Tana Amen Nutrition Blogs

  • Happy Food

    SURPRISING FOODS THAT MAKE YOU HAPPY

    Here’s a reason to eat more fruits and vegetables that you probably never heard before: Doing so can make you happier, according to new research

    Scientists from Dartmouth College and the University of Warwick analyzed the eating habits and mental health of more than 80,000 people. The study found that psychological well-being rose with the number of daily servings of fruits and veggies the participants ate.

    The researchers reported that measures of well-being—including life satisfaction and happiness—peaked at 7 to 8 servings. Yet the average American eats just 3 servings daily, missing out on both a source of joy and the amazing cornucopia of health benefits these foods offer.

    In my upcoming book, The Omni Diet: The Revolutionary 70% plant + 30% Protein Program to Lose Weight, Reverse Disease, Fight Inflammation, and Change Your Life Forever, I look at intriguing ways plant foods boost brain health.

    Packed with phytonutrients, enzymes, minerals and vitamins, fruits and veggies fight the chronic inflammation that sparks cardiovascular disease. In fact, a large study found that eating one extra serving a day cuts risk for stroke by up to 40 percent.

    The antioxidants in these nutritional powerhouses—especially colorful fruits and vegetables—also protect the brain from oxidative stress and free radical damage, helping to keep your brain sharp and ward off diseases and cognitive decline.

    Here’s a look at some of the best brain-boosting plant foods:

    • Blueberries and Strawberries. Sometimes called “brainberries,” these succulent nibbles help stave off memory loss and mental decline in older women, Harvard researchers reported last year, using data from the long-running Nurses’ Health Study. Among 16,000 women ages 70 and older, those who ate the most berries had the slowest rate of age-related memory decline. Flavonoids in berries are thought to explain their protective powers. Earlier research also suggests that blueberries may help reduce risk for Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia.
    • Avocados. Food scientists also report that the popular guacamole ingredient may be almost as beneficial as blueberries for enhancing brain health. Known in the Amen household as “God’s butter,” the creamy green fruit improves blood flow and oxygenation of the brain—with just one-fourth of an avocado producing measurable benefits, according to Villanova University.
    • Pumpkin seeds. Recent studies suggest that the tasty green nuggets may be effective for treating social anxiety and can aid in combating depression. A 2011 randomized study also found that pumpkin seed oil improves mood swings—and reduces hot flashes—in menopausal women, compared to a control group of women who were given wheat germ oil. Additionally, the researchers reported that women who received pumpkin seed oil showed a significant decrease in blood pressure, while their levels of heart- and brain- protective HDL (good) cholesterol rose.
    • Tomatoes. The tasty red fruit are rich in two potent antioxidants: lycopene and beta-carotene, both of which help eliminate health-damaging free radicals. Finnish scientists also report that men with the highest level of lycopene in their blood had the lowest risk of stroke. Overall, a diet high in this brain-healthy compound cut stroke risk by 55 percent, the 2012 study reported.
    • Nuts. As I report in my newsletter, a new randomized study published in New England Journal of Medicine, found that eating nuts, along with a diet high in fish, fruits, vegetables, beans and extra virgin olive oil, trims risk for stroke by an astonishing 46 percent, compared to eating a low-fat diet. In the study, participants ate a one-ounce portion of mixed nuts (walnuts, almonds and hazelnuts) daily. In an earlier study, Tufts researchers reported that a diet rich in walnuts may improve mental performance.
  • Rainbow

    EAT THE RAINBOW

    How would you like to lose up to 12 pounds in two weeks, slash your risk for chronic disease—and rev up your energy level? 

    In my book, The Omni Diet: The Revolutionary 70% Plant + 30% Percent Protein to Lose Weight, Reverse Disease, Fight Inflammation, and Change Your Life Forever, I reveal how to achieve all of these goals and more, simply by eating tasty, wholesome foods that help you recovery and achieve optimal, lifelong health.

    Unleashing the healing power of foods can be easier than you think. To pre-order the book, which will be published on April 16, click here. The Omni Diet is the culmination of my decade-long quest to study the relationship of food and health, and identify the ideal nutrients to prevent—or even reverse—disease.

    One of the best ways to cool the inflammation that drives many chronic illnesses is by eating a rainbow of brightly colored, fresh, organic fruits and vegetables, along with lean protein. Doing so offers a pot of gold in terms of optimal health, including a stronger immune system, lower risk for type 2 diabetes, certain cancers, and eye disorders; and improved memory and blood pressure.  Yet only one in 4 Americans eat the recommended minimum amount of these nutritional powerhouses.

    To enjoy a full spectrum of health-enhancing nutrients, include these vivid colors in your meals and snacks:

    Red: Lycopene is the pigment that gives certain fruits their red color. This carotenoid is a powerful disease-fighting antioxidant that’s been linked to lower risk for certain cancers, heart disease, and age-related macular degeneration, an eye disease that can lead to vision loss.

    As I reported recently, lycopene is also linked to healthy sleep patterns. Among the top sources are tomatoes, red cabbage, red bell peppers, watermelon, plums, and raspberries.

    Purple and Blue: Pigments known as anthocyanins create these hues and serve as powerful antioxidants that contribute to both heart and brain health. In fact, blueberries are often nicknamed “brain berries” because they’ve been linked in several studies to improved memory, as have strawberries. Anthocyanins have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, and have been used as medicines to improve eyesight and treat circulatory problems, according to Oregon State University.

    Harvard studies suggest that resveratrol in purple grape juice and red wine may protect the brain from Alzheimer’s, stroke, and other neurodegenerative diseases. A number of studies also report that resveratrol has anti-viral, anti-cancer, and anti-aging properties.

    Orange: Sweet potatoes, carrots, pumpkins, winter squash, cantaloupe and carrots are all rich in alpha-carotene, an antioxidant that was linked to longer life in a study published in Archives of Internal Medicine. The researchers report that carotenoids—including alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, and lycopene—all combat DNA damage due to oxidative stress. 

    In the study, which included more than 15,000 adults, those with the highest levels of alpha-carotene in their blood had a 39 percent lower risk for death during the 14-year study. Earlier research also linked eating yellow-orange plant foods with reduced risk for certain cancers.

    Yellow: Pineapples are rich in bromelain, a mix of enzymes that digest protein. Traditionally, the succulent yellow fruit has been used to treat indigestion and fight inflammation, according to University of Maryland. There is also research suggesting that this pineapple compound may help reduce swelling, bruising, and healing time after surgery or injuries, such as sprains or burns. There’s also some evidence the bromelain may reduce arthritis pain.

    A little-known nutritional bonus of citrus fruit, such as lemons, is citrus liminoids, natural compounds that have been shown in lab studies to help fight several types of cancer—and may also lower cholesterol.

    Green: Vegetables of this color, such as Brussels sprouts, broccoli, peas, and leafy greens are high in vitamin A and offer a good source of calcium. They also abound in

    lutein and zeaxanthin, two nutrients that play a key role in protecting eye health, by cutting risk for such vision thieves as cataracts. These compounds are also linked to healthy sleep patterns.

    Many green plant foods, including kiwi, green bell peppers, and cabbage, are high in vitamin C, which has recently been shown to reduce risk for colds in people who exercise heavily, such as marathon runners.

    Eating from the rainbow dramatically boosts the antioxidant level in your body that helps to keep your body and brain healthy and young.  But remember, this doesn’t include ketchup, grape jelly and mustard!