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Posts Tagged ‘folate’

thanksgiving-cornucopiaThanksgiving – it’s a feeding frenzy and a day of guilty pleasures. We eat more than we should – and oh my – the calories! Here’s how to have an epic Thanksgiving dinner with a nutritional boost, and save on the waistline at the same time.

1.  Serve soup as a first course. A vegetable soup would go nicely with the rest of your Thanksgiving meal. The water and fiber in the soup is satisfying, so we will eat fewer calories.

2. Add parsnips to the mashed potatoes. Two or three parsnips would be fine, depending on how much mashed potatoes you make. Parsnips look like a white carrot and can be prepared the same way. Peel the parsnip, cut in chunks and add to the potatoes when cooking. Whip as usual. Parsnips have vitamin C, folate, and manganese and will add a little sweetness to the potatoes. Use soy milk rather than cow’s milk when making mashed potatoes to forgo the antibiotics and hormones found in cow’s milk. Skip the butter – the parsnips add a subtle sweet flavor everyone will enjoy.

3. Add nuts to your vegetable dish to dress it up. Chopped walnuts, slivered almonds, or pine nuts are all good choices. Your dish will look fancy without much effort. Roasting the nuts before adding to the vegetables will add an additional dimension of flavor. These nuts have healthy monounsaturated fats and minerals. Almonds are a good source of vitamin E. Walnuts contain B6 and thiamin. Pine nuts have vitamin K, E, and niacin.

4. Sprinkle pomegranate seeds on the top of your salad. These add a burst of flavor everyone will enjoy. Wear an apron while removing the seeds, as the juice will stain clothing. One way to minimize the squirting juice is to fill a bowl with water. Cut the pomegranate in half. Under water, break open the pomegranate and separate the seeds from the white membrane. The seeds will float to the top of the water. Save time Thanksgiving Day by doing this the day before and refrigerate them. Pomegranates are loaded with vitamins C, K, folate and several minerals.

5. Instead of candied sweet potatoes, serve whipped sweet potatoes. Peel and boil the sweet potatoes in water. Drain and whip them. Since they are sweet, no brown sugar or butter is needed. A sprinkle of cinnamon or nutmeg is all you need. If they are thicker than you like, just add a little soy milk.

6. Desserts can really do us in! This Pumpkin Tofu Pie is a hit with all my family – vegans and carnivores alike. Don’t let the tofu scare you. This contains the same spices and tastes like a traditional pumpkin pie minus the eggs and cream. The pie crust is Mary McDougall’s recipe. The filling I adapted from several recipes. Use organic pumpkin and apple juice concentrate if possible.

Crust – 1 cup Grape Nuts Cereal, 1/4 cup apple juice concentrate. Preheat oven to 350º. Mix the Grape Nuts and apple juice concentrate. Pat into a 9” pie pan. Bake for 10 minutes and cool before filling.

Filling – 1 1/2 packages Mori-Nu Extra Firm silken tofu, 2 cups cooked pumpkin, 2/3 cups real maple syrup, 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla, 2 teaspoons cinnamon, 1/4 t. ginger, 1/2 t. nutmeg, 1/8 t. cloves. Preheat oven to 350º. Blend the tofu in a food processor or blender until smooth. Add the remaining ingredients and blend. Pour into pie shell and bake for about 1 hour.

7. Finally, spend some good quality time together with family and friends. Thanksgiving is a day of gratitude. After dinner, go for a walk together. (Yes, those of us in the Midwest can bundle up and get outside). Set the DVR before you leave. You can go out for a walk and enjoy each other’s company and not miss one play of the game.

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ImageRecently Dr. Neal Barnard, author of Power Foods for the Brain and president of Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, spoke at the University of Illinois College of Medicine in Rockford, Illinois to a capacity crowd of 340 people.

His book tells us how we can reduce the risk of getting dementia and Alzheimer’s.  Research has shown Alzheimer’s hits half of us in the United States by the age of 85.    Five million Americans now have Alzheimer’s.  Symptoms of Alzheimer’s include (1):

◦ Difficulty learning/remembering new things – lose belongings, ask questions repeatedly.

◦ Poor reasoning, judgement or problem solving – struggle making decisions/planning.

◦ Poor visual/spacial abilities – difficulty recognizing faces, tying shoes, doing buttons.

◦ Losing language skills – difficulty finding words, reading, or writing becomes difficult.

◦ Personality changes – become irritable, agitated or apathetic.

For Dr. Barnard, it’s personal.  All four of his grandparents had Alzheimer’s.  This would make us ask, “Is Alzheimer’s genetic?”  Genetics is linked to an increased risk of dementia, however at least one third of the people who have this gene do not get Alzheimer’s.  So what what’s the answer?

Research has suggested foods and lifestyle can help protect us from dementia and Alzheimer’s despite our genetics. The Chicago Health and Aging Project study found people who ate the most saturated fat (fried foods, dairy, meat) had more than three times the risk of developing Alzheimer’s.  For people eating store-bought baked goods and snack foods containing trans fats and French fries cooked in oil with trans fat, the risk of Alzheimer’s is more than five times that of those not consuming these foods.  Both of these fats increase the production of a protein found in a plaque that deposits between our brain cells and singes the connections between our brain cells. It also causes the interior of brain cells to resemble tangled balls of yarn.

Three is a strong relationship between nutrition and Alzheimer’s.  Here are foods we can eat and things we can do to dramatically reduce the risk of dementia or Alzheimer’s or make improvements to our memory in a few months if we have early stages of dementia or Alzheimer’s.

◦  Eliminate foods with saturated and trans fats which create plaques in the brain that prevent signaling between brain cells.

◦  Eat foods with vitamin E such as spinach, almonds, sunflower seeds, broccoli, and Swiss chard to neutralize damaging free  radical cells.

◦  Folate found in romaine lettuce, cauliflower, beets, lentils and beans eliminates damaging homocysteine that circulates in our blood and contributes to Alzheimer’s.

◦  B6 in bananas, bell peppers, watermelon, and Brussels sprouts reduces homocystine levels and increases cognition.

◦  B12 found in fortified foods and in the form of a supplement helps remove homocystine.

◦  Do not take supplements containing copper, iron, or zinc.  Our body needs these minerals, however taking supplements containing these minerals may give us to much which can be damaging to brain cells.  Get these minerals from food sources.

◦  Exercise.  It helps grow new connections between brain cells.

◦  Do brain exercises like crossword puzzles, Sudoku, reading or other cognitive activities to increase the number of connections between brain cells.

Our genes are not our fate.  Be smart and be sure to include these recommendations in your daily life to keep your brain healthy.

1 Barnard, N. (2013) Foods That Fight Pain, New York: Grand Central Life and Style.

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