Posit Science mentioned on NorthJersey.com

By Nicole Levy

August 24, 2013

It’s never too early to incorporate brain-healthy foods into your diet.

A new cookbook from the AARP and Posit Science, a company that creates online exercises for sharpening the mind, offers 50 recqipes created by food bloggers, incorporating ingredients the editors say are brain-healthy. But don’t assume “ThinkFood: Recipes for Brain Fitness” is meant only for gray-haired cooks. The book, released in May, should appeal to readers of all ages, said Marghi Merzenich, Posit Science’s vice president of marketing. As older Americans age, “they’re interested in their brain health,” she said, “but that doesn’t mean [the book] isn’t applicable to everyone.”

“ThinkFood: Recipes for Brain Fitness” took its initial form in 2010, when a team at Posit Science perused scientific studies for foods that might keep the brain performing at its peak, Merzenich said. They came up with dozens, including almonds, dark chocolate, blueberries, flaxseed, sweet potatoes and sardines. The team then sent their list of ingredients to 50 popular food bloggers, requesting flavorful recipes that would include one item from their list. The sardine, for example, not a particular crowd pleaser at the dinner table, gets a makeover in “ThinkFood” from award-winning food writer Amy Sherman. Cooks can judge her sardine, chickpea, and celery salad for themselves (the recipe is on BL-3).

Though research on brain-healthy foods is a fairly nascent field, Merzenich said the studies show that foods included in “ThinkFood” have beneficial properties that can help with cognitive performance, improve memory and supply a sustained energy source to the brain, which helps people learn better. The foods chosen were rich in such healthy attributes as antioxidants (which are said to help prevent heart disease and stroke), vitamin E (which, if taken at a high daily dose, has shown to slow the progression of Alzheimer’s), carotenoids and flavonoids (nutrients that reduce inflammation in blood vessels and improve blood flow), and Omega-3 fatty acids (help control blood clotting). These so-called “superfoods” are, of course, good for your heart and, in general, anything that is good for your heart is good for your brain, too. And though no one food is a “superfood,” noted Dr. Lisa Tank, chief of the geriatric department at Hackensack University Medical Center, a combination of them make for super nutrition.

The jury is still out on the brain-boosting properties of some of the foods listed as brain food in the book, like the acai berries. “Food is something that’s very hard to test in some ways … but helping people wade through the stuff they hear is an important thing to do,” Merzenich said. One blogger chose to highlight the berries in a mousse, not the only indulgent dish in AARP’s cookbook. Among other tempting entries are fruited granola, cardamom flax-seed thumbprint cookies, and blueberry and crème-fraiche ice cream. Should readers be wary of confusing nutritious foods with delicious ones?

Don’t forget cholesterol

“I wouldn’t want to encourage people to be adding cream and high fats to their diets, because another huge consideration is high cholesterol and heart health,” said dietitian Stacy Rothschild, who counsels some North Jersey clients looking to prevent the onset of Alzheimer’s disease.

She recommends substituting them with more healthy ingredients like apple sauce, beans and Greek yogurt. For cream, a lower-fat milk is better and sweeteners like bananas, agave and honey a better alternative to regular sugar. Rothschild also cautioned cooks against adding too much sugar to any recipe.

Moderation in fat and sugar intake is crucial, Tank said. Studies have shown that diabetes and obesity can cause changes in the brain leading to dementia. Beyond limiting fat and sugar in their diets, the health-conscious should reduce their salt intake, eat less red meat, and add whole grains to their meals, Tank said.

Is it ever too late to start eating right for your brain? In cases of mild cognitive impairment, Tank said, “I wouldn’t say you can absolutely reverse things, but it can make a difference in your abilities to focus.” In terms of short- and long-term effects, there’s a correlation between high sugar diets and your ability to function. Consider how well you focus when you start your day with a balanced meal and plenty of hydration versus one that’s high in sugar and not much else, like a donut, Tank said.

Might a future edition of AARP’s cookbook — which Merzenich predicted would include new research — cut out all the sugary desserts?

“There’s something healthy about eating things you enjoy, too,” she said. By Nicole Levy, August 23, 2013 It’s never too early to incorporate brain-healthy foods into your diet. A new cookbook from the AARP and Posit Science, a company that creates online exercises for sharpening the mind, offers 50 recipes created by …

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