10 Books on Brain Chemistry

Books About Brain Chemistry | The Life Delicious | Catherine Roscoe Barr It’s no secret, I love talking about brain chemistry! Have you heard about my “Winning Trifecta of Wellness”? The trifecta includes stress management, exercise and nutrition, which are actions that produce optimal brain chemistry.

When you cultivate optimal brain chemistry, you feel good.

When you commit to consistently cultivate optimal brain chemistry, you look good.

If you strive for optimal brain chemistry, everything else will fall into place.

Isn’t it incredible how your thoughts and actions directly affect your health and happiness? Isn’t it empowering to know that you’re in control of what you think and how you act?

The following ten books have given me tangible new insight into improving my health and happiness.

They’ve helped me become more aware of the effects of my thoughts and actions – and more empowered to improve my health and happiness.

I hope you’ll find them interesting and insightful too!

1. Molecules of Emotion: The Science Behind Mind-body Medicine by Candace B. Pert

2. Must Have Been Something I Ate by Peggy Kotsopoulos

3. Your Brain on Nature: The Science of Natures Influence on Your Health, Happiness and Vitality by Alan C. Logan and Eva M. Selhub

4. The Mars and Venus Diet and Exercise Solution: Create the Brain Chemistry of Health, Happiness, and Lasting Romance by John Gray

5. Buddha’s Brain: The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love, and Wisdom by Rick Hanson

6. The First 20 Minutes: Surprising Science Reveals How We Can: Exercise Better, Train Smarter, Live Longer by Gretchen Reynolds

7. The Happiness Diet: A Nutritional Prescription for a Sharp Brain, Balanced Mood, and Lean, Energized Body by Drew Ramsey and Tyler G. Graham

8. Love 2.0: How our Supreme Emotion Affects Everything We Feel, Think, Do, and Become by Barbara Fredrickson

9. Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain by John J. Ratey

10. Super Brain by Deepak Chopra & Rudolph Tanzi


Health and Fitness Roundup: In the News

In the good old days, at 21, not long before I started getting greys. 

Going grey? Forget hair dye, just cut down on your stress

Globe and Mail, August 22, 2011

Whoah, here’s an interesting article about going grey. I am going grey.

I foolishly dyed my hair in grade eight without my mother’s knowledge (or any knowledge of hair dye) and it came out the worst orange imaginable. It took about ten years to regain the desire to change the colour of my hair and I had it “expertly” coloured at a salon. It turned out a horrible purple-red.

Fast forward nearly another ten years and I decided to give it another go out of necessity – an ever-growing patch of hair right at my crown, of all places, is grey. Again, I had it coloured at a salon and, again, the colour is much to my dislike.

So I’ve decided (for the time being) to embrace grey. But this article suggests that I actually have some power in the matter. Researchers have shown that stress can lead to decreased levels of a protein called p53 which “protects cells from developing abnormalities and helps humans stay healthy.”

“This could give us a plausible explanation of how chronic stress may lead to a variety of human conditions and disorders, which range from merely cosmetic, like greying hair, to life-threatening disorders like malignancies,” says Robert Lefkowitz, a professor at Duke University Medical Center.

Read the full article here.


Even just 15 minutes of exercise a day will improve health

Globe and Mail, August 18, 2011

I tweeted about this article last week. Aren’t these findings great? There’s absolutely no excuse now. Anyone can do 15 minutes of exercise a day: turn on your favourite tunes and dance your heart out; go for a jog with your dog; drag a yoga mat to a quiet outdoor space for a few sun salutations. You can do it!

Read the full article here.


Parents 'need baby food cookery classes’

BBC News, August 18, 2011

Got a picky eater? It’s probably your fault. But don’t shoot the messenger, I’m just relaying information from an article by Dr Helen Coulthard for BBC News.

“By relying too much on ready prepared foods, with their attractive packaging of fruits and vegetables, we may be making it more difficult for our children to eat fruits and vegetables when they are older.

“Packaged foods may seem to parents like a convenient and safe weaning option. But an over-reliance on packets and jars sets a pattern of using ready-made foods. And it denies babies the chance to try the variety of tastes, textures and appearance that fresh foods have to offer.

“Research shows that there is a window of opportunity for introducing tastes and textures to young infants, before the age of 12 months. After 12 months, infants become much more difficult to feed, and often become wary of new foods.”

Read full article here.

Health and Fitness Roundup: In the News

New research shows these gorgeous little numbers might put me at risk for arthritis.

My daily reads include a range of entertainment and celebrity gossip as well as real news like the Globe and Mail, Vancouver Sun, and BBC News. Following is a roundup of interesting health and fitness news that I've recently come across.

Sorry, folks, but you have to diet - and exercise

Globe and Mail, June 12, 2011

This seems like a no-brainer to me, but one point I'd like to add is a benefit of a healthy diet and regular exercise regime beyond battling obesity (which the article is about), and even beyond overall physical health: improved mental health.

Arthritis warning to women who wear high heels

BBC News, June 10, 2011

Ack, why do things that look so good have to be so bad for you?

Exercise, diet, precautions are key in preventing seniors from falling

Globe and Mail, May 30, 2011

I worked in seniors' fitness for a number of years and, unfortunately, it's very true that "Falls often mark the beginning of a deadly downward spiral in the health of seniors." I also agree with Karim Khan of Vancouver's Centre for Hip Health and Mobility that "falls can be reduced through strength and balance training", and think that it's never too early to start. My oldest clients were a couple (one of the sweetest couples I've ever met) and were 102 and 98 years old. They were active their whole lives and it showed. Even at their age, they went for walks and played pool nearly every day. What an inspiration!

New study shows how caffeine might prevent pregnancy

Vancouver Sun, May 25, 2011

I seem to have a lot of girlfriends who are planning on starting families very soon, so I thought this was timely. According to the article, researchers have "discovered that caffeine prevents smooth muscles in the Fallopian tubes from contracting — and it's those slow, rhythmic contractions that shuttle eggs down the tubes, from the ovaries to the womb." So ladies who want babies, put the java down!


Not Your Average Treadmill Workout Followed By a Tasty Vegan Recovery Snack

Image: Flickr / sashawolff It’s impossible to work in the fitness industry without some knowledge of or interest in nutrition. Not a day goes by without someone asking about what they should eat. What to eat for breakfast? What to eat for snack? What to eat before a workout? What to eat after a workout?

Shortly before or after a workout it’s best to eat something that’s easily assimilated – before a workout so you have energy to exert but your blood isn’t diverted to your stomach for digestion, and after a workout so your body can quickly regain energy and nutrients.

I recently had a fabulously intense workout on the treadmill and finished it off by trying a post-workout snack recipe from Brendan Brazier’s book, Thrive: A Guide to Optimal Health and Performance Through Plant-based Whole Foods.

The Workout: 30 Minutes of Cardio, 15 Minutes of Abs and Stretching

I like to shake things up so this workout was a thrilling collage of different things. Warming up is hugely important so I take at least 5 minutes to do so. I started by walking at 3.3km/hr and increased my speed by 0.2km/hr every minute until the 5 minute mark. Then I sped up to a slow jog at 4.5km/hr for 3 minutes and then alternated 30 seconds of side shuffling on the right, 30 seconds of side shuffling on the left, and 30 seconds of jogging, which I repeated four times. That got me to the 14 minute mark.

I got the idea of side shuffling a few years ago after seeing a video of Tracy Anderson doing it. I couldn’t find the same video but here’s a video of Tracy and Molly Sims doing a whole workout routine on the treadmill. Looks fun. I’m definitely going to add some skipping to my workout next time! See the side shuffles at 2:18 on the video. Be careful and hold on if you try them!

At the 14 minute mark I sped up to 5.5km/hr and then the fun began. If you’ve seen me, you know I’m built for speed, and my generous glutes and quads make sprinting fun. I like to alternate a minute of jogging at 5.5km/hr with a minute of something faster that increases in speed each time around, so it looked like this:

  • Minute 14: 5.5km/hr
  • Minute 15: 6.5km/hr
  • Minute 16: 5.5km/hr
  • Minute 17: 7.5km/hr
  • Minute 18: 5.5km/hr
  • Minute 19: 8.5km/hr
  • Minute 20: 5.5km/hr
  • Minute 21: 9.5km/hr
  • Minute 22: 5.5km/hr

I kept jogging at 5.5km/hr until minute 27 and then walked at 3.5km/hr until minute 30, and then I was done!

I always bring my own yoga mat to the gym because a) I like it better than the puffy gym mats, b) the puffy gym mats are most likely crawling with germs, and c) I like to take my shoes off and do some yoga stretches.

What you feel needs stretching is a very personal thing but since I spend a lot of time sitting at a computer, I mostly focus on stretching the muscles that take the biggest beating: hip flexors, core and chest.

Before stretching, I did some core work, 2 sets of 20 reps. I'll show you how to do them in great detail in an upcoming video, but for now I'll just tell you what I did:

  • Crunch with leg tuck and extend – this is a really challenging crunch from Tracy Anderson's 30- Day Method book. As you crunch up, bring your knees towards your chest and as you lower your torso, extend your legs out straight. I extend mine out at about a 45 degree angle because it's currently too much of a challenge for my lower back to extend my legs any lower. Repeat 20 times and then move straight on to the next exercise.
  • Medicine ball twists – sit so that your torso and bent legs form a V, and slightly lean back with abs fully engaged (the further you lean back the more difficult it is). With a medicine ball or weight in your hands, slowly twist from side to side, tapping the ball or weight to the floor behind and beside your hip. Repeat 20 times on each side and then move straight on to the next exercise.
  • Back extensions – lie face down on the mat (see, aren't you glad you brought your own mat?!) with legs straight and arms bent, like the floor is telling you to "stick 'em up". Focusing on using the lower back muscles to power the lift, slowly lift your legs and torso off the floor, pausing at the top, and slowly lowering back to the floor. Repeat 20 times and then rest for 30 to 60 seconds before repeating the cycle.

The Recipe: Chocolate Recovery Pudding

I’m trying to incorporate more plant-based proteins into my diet so I decided to make this recipe from Brendan Brazier because it contains tofu as the protein source. I didn’t have all the ingredients so I had to improvise a little. I wasn’t sure how it was going to turn out but it was actually quite delicious and I’m excited to have a quick and easy post-workout snack that is vegan and healthy (especially once I buy some organic cocoa powder instead of using hot chocolate powder mix).


  • ¼ pound medium-firm tofu
  • 1 banana
  • ½ pear (I didn’t add this)
  • ½ tbsp hemp oil (I used flax oil instead)
  • ½ tbsp cocoa powder (I didn’t have any so I used hot chocolate powder mix, better than nothing!)
  • Sprinkle sea salt (I didn’t add this)


Blend all ingredients together until the mixture is smooth.