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Housekeeping is definitely not high on my list of favorite things to do. But, there's nothing like looking at a clean refrigerator or a newly organized cupboard to make me feel relaxed, energized & accomplished--all at the same time. A place for everything, and everything in its place.
After it's all done, I know exactly what's in my refrigerator. And every plastic container in my storage drawer has a matching lid that I can now easily locate. And best of all--I have brand-new freed-up space in my fridge--no more cramming & stuffing.
Berries and Black Rice - Natural Housekeepers for the Brain
It's yesterday's news that berries benefit the brain--both in rats & humans. It's that deep rich color--their antioxidants known as anthocyanins that makes it all happen. They are anti-inflammatory and they ramp up the signaling between neurons in the brain, and s-l-o-w down neurodegeneration. Need a memory refresher on berries & the brain? Just click here for my February 2010 post.
But Here's the Latest News! So how exactly do berries improve our brains? Well, that's the latest discovery. They "activate the brain's natural "housekeeper" mechanism, which cleans up and recycles toxic proteins linked to age-related memory loss and other mental decline." Like mini-brain-maids these cells clear out brain junk.
Just like with a not-so-clean-and-over-filled refrigerator where you can't find a thing--and there's no room to put in a new bunch of chard or a fresh pot of soup---it looks like our brains also need some regular cleaning to help us find words and memories, and stop the inevitable decline.
Who Did the Research? Scientists from the USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging in Boston--which is the center for berry & antioxidant research--recently reported their findings at the 240th National Meeting of the American Chemical Society held August 22-26, 2010.
The Effect of Antioxidants on the Brain: Previous research suggests that the brain & body decline & age as the body loses its ability to protect itself from oxidative damage & inflammation. The USDA Lab's past research has shown that when old lab rats are fed high-antioxidant extracts from berries they're able to "reverse age-related deficits in nerve function & behavior that involve learning & remembering". But until recently scientists didn't exactly know how the antioxidants in berries benefited the brain.
The New Research: The USDA lab researchers, led by Dr. James Joseph (THE berry expert), who died unexpectedly this past June, & Dr. Shibu Poulose, discovered that age-related memory decline is caused when the brain's natural housekeeping process starts to slack off and slow down. The housekeeping cells (I think of them as brain maids) are called microglia--and their job is to remove & recycle all the biochemical debris that accumulates in our brains and slows down our brain function. But, unfortunately, they get old & tired, and become slackers, just like us.
Dr. Poulose's explanation: "But in aging, microglia fail to do their work, and debris builds up. In addition, the microglia become over-activated and actually begin to damage healthy cells in the brain.
Our research suggests that the polyphenolics in berries have a rescuing effect. They seem to restore the normal housekeeping function. These findings are the first to show these effects of berries."
How Does It All Work? The scientists found that berry extracts inhibit the Darth Vader-like protein that's responsible for the slowing down of the brain housekeeping process, known as "autophagy". Berries put the microglia back to work, cleaning up our brains.
What Are the Best Sources of this Powerful Antioxidant? Poulose says all berries & even walnuts are rich sources of the kind of polyphenolics that boost the brain-cleaning cells. He recommends eating whole foods, not supplements, in order to get a full range of the hundreds of antioxidants found in real fruits & vegetables--and to eat frozen berries when fresh ones are unavailable.
While Dr. Poulose was pitching berries for brain health at the American Chemical Society Meeting, Dr. Zhimin Xu of Louisiana State University's Food Science Department was extolling the virtues of Forbidden Black Rice.
So, why is it called forbidden? Because in ancient China the nobles knew a good thing when they saw it. They kept it all for themselves, and forbade the common folk from eating this precious black rice.
Dr. Zhimin Xu's Pitch for Black Rice: "Just a spoonful of black rice bran contains more health promoting anthocyanin antioxidants than are found in a spoonful of blueberries, but with less sugar and more fiber and vitamin E antioxidants.
If berries are used to boost health, why not black rice and black rice bran? Especially, black rice bran would be a unique and economical material to increase consumption of health promoting antioxidants."
What makes black rice better than brown rice? Black rice gives you more bang for the buck than brown rice. Sure, brown & black rice both contain the nutritious bran that's high in a vitamin E compound known as gamma-tocotrienol & gamma-oryzanol antioxidants. These nutrients help lower the "bad-guy" LDLs. But only black rice will also give you higher levels of anthocyanins, the same powerful antioxidants found in berries--the ones that benefit the brain. They're found in the blue in blueberries, and the black of Forbidden Rice.
Where do you find Forbidden Rice? Yep, this is exotic stuff. It's used in Asia for food decoration, puddings, noodles & even sushi. A year ago I bought some at Whole Foods when I was trying out a recipe for Forbidden Rice Pudding with Blueberries. I looked for some yesterday & they were temporarily out-of-stock at my local store. Try the Lotus Foods brand, that you can find here.
As for the pudding, it came from my recipe guru, the New York Times' Martha Rose Shulman (see photo above). But, something just wasn't quite right with its proportions of liquid-to-dry ingredients & it never thickened properly. I'm hoping to rework her recipe when I get some more Forbidden Rice.
Here's Martha's recipe--make it at your own risk! Next time I'm going to skip the water, and add just enough vanilla hazelnut milk as the recipe on the RICE package calls for, plus a bit more to make it creamy. Or maybe I'll just look for a rice pudding recipe, and sub the regular rice for the Forbidden Rice, and then add the blueberries. Mega-anthocyanins with this dessert! Serious brain food.
Are You a Vegan Athlete and Wondering If You Are Getting Enough Protein?
The 5 Warning Signs You Aren't Getting Enough Protein and What to Do About It- click here.
1. You're tired when you shouldn't be.
2. You’re weak when you lift weights, run, do yoga, or do any other strenuous activity.
3. You’re flabby where you used to be muscular.
4. You’re getting injured and not recovering quickly.
5. Your hair is falling out.
The author explains how to determine how much protein you need, and what plant-based sources will give you the most. He also explains the common pitfalls of newbie vegan exercisers. Good stuff.