other times, I have a taste for BBQ potato chips.

I work from home. That means my kitchen pantry is always close by. It’s really hard to stop myself from grabbing an unhealthy snack just because it sounds good.

Why are food cravings so intense? You may think it’s your stomach that’s controlling your snacking desires. It’s actually your brain that triggers your need for high calorie and high fat treats.

There are two reasons you have food cravings. The first reason is you need a boost of energy. Your body craves carbohydrates, fat or sugar because it needs a burst of energy. Even though it would be better to eat foods with a higher nutritional value, we want those foods that only give us empty calories.

The second reason is you’re feeling miserable. You crave a certain type of food because it will make you happy.

The good news is you can conquer your food cravings. Here are 9 ways to fight back and make healthier food choices:

Know your triggers
Do you have cravings when you skip a meal? Do you get stressed and want comfort food? Are you bored? If you know when you crave those sugary or salty snacks, you can prevent the triggers. Make sure you eat regular, healthy meals throughout the day. When you start feeling stressed, take a few minutes to relax and unwind. If you’re bored, get up and take a walk or do a quick chore.

Buy small quantities
If you buy single serving snacks, it’s easier to stop when the package is empty. Stock up on small bags of chips, or even better yet, packages of crackers. Buy little packets of cookies. You are more likely to stop eating when you finish the smaller quantity.

Make a substitution
When you want chips or sweets, have fruit or veggies on hand. You can snack on a handful of grapes or baby carrots instead. Or, eat a handful of nuts or a few pretzels. Trust me, I know they don’t sound as satisfying as the junk food, but once you start eating you’ll feel satisfied – and you’ll feel better about your choice.

Distract yourself
If you don’t have a healthy substitute available, distract yourself from the craving. Call a friend, listen to music, run an errand, do chores, meditate or exercise.

Let go of stress
Being anxious or stressed can be a huge trigger for cravings. If you can learn to handle stress, you can save yourself from eating potentially hundreds of extra calories a day. Incorporating relaxation techniques into your day can also help you manage stress.

Take a nap
Since cravings can become stronger when you’re tired, take a power nap. A quick 20 to 30-minute nap can help you feel rejuvenated and ready to take charge of your cravings.

Break a bad habit
You may have developed a habit of eating a treat at a certain time of day. If you eat a candy bar every day around 10am or grab a cappuccino on your way back from lunch, your brain will learn to expect it and crave it. You can break a bad craving habit. Substitute a healthier snack or distract yourself by changing your routine.

Eat with others
Eating with friends, family or coworkers, especially those who support your healthy eating goals, can give you the added power you need to curb your cravings. You are more likely to make better food choices.

Give in a little
If you really enjoy having a bite-sized piece of chocolate or a handful of potato chips every once in a while, let yourself indulge on your terms. Just remember to eat a moderate amount so that you don’t end up feeling guilty about it later.

If all else fails, keep chewing gum on hand and pop it in your mouth when a craving strikes. It gives you a burst of flavor and keeps your mouth occupied!

13 foods for fighting cancer

foods that fight cancerThis year, two of my friends have battled cancer. One friend is doing well, and the other passed away. I lost all four of my grandparents to cancer. I guess you could say cancer has been on my mind lately. I have been doing some research into how to prevent and fight cancer.

Do you know the best way to reduce your risk of cancer? Eat a healthy diet.

Experts recommend a plant-based diet. That means eating mostly foods that come from plants, such as vegetables, fruits, nuts, whole grains and beans. Lifestyle choices, bad eating habits and obesity may increase our risk of cancer more than our genetics.

To me, that’s important. By living a more balanced life, including eating a more healthy diet, exercising, getting enough sleep and managing stress, I may be able to fight my chances of having cancer. That sounds good to me!

While researching, these are the top 13 foods that I found were recommended the most often:

cabbage cruciferous vegetableCruciferous vegetables
I will be honest. I didn’t know what cruciferous meant. I had to look it up. Cruciferous means belonging to the plant family Cruciferae, which is basically known as the cabbage family. Examples of these types of vegetables include broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, bok choy and kale. And they all contain phytochemicals, vitamins, minerals and fiber that are important to your health. They can also help lower your risks of getting cancer.

It’s important to include a variety of all vegetables in your diet. For instance, carrots and sweet potatoes contain a lot of beta carotene, which may help reduce the chances of many types of cancers.

Dark greens
Dark greens, such as spinach, romaine lettuce, beets and red cabbage, provide fiber, folate and other cancer-fighting carotenoids.

Grapes and red wine
Red grapes contain bioflavonoids that work as powerful antioxidants to help prevent cancer. Grapes are also a rich source of resveratrol, which can inhibit cancer cell growth. Red wine has antioxidants known as polyphenols that help neutralize disease-causing free radicals.

Citrus fruits
Eating more fruits is also good for your health. For one thing, if you’re eating fruit it means you may be passing up less healthy choices made up of sugar and refined flours. (Yes, that means cookies, cake, donuts, etc.) Fruits also provide cancer-fighting benefits. For instance, citrus fruits – such as grapefruits, oranges and lemons – contain monoterpenes. It is believed that monoterpenes sweep carcinogens out of the body to help prevent cancer.

Berries prevent cancerBerries
All berries are packed with cancer-fighting phytonutrients. Black raspberries have high concentrations of anthocyanins, which help slow down the growth of premalignant cells. Blueberries have also been shown to have many health benefits.

Once again, all fruits are a great addition to your diet. Eat more apples, pears, peaches, plums, pineapples, pomegranates, strawberries, blackberries, red raspberries, bananas, papayas, or any other fruits you like.

Avocados are rich in glutathione – another antioxidant that attacks free radicals. They also have potassium and beta-carotene.

A handful of walnuts a day can help reduce your risk of cancer. However, all nuts – including peanuts, almonds, cashews and Brazil nuts – make a good snack.

The omega-3 oils in wild salmon can dramatically reduce your cancer risk. Seafood, such as salmon, cod and shrimp, also have a high concentration of vitamin D.

Flax contains lignans, which may act as an antioxidant and help block cancerous changes in your cells. Flax also gives you essential fatty acids and other good fats.

Soy products
Soy milk and tofu contain phytoestrogens. These substances help block and suppress cancerous changes.

Garlic and onions fight cancerGarlic
Garlic – as well as onions, leeks, shallots and chives – has many anti-cancer substances. In particular, allicin appears to help break down cancer causing substances and enhance immunity to fight cancer.

Green tea
You’ve probably already heard that green tea offers many health benefits. The antioxidants in green and black tea appear to prevent cancer cells from dividing.

Tomatoes are a great source of lycopene. Studies have shown that lycopene stops cancer cell growth. Tomatoes also have vitamin C which has been shown to prevent cellular damage that can lead to cancer.

I admit that I would rather grab a cookie or a fudge round than eat more fruits, vegetables, nuts and beans. But as I work at finding more balance in my life, I am noticing time and again that eating a more balanced diet of healthy foods can have a huge impact on all aspects of my life.