August 20, 2019

Can Diet Help Keep You From Losing Your Mind?

Can diet help keep you from losing your mind? This is the question I came home asking this week. For the third time in the past 5 weeks, I spent the weekend visiting my mother’s cousin and cleaning out her house. In another 5 weeks, we’ll celebrate her 99th birthday. This year’s celebration will be vastly different from last year’s or the year before. Last year, she hosted 20 friends and relatives in the sunroom of her long-term care facility. She knew everyone’s name and exhibited none of the anxiety that had begun to occasionally plague her.
eating
This year, I’m not even inviting family to join us. In the past two or three months, I have observed a significant cognitive decline. Yesterday, we spent an hour getting a glass of juice, 5 bites of egg, three bites of toast, and a few sips of hot chocolate down her. There was no conversation. She simply didn’t have the language.

There were some repetitive interjections of, “Help me, help me, help me,” followed by “I can’t, I can’t, I can’t.” These incidents have become common and often loud. Trying to find a medication that will quell her anxiety without making her sleep constantly is not a simple task. But we have to do something or she will not be able to stay where she is. I don’t know any other long-term care facility that smells like hot buttered rolls when you walk in, so having to move would be a shame.

It’s hard to know who will get dementia or what kind. Throughout her eighties, this particular cousin had outstanding recall of the answers in all Trivial Pursuit categories and maintained her extensive vocabulary. Her mother died with a clear mind at age 95. If I had been picking someone who would develop dementia, it wouldn’t have been her.

Many of you know how hard it is to watch a loved one sink into anxiety and incapacity. How sad it feels when they no longer know our names then eventually look at us with no glimmer of recognition. The coinciding physical decline is no easier to see. And I can’t even get my mind around what this must be like to experience.

Of course, we all want to avoid dementia. Some sources advise eating brain-healthy foods or following the MIND (Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay) diet to help stave it off. This advice seems to be based on short-term studies of brain sharpness and has been repeated on sites like mayoclinic.org and webmd.com.

On the surface, it sounds good, but it seems this will not be the final word. A European study of 8225 participants from 1991-2004 found diet quality assessed during midlife was not significantly associated with subsequent risk for dementia. There is an ongoing NIH study examining the effects of MIND diet on cognitive decline in seniors 65-84 without cognitive impairment who are overweight and have suboptimal diets. This study will end in 2021.

In the meantime, we’ll all have choices to make at many, many meals. Fresh, fresh, fresh without pesticides whenever possible is best! Plant-based processed foods are not as healthy as plain old vegetables and fruits. If you want to use the MIND diet as a guideline, choose green leafy vegetables at least 6 times per week plus other vegetables at least once per day. Make berries part of your meals twice a week. Eat fish at least once and poultry at least twice while limiting red meat to four times a week. Consume nuts at least five times a week. Include complex carbohydrates from whole grains. Use olive oil for cooking and limit butter and margarine to less than a tablespoon per day. Eat less than a serving of cheese and less than five pastries or sweets per week. Avoid fried and fast food and limit alcohol to one drink in a day. You can also download a MIND diet app.

If you’re already following a Mediterranean diet or the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet, there may be no need to alter what you’re doing. Some neuroscientists would encourage you to include chocolate, coffee, or tea and remind you to drink plenty of water.

It seems like there’s always conflicting information when it comes to the effects of specific dietary recommendations. When it comes to living a healthy life, I like to follow the word BALANCE…

B e sure to include variety
A void foods and chemicals to which you have an adverse reaction*
L imit prepackaged and processed food
A void fast food
N urture yourself with sleep, stillness, and vigorous activity
C reate a kind, inspiring lifestyle
E njoy your life

Will BALANCE help keep me from losing my mind? It remains to be seen, but it makes me feel good now and now is the only moment we know we have.


*allergy, sensitivity, autoimmune or inflammatory response

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30860560

https://www.nia.nih.gov/alzheimers/clinical-trials/mind-diet-prevent-cognitive-decline

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/alzheimers-disease/in-depth/15-simple-diet-tweaks-cut-alzheimers-risk/art-20342112

https://www.webmd.com/alzheimers/ss/slideshow-dementia-foods

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.rbjmobileapp.mind&hl=en_US

http://www.cooking2thrive.com/blog/lunch-dinner-snack-foods-support-healthy-lifestyle/

August 13, 2019

Just Stop Already!

Just stop already! It sounds like the opposite of Nike’s well-known Just Do It campaign, but is it the opposite or a necessary part of the equation?

When I was 17, I skipped my senior year in high school to attend college. During my second semester, I went to see an on-campus counselor to discuss something with which I was struggling. I vividly remember his response to my question, “What should I do?”. “Just stop!” That was it. Two words: just stop.

A few years ago I worked with a life coach in LA. Subsequently, I interviewed a North Carolina life coach for our Cooking2Thrive interview series. During the work I did with each, there were times at which they identified that I was at a “point of choice”. In other words, I was at the moment in which I had to choose one thing or another.

We all face points of choice over and over and over each and every day. Some choices are trivial. Others are life changing. None can be ignored or avoided. Not making a choice at such a point is, in fact, making a choice.

Mindful exploration can guide us to make choices in line with our aspirations, goals, and intentions. Sometimes, the best choice is to just do it and sometimes it’s better to stop already. Living a physically and emotionally healthy life will require both.

When I look back at that college experience, I still feel angry. The counselor ignored the nuance of my story. His response felt dismissive. He didn’t ask any questions to determine why I was struggling or have me follow a feeling path toward the origins of that struggle. He jumped right to advising action.

That’s where a lot of us get stuck. In order to work past the struggle, we need to feel heard. We need the tools to trust ourselves so we can work through the layers of emotion that insulate us. Until we reconnect with ourselves, we will keep repeating the same actions. We know we should just stop, we simply don’t know how.

The other night, a friend awakened me with a phone call at midnight. His emergency? He believed a fast-food worker had messed with his food. “Why do you think that,” I sleepily asked. “She always leaves the counter after taking my order. I know she’s back there messing with my food,” was his reply. He went on to explain that she does this every time and he has previously complained to her manager. Though he wouldn’t directly answer the question, I ascertained that the food has never made him sick. His question for me, “What would you do?”

Even in my sleepy state, I knew the stated problem wasn’t the real problem, but I wasn’t sufficiently motivated to get out of bed to draw out the conversation until we reached the real problem so I said, “I’d stop going there.” Just stop already.

Was that helpful of me? Yes and no. Yes, I gave him a way to prevent the worker from potentially messing with his food, but I didn’t address the underlying emotional flashback that was triggered by the fast-food worker.

I know his feeling of distrust originates from very real experiences that traumatized him. I also know that he’s following some sort of internal script that most likely recreates experiences he’s internalized, legitimizes some way that he feels, or justifies his anger. While my answer wasn’t responsive to any of that, it did offer him an avenue to disrupt his own pattern.

If you work with a life coach, they may talk about working from the outside in at the same time you are working from the inside out. Deliberately choosing a different action than you would normally choose is a way of working from the outside in. And it can be helpful because it disrupts ingrained patterns allowing you to change your experience. Perhaps that was why the particular counselor I saw in college chose a two-word response.

The problem with his approach was that there was no attempt to build a foundation of trust, connection, or understanding. There was no overall strategy in which just stop played a recurring part. I felt like he may as well have said, “Just stop talking to me.” That’s how I responded. I never spoke to him again.
do it
So how do you get to the point that most healthy lifestyle decisions become as simple as doing or not doing?

Everyone’s specific path will be different but there will be common themes that often include these priorities:
Quiet downtime. When you make time to do nothing, you have to discontinue the activities that keep you from sitting still with yourself. Just stop doing and start sitting.

Self-trust. If you have lived with trauma or in an environment of chaos you may no longer trust yourself. Bodywork like Somatic Experiencing, Tension & Trauma Release Exercises (or TRE®), Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), Yoga, and Tapping can help you reconnect your body and emotions.

Self-kindness. Everyone deserves kindness. Most of us are more likely to be kind to others than to ourselves. Why? Have you really done anything you wouldn’t forgive in someone else? Which brings us to…

Self-forgiveness. None of us are perfect. We all have the capacity for cruelty, recklessness, and violence. We will do things we wish we could take back. This is the state of being human. If we cannot forgive ourselves, we can never move forward.

Full feeling—being able to fully connect with your emotions, feel them and let them go. It is often the interruption of this process that keeps us stuck.

Being open to receiving. This sounds simple and pleasant. It is in itself simple, but it requires courage and intention to put down defenses, be vulnerable, and surrender if your life experience has taught you the world is not a safe place. For some of us being open feels very risky.

Gratitude. Practicing gratitude shifts your focus. Sometimes that shift is all you need to disrupt a destructive pattern of behavior. It can also be uplifting. Just do it!

Mindfulness. Some might describe this as being fully present in the moment. For me, it begins with breathing then an awareness of my body followed by an inventory of feelings. When I am mindful, all of this awareness can move and shift without judgment or meaning attached. I can simply be let it be. One of the effects is freeing myself from attaching a habitual pattern of feeling to a pain in my tummy or tension in my shoulder.

Intention. Being clear on what you intend can change the way you talk to your children, your spouse, or your mother. It can change the order in which you tackle tasks. It can direct your actions without the pressure of reaching a certain goal.

Flexibility. No matter how well you prepare, how much you plan, how much insurance you purchase, and how much energy you put into controlling your environment, life will throw you some curveballs. There will be floods, tornadoes, hurricanes, accidents, and betrayals. Being able to shift and change in response will help stave off depression.

The ability to reframe. Life is filled with change, loss, and challenge. Challenge can be reframed as opportunity, loss as an opening for something new, change as freedom to do something different. Being able to see the flip side leads to creative solutions, positive momentum, and unlimited situations in which to excel.

If you frequently recount the reasons you can’t make a change you say you want to make, just stop already. Pick one change and just do it. This can be a teeny tiny change. Then pick another one and just do it. Then assess. You may find that all of your priorities have shifted. Everything affects everything.

As for the underlying issues, with courage, commitment, and intention you can heal and move forward. Tiny changes serve to disrupt patterns leaving you an opening to experience things differently. Tiny changes can shift how you experience relationships as well. This will allow you to weed out the two-word counselor in favor of a trauma-informed yoga instructor or a reliable ally with whom you can be vulnerable.

Stopping and starting are not as much opposites as complementary parts of a whole. When you just stop something, it opens the space, time, and energy to just do something else aligned with your current values and priorities. To me, that sounds exciting!

Now, I’ll just stop already!

https://traumahealing.org/

https://traumaprevention.com/

https://www.emdr.com/what-is-emdr/

https://www.amazon.com/Overcoming-Trauma-through-Yoga-Reclaiming/dp/1556439695?creativeASIN=1556439695&linkCode=w61&imprToken=UQiJONnu34ALX5EzrOIndQ&slotNum=1

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6316206/

http://www.cooking2thrive.com/blog/mindfulness-intentions-new-year/

http://www.cooking2thrive.com/blog/page/2/?s=mindfulness

http://www.cooking2thrive.com/blog/preparation-for-healing-managing-expectations-begins-with-setting-clear-intentions/

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

August 5, 2019

Should Soy Stay or Should it Go?

Should soy stay or should it go? When my children were young, we discovered they were allergic to cow’s milk. I switched them to soy. Now, when I see headlines describing the dangers of soy, I wonder whether I did them a great disservice.

Soy is present in many prepared foods. It’s eagerly embraced by some adopters of a plant-based diet because it is filled with high-quality protein and nutrients including B vitamins, fiber, potassium, and magnesium. Soy protein contains all nine essential amino acids that the body cannot make on its own making it a “complete” protein. These facts make soy sound like a great food.
soy
But, like eggs, soy has its detractors. Some animal studies have shown that high dosages of isoflavone or isolated soy protein extracts tend to stimulate breast cancer growth. Isoflavones are phytoestrogens that function similarly to human estrogen (a hormone) but with weaker effects. Isoflavones may also alter the behavior of estrogen receptors thereby affecting hormone balance.

Hormone balance affects mood, libido, weight, sleep quality, and energy levels. Life is both healthier and more pleasant when we maintain the proper balance. Any alteration of hormone balance through intentional disruption brings risks whether it’s hormone-based birth control, hormone replacement therapy, or dietary estrogens.

A study of 3700 Japanese-American men in Hawaii who consumed large amounts of tofu during middle-age showed a significant association with greater cognitive impairment and brain atrophy in late life compared with men with the lowest tofu intakes. On the flip side, a study of Asian women showed that soy foods sometimes reduced the risk of breast cancer.

In fact, there are numerous soy studies with conflicting results. At a glance, it’s hard to determine whether soy contributes to or reduces the risk of breast cancer. The relationship with dementia is not certain either.

Soy foods are not the only foods that contain phytoestrogens or dietary estrogens. Flaxseeds, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, almonds, walnuts, apples, cranberries, grapes, pomegranates, strawberries, carrots, lentils, yams, mung beans, sprouts, barley, oats, wheat germ, coffee, bourbon, beer, red wine, and olive oil all contain phytoestrogens. We don’t think of most of those as harmful, but all phytoestrogens are not created equal or used by the body in the same way.

More than likely, there are many factors that determine whether soy will detrimentally affect you–ethnicity, hormone levels, type of soy, age and frequency of ingestion, interaction with medications, etc. With no definitive way to know whether phytoestrogens put you at risk, it is probably best to consume soy in moderation.

If you choose packaged foods, be sure to read the labels. You’ll often find soy in unexpected places. If you are eating a plant-based diet, you may want to limit tofu. And with all of the non-dairy milk options, there’s really no reason to rely on soy.

When you do eat soy, less processing is always better. I love edamame. Every few months I’ll have some for dinner two or three times in a week. Then I don’t think about it again for months.

With no consistent, definitive science to rely on at this time, consuming soy has to be a matter of choice. For now I’m choosing stay, but in deliberate moderation. Only time will tell whether my choices will harm my children or me. In the meantime, I’ll probably keep asking: Should soy stay or should it go?

https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1345/aph.10257

https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/01635581.2017.1250924

https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/07315724.2000.10718923

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2781234/

The following is an extensive review of soy research. Please be aware that it was funded by The European Soy and Plant-based Foods Manufacturers Association, and the author is the executive director of the Soy Nutrition Institute, an organization funded by the United Soybean Board and its soy industry members.
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5188409/

http://www.cooking2thrive.com/blog/?s=soy

http://www.cooking2thrive.com/blog/page/3/?s=soy
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July 31, 2019

Forty Ounce Rosé Plus Gluten-Free Breton Original Crackers

40Forty Ounce Rosé plus gluten-free Breton® Crackers feels like a representative combination for happy hour in my gentrifying neighborhood. About thirteen years ago, I moved into a four-block neutral zone between the Crips and the Bloods located in the historic neighborhood that houses my state’s governor’s mansion. Forty-ounce bottles of malt liquor or beer could be purchased a block away. A decent bottle of wine and upscale crackers required driving several miles.

After 30 years of “getting better” (but not really), the neighborhood has begun to change. I haven’t had a break-in or drive-by shooting at my home in about three years. Many young couples with small children live nearby. It’s only a few blocks to new green-built urban farmhouses and shipping container homes. A distillery and craft-beer maker have relocated within walking distance. We have a farmer’s market, performance venue, restaurants, two bakeries, a creamery, local retail, and a museum.

Many of my neighbors sit on the front porch in the evening. There’s almost always a light breeze. A generous pour of chilled Forty Ounce Rosé in my glass makes for a refreshing accompaniment to relaxing on the porch.

Forty Ounce Rosé is a French wine that is handmade using traditional sustainable farming and vinification methods. It includes a blend of grapes from Muscadet and Touraine:53% Gamay, 33% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Franc, 4% Pineau d’Aunis and contains 12.5% alcohol. The amusing bottle holds 33.82 fluid ounces (a liter) rather than an actual forty ounces.

I often find rosé either too sweet or too tart. I like a balance somewhere in between. I don’t expect the fullness of a red, but I want some body to the wine. Forty Ounce Rosé fills the bill.

Rosés have been back in vogue for a few years, but in my city it can still be a struggle to find a satisfactory bottle. My friends and I recently resorted to having the liquor store order a case of Forty Ounce that we can split. Perhaps if we order often enough, they’ll opt to stock it on the shelf.
breton
Eventually, we get hungry while sitting on the porch. This week I decided to add Breton Original gluten-free crackers to my snack choices. I must confess, it’s been so long since I’ve had the original crackers containing gluten, I can’t remember what they taste like so I can’t give you that comparison. I’ll just have to describe my current experience.

The initial taste is slightly sweet and not unpleasant. The texture is not crisp and crunchy like Schär Table Crackers or crisp then somewhat flaky like Glutino Premium Rounds. These are softer with a texture similar to that of a graham cracker. At the end of the bite, there’s an aftertaste I don’t like. I’m not sure if it comes from the flax seeds or added flavoring.

I tried these crackers alongside chicken salad and tuna salad. This is not the cracker I would choose for either in the future. Perhaps I would serve Breton Original gluten-free crackers with a soft cheese.

It’s possible herbed chévre would mitigate the aftertaste. A smear of cream cheese topped with apricot jelly or olives might also work. Overall, I see these as a specialty cracker, not one to keep on hand.

In addition to snacks, porch sitting is often filled with fanciful contemplation. I’m sure the world’s problems have been solved several times over on porch stoops. Perhaps if conference rooms were filled with rustling leaves, beautiful blooms, a pleasant breeze, warbling birds, diverse and cordial neighbors in comfortable clothes, and plenty of wine meetings would inspire change and improvement in our institutions.

At least we know we can inspire change from our porches with Forty Ounce Rosé and Breton crackers in hand.

http://www.fortyouncewines.com/#wines

http://www.fortyouncewines.com/#wines/rosé

https://www.darefoods.com/ca_en/brand/breton/1

http://www.cooking2thrive.com/blog/well-preserved/

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”