Brain Boosting Habits

July 22, 2017

What can you do to prevent memory lapses, having brain fog, or losing your memory? Turns out quite a bit. Many believe that those “senior moments” are a normal sign of aging, but they are not and certainly don’t have to happen. Listen in as we share brain boosting habits that you can start using today!

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DAR: Welcome to Dishing Up Nutrition. If you are experiencing memory lapses or what many call “senior moments”, I encourage you to stay tuned, because we are going to discuss brain boosting habits that you can start using today. I am Darlene Kvist, Certified Nutritionist Specialist, Licensed Nutritionist and host of Dishing Up Nutrition. It’s been awhile since I’ve been here, but I’m glad to be back!

MARCIE: That’s ok! I’m happy to be back in studio with you Dar. If you are experiencing memory challenges, we believe it is time for you to get serious about taking better care of your brain. This is going to be a fun topic. I’m Marcie Vaske. I have a Master’s Degree in Clinical Nutrition and I’m also a Licensed Nutritionist. Keeping my brain fully functioning is something I have a greatinterest in. I spend a lot of time filling it up with some good information I don’t’ want to lose it. I also want to help others maintain their brain health. Today’s show is brought to you by Nutritional Weight & Wellness, a company providing life-changing nutrition education and counseling.

DAR: To all of our podcast listeners, I want to thank you for listening. 12 years ago, when I started Dishing Up Nutrition, there were only a handful of local listeners, only my friends, but because of your support, we have grown & grown! At the start of Dishing Up Nutrition, my goal was to help people all over the world understand and appreciate the power of nutrition. I know there were people that laughed about that. That is still my goal today.

MARCIE: And you’ve reached that goal! We have listeners all over the world. All of our phone clients call in and say “I’m a podcast junkie! I love Dishing Up Nutrition and you girls on that show.” I have people tell me that all the time. Way to go, Dar. To help us spread our information about the power of nutrition to even more people, we ask you to write a review on iTunes. We so appreciate your time and effort and we thank you.

DAR: Listeners, has this ever happened to you? You’re looking for something, but all of a sudden, you totally forgot what you were looking for. Or you put down your car keys and you cannot remember where. You look all over and just can’t find them anywhere… so frustrating!

MARCIE:  It does get frustrating when those moments happen. How about this – you start a conversation and halfway through, you can’t even remember what you were talking about. It’s kind of embarrassing, depending on if it’s not just your best friend that you’re talking too. And a little frustrating.

DAR: Or maybe this happens to you – you have met someone several times and when you try to introduce him or her to another person, you draw a complete blank on their name. You just can’t remember their name. You think, and think, and think, what’s their name? Again, how embarrassing!

MARCIE: Once again, right? I’ve done that too and you think “I know them!” What about when you can’t remember what an object is called. You know what I’m talking about …that “thing.” You know, that “thing!” You’re trying to describe it and it’s sitting right in front of you and you just can’t recall that name.

DAR: We all jokingly call these “senior moments”, but as we get older and these moments happen more frequently, it’s no longer funny. In fact, it’s a little scary. You may think, “I am losing my memory. I’m Alzheimer’s or dementia? What’s going on?”

MARCIE: It is scary. Anyone who has a parent or a loved one battling Alzheimer’s knows how scary and sad this disease can be. If you were having moments like that you would certainly think “Wow, could this be me next?” This is one reason why is makes sense to listen to the show today and build brain boosting habits into your daily life.

DAR: Do you know Marcie that last night on the CBS news they actually had a two-minute segment on this very topic and it was actually lifestyle factors you can do to help you maintain your memory. So that’s kind of what we’re talking about when we say brain boosting habits. Our habits might be a little bit different than what they had on the news but it is such an issue for people these days. I don’t know if people realize that losing your memory or even developing brain fog in your 30’s, 40’s, 50’s, 60’s, 70’s or even 80’s is NOT normal?! Just because it is happening to you and your friends, you know at my age it’s happening to my friends, does NOT mean it’s normal or healthy. It is really a sign of trouble. I don’t think people realize that.

MARCIE: I was just going to say that. I have so many clients, and I’m sure you’ve seen countless people come in, and just say “I’m kind of feeling like I’m not remembering things, or my memories not quite right, but that could just be age.” I always say, no it’s not your age! Let me tell you what it is. So here we go. What can you do to prevent memory lapses, having brain fog, or basically losing your memory? Many people believe there is nothing they can do, but that is not true.

DAR: Some of you may think, “Once my memory starts to fail, that’s it, it’s too late.” Again, that is not true.

MARCIE: It’s never too late. I always say that too. It’s never too late. Let’s think about this interesting fact – the average age of memory loss is 57, but for some it starts as early as 45. That’s right around the corner for me. So if I don’t start preventing this stuff, it’s serious! You may think that minor memory problems like the ones we mentioned earlier or forgetting where you parked your car, cause we know we’ve all done that, are not even an issue; however, believe it or not, these can be early warning signs that your memory could be in trouble.

DAR: So here’s an interesting thing. Dr. Paul David Nussbaum, he’s a neuropsychologist and author of Save Your Brain, has been researching brain health and caring for patients with dementia for more than 20 years. He calls these “senior moments” your wake up call to put more time and energy into your brain. I love that!

MARCIE: I do too. I don’t think people think of forgetting where they parked their car, I can’t find my keys as really dangerous thing or something that should wake them up. By now, we hope we’ve gotten your attention and piqued your interest to listen and learn some brain boosting habits.

DAR: Think about this – your brain is your most important organ, I think most people would think it’s their heart but it’s really their brain, because your brain controls everything you do in your life. We all understand that our heart needs nutrients to stay healthy and I’m sure most of us understand that our bones need nutrients to grow and stay strong. Just like our heart and our bones, our brain also needs proper nutrients to continue to function well, so brain health starts with what we put in our mouths. I’ve heard it sometimes described as what’s on the end of your fork. Your brain needs many different nutrients to function well. 

MARCIE: It really does. As nutritionists, you may have guessed, we believe brain health and good brain function start with what you are eating, but let’s not forget, AND drinking.


DAR: Welcome back to Dishing Up Nutrition. I want to share a study published by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Over an eight year period, they looked at almost 5000 Americans ages 45 to 75 and found that those who ate fried potatoes such as French fries two or three times a week, more than doubled their risk of premature death. Of course, we know French fries are usually cooked in unhealthy vegetables oils. These damaged fats can be very harmful to your heart, your blood vessels and even your brain. Most of us love French fries, so make it a once in a while treat…perhaps once every three months.

MARCIE: Did everyone hear that? Once every three months, or more.

DAR: It’s amazing. And I think there are a lot of people who eat French fries a couple times a week maybe and they have no idea that’s going to create premature death for them, possibly.

MARCIE: Yes, possibly. But it could create so many other problems for them, like you said. High blood sugar in general, right?

DAR: Yes. We were talking about Brain Boosting Habits and one of the first ones is to limit your alcohol consumption. Alcohol is one of the most common brain toxins. Think about this, when you meet your friends for wine after work, and we hear this all the time when we’re working with clients, are you aware that alcohol reduces the effectiveness of many of your neurotransmitters, especially those set up for learning and memory? It is true that drinking three or four glasses or wine with friends is actually reducing your ability to remember where you parked your car or what you were actually just talking about?!

MARCIE: It’s not that immediate effect of what you’re feeling from the alcohol.

DAR: That’s right. Think about this again, what I just said. I said that if you drink three or four glasses of wine, or even two glasses of wine, it effects your memory. It effects the neurotransmitters in your brain that effect your memory. Different neurotransmitters do different jobs. So we know that we have some that work on our memory.

MARCIE: So here’s some good news maybe. Some research indicates a small amount of alcohol enhances brain function. What exactly is a small amount of alcohol in the world of nutrition? What we’re talking about is maybe it’s having a glass of wine once a week. That’s not three or four a night, that’s once a week. Research out of John Hopkins reported that even a small amount of alcohol consumed daily can potentially lower your brain size! So liquor, alcohol, is shrinking your brain people. That’s what we’re saying. As your brain shrinks in size, what else shrinks in size? Your memory!

DAR: Wow. Another great Brain Boosting Habit is to join your friends for happy hour, because being social is good for your brain, but substitute mineral water for alcohol. Have the server bring it to you in a nice glass, on ice, with a twist of lemon or lime. You’ll be boosting your brain, you’ll remember where you parked your car and you probably won’t even miss the alcohol because it’s a habit of holding a glass.

MARCIE: It is a habit. And this way if you’re sitting there with your little glass of seltzer water in your wine glass you can really enjoy the conversation with your friends and that’s why you’re out anyways. And that’s boosting your brain because it boosts those neurotransmitters. Here’s another interesting fact is – the part of the brain that is our judgment center isn’t fully developed until we are 25 years old. I don’t think people know that one and I sure wish I would have 20 years ago, maybe would have saved a couple brain cells. A good brain boosting habit is to NOT drink alcohol until we are at least 25 years old. That’s what they suggest. We know that’s not going to happen with most young adults, but it could be helpful, because now that you know, you can’t un-know!

DAR: It’s kind of interesting Marcie. Kind of looking at that, when I saw the research about that, I thought “Well that’s not going to happen to anyone.” When really there are a lot people who have not had any alcohol in their life. I was thinking about the people. One of the people that I’ve been reading is Dr. Daniel Amen and he talks about that he hardly ever has a glass of wine, because he looks at peoples brains and knows exactly what’s going on with people’s brains. Then I thought about my mother, she never, ever had a glass of wine or an alcohol drink. Why, I’m not quite sure, but she choose not to. And there’s a lot of people like that around, and great for them, they are protecting their brain. So here’s another one. If you are a smoker, chew tobacco, or use nicotine patches, maybe it is time to stop. Because nicotine found in cigarettes, nicotine patches, chewing tobacco or nicotine gum, prematurely ages the brain, because nicotine constricts blood blow to the brain and deprives the brain of the nutrients it needs. If you have quit smoking cigarettes and are now addicted to nicotine gum, and we know this happens a lot, think again. Ask yourself, “Is my nicotine habit affecting my memory?” I am sure if you’re really honest with yourself, you’re going to say yes. I know that it’s not good for me, but I’m so addicted.

MARCIE: So you just need to sit down and be real with yourself. And maybe listen to some of these great brain boosting things we’re sharing with you today. Another good brain boosting habit is to eliminate all sources of nicotine. It may surprise you that over the past 20 years, our nutritionists and dieticians at Nutritional Weight & Wellness have helped so many clients get rid of their nicotine habit. We have special supplements and techniques to ease the anxiety of withdrawal. We are available to help you, when you are ready to give up that nicotine habit.

DAR: One of the things Marcie, when I’m working with a client, it’s kind of interesting they kind of don’t really chew, but they have it in their mouth and then you ask what’s in their mouth. They share that they have nicotine gum and I know we have a job ahead of us. As you are listening, maybe you are thinking, “I don’t drink and I don’t smoke, so what can I do to improve my memory?” Well guess what, it’s more than doing crossword puzzles and playing computer games. It’s getting at least seven and a half hours of sleep most nights. Being sleep deprived hurts your brain. I don’t think most people realize that. If you are getting less than seven hours of sleep a night, you actually have a lower level of activity in the learning and memory part of your brain. Isn’t that kind of scary?

MARCIE: You are listening to Dishing Up Nutrition. I want to make you, our listeners, aware of next week’s show called Natural Ways to Manage Chronic Pain with special guest, Greg Peterson, dietician Cassie Weness and nutritionist Lea Wetzell. Over 100 million Americans suffer from chronic pain. In fact, chronic pain affects more Americans than diabetes, heart disease and cancer combined! As Americans, we need to learn natural ways to manage pain, so we don’t get addicted to pain medication. If you are struggling with pain, I invite you to tune in.


DAR: Welcome back to Dishing Up Nutrition. If you are in perimenopause, menopause or post menopause and have concerns about sleep, hot flashes, mood swings, weight gain or osteoporosis, I invite you to join us on August 5th for the Menopause Survival Seminar. Come with your questions, because we have the solutions you have been looking for. I will be teaching with dietician, JoAnn Ridout and nutrition educator, Kris Kniefel. Grab a sister, friend, or co-worker and make a day of it. I promise, you will leave saying what a great day of learning and inspiration it was.

MARCIE: Let’s get back to brain boosting habits. We were talking about sleep. Before break Dar was talking about getting at least seven and a half hours of sleep. And so many of us aren’t. All of us sleep-deprived people score poorer on memory and math tests, so they often have lower grades in school. Actually children and teens need and function much better on 9 to 10 hours of sleep. Lack of sleep is associated with depression, ADD and weight gain.

DAR: So, Marcie, you’ve got seven year old twins.

MARCIE: Actually they’re ten now! Those last three years went by fast.

DAR: How did that happen! Ten years old now. How many hours of sleep are they getting?

MARCIE: Well, not as many as you want them to get every single night. But at least nine hours. During the school year is much easier than the summer.

DAR: So during the school year they are getting nine hours of sleep.

MARCIE: We try very hard.

DAR: Interesting research from the University of Chicago found that sleep-deprived people eat more processed carbs and are more hungry than those getting eight hours of sleep a night. Those who are sleep-deprived tend to become overweight and have memory lapses.

MARCIE: Wow. So listen to that connect everybody out there. You need to sleep to decrease those carbohydrate cravings in general. I would say a third to at least a half of our clients come to their initial consultation with sleep problems. Many are only able to sleep four to five hours a night that is not enough sleep. They are really struggling. We, as nutritionists at Nutritional Weight & Wellness, have helped hundreds and hundreds of clients restore their sleep. We have so many people come back in and say “I am sleeping a lot better.” And they kind of were skeptical at the beginning. It’s again that connection between food and what it’s doing to your body.

DAR: Sometimes when they go from four hours and suddenly they are sleeping six hours they think “This is amazing!”

MARCIE: Right! “My life is changed!”

DAR: Then if we can get them up to eight hours, they’re anxiety level drops and they are sleeping better.

MARCIE: So how do we do that? We work individually with clients and determine the cause of their sleep problem really is. Then we put together a good individual eating plan specific to them and using a variety of vitamin supplements to help restore their sleep.

DAR: Sometimes it’s very simple with these supplements. It’s just adding magnesium. Because they are so deficient in magnesium. I mean, they are simple things, non-addictive types of supplements.

MARCIE: A very good brain boosting habit is to get at least seven and a half hours of sleep most nights. We encourage eight and a half to nine hours for even better brain function and memory.

DAR: After restoring their sleep, clients not only have a better memory, but many also lose weight. Who would’ve thought that having trouble sleeping is really a nutrition problem? The truth is lack of sleep is one of the, or maybe the number one cause of memory problems.

MARCIE: I believe it.

DAR: That was even on the news last night if I remember right. That lack of sleep is detrimental to your brain. 

MARCIE: I think if we could really get real with ourselves I think a lot of people would realize that. So some brain building habits are simple. For example, if you want a better memory, drink your water! A great brain building habit is to drink at least eight glasses of water, preferably 10, throughout the day. For your best brain function, you need to keep your brain hydrated. Even slight dehydration can damage your brain.

DAR: It’s kind of interesting, many elderly adults or older people get themselves in trouble when they limit their water intake, because they don’t want to be running to the bathroom all the time. They become very dehydrated, then they have even more memory problems. Let’s think about this a minute Marcie. Who might become dehydrated besides the people who aren’t drinking water? The first people that I think of, especially as people get older and are on different kinds of blood pressure medications, and they’re on diuretics and suddenly they start getting dehydrated from their medication, not realizing that they actually have to drink more water. But then it goes back to that habit, I don’t want to have to be running to the bathroom. Or they don’t drink anything before they go to shopping because then they’d have to stop.

MARCIE: Then they get into a pattern and that just precipitates poor memory and then all of a sudden they’re forgetting stuff.

DAR: They get kind of caught in a trap. But if they can kind of remember they’ve got to get in that eight glasses of water a day because that keeps their brain functioning better and have a better memory.

MARCIE: Exactly. And one of the brain boosting habits we teachin our Nutrition 4 Weight Loss classes is to eat in balance five times a day. That’s not just in Nutrition 4 Weight Loss, that’s straight across the board at Nutritional Weight & Wellness. We encourage people to eat five balanced meals and snacks of animal protein, such as eggs, chicken, turkey, beef, salmon maybe some cottage cheese; then some complex carbs, such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, carrots, green beans that are all in season right now and tasty.

DAR: You know, when I am working with clients I call those vegetable carbohydrates.

MARCIE: I do too. And then beneficial fats, like olive oil, butter, coconut oil, nuts, avocados and olives. Those are wonderful fats for our body and our brain. Right? Our brain is made up of fats. Why do we recommend 5 meals and snacks daily? Well, it’s all about maintaining balanced blood sugar.

DAR: And we talk about maintaining that balanced blood sugar a lot, so yes, the brain boosting habit of eating in balance five times a day – protein, vegetable carbohydrates and beneficial fat is key to better brain function and better memory. But it’s a habit and it’s a hard habit for most people to get into, to eat five times a day. 

MARCIE: You are listening to Dishing Up Nutrition and today we are discussing Brain Boosting Habits. Eating more fish is an excellent Brain Boosting Habit. A study published in the British Medical Journal reported that older people who ate fish only once a week have a significantly lower risk of developing brain problems. Another study found that older people who ate fish once a week decreased their dementia risk by 33%! What’s the best fish to eat? Wild caught salmon or other fatty fish such as halibut or mackerel. For good brain health, skip the deep fried fish sandwich at the fast food restaurants. They contain damaged fats, so they are not good for your brain.


DAR: We were talking about the brain boosting habit of eating in balance five times a day. Protein, vegetable carbohydrates, and beneficial fats. And that’s going to help our brain function better.

MARCIE: It is, it really is. We continue to teach this to our clients and to our Nutrition 4 Weight Loss Series participants, mainly because we know not only is it good for you and your brain, but it is also good for weight loss. I want to read what Peggy said about her experience with the Nutrition 4 Weight Loss Series. By the way, Peggy lost 15 lbs, but what’s more important are her comments. She said, “I thought this class was going to be just about losing weight, but it turned out to be so much more –  so much more about food for my health. My energy is now through the roof and my mental capacity, my memory, my concentration is incredible. Amazing and so much more than I ever thought.”

DAR: We hear that from a lot of clients who are taking our classes. Once they start eating in balance and they’re drinking their water, getting their sleep, suddenly their memory is so much better and they’re anxiety is so much lower. A common saying is, “You are what you eat.” We all know that your cells in your body and brain need good nutrition to function and stay well. If you skip breakfast or lunch, where does your brain get nutrients to function? It’s a question isn’t it? And they need it to function so they can properly maintain your memory. Sadly, as your nutrition declines, so does your memory. So these lunch skippers …

MARCIE: Right, because they have to work. They work through lunch and can’t remember when to eat. Or the breakfast skippers who can’t get up to make breakfast. Think again, because otherwise you won’t be thinking. When you skip a meal or snack, your brain can become deficient in glucose and when your brain is deficient, you can experience brain fog or have problems with word recall and often end up with a headache.

DAR: Agreed. For a lot of people that’s what causes their headaches. So skipping meals or snacks is just not good for your brain. How many times do you really eat each day? It’s amazing, we see clients who eat a couple times a day. Some people eat once a day. It’s just shocking. So, again, are you taking your lunch breaks and eating a meal? Your lunch break is not to run errands. Research has found that employees who take a lunch break and actually eat lunch are more creative and more productive. A good brain building habit is to avoid skipping meals. It is the self-care for your brain and your body deserves it, your brain deserves it.

MARCIE: Just think of how hard you work. If you work that hard for your brain, you’d be more productive and more creative.

DAR: Exactly. And it just means taking a thirty minute break and bringing your lunch from home which is going to be healthy. And that works.

MARCIE: Just to maybe recap what we’ve talked about today Dar, we want to suggest the following brain boosting habits. One of the things we started off with today was limit your alcohol.

DAR: What we really talked about was maybe one alcohol drink occasionally. I don’t know if that’s once a week or once every two weeks, whatever it is. But that’s one glass of wine or one alcoholic drink is probably ok. We know that alcohol is a toxin so when we go four, five times a night … One person said to me yesterday, who can really stop with one glass of wine. When you open a bottle of wine and say who can really stop with one glass of wine and what he said is that he’s not going to open that bottle of wine. Because that’s safer.

MARCIE: You have to know your limits. And of course, be social, get out and have fun with your friends and family. That’s great for your brain. We also talked about cutting out nicotine in any form. Be done.

DAR: We think about cutting out nicotine because it is a strong addiction and it’s hard to get over and most people need help and that includes nicotine gum too. Any kind of nicotine.

MARCIE: And don’t forget you’re going to cut your nicotine out, but you’re also going to sleep seven and a half to nine hours, most nights. You need to get your sleep in.

DAR: And if you’re really having trouble sleeping. And we know that so many people do have trouble sleeping. We really work hard and there are so many different ways to help people sleep, there are so many different factors when you’re looking at sleep patterns. So we really look carefully and help people with the right nutrition and the right supplements to help them sleep. Supplements that are not addictive, because that’s going down another rabbit hold.

MARCIE: Yes, for sure. And you know we want to remember to drink water! Eight to ten glasses a day. Stay hydrated. That goes along with eating in balance, right?

DAR: Exactly. We’ve talked about eating in balance a lot. Some animal protein, because that supplies the nutrients for your neurotransmitters, we talked about eating vegetable carbohydrates. I think everyone agrees more people need to eat more vegetables. And you know, it’s interesting, when you put that butter on the vegetables, more people eat vegetables.

MARCIE: I know! It tastes delicious.

DAR: Yes. And so butter is also good for your brain. So is coconut oil, so is olives, olive oil, avocados.

MARCIE: And of course don’t skip meals or snacks, right? That goes right in with the eating in balance.

DAR: It takes time to think about how you do that. We have additional brain boosting habits, but the brain is really complex, it’s a complex organ.

MARCIE: So you’ve got to take care of it everybody. Our goal at Nutritional Weight & Wellness is to help each and every person experience better health through eating real food. 

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