Tag Archives: protein

high carb diet brain health

New Study: Low-Protein, High-Carb Diet Good for Brain Health (What!?)

It’s no mystery that people want to live longer. Ponce De León sought the Fountain of Youth. King Arthur sought the Holy Grail. And today researchers seek to make us live longer through science.

But living longer isn’t glorious if your brain quits working before you die. Life expectancy for humans is longer than ever. Yet we still experience dementia and Alzheimer’s.

The race is on to find a cure for brain diseases. Until we do find an actual cure, the focus has to be on preventing dementia and Alzheimer’s.

Today we’re going to examine one study that suggests diet could be the key.

1. What Causes Brain Degeneration?

We’re good at talking about heart health. We label heart-healthy foods. We talk about cholesterol. But we rarely talk about brain health.

And if you’re merely looking at what kills us, this approach makes sense. Heart disease is the leading cause of death, after all.

Some in the health field feel it’s not enough just to focus on death. While still not popular to talk about, quality of life is gaining traction as an area of health study. And we’re finding out some interesting things about brain degeneration that might enhance quality of life.

Each time you learn something new, you break your DNA. But don’t worry, your body knows how to repair the damage.

Neurons in the brain must break their own DNA to initiate the transcriptional program that allows learning and memory function. The cells quickly repair the damage and keep functioning.

The problem comes when our bodies age and slow down. The process of repairing DNA slows down as well. Eventually, our bodies can’t keep up the repairs and we accumulate damage over time.

Since this damage is in the neurons that process memory and enable learning, we see symptoms like memory loss, anxiety, and depression.

Researchers still don’t fully understand what causes the body to slow down its repair mechanisms. But they have found that diet is one way to reduce the damage we see in the brain during aging.

*Related: Is Nutrisystem really healthy?


2. Low-Calorie Diets Aid in Mice Longevity

Recent studies show that, at least in mice, a severe calorie restriction aids in longevity.  There is improvement in learning and memory in old rodents.

How much did they reduce the diet of mice? 10-50%. They also tried extended periods of fasting.

Scientists then used various common tests including the Morris water maze, Barnes maze, and object recognition. The tests determine how well the mice are learning and retaining information.

They found that mice who experienced the severe calorie restriction did better at the various mazes. Their times improved as well as their ability to learn easier pathways through the maze.

They’re going to take over the world.

They tested these mice for one year and found that the best calorie restriction percentage was 40% (they found decent results at 20%). If you translate that to a common diet of 2500 calories and you’re looking at only 1500 calories a day.

For most people, such calorie restriction won’t be tenable, especially in developed countries where food is so bountiful. So scientists are looking for other ways to get the same diet effects without severely restricting calories.


3. The Opposite of Keto (Low Protein + High Carbs!) 

The keto diet, eliminating carbohydrates and increasing protein and fat sources, is a popular and often misunderstood diet. Many claim it’s changed their lives for the better. Just about all of the popular diets including Weight Watchers and Nutrisystem subscribe to the high protein / lower carb

But as it turns out, the opposite of the keto diet is what might reverse brain degeneration in humans.

When researching how calorie restriction might negate the effects of brain degeneration, scientists looked at five areas: Cardiometabolic health, hippocampus RNA expression, nutrient sensing pathways, dendritic spine density, and cognitive function during aging.

They found a diet that improves all of those areas at once without severely restricting calories. It’s a diet of low-protein and high carbohydrates.

So, runners rejoice! Your pre-race carb-loading pasta-fest is also protecting your brain health.

How Did They Figure it Out?

For a long time, we’ve known that this diet increased longevity. In fact, in many “blue zones” such as Okinawa where more people live to see 100 than any other place on the planet people eat a low-protein, high-carb diet.  Until the calorie restriction studies, scientists hadn’t considered turning to a low-protein, high-calorie diet for improved brain health.

In the study, they used pure starch-derived complex carbohydrates like what you find in whole grain rice. And they used casein protein, which is in dairy.

To make sure they could see the results of calorie restriction first hand for comparison, they restricted another set of mice to 20% reduced calorie diet. They then studied the hippocampus or the area of the brain related to memories. Specifically, they looked at RNA expressions in mice brain cells.

They used the same maze and memory tests of the previous calorie restrictions studies.

What Did They See?

The hippocampus is where we see the brain deteriorate first with diseases like dementia and Alzheimer’s. But the low-protein, high-carbohydrate diet seemed to improve hippocampus health. In fact, some areas showed greater improvement than the calorie restriction diet.

This could be yet another reason to question diets like keto that drastically cut carbs. (especially good carbs like veggies!) 


The Best We Have Now

There are no pharmacological treatments for dementia. We can cure various cancers or fix a heart, but we can’t medically cure dementia.

Diet and lifestyle seem to be our only tools right now to combat this ugly side of aging. Other lifestyle changes could help with dementia as well.

Continued education in later life seems to help with dementia. People with low blood pressure also are less likely to experience dementia. But diet seems to be top of the list when it comes to improving brain health.

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ground flaxseed benefits diet weight loss

Flaxseed & Weight Loss: 7 Healthy Benefits of Eating Ground Flaxseed

The Benefits of Eating Flaxseed: Flaxseed might be a great addition to your diet, as they are high in fiber, protein, and healthy fats, and can reduce your appetite by making you feel full sooner. Here’s the skinny on the benefits of eating flaxseed:

Ground Flaxseed Reduces Your Appetite

“Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” Michael Pollan

Has anyone ever defined healthy eating better in 7 words? Well, flaxseeds fit nicely into that strategy; add a tablespoon to a meal or smoothie, and the healthy fats in them will help you feel full faster, making you less likely to eat too much.

Flaxseed is High In Fiber

ground flaxseed
bag of ground flaxeseed

I’m still scarred from the fiber-craze of my youth, and I still associate fiber with cereals and snacks that would be better off fed to farm animals. Also, my grandmother suffered through drinking prune juice every day, which wasn’t sexy either.

Sexy or not, it’s an important part of any healthy diet, and most people don’t eat enough. In fact, the average adult is only eating less than half of the recommended amount. According to the Institute of Medicine, women need 25 grams of fiber per day, and men need 38 grams.

If you’re not eating enough foods high in fiber like beans and vegetables, consider adding a tablespoon of flaxseeds to foods that could use a little crunch, or ground flaxseed to a smoothie.

How much fiber is in Flaxseeds? Just a tablespoon of whole flaxseeds has 3 grams of soluble fiber, while ground flaxseed has about 2 g.

Flaxseed is High In Healthy Fat

“Healthy fat” and “good cholesterol” always sound like oxymorons to me, (like “pretty ugly” or “jumbo shrimp) but your body needs them, and flaxseeds are high in both including Omega-3 fatty acids. Consuming them help decrease your appetite and raise your level of good HDL cholesterol as well as lowering your risk of heart disease.

*Note: For better absorption of fatty acids, consider ground flaxseed.

Flaxseed Boosts Your Immune System

Speaking of fatty acids, they are essential in strengthening your immune system, helping white blood cells in your body to fight off disease. Flaxseed is one of the richest plant sources available for Omega 3 fatty acids, and alpha linolenic acid (ALA) which regulates your cholesterol levels.

*Related: Is Nutrisystem healthy?

tablespoon ground flaxseed
mmm… flaxseed!

Flaxseeds: High In Protein

Protein helps build and repair muscle, and is crucial to healthy bone development and maintenance. Eating enough protein is important at any age, and if you gave up red meat (great idea!) be sure to get your protein from other sources including flaxseed!

So, how much protein is in flaxseeds? 1 tbsp of ground flaxseed has 1.3 g of protein, while whole flaxseed has about 1.9 g.

Consider Adding Flaxseed to Your Kids’ Diet

All of the benefits above apply to kids as well as adults. Our 9 year old son wouldn’t stop eating, and it took several helpings at meals until he was full. We now add a tablespoon of ground flaxseed to his breakfast to help reduce his voracious appetite, plus all of the other benefits of flaxseed.

It’s easy to add a tablespoon of flaxseed to a fruit smoothie, or many other great recipes that you can find online like muffins and pancakes.

Flaxseed: A Healthy Addition to Your Diet or Weight Loss Strategy

Just about every article on weight loss should include the disclaimer that there is no “magic bullet” supplement or super-food for achieving and maintaining a healthy body. The idea is, of course, that weight loss occurs when you eat a healthy diet and burn more calories than you consume.

Having said that, a weight loss plan can put you on the right track, so please consider our coupons for the Weight Watchers, Medifast, and Nutrisystem diets for up to a 25% discount!

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protein shakes header

5 Protein Powder Recipes: So Much More Than Boring Protein Shakes

Protein Powder Recipes: If you drink protein shakes, you might be getting bored with your options. (Hmmm… Vanilla or chocolate?) However, you don’t have to be, and that protein powder (with upwards of 30 grams of protein per scoop!) can be an ingredient in an exciting and tasty recipe for breakfast, or after a good workout.

There are dozens of great recipes out there that feature whey protein powder, and here are a few of my favorites:

protein powder recipe pacakes

Chocolate Chip Protein Powder Pancakes

Recipe ingredients:

  • 2 scoops vanilla protein powder
  • 2 scoops almond meal
  • 4 egg whites or 1/2 cup of egg substitute
  • 1/2 cup of water
  • 3 tsp Stevia (sugar substitute)
  • 1/4 cup of dark chocolate or cacao chips

Instructions: Mix ingredients together until you have a thick, smooth batter. Pour batter onto hot non-stick griddle making 3-4 pancakes at a time. Flip pancakes after they start bubbling, and remove from pan when each side is cooked to a light brown. Makes 6-8 pancakes


chocolate coconut protein popsicles

Chocolate-Coconut Protein Popsicles

Recipe ingredients:

2 scoops of chocolate or fudge protein powder
1 can (full-fat) coconut milk (5.5 oz.)

Instructions: Blend ingredients and pour into popsicle molds; insert popsicle sticks, and freeze for at least a few hours.


pumpkin cacao muffins

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Protein Muffins

Recipe ingredients:

  • 1/2 cups of old-fashioned oats
  • 2 cups canned pureed pumpkin or fresh pumpkin puree
  • 1 cup applesauce
  • 1 cup fat-free vanilla Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 cup vanilla protein powder
  • 1 cup baking Stevia (sugar substitute)
  • 3 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 4 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 cup of dark chocolate or cacao chips
  • 1 tsp pumpkin pie spice

Instructions: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Puree the oats in a food processor, then mix oats with all of the other ingredients. Scoop batter into prepared muffin tins and bake for 18 to 20 minutes.


protein powder pudding

Protein Powder Pudding

Ingredients:

  • 1 scoop chocolate or vanilla (whey) protein powder
  • 6 oz plain Greek yogurt
  • 1-2 tsp water

Recipe instructions: Mix protein powder and Greek yogurt. Add water cafrefully as needed to thin out the mixture. Refrigerate pudding for at least 2 hours.


protein powder blueberry smoothie

Protein Powder Fruit Smoothie

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 scoop protein powder
  • 1 cup blueberries (or a mixture of other fruit such as blackberries and cherries)
  • 1 cup frozen strawberries
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 1 cup almond milk

Recipe instructions: Blend all ingredients in a good blender, such as a Vitamix, until smooth.

*You’ll need at least one of the fruits to be frozen for a good consistency. If all you have are fresh fruits, consider throwing in a couple of ice cubes.


Protein Powder Recipes: Pancakes, Smoothies, and Muffins: Oh, My!

Why make drinking a protein shake a chore? I hope you try out at least one of these recipes that feature protein powder and make your boring protein powder interesting again!

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