7 Foods for a Healthy Brain

I don’t tell too many people, but both of my parents have dementia, and my mom has had Alzheimer’s disease for several years. It is definitely tough stuff to deal with, and that is why I don’t talk about it publicly. However, when I come across new information on this topic, it always catches my eye. So, I thought I would share…A new study, from the Oregon Health and Science University in Portland, found that people in their late 80s with higher blood levels of B-complex vitamins, vitamins C, D and E, as well as the omega-3 fatty acids found in fish, showed less mental impairment and brain shrinkage typical of Alzheimer’s disease.

What you don’t eat matters, too.  A recent Mayo Clinic study found that simply limiting food intake to fewer than 2,150 calories a day was linked to better brain health.

Here are 6 foods that are said to help with mental dexterity:

1. Beans– Beans and green peas provide a rich dietary source of B-complex vitamins (plus, they provide plenty of protein and fiber).

2. Citrus– Oranges and orange juice are a convenient and inexpensive source of ascorbic acid (aka vitamin C), as are tangerines, limes, lemons and other citrus fruits.

3. Almonds– Vitamin E occurs naturally in almonds, other nuts and avocados, and studies have shown that people with the highest blood levels of Vitamin E have a reduced risk of developing Alzheimer’s.

4 Fish– Polyunsaturated “healthy fats”, like those found in salmon, herring, and mackerel, reduce inflammation in the body and seem to help the heart function.

5. Spinach– Popeye’s favorite snack is rich in vitamins A and K, folic acid and iron, plus it’s versatile: It can be eaten raw in salads, baked, steamed or stir-fried.

6. Coffee– Amazingly, a study found that caffeinated coffee decreased blood levels of a plaque-forming protein and even reduced Alzheimer’s-like cognitive impairment.

7. Coconut oil– New studies are looking into whether or not coconut oil is helpful for brain aging and to help Alzheimer’s disease. More research is being done on this topic, but so far, so good.

See AARP for more information on this study.

Coffee photo above from Pinterest

Healthy Food Gift Idea: All Natural Granola Bars

I’m always looking for new granola bars recipes to try since it’s one of mine and my 3 kid’s favorite snacks. I saw a version of this bar recipe on The Whole Kitchen by my friend Jenn which was adapted from a talented Cookbook Author (who I also know) Camilla’s Enlightened Cooking. These Homemade, All-Natural Granola Bars were a huge hit with the kids. I was so excited to share this recipe for a healthy homemade holiday food gift option. These make a great breakfast, afternoon snack or pre-workout offering. I even break them up and stir them into nonfat Greek Yogurt for a wonderful high protein breakfast. You can see me making these on Monday on NBC 13 “Daytime Alabama” at 11:30 CST on my food television segment on featuring healthy homemade food gift ideas.

10 Foods Great for Healthy Skin

Summer is now upon us, and this is the time of year to really take care of your skin. Many doctors say the more attention we pay to what we put in our body, the more it will help with skin problems later. I thought I would share some of my favorite foods that are great for healthy skin. Let me know if you have any favorites to add to my list.

 

1. Blueberries and Strawberries-Foods high in antioxidants are ideal for healthy skin. These should be on your summer list while they’re in peak season.

2. Green Tea-Green tea contains phenols which have anti-inflammatory properties. It has been said that drinking green tea daily can even prevent skin cancer.

3. Avocados-Filled with essential oils and B-complex vitamins, avocados are filled with Niacin (vitamin B3) which is important for healthy skin.

4. Almonds, Pumpkin Seeds and Walnuts-These nuts, filled with vitamin E, zinc and magnesium, are great for your skin.

5. Salmon-Contains essential fatty acids, omega-3 and omega-6 and can help create great moisturized looking skin.

6. Water-Many of us have heard it before, but water keeps you hydrated and keeps the skin healthy and younger looking. Make sure you drink at least 8 glasses a day.

7. Low-Fat Yogurt-Dairy products are full of Vitamin A necessary for healthy skin. Try Greek yogurt or even low-fat cottage cheese if you like.

8. Carrots-An excellent source of Vitamin A, carrots also contain high amounts of beta-carotene and antioxidants which helps prevent damage to the skin.

9. Mangoes-Mangoes are high in Beta Carotene and Vitamin A, and they are a good source of antioxidants. These have also been called an “acne cure”.

10. Kiwi-Kiwi packs more vitamin C than any other fruit which helps maintain collagen in our skin.  Collagen helps keep the skin firm.

Best Foods for Runners

I have been an avid runner since I was 16. I love it, and it’s definitely one of my passions. For years, friends have asked me to come up with recipes for runners. Instead, I thought I would research what are the best foods and write about it. Here are some of my favorites:

1. Wild Salmon-Wild salmon is an excellent source of omega 3 fatty acids which boost heart health and nerve system functioning. Some doctors even say omega-3’s can help with post-run achy joints.

2. Almonds-High in antioxidants, protein and vitamin E, almonds are a wise choice for a runner’s snack helping to prevent achy muscles.

3. Quinoa-This complex carbohydrate (pronounced Keen-wah) is a great energy source filled with fiber, B vitamin, zinc and magnesium which are so helpful to runners. One-fourth cup of dry of quinoa has 172 calories, 6 grams of protein, 31 grams of carbohydrate and 3 grams of fiber, and it’s also gluten-free.

4. Kale-This member of the cabbage family has high levels of vitamin C, vitamin B6, vitamin K, vitamin C and fiber. It is one of the most antioxidant filled vegetables.

5. Bananas-This great pre-workout or post-workout food is a great source of carbohydrates and potassium. That is why you will always find bananas offered at the end of races.

6. Eggs-Eating one egg offers a great source of vitamin K and protein which aid in promoting healthy bones and muscles. I like to purchase the organic omega-3 enhanced eggs.

7. Blueberries-Filled with vitamin C and potassium, these can help the body repair itself after long, hard runs.

8. Edamame-This great snack is filled with protein, fiber, iron, potassium, magnesium, vitamin K and vitamin C. It’s a great snack option loaded with health benefits.

9. Yogurt-Low-fat yogurt has a good source of carbohydrates and protein, and Greek yogurt has less carbs and even more protein. Both are great sources of calcium which is important for runners to help prevent stress fractures and osteoporosis.

10. Oranges-High in vitamin C, oranges are great for healing and helping absorb iron in the body which can help prevent fatigue and increase energy levels.

My Top 10 Favorite “Power” Foods

I get a lot of email, and I mean, a lot. So many people ask me cooking questions, nutrition questions, entrepreneur advice, blog advice, social media advice, have comments and more. Sometimes, I get the simple questions such as, “How do you keep so fit? “What do you eat all day?” etc. I thought I would share my top 10 favorite “power” foods. When I say “power”, I mean foods that I love, foods that I feel give me energy, keep me healthy and foods I can’t go without most every day.

1. Greek Yogurt-With 2.5 grams of protein per ounce and hardly any fat or carbs, what could be better? I stir honey into mine with blueberries or bananas, nuts or whole grain cereal, and I eat it for breakfast or an afternoon snack. It is so filling and tastes great (I use the nonfat or low-fat by the way). See Greek Yogurt Banana Bread

2. Blueberries-These have the highest antioxidant value of all fruit plus they have many vitamins: B, C, E, and they boost your immune system. We always have a bowl of fresh blueberries ready to grab. See  Blueberry Pancakes

3. Almonds or Walnuts-These are a great heart-healthy snack filled with protein, vitamins, minerals and good for your digestive system. I don’t go one day without a handful. See Chunky Granola

4. Acai or pomegranate juice-Acai has been said to have antioxidant benefits and anti-aging properties and omega fatty acids. I think it gives me energy as well. You can buy the frozen Sambazon smoothie packs at Whole Foods, in solid bars, or in a bottle (I like the 100% Genesis Today Acai juice).  See Cranberry Pomegranate Granita

5. Salmon-High in the health promoting fat, omega 3 fatty acids, high protein, and low in calories. I prefer Alaskan wild salmon. Salmon is one of my tried and true favorites. The best part of all is that my 3 kids love it too. See Salmon Burgers

6. Edamame-High in protein, fiber and calcium and low in calories and fat.  I can’t get enough of these. I purchase them already shelled in the frozen section and just thaw. They are great served in a salad, as a snack or as a topping. See Edamame Salsa

7. Gold Bars-These bars are my all-time favorite snack bars. With 11 grams of protein from soy, nuts and whole grains, these satisfy my hunger as well as sugar cravings. I love them in the morning with coffee or as a snack. See Grab the Gold Bar

8. Flaxseed-High in fiber and omega 3 fatty acids, I put ground flaxseed in everything from cereal, to yogurt, granola and even as a crust on salmon or chicken. See Flaxseed Crusted Salmon

9. Arugula-High in Vitamin C and K, I love arugula for it’s peppery taste and beautiful color. Try it with golden raisins, nuts and freshly shaved Parmesan or simply topped with grilled chicken or steamed shrimp. I’m a huge fan and can’t get enough of it. See Black Eyed Pea Salad over Arugula

10. Dark Chocolate-Dark Chocolate is said to contain flavonoids so it’s heart healthy, contains antioxidants and may even reduce aging. Try Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookies

Eat Right-Healthy Mediterranean Salad

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Here is a healthy, simple salad recipe which has a few of my favorite ingredients: basil, mint, dried cranberries, almonds and Israeli couscous. Israeli couscous is a small, round semolina pasta which is very versatile, and kids love it. It works great in this combination served over romaine lettuce leaves drizzled with balsamic vinegar, fresh lemon juice and olive oil. Feel free to substitute dried cherries for the cranberries, pine nuts or walnuts for the almonds and any of your favorite lettuces or spinach for the romaine. Here’s to a healthy fresh start to the New Year!


Prep: 10 minutes 

Cook: 10 minutes

Yield: 4 to 6 servings

Ingredients

2 cups fat-free, low sodium chicken broth

6 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, divided

11/2 cups Israeli couscous (or any small pasta)

6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided

1 clove garlic, minced

1 teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/3 cup balsamic vinegar

1 cup chopped fresh basil leaves

1/2 cup chopped fresh mint leaves

1/4 cup dried cherries or cranberries

1/4 cup sliced almonds, toasted

Preparation

1. Bring broth and 2 tablespoons lemon juice to a boil; pour over couscous; bring back to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, about 8 to 10 minutes until still firm to the bite.

2. In a large bowl, toss the cooked couscous with 2 tablespoons olive oil, 2 tablespoons lemon juice, garlic, zest and pepper; let cool.

3. In a separate bowl, whisk together 2 tablespoons lemon juice, balsamic vinegar and remaining 4 tablespoons olive oil.

4. Toss romaine lettuce with fresh herbs, dried cherries, and almonds, tossing gently to combine. Top with couscous and drizzle with balsamic dressing.

Miniature Almond-Cinnamon Rolls

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I love breakfast, especially during the holidays when I make something homemade, warm and comforting for my family to enjoy. One of my favorite breakfast pastries is cinnamon rolls, and I thought I would do what I do best as a National Professional Recipe Developer. I create recipes from scratch and twist them to develop recipes that are new, delectable and exciting. These miniature cinnamon rolls are all of those adjectives and more. I used Pillsbury crescent roll dough and filled it with freshly chopped almonds (instead of pecans). I also used a touch of almond in the icing which adds mouth-watering flavor. This recipe is so easy to prepare, and turns out fabulous. Just beware, they disappeared in about 30 seconds at my house, so you might want to double the dose. 


Miniature Almond-Cinnamon Rolls

Prep: 20 minutes

Cook: 12 minutes

Yield:  20 rolls

Ingredients

 1 (8-ounce) can refrigerated crescent rolls

2  teaspoons dark brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/3 cup finely chopped almonds or pecans (optional)

1/3 cup powdered sugar

2 to 3 teaspoons skim milk

1/8 teaspoon almond extract

1/8 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preparation

1. Unroll crescent rolls, and separate into 4 rectangles; press perforations to seal.

2. Stir together brown sugar and cinnamon and sprinkle evenly over dough.

3. Roll up, jellyroll fashion, starting at a long side; press edges to seal. Cut each long into 5 slices, and place in a lightly greased 8-inch round cakepan; sprinkle with almonds, if desired.

4. Bake at 350F for 12 minutes or until lightly browned.

5. Whisk together powdered sugar, milk and remaining ingredients; drizzle over warm rolls.

Holiday Spiced Nuts

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I love spiced nuts! I have been trying to develop a lower fat recipe since nuts have enough fat on their own (but don’t forget those are good fats). This recipe is just in time for the holidays, or you can enjoy them as a snack or also tossed in a mixed green salad with fresh pears and blue cheese. Feel free to use any type of nuts that you want. These are worth every bite, and there’s no oil or butter in the recipe.

 

Spiced Almonds and Pecans 

Prep: 5 minutes

Cook: 25 minutes

Yield: 41/2 cups

Ingredients

2 (6-ounce) packages pecan halves

1  (6 ounce) can whole natural almonds

1/3  cup  packed brown sugar

11/2  teaspoons  ground cinnamon

1/2  teaspoon  ground cumin

2  large egg whites, lightly beaten

Cooking spray

Preparation

1. Preheat oven to 325°.

2. Combine pecans, almonds and next 3 ingredients in a small bowl. Stir in egg whites. Spread mixture evenly onto a foil-lined baking sheet coated with cooking spray. Bake at 325° for 10 minutes. Stir mixture; bake an additional 15 minutes or until crisp. Transfer foil to a wire rack; cool almond mixture. Break almond mixture into small pieces.

Note: Store at room temperature in an airtight container for up to one week.