neuroscience

The Life Delicious on Shaw TV

Catherine Roscoe Barr | The Life Delicious
Catherine Roscoe Barr | The Life Delicious

My dear good friend, Johanna Ward, host of Shaw TV’s go! Vancouver and YWCA fitness instructor extraordinaire (seriously, go to one of her amazing, thrice weekly DanceFit classes) came over the other day to talk about The Life Delicious!

We exercised on my patio, talked about stress management in my hammock, and made a tasty, quick and easy curry in my kitchen. Watch the segment below.

 

What is The Life Delicious?

The Life Delicious is the convergence of stress management, exercise and nutrition.

Health, happiness and productivity blossom where stress management, exercise and nutrition converge!

When you prioritize self-nurturing, by creating energy rituals for stress management, exercise and nutrition – by filling your mind, body and spirit batteries – you bring your best self to the world.

When you prioritize self-nurturing, you inspire others to do the same. Imagine if everyone brought their best selves to the world!

The Trifecta of Wellness: stress management, exercise and nutrition

As a full-time personal trainer and group fitness instructor for nearly a decade, I felt there was something missing from the conversation about exercise and nutrition. In general, people know it’s important to “eat well” and “exercise,” so why is there such a serious lack of implementation? Why isn’t everyone loading up on fresh greens and gym memberships?

I believe the missing link is stress management.

A healthy mind makes anything possible. Self-nurturing – a balanced diet, rich in nutrients and open to occasional indulgence, and an active lifestyle with a diverse selection of physical activity – becomes so much easier when you have a positive, mindful, open attitude.

The Life Delicious harnesses the power of self-directed neuroplasticity

Your brain is an ever-changing, ever-evolving organ. Neuroplasticity, or brain plasticity, refers to your brain's malleability, it's ability to physically change throughout your lifetime.

Experience-dependent neuroplasticity describes the passive structural changes your brain undergoes with day-to-day thoughts, actions and experiences. What you think and do changes your brain, for better or for worse.

Self-directed neuroplasticity describes the conscious, mindful sculpting of your brain’s neural pathways. You can physically change your brain by consciously focussing on the positive. Whether you end your day by writing down a list of things you’re grateful for or positive experiences you've had, or just take a minute or two to ruminate on gratitude and positivity, you are changing your brain.

When you consciously focus on how great you feel when you eat nutritious food, move and challenge your body, and spend time doing things you love and with people you love, you are changing your brain.

Neurons that fire together wire together

Using your mind, you’re changing your brain to scan the world for the good, and you’re creating strong pathways and associations between healthy behaviours (mindfulness, physical activity and nutritious food) and happy, positive and resilient feelings.

So the next time you’re trying to manage a stressful situation, deciding whether or not to exercise, or planning your next meal, healthy options will spring to mind, reinforcing them even further.

This is such a powerful and easy-to-implement way to make a balanced, healthy lifestyle practically effortless. It’s made all of the difference in the world to me. It’s kind of magical!

Check out the fabulous TEDtalk with neuropsychiatrist Rick Hanson below on “hardwiring happiness.”

 

Click on the image below for the 12-minute workout I shared with Johanna.

The Life Delicious | Catherine Roscoe Barr
The Life Delicious | Catherine Roscoe Barr

Click on the image below for the coconut lentil curry recipe I shared with Johanna.

Coconut Lentil Curry | The Life Delicious
Coconut Lentil Curry | The Life Delicious

BC Blueberries: Part of Dr Marwan Sabbagh’s Healthy Brain Diet

BC-22-Blueberry-Beauty (Image: BC Blueberry Council)

Last week I had the pleasure of attending a breakfast lecture, hosted by the BC Blueberry Council at the Edible Canada Bistro, with author, speaker, geriatric neurologist and dementia specialist, and director of the Banner Sun Health Research Institute, Dr Marwan Sabbagh.

Sabbagh’s talk focused on how dietary habits influence the risk of neurodegenerative diseases, like Alzheimer’s, and how blueberries fit into that equation.

We also received a copy of his awesome new book, The Alzheimer’s Prevention Cookbook: Recipes to Boost Brain Health, which covers the science of Alzheimer’s disease, highlights of which we learned in his talk, and contains brain-boosting recipes that he teamed up with celebrity chef Beau MacMillan to create.

DrSabbagh&Cat

Dr Marwan Sabbagh, left, and I with his new book, The Alzheimer’s Prevention Cookbook: Recipes to Boost Brain Health, at the Edible Canada Bistro. (Image: Catherine Roscoe Barr)

The lecture was one of those instances where I was so engaged with what I was hearing that space and time fell away.

You may or may not know that I have a neuroscience degree and that I am passionate about learning and sharing ways to cultivate optimal brain health, so what he had to say really got me excited.

Sabbagh shared a number of things that I already knew but were great to be reminded of and I also took away a handful of exciting and practical new tips for following a healthy brain diet.

Neurodegeneration Begins 25 Years Before Symptoms Appear

One thing he said really struck me. It’s compelled me to put even more thought and care into what I eat. Changes in the brain – negative changes associated with neurodegeneration – begin to occur 25 years before a clinical diagnosis is possible.

In other words, the disease starts 25 years before the first symptoms are detected.

That means there’s plenty you can do right now, through nutrition, exercise and stress management, to increase your chances of having a sharp mind till the day you drop! That, in addition to keeping a long list of nasties like heart disease, osteoporosis, and rheumatoid arthritis at bay.

The Mediterranean Diet is the Convergence of All Good Things

The quickest and most efficient way to influence change, says Sabbagh, is through diet, and he strongly suggests adopting the Mediterranean Diet, calling it “the convergence of all good things.”

The diet includes very little foods high in saturated fats and cholesterol, with a focus on consuming dark vegetables (like alfalfa, beets, bell peppers, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, corn, eggplant, kale and spinach), high-antioxidant fruits (like blackberries, blueberries, cherries, oranges, plums, prunes, raspberries, strawberries and red grapes), and fish high in Omega-3 fatty acids (like halibut, mackerel, salmon, trout and tuna). It even allows for a moderate amount of red wine!

Hooray, Red Wine is Good for You!

Red wine contains Resveratrol, a compound that’s “been shown to have anti-cancer, antiviral, neuroprotective, anti-aging, anti-inflammatory, and life-prolonging effects.”

So, is more better? Unfortunately, says Sabbagh, you’d need to drink about six bottles of red wine per day to get the optimal recommended amount of Resveratrol. Your liver would not approve.

Sabbagh’s recommendation: stick to a maximum of two glasses of red wine per day and take a Resveratrol supplement.

Herbs and Spices are Antioxidant Powerhouses

Sabbagh also suggests eating foods with high ORAC, or Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity, scores. He says, “USDA researchers estimate that you can derive great benefits from consuming 3,000 to 5,000 ORAC units of antioxidants a day.”

I’d never heard of ORAC scores before. Exciting! Following is a list of high-antioxidant herbs, spices, fruits and vegetables, and their ORAC scores, recommended by Sabbagh.

Herbs and Spices (roughly 2 to 4 grams per tsp)

  • Cloves, ground – 290,283 ORAC units per 100 grams
  • Oregano, dried – 175,295 ORAC units 100 grams
  • Rosemary, dried – 165,280 ORAC units per 100 grams
  • Thyme, dried – 157,380 ORAC units per 100 grams
  • Cinnamon, ground – 131,420 ORAC units per 100 grams
  • Turmeric, ground – 127,068 ORAC units per 100 grams

Fruits

  • Prunes – 5,770 ORAC units per 100 grams
  • Raisins – 2,830 ORAC units per 100 grams
  • Blueberries – 2,400 ORAC units per 100 grams
  • Blackberries – 2,036 ORAC units per 100 grams
  • Strawberries – 1,540 ORAC units per 100 grams
  • Raspberries – 1,220 ORAC units per 100 grams

Vegetables

  • Kale – 1,770 ORAC units per 100 grams
  • Spinach – 1,260 ORAC units per 100 grams
  • Brussels sprouts – 980 ORAC units per 100 grams
  • Alfalfa sprouts – 930 ORAC units per 100 grams
  • Broccoli florets – 890 ORAC units per 100 grams
  • Beets – 840 ORAC units per 100 grams

Fun fact: Sabbagh says that since learning about cinnamon’s high ORAC score, and a study “revealing that cinnamon has direct anti-Alzheimer’s properties," he has a teaspoon in his coffee every day.

Blueberries’ Brain-Boosting Power

Zeroing in on blueberries, Sabbagh says that the science behind the brain-boosting power of blueberries – not just berries with high a ORAC score – is “quite compelling.”

Part of his excitement about blueberries stems from animal studies of blueberry extract which show that it can reverse age-related cognitive and motor deficit, prevent free radical damage in red blood cells, and enhance memory-associated neuronal signaling.

He also calls blueberries a “medical-type food” due to another animal-based study showing their ability to “cross the blood-brain barrier and localize in various brain regions important for learning and memory.”

Many drugs are unable to cross the blood-brain barrier, so this was a particularly noteworthy discovery.

Essentially, the antioxidant-rich blueberry extract was able to not just prevent memory loss, but reverse neurodegeneration.

Suddenly craving blueberries? Just wait till you see the delicious recipes below!

Actions Steps for a Healthy Brain Diet

But first, I want to share some actions steps for a healthy brain that Sabbagh left us with:

  1. Adhere to the Mediterranean Diet
  2. Decrease intake of saturated fat
  3. Increase intake of anti-oxidant spices
  4. Eat BC blueberries
  5. Increase exercise

As well as his favourite brain-boosting supplements:

  1. Resveratrol
  2. Vitamins B-9 (folic acid) and B-12
  3. DHA Omega-3 fatty acids

Smoothie and a Salad: Two Tasty Recipes for a Healthy Brain

The first recipe – which I just whipped up in my blender and am drinking while I write this – was developed by the wonderful staff at the Edible Canada Bistro and served at Sabbagh’s breakfast lecture, while the second one comes from The Alzheimer’s Prevention Cookbook, which is full of fantastic recipes.

Green Zinger Smoothie

bc-blueberry-smoothies

(Image: Catherine Roscoe Barr)

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 2 cups spinach
  • 5 stalks kale
  • 1 cup beets
  • 2 tsp fresh ginger
  • 2 1/2 cups blueberries
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice
  • 3 tbsp honey
  • 1 1/2 cups green tea
  • 1/2 cup water

Instructions

  1. Add all ingredients to blender and blend until smooth.

Kale, Blueberry and Pomegranate Salad

DrSabbagh-BlueberryKaleSalad

(Image: Ten Speed Press)

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 3 bunches kale, stemmed and chopped
  • 1 cup fresh blueberries
  • 2 medium carrots, peeled and shredded
  • 1/2 cup pomegranate seeds
  • 1/3 cup pumpkin seeds
  • 1/3 cup almonds, sliced and toasted
  • 1 tbsp fresh mint leaves, chopped
  • 1/2 cup soy-sesame vinaigrette (recipe below)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Instructions

  1. Combine the kale, blueberries, carrots, pomegranate seeds, pumpkin seeds, almonds, and mint in a medium bowl and toss well.
  2. Drizzle with the vinaigrette and toss again.
  3. Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve right away.

Soy-Sesame Vinaigrette

Makes 2 cups

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
  • 2 tbsp garlic, chopped
  • Pinch of red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 cup toasted sesame oil
  • 1/4 cup peanut oil
  • 1/2 cup rice vinegar
  • 1/2 cup mirin
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 tbsp cornstarch
  • 2 tbsp water

Instructions

  1. Combine the ginger, garlic, red pepper flakes, sesame oil, and peanut oil in a blender and puree until creamy.
  2. Pour the mixture into a medium sauté pan and cook, stirring, over low heat until aromatic and golden in colour, about 6 minutes.
  3. Add the vinegar, mirin, soy sauce, and sugar to the sauté pan.
  4. In a small bowl, combine the cornstarch and water, and then stir the cornstarch slurry into the content of the pan.
  5. Set the pan over low heat and bring the mixture to a boil to thicken, stirring to dissolve the sugar, about 2 minutes.
  6. Transfer the dressing to a bowl and let cool.
  7. Cover and refrigerate for up to 1 week.

 

Eagerly Awaited Books

Tina Fey talks to Google's Eric Schmidt about her new book, Bossypants.

I generally never buy a book without first test driving it through the public library. I adore the library so much, I want to write it a love song. Can you believe that you can read nearly any book for free? I’m not sure if I’ll ever get over that exciting fact, or the fact that with a little, or sometimes a lot, of patience you can get your hands on nearly any new book, and it arrives for pick-up on a special shelf and has your name on it. It gives me warm fuzzies just thinking about it. Following are a few books that I have on hold and am eagerly waiting to read.

Bossypants by Tina Fey

The cover alone is enough to make me want to read this book. Currently at position 163 in the Vancouver Public Library hold queue, I’m not alone in wanting to read Tina Fey’s allegedly hilarious new memoir. Click here to read an interview with Tina Fey that appeared in the Vancouver Sun and includes a clip from her appearance on Oprah promoting the book.

My Father's Daughter: Delicious, Easy Recipes Celebrating Family and Togetherness by Gwyneth Paltrow

This quote from a Vancouver Sun article by Randy Shore nicely sums up how I initially felt about Gwyneth Paltrow’s new cookbook: “I was fully prepared to hate Gwyneth Paltrow's cook book, My Father's Daughter. But I can't. It's really quite good.” I’ve only flipped through it at the bookstore and heard reviews from friends but it looks beautiful and sounds good so I’m really looking forward to reading it and trying out some of her recipes. See below for a funny video of Jerry and Jessica Seinfeld talking to Paltrow about the book for Jessica’s website, Do It Delicious.

From This Moment On by Shania Twain

How do you get through finding out that your best friend and husband are having an affair? I have no idea, but Shania Twain shares her experience with such a scenario in her new memoir – which I know ends with marrying her best friend’s hunky husband, having her own TV show, and coming out with her first new song since releasing her 2002 album Up. See the video for Today Is Your Day below. I love this song. Go Shania!

Plenty: Vibrant Vegetable Recipes from London's Ottolenghi, by Yotam Ottolenghi

Vegetarianism has been on my radar a lot lately. From my brother’s new adventures in veganism to my interview with vegan athlete and author Brendan Brazier, and the amount of information I’m learning about the environmental impact of animal-based food production, I am trying to make small changes towards a more plant-based diet. After reading a Globe and Mail article about this new cookbook, which calls it “one of the greatest vegetarian cookbooks of all time”, I am keen to read it and try out some of the recipes for the food blog that I contribute to at BCLiving.ca. See below for a video of the author making the recipe that appears on the cover, Aubergine with Buttermilk Sauce. Yum.

How We Decide by Jonah Lehrer

When you hear about someone twice in one day from different sources it’s enough to pique your interest. So when my husband sent me an article called Developing Your Creative Practice that mentions Lehrer, and a newsletter from Publication Coach Daphne Gray-Grant called Putting a Dollar Figure to Stories, which also mentions Lehrer, appeared in my inbox I was curious to learn more about this young neuroscientist and his new book which, according to the publisher, seeks "to answer two questions that are of interest to just about anyone, from CEOs to firefighters: How does the human mind make decisions? And how can we make those decisions better?" See below for a CBS interview with Lehrer about this book.