#420 8/11/2010 BRAIN POWER

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I not only use all the brains I have but all I can borrow.

Woodrow Wilson

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7 Foods That Make You Smarter

By Suzy Buglewicz

If the rapidly approaching school year has you scrambling for tips on how to move your kids to the head of the class, or if you're looking for ways to increase your own productivity, start by examining your diet. Studies have shown that certain foods act like fuel for our brains by increasing concentration and memory function and have even been shown to slow down the mind's natural aging process. The next time you really need to stay alert or pay attention, try to eat more of these seven foods that have been shown to increase brain function and the ability to focus. Combine this practice with other good habits, like working out to your favorite Beachbody® DVD (mine's Chalene Johnson's Turbo Jam®), and you'll soon find yourself at the head of the class—at any age.

Blueberries, Salmon, and Spinach

  1. Spinach. At only 40 calories a cup, a serving of spinach contains almost half your daily requirement of folic acid, an essential nutrient for cell growth, blood production, and preventing memory loss. And spinach is one of the most nutrient-dense foods available—just one cup of spinach also contains all your body's daily requirements of vitamins A and K, plus most of the folate and manganese you need each day too. These nutrients improve brain function and slow down the effects of premature aging by preventing the negative effects of oxidation on the brain. Spinach is also rich in iron, as well as lutein, which promotes healthy eyesight.

    Smart Tip: Try replacing iceberg lettuce with spinach leaves in your next dinner salad, or add fresh spinach to an omelet.

  2. WalnutsOatmeal. As a strong source of insoluble fiber, oatmeal provides a stable energy that helps your brain maintain consistent focus and concentration. Eating oatmeal can also slow down the digestion of starch, reducing the frequent spikes in blood sugar that usually occur after a big meal. The iron, magnesium, and zinc in oatmeal encourage cell growth and can increase metabolism and regulate blood sugar. To get the maximum nutritional benefits, avoid the instant pre-flavored packets, which are loaded with sugar, and stick with the plain, slower-cooking kind—it still cooks up in the microwave in just 2 or 3 minutes.

    Smart Tip: Turn up the flavor naturally by preparing oatmeal with low-fat milk and topping it with fresh blueberries or banana slices.

  3. Fish. Many studies have shown that eating oily fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids can boost memory, concentration, and mental acuity. Omega-3 acids also appear to strengthen the brain's synapses that are directly related to learning and memorization. And if that's not reason enough to eat more fish, the omega-3 fatty acids also help slow down mental cognitive decline.

    Smart Tip: Watch mercury levels when choosing fish, and consider wild salmon, albacore tuna, and mackerel, which all contain omega-3s with minimal environmental contaminants.

  4. Walnuts. Eating just a handful of these nuts every day can prevent the decline of cognitive and motor function, increase brain resiliency, and improve cell functioning. Walnuts are loaded with protein and omega-3 fatty acids that balance the unstable neurotransmitters that can cause depression and other mood swings.

    Smart Tip: Sprinkle a handful of chopped walnuts on salads or fill a travel container for a healthy on-the-go snack. You'll feel full longer, reducing the temptation to binge between meals.

  5. Berries. Many types of berries, especially blueberries and strawberries, contain flavonoids, which have been linked to brain cell growth and improved memory. Berries with the darkest, richest colors offer the most nutritional value.Eggs Eat the real thing to reap the benefits, and avoid anything that contains "berry flavoring." The antioxidants, vitamin C, and anti-inflammatory properties in berries have been shown to preserve brain function and are a factor in the prevention of dementia.

    Smart Tip: Sprinkle berries on salads, cereal, or yogurt, or make yourself a fresh berry fruit smoothie.

  6. Yogurt. Widely known as a top calcium source for bone development and strength, yogurt also contains enough protein and carbohydrates in just one serving to keep both the body and the brain energized throughout the day. Yogurt also contains amino acids that encourage the production of neurotransmitters, and enough vitamin B to encourage—along with the protein—the growth of brain tissue while slowing down the aging process.

    Smart Tip: Eat yogurt topped with berries for breakfast or lunch, or if you're having a salad, nix the bottled dressing and make your own by mixing a quarter of a cup of plain nonfat or low-fat yogurt with fresh herbs.

  7. Eggs. These low-calorie, nutrient-dense wonders are rich in protein as well as choline, an important nutrient that helps regulate the brain and nervous system by acting as a messenger between muscles and nerves. If you've been avoiding eggs because you're worried about your cholesterol, take note: Numerous research studies have shown that eating eggs as part of a healthy diet is not a contributing factor to heart disease. The nutrients in eggs also increase memory development and aid in concentration. Another plus? Egg yolks contain lutein, which has been shown to improve eye health.

    Smart Tip: Enjoy an egg and spinach omelet for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.

Brainpower Recipes:

Tuna on a GrillGrilled Tuna with Quinoa

  • 2 cups water
  • 3 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 4 6-oz. albacore tuna steaks (1 inch thick)
  • 1 cup uncooked quinoa, rinsed well
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 1/3 cup orange juice
  • 2 Tbsp. chopped fresh cilantro
  • Salt (to taste)
  • Freshly ground black pepper (to taste)
  • Medium saucepan
  • Shallow bowl or casserole dish

Preheat broiler or grill. Put water on to boil in medium saucepan. While water is boiling, place olive oil in shallow bowl or casserole dish. Coat tuna steaks in oil, season with salt and pepper, then cover dish and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. When water is boiling, add quinoa to pan and simmer for about 20 minutes, or until water is absorbed. While quinoa is cooking, grill fish approximately 7 minutes and drizzle with lime juice. Remove quinoa from heat and add orange juice and cilantro; mix well. Serve tuna steaks and quinoa with a fresh spinach salad (see below). (Makes 4 servings.)

Spinach Salad with CarrotsFresh Spinach Salad

  • 10 oz. raw baby spinach (about 8 cups)
  • 1/4 small onion, minced
  • 1 large carrot, slivered
  • 1 medium red bell pepper, cut in thin strips
  • 1/3 cup walnut pieces
  • 3 Tbsp. canola oil
  • 2 Tbsp. vinegar (balsamic or rice wine)
  • Salt (to taste)
  • Freshly ground black pepper (to taste)
  • Large bowl
  • Small bowl

Wash and dry spinach. Combine with other vegetables and walnut pieces in large bowl. Mix oil, vinegar, salt, and pepper in small bowl, then drizzle over salad. Toss and serve. (Makes 4 servings.)

Nutritional Information (per serving)
  Calories Total Fat Saturated Fat Carbs Fiber Protein
Without salad 415 18.5 grams 4 grams 19 grams 2 grams 23 grams
With salad 560 35.5 grams 5 grams 26 grams 6 grams 28 grams

Fruit SmoothieEasy Fruit Smoothie

  • 1/3 cup sliced strawberries
  • 1/3 cup blueberries
  • 1/3 cup sliced bananas
  • 1/4 cup fresh orange juice
  • 6 oz. plain low-fat yogurt

Place all ingredients in blender or food processor and blend for 1 minute. (Makes 1 serving.)

Nutritional Information (per serving)
Calories Total Fat Saturated Fat Carbs Fiber Protein
264 3 grams < 1 gram 49 grams 4 grams 12 grams

The ingredients in the Shakeology somehow balances the chemicals in my body and helps me stay focused, calmer, and maintain a high concentration level. —Jessica C., La Quinta, CA

Related Articles
"10 Steps to Improve Your Brainpower"
"Fish Oil: Nature's Miracle Ingredient"
"10 Foods You Should Eat"

Suzy BuglewiczQuestions about your workout program, diet, the latest newsletter, or anything wellness related? Chat with the overseer of Beachbody's fitness and diet development, who also serves as your Fitness Advisor on the Message Boards, Steve Edwards, on Monday, August 16th, at 3:00 PM ET, 12:00 PM PT. Go to the Beachbody Chat Room.

If you'd like to ask a question or comment on this newsletter article, click here to add a comment in the newsletter review section or you can email us at mailbag@beachbody.com.

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Your Brain on Exercise

By Tony Horton, creator of P90X®

There was an astonishing article in Newsweek a while back about the benefits of exercise on the brain that just blew my mind/brain/cranium/noggin. Here's what I've learned from this article and further research.

Woman Working on Her Laptop

Just 20 minutes of exercise

We all know that working out and exercising do amazing things for our bodies, and the benefits, in addition to weight loss and getting fit, are endless. Most of us know that when our hearts, legs, and lungs get pumping, we feel much better than if we did nothing. Turns out that doing 20 minutes or more of cardiovascular and/or high-paced resistance workouts affects every aspect of our lives.

The science behind the brain magic

The great thing about the Newsweek article is that it really laid out the scientific findings over the last few years. Here's the scoop: When you're forced to pull more oxygen into the body through exercise, you break what's called the blood-brain barrier. It happens when you climb a long flight of stairs, or when you're busting through any kind of workout that gets your heart rate pumping. This oxygen-filled blood makes its way into the temporal lobe of the brain. Inside that temporal lobe is an area called the hippocampus. Inside the hippocampus lies the seahorse-shaped area known as the dentate gyrus. As you exercise, these oxygen-filled blood cells rush into this area of the brain. A chemical/protein called IGF-1 is formed and released inside the dentate gyrus, which ramps up another chemical/molecule called BDNF; both IGF-1 and BDNF are like Miracle-Gro® for the brain.

Benefits for all, from kids to adults

Power 90®Studies involving folks from kids right up to seniors have proven that high-paced workouts (Power 90®, P90X®, Tony & the Kids!, etc.) cause the release of the chemicals mentioned above into the brain. Combine this with even more "brain drugs" like dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine, and you've got yourself a feel-good party in your head. Aerobic physical movement causes the release of these chemicals, and they all help you focus and give you energy when you need it. They also help you relax and rest properly. It's like a homemade chemistry set inside your skull that produces a cocktail that simulates the effects of Prozac® and Ritalin®.

Children who play outdoors more often score better on tests than kids who don't. Regular physical activity improves memory, mood, and problem-solving abilities. Consistent exercise raises self-esteem and decreases anxiety. Study after study has proven that people who exercise 5 to 6 days a week greatly decrease their need for psychotherapeutic drugs. If your brain goes without regular bouts of exercise, the hippocampus will shrink and erode, which can lead to neurological illnesses, such as Alzheimer's disease. When the dentate gyrus is stimulated, neurogenesis (the generation of new neurons) or neuroplasticity (the brain's ability to change, also known as cortical remapping) occurs. I'm not talking about just slowing the aging process; I'm telling you that the brain creates new cells through exercise—brand-new cells that assist in the reversal of aging.

If you're looking for the Fountain of Youth, you can find it inside your head every time you exercise for more than 20 minutes.

Related Articles
"4 Ways Exercise Boosts Your Brain"
"Just Eat This: Eating for Exercise"
"10 Ways to Think Yourself Thinner"

Questions about your workout program, diet, the latest newsletter, or anything wellness related? Chat with the overseer of Beachbody's fitness and diet development, who also serves as your Fitness Advisor on the Message Boards, Steve Edwards, on Monday, August 16th, at 3:00 PM ET, 12:00 PM PT. Go to the Beachbody Chat Room.

If you'd like to ask a question or comment on this newsletter article, click here to add a comment in the newsletter review section or you can email us at mailbag@beachbody.com.

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Airbrush Makeup - Professional Results? Or Better Left to the Professionals?

Woman with an Airbrush

Ever wonder if the super-fancy and expensive-looking machines in the gym give you better results? Well, I was curious to see if a fancy makeup airbrushing system that promised professional results and flawless-looking skin was worth the hype—and expense. See what I found.

If you'd like to ask a question or comment on this newsletter article, click here to add a comment in the newsletter review section or you can email us at mailbag@beachbody.com.

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Test Your Brain Transplant IQ!

By Valerie Watson

Brain in a HandThere are days when I wish I could transplant my brain, with its rich history of experience, memories, thoughts, and feelings, into a fresh, new body, with less back pain, fewer knee tweaks, and a lack of assorted other issues that may or may not be associated with aging. (I kinda don't want to think about it . . . or perhaps my brain is having memory issues.) However, the brain transplant remains a hypothetical procedure rife with bioethical concerns. Fortunately, the realm of pop culture has presented us with a variety of brain transplant scenarios to enjoy. Your job? Match the brain-transplant-related plot with the book, movie, or TV show in which it was featured.

  1. Original Star Trek - Ship's officer has brain removed and stolen by gang of hot, none-too-bright female aliens to serve as an organic computer to run their planet. In the ST:TOS episode "Spock's Brain," Leonard Nimoy suffers the indignity of first having his brain stolen, then of having his brainless body forced to walk around by Dr. McCoy (DeForest Kelley) operating a primitive handheld remote control. Almost universally declared to be the worst Star Trek episode ever. Most memorable quote? "Brain and brain . . . what is brain?"
  2. I Will Fear No Evil by Robert A. Heinlein - Super-elderly billionaire whose body is on its last legs has his brain transplanted into the body of his beautiful young secretary. When wealthy industrialist Johann Sebastian Bach Smith arranges to find a younger body in which to transplant his brain, he never dreams that the body will be that of his beloved secretary Eunice, who is killed in an assault. Written in 1970, the book uses this plot as an opportunity to explore the differences between young and old, male and female, cranky and cheerful, chaste and promiscuous. (Especially promiscuous.)
  3. Friends - In show-within-a-show storyline, actor plays character who's the result of a scheming diva's brain being transplanted into the body of a male neurosurgeon. Joey Tribbiani (Matt LeBlanc) has an up-and-down history as an actor on the soap Days of Our Lives. He gets cast in and then loses the role of neurosurgeon Dr. Drake Ramoray, and is later brought back to the show to play a composite of Dr. Ramoray's body and the brain of prima donna-ish Jessica Lockhart, who was formerly played by fictional actress Cecilia Monroe (Susan Sarandon). While soap operas have a history of way-out-there storylines, including much reanimation of dead characters, this story may have either achieved new highs or sunk to new lows . . . depending on your perspective.
  4. Young Frankenstein - In classic horror film spoof, mad scientist's grandson finds old man's journals and recreates his attempts to reanimate dead body with transplanted brain. This classic Mel Brooks comedy wrings ample humor from the oft-told tale of the doctor obsessed with both brain transplantation and reanimation. Plus it uses period-appropriate black-and-white cinematography and many sets and props from the original 1931 film Frankenstein, and features an amazing cast headed by Gene Wilder as Dr. Frederick Frankenstein, which he insists must be pronounced "FRAHNKensteen." As the monster, Peter Boyle does more with a few grunts and sidelong glances into the camera than most actors achieve with pages of dialog.
  5. The Thing with Two Heads - Wealthy, ailing racist has head transplanted onto new body—the body of an African-American death row inmate. With the original head still attached. Ray Milland: classic actor in classic films like The Lost Weekend and Dial M for Murder. Rosey Grier: football legend of the L.A. Rams' "Fearsome Foursome" and author of the 1973 book Needlepoint for Men. Put them together (surgically!) and you've got one of the most truly awful (and most unintentionally funny) movies ever. Perhaps more presciently than one would expect, the trailer begins with the line "It seemed like a good idea at the time . . . "

If you'd like to ask a question or comment on this newsletter article, click here to add a comment in the newsletter review section or you can email us at mailbag@beachbody.com.

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