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“Be” Brain Healthy, “B” Vitamins and a Bonus Recipe!

15 May

Eating and cooking are wonderful sensory experiences and great brain activity boosters. The food we eat, and what goes in it, supplies our bodies and our brains with what we need to thrive. One of the really cool things about exploring how food can help us think better is that this is an area where we can actually do something tangible to make a difference.

Since I have been harping on the “Be”s of brain health, let’s talk about vitamin Bs!

Before we dive in, there is one thing to keep in mind — research into how vitamins and minerals change brain functioning is so very new. So much more study needs to be done before anyone can say with any certainty what is “true”. There comes a time though, when it does not hurt anything to act before all the evidence is in. With that thought at the center of this discussion….

There is more and more support in the research literature to strongly suggest that high levels of the B family of vitamins (B1, B2, B6, folate, B12) in the blood is associated with better cognitive functioning and greater brain volume.   That means both thinking better and increasing the size of your brain…. A recent study really seems to support this.   Healthy, older adults who took tablets of large doses of folic acid, B12, and B6 actually cut their age-related mild cognitive impairment in half when compared to a similar group of healthy older adults who did not take the supplement (Bowman et al, 2012).  Increasing vitamin B levels with a simple tablet had pretty powerful impact.

Yes, there are less than 100 published studies and yes. you should not take massive quantities of vitamin B without knowing all the facts. The bottom line is, however, there is enough evidence to comfortably say that increasing vitamin B intake, through food, could be good for your brain. The chances of getting too much vitamin B just by changing a bit of your dietary focus and adding foods that are high in vitamin B are pretty slim.

The following is a listing of some great sources for 5 kinds of B vitamins from the Livestrong Foundation, a great source for nutritional information of all kinds!

 Thiamin (B1)

Pork, ham, dark green leafy vegetables, fortified whole-grain cereals, wheat germ, enriched rice, green pea, lentils and nuts such as almonds and pecans.

Riboflavin (B2)

Milk and milk products such as yogurt and cheese, asparagus, spinach and other dark green leafy vegetables, chicken, fish, eggs and fortified cereals.


Leafy greens such as spinach and turnip greens and other fresh fruits and vegetables. All grain products such as breads, pastas and rice are fortified with folate.

Vitamin B6

Some of the best sources of vitamin B6 are poultry, seafood, bananas, leafy green vegetables such as spinach, potatoes and fortified cereals.

Vitamin B12

Animal foods are the only natural source of vitamin B12.   Soy products and cereals are fortified with B12 so it is widely available in the food supply. Other good natural sources include shellfish, such as clams, mussels and crab, fin fish and beef.


 Vegetarians can look for foods fortified with B12 or take a good quality supplement.   Make sure that you getting cyanocobalamin, a water soluble form of vitamin B12 that can be absorbed by the body!

Here is my recipe for split pea soup.   This is packed with B vitamins!  Enjoy!

Split Pea Soup

I make this in the slow cooker and usually use the bone leftover from the spiral cut ham.

1- 16 oz package split peas

4  quarts cold water

ham bone with plenty of ham left

2 onions thinly slices

2 large pinches of sea salt

1 large pinch of freshly ground black pepper

3 cloves of garlic, minced

6 stalks of celery, chopped

8 carrots, chopped

1 large potato, diced


 In a large slow cooker, cover peas with 2 quarts cold water and soak overnight.    Once peas are soaked, add ham bone, onion, carrots, celery, salt, pepper, and garlic. Cover and turn the slow cooker on low for at least 6 hours.  Make sure to stir occasionally so you make sure there is plenty of liquid.   Remove bone; cut off meat, dice and return meat to soup. Add potatoes about an hour before you are ready to serve.

What recipes do you recommend that are high in the B vitamins?

Brain Food: Spice Up Your Dishes and Protect Your Brain

2 Jul

Evidence is mounting that our brains benefit dramatically when we consume healthy amounts of food containing antioxidants and anti-inflammatories. Healthy levels of both in the blood have been linked to:
• Reduced age-related inflammation in the brain.
• Healthier immune systems.
• Inhibiting the progress of buildup of beta amyloids found in Alzheimer’s patients’ brains.
• Increased cognitive functioning and brain mass.

This area of research is in its infancy and much more study is needed to show exactly how it all works. For now and for all practical purposes, it is enough to know that paying attention to getting enough antioxidants and anti-inflammatory elements in our diet will, without question, make us healthier and think better.

Spice things up!
Spices are incredible, little known sources of antioxidants and anti-inflammatories. When you add spice to your dishes you are doing 2 really great things: wake up your senses and reduce your risk of damage to your brain from the effects of long term inflammation.

For an all-out powerful antioxidant/anti-inflammatory infusion, try adding these spices to your recipes:
• Oregano
• Rosemary
• Sage
• Nutmeg
• Basil
• Turmeric
• Cinnamon
• Ginger
• Cloves
• Chili powder
• And yes… dark chocolate!

Here is my version of Gazpacho with extra brain protecting ingredients:

Brain Boosting GazpachoCold soup with warm spices

8 large vine-ripe tomatoes (2 diced in small pieces)
1 large cucumber, peeled and diced
2 large sweet red peppers, diced
½ purple onion, diced
2 cups of fresh corn
Juice of 1 lime
A handful each fresh rosemary, sage, and basil
1 palm full of turmeric
1 shake ground ginger
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
Salt & pepper
2 large handfuls of cilantro or curly parsley chopped finely
2 scallions, diced
1 avocado, sliced

Place 6 large tomatoes and fresh herbs in the blender or food processor and blend until smooth. Dice 2 remaining tomatoes and all of the onion, cucumbers, and sweet red peppers and put in a large serving bowl. Roast an ear of corn (3 to 5 minutes on the grill). Remove the corn from the cob and place in the bowl with the diced veggies. Pour the blended tomatoes and fresh herbs on top of the bowl of veggies. Add Worcestershire sauce and salt and pepper to taste. Chill for at least 1 hour. Spoon cold soup into serving bowls. Chop cilantro, scallions, and avocado and sprinkle on the top. .

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