Brain Food- Really!

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Hello friends! Are you busy with the hustle and bustle of the Christmas season? Are you attempting to juggle all of your various responsibilities? Afraid you will allow one of the MANY balls you keep in the air to drop because you’ve forgotten to do something, or buy that perfect present for Aunt Sally and therefore feel her wrath for the rest of your life? Or are you one of my many college student readers, and you’re trying to cram tons of knowledge into a brain that feels much too insufficient? Well, if you are feeling like this right now, (ME!!!!) take heart dear readers because I am going to impart some critical information that will help you deal. This post was written at the request of my stressed out college senior daughter, Jacqueline, who would love some nutritional help for her brain going into finals week. 

The answer to improving brain health lies in the food we eat. Yes, that’s what I said, plain and simple food. However, it’s not just any food that will help your brain, but some specific foods which I’m going to share with you right now. Come along for the ride, I promise this will help you!

Top Brain Foods

  

1. Blueberries– I researched many resources in coming up with this list, and blueberries were at or near the top of every one. One reason is that they contain an antioxidant called anthocyanin which is thought to cross the blood brain barrier, protect brain cells from oxidation and boost communication between brain neurons. A Harvard University study found that women over 70 who consumed 1/2 cup of blueberries twice a week remained sharper mentally than women who didn’t eat berries. Short term memory, navigational skills, balance and coordination are all improved by eating blueberries. 

  
2. Fatty fish-For two reasons, vitamin D and omega 3’s. Omega 3’s contain EPA and DHA which are highly concentrated in the brain and are critical for optimal brain function. Vitamin D, a nutrient plentiful in fatty fish like salmon, protects the brain. A Tufts University study found that people who ate fish like tuna, salmon and halibut 3 times a week reduced their risk of Alzheimer’s by 40%.

  
3. Avocados– are high in monounsaturated fatty acids which help promote healthy brain blood flow and benefits healthy brain function. And they’re good for your heart too because they’re loaded with potassium. That’s a win-win!

  
4. Nuts-Nuts are a good source of unsaturated fats and Vitamin E, both contributing to better brain function. Also, almonds, pecans, and walnuts are thought to prevent cognitive decline. 

  
5. Eggs-Saturated fat and choline are both contained in eggs. They help boost memory skills and overall brain health.

  
6. Olive oil, coconut oil-Both oils are healthy fats which contain polyphenols, powerful antioxidants that can help prevent or even reverse dementia and cognitive decline and help improve memory.  

  
7. Green leafy veggies-which are loaded with Vitamin K, like kale, collards and spinach, have been shown to slow cognitive decline. People who consume 1-2 servings a day have the cognitive ability of a person 11 years younger who consumed none.

So eat your healthy fats, like avocados, fatty fish, eggs, olive and coconut oils, your dark green leafy veggies like kale, collards and spinach, and your blueberries to help you get through finals, or for us older folk to get through the Christmas season (or life!). You’ll live a brain healthy life if you do, what could be better than that? Foods like this will help you live a life of vitality, with Valerie! 

One Fish, Two Fish… it’s good for you, Fish!

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Lenten ladies!

Lenten ladies!

It’s Lent for me, and many other Christians in the world. Lots of us follow the Lenten custom of not eating meat on Fridays until Easter. Now, not eating meat does not mean fish, because fish is not meat, even though fish is meaty. I get many questions about this from  people who don’t follow this custom, and I know it has a biblical foundation, though I’m not sure what it is exactly. Anyway, I think it’s a healthy habit to get into regardless of your religious affiliation, and I try to eat fish at least 2 or 3 times a week. In today’s post I wanted to let you know why fish is so great for you and then give you a REALLY SUPER EASY RECIPE FOR A SUPER DELISH FISH DISH- I’m so rhymey today, aren’t I?!

Salmon is a rich source of Omega 3 fatty acids- the good stuff!

Salmon is a rich source of Omega 3 fatty acids- the good stuff!

Ok, so why is fish so good for us you ask? Great question, my friends! Well, first it’s low in calories and high in protein, which is always a good thing. Mostly, though, the reason fish is so good for us is because of Omega 3’s. Omega 3’s are fatty acids that improves the immune system, and helps prevent blindness, depression, rheumatoid arthritis, asthma, lupus, kidney disease and cancer.

Rainbow trout is another excellent source of Omega 3's- and it tastes good too!

Rainbow trout is another excellent source of Omega 3’s- and it tastes good too!

The fish with the highest amounts of Omega 3’s are farmed Atlantic salmon, tinned anchovies, sardines, Pollock, oysters, Albacore tuna, wild caught Salmon, farmed rainbow trout, and my old friend canned light tuna. However, even white fish has a significant amount of Omega 3’s, so if that’s the only kind of fish you like, eat it and enjoy the Omega 3’s! The recipe I’m going to share with you next can be made with any kind of fish that you would like to use. I just always say to use the freshest fish available in your area and don’t be afraid to ask the butcher which fish is most fresh. He/she will lead you in the right direction. Here we go!

 

Ingredients assembled for Easy, Delish Fish Dish!

Ingredients assembled for Easy, Delish Fish Dish!

Easy Peasy Fish and Salsa

  • 1/4 cup chopped, pitted green olives
  • 2 Tbsp capers
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes
  • 1 handful parsley or cilantro, roughly chopped
  •  Juice of one lime
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • Fresh or pickled jalapenos chopped (optional)
  • 4 fish filets 4-6 oz each
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 4 large sheets aluminum foil
Salsa ingredients in the bowl and ready to go onto the fish!

Salsa ingredients in the bowl and ready to go onto the fish!

1. Make the salsa first- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees or heat your grill to medium low. In a mixing bowl, combine the olives, capers, cherry tomatoes, parsley or cilantro (cilantro is my personal choice), lime juice, olive oil and jalapenos if using.

 

Fish with salsa on top- ready to go into the oven!

Fish with salsa on top- ready to go into the oven!

2. Assemble the packets- Fold four sheets of aluminum foil in half lengthwise, and then unfold and lay them on the counter. Season each fish fillet with salt and place it on one side of the foil, parallel to the crease. Top each fillet with one quarter of the salsa. Fold the foil over so it covers the fish completely and then roll the edges tightly to seal the package.

 

Fishies in foil, cooking away in the oven!

Fishies in foil, cooking away in the oven!

3. Cook the fish- Place the packets on the grill or in the oven. cook the fillets until their done all the way through, about 8-10 minutes on the grill, 20 minutes in the oven. Slash the packets open just before eating.

All done and ready to plate!

All done and ready to plate!

This is flavorful and simple, however it will definitely impress whoever you’re serving. It seems like a much more complex dish because of the flavors, but because of the quick prep and cook time you can seriously be ready to eat in 25 minutes, no joke. Make some brown rice to go along with this, serve with guacamole and you’re done!

This will be my lunch and I CAN'T WAIT TO DIG IN!

This will be my lunch and I CAN’T WAIT TO DIG IN!

So there you go, my friends, a little info about fish and one super tasty recipe for a simple fish dish. Remember to eat fish at least once or twice a week, and not just because it’s Lent. Fish is high in protein, low in calories, and it is full of Omega 3’s to protect you from some heinous illnesses. Enjoy your fish, it will help you live a life of vitality- with Valerie!

 

 

My Perfect, Healthy Valentine’s Day!

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Dark chocolate is the key to a healthy Valentine's Day!

Dark chocolate is the key to a healthy Valentine’s Day!

Hi friends! Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day, the day to celebrate your love of husband/wife/significant other/children/dogs etc etc etc. I personally think it’s kind of over hyped in the media (but what isn’t these days?!), however any excuse to show your loved ones how much you love them can’t be a bad thing, can it? But it’s a lot of pressure too, and from my perspective it’s difficult to stay on your healthy path of life when derailed by holidays, even a made up Hallmark holiday like this one. So, with that in mind I’ve got some ideas to keep your Valentine’s Day healthy AND happy. You know I’ve always got a list, right? Here’s my list of the top healthy things to do and eat!

 

Dark chocolate covered strawberries are my favorite HEALTHY indulgence!

Dark chocolate covered strawberries are my favorite HEALTHY indulgence!

1. Instead of the BIG box of chocolates, buy DARK chocolate covered strawberries, or any kind of fruit. Dark chocolate is full of antioxidants and lower in sugar than milk chocolate. The fruit gives you vitamins and fiber. AND the kicker is that you can eat FOUR OF THESE FOR 150 CALORIES! Wow! Healthy and delish!

 

Healthy Valentine dinner!

Healthy Valentine’s dinner!

2. Chose fish as your Valentine’s dinner meat instead of a big steak. If you have to have steak, order the filet which is a leaner cut of beef for sure. However, salmon and vegetables gives you vitamins, antioxidants, and tons of healthy fats. Plus it won’t overly stuff you so you have to unbutton the top button of your pants- not a good look!

 

Drink wine (Champagne!) with your Valentine's dinner!

Drink wine (Champagne!) with your Valentine’s dinner!

3. Drinking wine instead of beer or mixed cocktails with dinner is definitely a healthier choice for your Valentine’s dinner- and it’s more festive too! See my previous post “A Healthy Way to drink in the New Year!” for further info on healthy alcoholic beverages. And remember, moderation is ALWAYS the healthiest way to go, any day, any time. If you do overindulge, see my post, “Holiday Overeating/Overdrinking? Healthy remedies for indigestion!” for information about ways to feel better quickly, though I hope you won’t need that tomorrow night!

 

Do something ACTIVE together!

Do something ACTIVE together!

4. Chose an activity that allows you to MOVE! We are going to make a blown glass piece of art together. It’s something we’ve never done and I think it will be fun and active too. Look at that woman’s arms- that’s incentive enough for me! And we will take home our mutually created piece of art and display it proudly in our home no matter what it looks like! 🙂

 

Sky Zone is active family fun!

Sky Zone is active family fun!

5. If you’re celebrating Valentine’s Day with your children, consider an activity like going to Sky Zone and jumping around TOGETHER. Don’t just drop the kids off and leave. They have special family times during holidays and it would definitely be an active thing to do. 30 minutes of moderate jumping BURNS 256 CALORIES! That’s healthy family fun!

These are my suggestions for a healthy Valentine’s Day that won’t derail you from your fitness goals. I will definitely be following my own suggestions this weekend, and I’ll have fun too! Having a healthy Valentine’s Day will help you to live a life of vitality- with Valerie!

HEALING Cold Remedies!

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We’ve enter the cold and flu season again, haven’t we? Both Jacqueline and Danielle have been sick lately and this morning I awakened with a stuffy nose and sore throat- yuck! I thought it was timely for me to add a post about HEALING cold remedies. I say healing cold remedies because so many products on the market that are supposedly cold remedies are filled with chemicals and lots of ingredients that are not good for you and could actually make you feel worse than you already do! I remember I used to take Nyquil when I was a teenager. I woke up in the middle of the night the last time I took it, and my heart was pounding, I felt DRUGGED, I couldn’t sleep but I was so tired! I felt worse than before I went to bed. When I read the list of ingredients in Nyquil I was HORRIFIED, and I realized why I felt so drugged. There were so many different medications contained in it and they were all interacting in my body. However, when you are sneezing, coughing, and have a sore throat you need to manage your symptoms so you aren’t so miserable while your immune system is healing. With that in mind, I want to share our family’s go-to cold remedies that are not filled with chemicals and support our bodies while fighting off the viruses we get from time to time. Of course, please consult your trusted physician before taking anything, and if you’re really sick call 911 without hesitation. These products are listed in order of importance.

Transfer Factor is my family's number one cold remedy!

Transfer Factor is my family’s number one cold remedy!

1. Transfer Factor- This product supports the immune system with all natural ingredients. It is the absolute best immune system support out there and it is so powerful it deserves it’s own blog post! I take 4 of them three times a day as soon as I feel a virus coming on and often I never even have any cold symptoms at all. It works so well! You can get this product online.

The next most important cold remedy in my arsenal!

The next most important cold remedy in my arsenal!

2. Oscillococcinum- Hard name to pronounce but wow does it work! It is a homeopathic and can be purchased at a health food grocery store. As the box says it helps eliminate body aches, headache, fever, chills and fatigue. I sent Danielle to the health food store on Wednesday to buy a box of this product and today she is feeling much, much better. You take it four times a day and I recommend you take it as often as you can. It makes a huge difference!

Fourth Fave remedy right here!

Third fave remedy right here!

3. Imu-Max- Now don’t be confused, this is a children’s product, but it REALLY helps support the immune system of anyone at any age while healing. It is an alcohol free, great tasting syrup, consisting of Echinacea and Bee Propolis. Echinacea is an herb that has been used for many years to fight colds and their symptoms. Bee Propolis is collected from bees and has antimicrobial activity. It’s really effective for upper respiratory symptoms, and we use it as a cough syrup. It is wonderful! Can be purchased at health food store.

Mucolyxir is our fourth favorite remedy!

Mucolyxir is our fourth favorite remedy!

4. Mucolyxir- It actually contains wild Pacific Salmon DNA that helps balance mucus levels. You only use a few little drops of this and after I took it this morning, I am not stuffy nosed anymore! It’s all natural and again it really works. This product can be purchased online.

Xlear is #5!

Xlear is #5!

5. Xlear- One of my long time faves! It’s an all natural nasal spray and has xylitol in it which clears and moisturizes the nasal passages. You can get this one almost anywhere now, and can be used on people of any age. So helpful for a stuffy nose caused by viruses or allergies. Love!

Love my Manuka honey!

Love my Manuka honey!

6. Manuka Honey- I’ve written an entire post about this so I’m not going to go into this one in too much detail. Manuka honey is honey made from bees in New Zealand that pollinate the Manuka bush. It has very special antibacterial and antiviral properties and I take a teaspoon of it three times a day whenever I feel a cold coming on. I let it melt down my throat to soothe my sore throat and help calm my cough. It is so effective! I also took this wonderful honey this morning, now I have no cold symptoms at all! Yay for me!

Love me some Sambucol!

Love me some Sambucol!

7. Sambucol- This product is a black elderberry syrup that tastes really awesome and helps to support the immune system naturally. I ran out of it so I didn’t take it this morning which is a bummer. I’m making a trip to Whole Foods this afternoon to stock up on this and other products we’ve run out of! I highly recommend it for it’s immune boosting properties and it’s interesting black elderberry syrup flavor!

Love me some Emergen-C!

Love me some Emergen-C!

Another great Vitamin C product!

Another great Vitamin C product!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

8. Vitamin C products- I take both Emergen-C packets and Zand Orange C herbal lozenges the second I feel a cold coming on. I actually keep the lozenges in my purse during cold and flu season and suck on at least one every day. They are all natural and taste really good. I put the Emergen-C packet in water and drink it. Vitamin C is well known to help boost the immune system. Don’t buy vitamin C products that contain sugar or other unhealthy additives. I buy the Zand product at a health food store, but Emergen-C can be purchased almost anywhere these days.

Last but not least!

Last but not least!

 

9. Decongestant- You may be surprised that I included an over the counter decongestant in my list of healing cold remedies, and here’s why. Sometimes when my nose is SO STUFFY THAT I CANT BREATHE OUT OF IT OR EVEN SLEEP AT NIGHT, a decongestant can provide much needed relief. I only take 1/2 tablet and I make sure I don’t buy one that has all kinds of other ingredients in it that I don’t need. It can really help me sleep and sleep is the most important thing I can do to help myself heal.

So there’s my list of healing cold remedies. Now remember, I’m not a doctor and I don’t even play one on tv, but I am a lifestyle coach, a proponent of healthy living, and I’ve done my homework on this. I’d advise you to do your homework too and look into natural alternatives to not just cold remedies, but every other kind of remedy. I’ll write about more of them on my blog soon. Make sure to drink a lot of water when you’re sick, wash your hands, and get as much rest as you can. Refer to my earlier post for my chicken soup recipe. Research has shown that chicken soup has healing properties! Let others pamper you too, you deserve it! Let me know what your healthy remedies are and I hope you’ll try some of mine. They’ll help you live a life of vitality- like Valerie!

 

 

The “Eyes” have it!

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I am committed to do whatever I need to so these eyes last me the rest of my life!

I am committed to do whatever I need to so these eyes last me the rest of my life!

This post isn’t like my usual ones and some of you may stop reading because you’ll think, “my eyes are fine” or “this doesn’t pertain to me, I’m a young person”. But here’s why you should read this, because we all have eyes and we all want to be able to see with them for our entire lives, right? Here’s another surprising fact, more people are having problems with their eyes as they grow older; macular degeneration, glaucoma, and cataracts are all becoming more and more common in Americans. A lot of this has to do with the way we eat, because we eat more junk and processed food in this country, and we are gaining more weight than ever, diseases like diabetes and high blood pressure are more prevalent. THESE DISEASES AND MANY OTHERS IMPACT OUR VISION. So it stands to reason that if we can clean up the way we eat, we can help prevent the diseases that affect our eyes. After all, our eyes are our windows to the world, are they not? Can you imagine not being able to see? I sure can’t!

Well, I have to admit I’m getting old. I guess we all are, aren’t we? Anyway, I went to the optometrist the other day and while my eyes are pretty healthy for my age, I learned that I have the beginnings of cataracts in my left eye and “cloudy areas” in my right one, which is a pre-cataract condition. I will need cataract surgery in a few years. WOW, WHAT A SOBERING THOUGHT! Also, my mom has glaucoma in her left eye and macular degeneration in her right one, probably due to her diabetes, so I have a genetic predisposition to these diseases of the eye as well. My mom’s eye issues are under control due to her careful management of her illnesses, but my goal is to do what I can so I don’t ever get those very serious conditions. My dad, stepmom and stepdad have all had cataract surgery, so what I’m saying is that MOST OF YOU READING THIS WILL HAVE TO DEAL WITH SOME FORM OF EYE DISEASE IN THE FUTURE unless we do what we can now to “feed our eyes” the best things we can to optimize our vision.

One of the best, and easiest, things you can do for your eyes, wear a pair of polarized sunglasses!

One of the best, and easiest, things you can do for your eyes, wear a pair of polarized sunglasses!

One of the best things we can do for our eyes is a very easy one, wear a pair of polarized sunglasses when you’re outside in the sun. There is a link between sun exposure and cataracts so no one should go outside without a decent pair of sunglasses. They don’t have to be expensive ones either, just look for a polarized pair because they help cut down on the glare from the sun. Easy peasy right?!

Great sources of Vitamin A!

Great sources of Vitamin A!

Remember how moms in the old days would say to eat carrots because it helps your eyes? Well it turns out mom is always right. Carrots are a great source of vitamin A which is an essential nutrient for your eyes. Other sources of vitamin A are fish oils, eggs, milk, but mostly in leafy green vegetables, orange and yellow vegetables, tomato products, fruits and some vegetables.

Promising minerals to help keep eyes healthy!

Promising minerals to help keep eyes healthy!

New research has pointed to some minerals that are more promising for helping to prevent diseases of the eye than vitamin A. These are carotinoids called lutein and zeaxanthin. Food sources with the highest amount of lutein and zeaxanthin are egg yolks, corn, orange peppers, kiwi fruit, grapes, spinach, orange juice, zucchini and squash. There are also supplements you can purchase containing these nutrients, but as I’ve said before make sure you are purchasing PHARMACEUTICAL GRADE SUPPLEMENTS, not supplements purchased from a grocery store or big box store. That way you ensure you are putting pure nutrients into your body with no fillers or other mysterious additives. Other nutrients that are helpful are Omega 3 fatty acids, which have been found to help prevent macular degeneration. Omega 3 fatty acids are found in the highest concentrations in flax seeds, walnuts, sardines, salmon, beef, soybeans, tofu, shrimp, brussels sprouts, and cauliflower. Vitamin E Tocotrienols are found to delay the onset and progression of cataracts. and your best food sources are rice bran, barley, annatto seeds, and palm oil. However, by far the best way to get your tocotrienols is in supplement form.

So, as a result of my research and the findings from my visit to the Optometrist, I’m going to begin eating more leafy green, orange and yellow vegetables. I will also begin taking a lutein/zeaxanthin and vitamin E tocotrienol supplement daily to help slow the progression of my cataract condition. I want my eyes to be healthy until I take my last breath and it doesn’t seem that difficult to do. Take care of your eyes, my friends, and you’ll live a life of vitality- like Valerie!