Five Foods to Fuel You and Prevent Post-Lunch Dip

Summer is finally winding down. On the first day of August, my son looked at me and said sadly, “Summer is almost over.” I looked at him like this.

 

At that point, he still had about five or six weeks of me time. But it was a good reminder that once school starts, my schedule will be a little more amped up. Right now, it’s about trying to get things done while finding time to entertain an eleven-year-old boy. #trialsofWAHM

Lately, I’ve been noticing a post-lunch dip. What the hell is that? Well, in some cultures, an afternoon siesta is needed to replenish mental and physical energy. Here in the states, that is generally frowned upon. But depending on a person’s circadian rhythms, there might be a propensity to experience low energy in the afternoon. In other words, most of us adapt to changes in our schedule if needed, however, there are a handful of people who are morning and evening-type people. There’s some evidence that personality may play a role. Introverts (like yours truly) tend to be morning people and extroverts tend to love the nightlife. But I have been experiencing a case of manic mornings that result in afternoon blahs. What I’ve found is that I need foods that raise my energy but calm me the heck down without making me crash and wanting to reach for a chocolate chip cookie at 4:00 pm. That means foods that are filling, don’t raise my blood sugar level, and that are plump full of nutrients that benefit me mentally like B vitamins. Here are some of the foods that I like to indulge in to fight that disastrous dip in energy during the afternoons:

Oregano

When I started going out with my husband many years ago, he would take me to his neighborhood pizzeria where almost every customer would sprinkle oregano on their slice before eating it. Mind you, the oregano was from a big family-size container that was zip-tied to the counter. It’s the Bronx, y’all—don’t play that mess! Taking that first bite of that slice always felt better with that warm pungent herb. As a vegan, I still enjoy a dash of oregano to kick up the flavor of my meals. Generally, oregano has been used to prevent food spoilage and has nutrients including calcium, zinc, iron, copper, and manganese. This herb is a strong antioxidant due to phenolic compounds such as caffeic acid. Furthermore, oregano contains other components such the anti-inflammatory rosmarinic acid and antimicrobials like carvacrol and thymol. Oregano constituents also have antimutagenic and anticarcinogenic properties. For example, carvacrol and thymol may suppress the growth of melanoma cells and carvacrol may be useful in regulating blood glucose levels. Some studies suggest that oregano may be effective in preventing bacterium associated with gastritis. And some animal studies indicate that rosmarinic acid may produce an antidepressive effect, which can be beneficial in combating that afternoon slump.

Buckwheat

When I think of buckwheat, I think of luscious noodles with lightly sautéed veggies accented by a sweet gingery sauce. Yep, Mama’s hungry now. When it comes to healthy food to beat those afternoon blahs, you can‘t go wrong with buckwheat. Buckwheat is high in dietary fiber, proteins, carbohydrates, and polyphenols. In fact, buckwheat’s protein content is higher than rice, wheat, millet, sorghum, and maize. Some nutritional studies indicate that buckwheat proteins have the highest cholesterol-lowering properties among the plant proteins known to science so far. These proteins may have a protective effect against colon cancer. And research indicates that buckwheat protein isolates may be effective in treating hypertension, constipation, and obesity. This plant also contains brain-boosting B vitamins such as thiamin, riboflavin, and niacin, as well as other nutrients such as vitamin E, zinc, potassium, phosphorus, and magnesium. What’s more, unlike many grains, buckwheat does not contain the antinutrient phytic acid and it’s gluten free. Phytic acid hinders mineral absorption. In addition, buckwheat has antioxidants like quercetin that are anti-inflammatory and anticarcinogenic. It has been reported that buckwheat contains two to five times more phenolic compounds than oats and barley. Please note that buckwheat does contain potential allergens for those of us who might be prone to those things. Otherwise, feel free to enjoy a bowl full of glistening, succulent, delicious buckwheat noodles (I intend to enjoy some tonight).

 

Wild rice

I remember having wild rice for the first time a couple of years ago. I grew up eating rice and peas because my family is Jamaican and I always ordered white rice in restaurants so wild rice was definitely a novelty for me. But once I tasted it, there was no going back. I loved that unique nutty flavor. Then I found out that wild rice isn’t rice at all. Wild rice is an aquatic grass. Whatever, grass tastes good, y’all (and I mean that in a non-pharmaceutical way 😊, shhh, it’s my blog so I get to be corny if I want). Anywho, wild rice is a good source of dietary fiber, protein, carbohydrates, B vitamins like niacin and riboflavin that are all wonderful for fighting that post-lunch dip. Wild rice also contains minerals such as phosphorus, iron, and potassium. This grass does contain flavonoids like apigenin that are anticarcinogenic. Some animal studies have shown that wild rice consumption may be effective in lowering liver cholesterol levels and reducing the risk of colon cancer. Wild rice can be a great transitional dish because it’s perfect for both hot summer nights and cool fall evenings.

Lemon

I’ve always been a lemon girl, meaning I love to put lemons in most of my beverages. Hot tea, ice tea, plain water, juices, sometimes they all need a lemon for that extra punch. Lemons are ubiquitous, you can find them in grocery stores, fruit stands, hell even in a decorative bowl on your favorite auntie’s kitchen table. Lemons are a powerful weapon against post-lunch dip because they are chock full of vitamin C, provide energy, and have protein and fiber. Lemons also contain B vitamins like folate, thiamin, riboflavin, and niacin, and minerals such as potassium, calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, and zinc. This plant is huge in terms of antioxidants because of the combination of vitamin C and flavonoids like hesperidin and naringenin that show anticarcinogenic, antimicrobial, antiproliferative, and anti-inflammatory activity. For instance, some animal studies suggest hesperidin may have a protective effect on bones, may have therapeutic value as a treatment for rheumatoid arthritis, and may lower blood lipid levels. Several studies indicate that lemon may be used in the treatment for conditions such as fatigue, oral cancer, urinary bladder cancer, liver cancer, cardiovascular disease, gastrointestinal diseases, obesity, and dementia. And essential oils of lemon prevent low-density oxidation and reduce plasmatic cholesterol and triglycerides that may lead to heart disease. What can’t lemons do?!! Sometimes I like to use lemons to make a refreshing, zesty dressing to top a light side salad.

White navy beans

White bean hummus is one of the most satisfying midday meals that can maximize your mood and energize you through the rest of your day. Roasted white beans drizzled with olive oil, salt, pepper, garlic, dill, a touch of cream, combined to create something that’s just…heaven. Okay, I’m back 😉. White navy beans, like other legumes, are high in protein and a great source of folate, but these beans also have thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, copper, iron, magnesium, and zinc. Navy beans have polyphenols that are antioxidant and anti-inflammatory. It has been reported that legume intake may result in reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, obesity, and colon cancer. In addition, legumes may prevent insulin-resistance and help with glycemic control for diabetic patients. Please note that white navy beans may contain trace amounts of phytate for those with possible gastrointestinal issues. Make some white bean hummus—trust, I promise you that you will not be sorry!

 

Okay, those are my go-to foods to raise my energy, mellow my moods, and get me through that post-lunch hump. What foods do that for you?

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Five Fortifiers for Supporting Your Immune System

I hope that many of you have been out and about slaying this summer! It’s been a little schizo with the weather. One minute, it’s sizzling hot and the next, it’s rainy and cool (I actually prefer a little coolness to walk around without the sweatiness but that’s just me 😉). Anywho, my son and I did a little day trip to a museum in the city and had a blast. But a few days later, my nose was stuffy and I was constantly blowing it like a trumpet. My husband said, “Looks like you have a cold.” What the hell! In July?! Who catches a cold in summer! My immunity has been a little comprised lately. Generally, your immune system acts to protect the host from infectious agents in the environment like bacteria, fungi, and viruses. But the immune system may be impaired by factors including short-term and chronic stress, aging, and poor nutrition. Truth be told, I have had some additional stressors lately in my life that I’m learning how to manage slowly but surely. Meditation and journaling has helped me tremendously. There are times when I feel angry or sad and I accept it; I don’t try to fight it off as I instinctively want to do.

Some evidence suggests that deficiencies in nutrients such as vitamin A, C, E, zinc, and selenium may also play a pivotal role in immune function. So there are some foods that I bone up on to help boost my immunity. Some of them are as follows:

Red onions

As a young 20-something carnivore, I went through this weird phase where I would put caramelized onions on everything like tuna sandwiches or grilled chicken. I have no freaking clue why I did that. Don’t judge me! Eventually, I outgrew that little scenario. Recently, I have slowly started integrating red onions back into my life. Just a little bit here and there on my veggie burgers and pasta dishes just to add some zing. Again, just a little bit. Onions contain vitamins C, E, B vitamins, potassium, calcium, and selenium. Red onions have a higher concentration of nutrients such as potassium, phosphorus, and magnesium than yellow onions. Vitamin C is crucial to the immune system because it prevents oxidative damage to lipids, proteins, and DNA in the body that can lead to the development of chronic conditions including cardiovascular disease and cancer. Also, vitamin C regenerates vitamin E when it becomes oxidized by free radicals. Some animal studies indicate that selenium deficiency decreases the body’s ability to fight off viral infections such as influenza and Keshan disease. Furthermore, low selenium levels have been associated with illnesses such as thyroid dysfunction, depression, and sperm abnormalities. In addition, this plant has strong antioxidant properties because it has flavonoids like catechin, kaempferol, myricetin, and quercetin. Quercetin protects against low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (the bad cholesterol) and reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease. I decided to do my own spin on this side dish of creamy cauliflower that is lightly topped with red onions for an extra punch.

Peaches

Peaches are an occasional treat for me, mostly if it’s in season or something like that. But when it is available, honey!!! Grilled peaches on top of ice cream—LOVE!! Okay, let me turn off my greedy button and get to it. Peaches are a good source of beta-carotene, the precursor to vitamin A. Some studies have shown that beta-carotene enhances the immune system by increasing the number of T-helper cells and natural killer cells, which are instrumental in terms of immune response to infected cells. Beta-carotene also has cancer-fighting potential because of its antioxidant ability to combat single-oxygen free radicals that may lead to conditions such as skin and lung cancer. What’s more, beta-carotene is converted to retinol that is needed for optimal vision. And this fruit has other nutrients like vitamin C, potassium, calcium, and phosphorus. As I said before, peaches are great on top of rich desserts but sometimes I need to keep it light and fresh with a summer salad.

 

Carrots

Carrots are king when it comes to beta-carotene because it is one of the best sources of this nutrient. As such, it has been reported that carrot intake has immuno-enhancing properties and has a protective effect against conditions such as stroke, high blood pressure, osteoporosis, cataracts, arthritis, heart diseases, bronchial asthma, and urinary tract infection. This antioxidant veggie is also loaded with other phytonutrients such as polyphenols like caffeic acid that have antimutagenic and antitumor properties. In addition, it contains dietary fiber and nutrients like vitamin C, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, folic acid, potassium, calcium, and magnesium. My son eats carrots all the time so we always have it in the house. I tend to snack on carrots with almond butter from time to time, but every now and then I fancy it up by roasting it with a dash of thyme and agave nectar.

Mango

My family is Jamaican, so mangoes were always around our house when I was growing up. And you didn’t eat it all chopped up and pretty. You held that sucker in your hand, chomped right into the skin, peeled the skin off, then slurped on the juicy, succulent fibrous strands until you reached the seed. Yep, yardies are hardcore my friend! Anywho, mangoes are rich in immuno-enhancing vitamin C and E, as well as essential nutrients such as potassium and copper. This fruit is high in antioxidants because it contains close to 25 different carotenoids including beta-carotene. Mangoes have polyphenols like quercetin, caffeic acid, and catechin. But the fruit has its own unique phenolic compounds such as mangiferin. All of which show anticarcinogenic, antiatherosclerotic, antimutagenic, and angiogenesis activity against degenerative diseases. Some studies suggest that mangiferin may be effective in treating heart disease. And it has been reported that mango consumption may reduce the risk of prostate and skin cancers. I love to slather mango salsa in my wraps and salads, but when it’s hot, mango salsa on a veggie burger is promising too.

Brazil nuts

Brazil nuts are definitely new to my repertoire. If you love peanuts, these nuts are for you, despite the large, weird, triangular shape. Brazil nuts taste the same—trust! Brazil nuts have protein, fiber, vitamin E, vitamin B6, thiamin, niacin, calcium, iron, potassium, copper, and magnesium. But Brazil nuts are also the best plant-based source of that immune-boosting antioxidant selenium. It has been reported that one Brazil nut provides 160 percent of the US Recommended Daily Allowance of selenium, which may lower the risk of conditions such as prostate, liver, and lung cancer. And Brazil nut consumption has been associated with lowering blood cholesterol levels. Please note that Brazil nuts do contain barium and radium, which are potentially toxic in large amounts. The best way to enjoy Brazil nuts is mixed with other nuts like cashews and almonds. Moderation is always the way to go.

 

So these of some of the foods that I like to load up on when my immune system is out of wack. What are some of the ones you eat?

Six Soothers for Sore Gums and Strengthening Teeth

Summertime means cool, refreshing treats like ice cream sundaes piled high with cherries and bananas or sorbet slushies that are frothy and spilling off the sides of your glass. Heaven! But too much of that sugary goodness can do some damage to your teeth and gums. My husband Brian has had a lot of problems with his teeth this year. Let’s just say the words “root canal” were mentioned at one point. Blessedly, he didn’t have to go that route. Growing up, I remember my mother would frequently visit the dentist because of sore gums. Red, bleeding, or inflamed gums is usually a telltale sign of gingivitis and periodontitis, which can be associated with other conditions such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and poor wound healing. Gingivitis is caused by plaque forming on the teeth that then irritates the gums. The longer the plaque sits, the more irritated the gums become. The gums can start bleeding even with gentle brushing. Periodontitis occurs when the untreated gingivitis eventually loosens the tooth from the gums and results in tooth loss. Treatment of periodontitis includes good oral hygiene and professional dental care. I repeat, professional dental care. So if you are suffering from these conditions or other oral care issues, don’t be a hero and sit there with your teeth jacked up–seek out a physician pronto.

According to the World Health Organization, oral disease are the fourth most expensive disease to treat. Risk factors to oral diseases include: smoking, alcohol, behaviors that cause injuries, stress, diet, and dirt (hygiene). Natural anti-inflammatories like curcumin (turmeric) and antimicrobials like tea tree oil can help in treating some periodontal issues. But prevention is key. Start by limiting your consumption of sugars and boosting your intake of fruits and veggies. Okay preach session over.

Other foods I like to add to my arsenal to keep tooth decay at bay are:

Watercress

Watercress is kind of new to my menu. I saw it at the market and decided what the hell, let’s do it. And I’m glad I did. Watercress has a sharp undertone that could easily replace boring lettuce in any sandwich or bring a peppery note to soups and pasta. This Brassicaceae veggie is usually found in cool, running water along the banks of rivers, ditches, and streams (so wash it well because it can have a little dirt y’all). Like its close relatives broccoli and cauliflower, watercress is high in similar nutrients such as vitamins C, E, and K, folic acid, calcium, iron, and iodine. It is also rich in the carotenoids lutein and beta-carotene. Most importantly, watercress is full of isothiocyanates, one of the products of glucosinolates, plant compounds that are known for their cancer-fighting properties. Isothiocyanates activate detoxification enzymes and suppress cancer-promoting enzymes in the body. Some studies have shown that isothiocyanates have reduced the risk of lung cancer and have prevented tumors in other parts of the body such as the liver, pancreas, colon, bladder, and mammary gland (breast). What’s more, it has been reported that watercress supplementation reduced DNA damage that may lead to elevated cancer risk and increased antioxidant concentration of lutein and beta-carotene in adults. In addition, some animal studies suggest that watercress extract may promote the healing of mouth lesions. I like to toss watercress on my pasta for an extra kick of flavor.

Tulsi

By now, you guys have guessed that Mama likes her tea 😉. So I am always looking for any excuse whatsoever to try a new herbal blend. But tulsi is special guys. This adaptogen herb is an antioxidant that contains vitamin A and C, calcium, zinc, and iron. Some animal studies indicate that tulsi may lower blood sugar levels, may promote the healing of keloid and hypertropic scars, and has cardioprotective and gastroprotective effects. Please note that tulsi has also shown antifertility effects as well, so if you have interests in those areas, do abstain. And some evidence suggests that tulsi may exhibit antimicrobial activity against certain types of periodontal bacteria that may cause dental caries. Every now and then, I like to start my morning off with a cup of tulsi to help ease me right into the rigors of the day.

 

Sage

Sage is usually one of my favorite winter spices. I like to add it to my stuffing and really creamy soups like butternut squash or pumpkin. Sage is a strong antioxidant herb that is similar in composition to rosemary because it contains phenolic compounds like rosmarinic acid and carnosic acid. But sage drop kicks rosemary in the antioxidant department because it has additional flavonoids and phenolic acids like sagecoumarin that show moderate antioxidant activity. Some studies have shown that sage extract has anti-inflammatory effects that promote the healing of gingivitis.

 

Strawberries

Who doesn’t love strawberries? Strawberries are probably the only berry I remember having as a child because every member of my family loved it compared to other types of berries. I think that strawberry was my favorite flavor too but that might be because I wasn’t used to other flavors. Yep, poor deprived me but I will save that for another time 😊. Anywho, strawberries are a mega star when it comes to vitamin C content and it is also a good source of vitamin B6, folate, vitamin K, A, and E. It contains minerals such as potassium, iodine, magnesium, copper, iron, and phosphorus. And while vitamin C deficiency doesn’t cause oral conditions like periodontitis, lack of this nutrient can negatively affect collagen synthesis and wound healing needed to avoid such conditions. For example, regeneration of collagen allows the tooth to remain attached to the gums. So pile on those strawberries! I like to have my berries as the main feature of my breakfast bowl.

 

Green tea

I cannot describe in words my love of green tea. It is my go-to boo, my number one stunner, just everything. #mamalovestea Do not mess with me and my green tea. I have written about the benefits of green tea here. Here’s a short recap: green tea is rich in antioxidants such as catechins, which are polyphenols that have anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antimutagenic, and antidiabetic properties. Green tea contains vitamins B, C, and E and minerals such as calcium, magnesium, iron, zinc, copper, and selenium. Several studies have shown that green tea is effective in inhibiting the growth of certain periodontal bacteria and treating factors associated with periodontitis such as bleeding and tooth attachment loss. Y’all know that anytime is a green tea time with me, don’t need a reason at all!

 

Aloe Vera

Aloe vera is one of the best healing plants around. As a teenager, I remember snipping off part of the aloe vera leaf, then cutting it open and placing it on my red, itchy rash. I still use aloe vera gel on my acne breakouts, dark spots, and even occasionally on my hair. It’s not the miracle plant for nothing, folks. Aloe vera has vitamins A, C, E, B vitamins like folic acid, and choline. It also has minerals such as calcium, iron, magnesium, manganese, potassium, and zinc. What makes aloe vera unique is that it contains 75 active constituents including glycoproteins, polysaccharides, and anthraquinones that, either acting alone or synergistically, may have anti-inflammatory, immunomodulatory, and wound-healing effects (when applied topically). Aloe sap and aloe gel are sometimes confused. The gel is the mucilage found within the center of the leaf. The gel contains no anthraquinones, which are responsible for the laxative effect of the plant. Aloe vera’s wound-healing and anti-inflammatory properties have been widely reported and extensively studied. There is some evidence that indicates that aloe vera may be effective as a treatment for oral diseases such as gingivitis and oral lichen planus. But results are mixed. Some studies suggest a delay of wound healing, while others show that it promotes wound healing. WTF?! Here’s why: aloe vera gel varies based on the type of aloe and other factors such as climate, region, and processing method. So you won’t know unless you try it for yourself and see if it works. I like this brand when I can’t get the actual leaf.

That’s my list for foods that amp up strong gums and teeth. What works for you?

Five Foods to Maximize Memory

It’s been even more freaking hectic than usual. #ughh The school year has ended for my son and summer camp is on and poppin’ without barely a break in between. As a WAHM, this tremendously jacks up my routine but in a good way. It means that I push myself beyond my usual comfort zone to remember things that ultimately benefit my family like remembering new faces and names of camp personnel and different pick up/drop off times. So guess what else gets jacked up? Yep, my memory. Remembering little things like whether or not I brushed my teeth before going to bed becomes an issue when trying to balance other items on my agenda. I generally have a decent memory when it comes to the important things (okay I do have this thing when it comes to music where I can’t remember a song title or lyric to save my life but that’s another story for another day 😊).

 

One of the best things that you can do to boost your memory is eat choline-rich foods. Choline is a nutrient that plays a vital role in the development of the brain, particularly the memory center or hippocampus. Choline is the precursor to the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, which is responsible for memory. Lack of acetylcholine means declining memory. Please note that expecting moms are very vulnerable to this deficiency because pregnancy and lactation may deplete choline reserves. Adults may be susceptible to memory decline as they age. Choline can be kind of tricky for vegans because animal sources tend to outnumber plant-based ones with this nutrient. But there are some foods like wheat germ, wheat bran, and quinoa that are great sources to satisfy your choline requirement. In addition, you should increase your fruit antioxidants to scavenge for those damaging free radicals that may lead to conditions that affect memory. There is much evidence to suggest that fruit flavonoids promote beneficial effects on memory and learning by promoting cerebral blood flow. More brain flow means optimal brain function. Here are some of the memory foods that I like:

 

Apples

Apples are loaded with antioxidants. In fact, it has been reported that when compared with other fruits consumed in the United States, apples had the second highest level of antioxidants after cranberries. This means a decreased risk of chronic diseases that may screw with your memory. Some studies have linked apple consumption with a reduced risk of lung cancer, Type II diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. But before you start slicing up that McIntosh or Granny Smith, please note that the peel has the highest level of antioxidants. Apples also contain a plethora of phytochemicals or beneficial chemical compounds such as catechin and quercetin. Quercetin may be effective in improving spatial learning and memory deficits. I like to have cooked apples with a dash of cinnamon (a great stimulant) every now and then with my dinner or dessert.

 

 

Blueberries

Blueberries are another huge fruit in the world of antioxidants. That antioxidant punch may come from anthocyanins that give the fruit its blue pigment. Blueberries have phytochemicals such as folic acid, vitamins A and C, carotenoids, and dietary fiber. Some studies suggest that blueberry consumption may decrease the effects of age-related memory loss and may halt deficits in spatial working memory. In addition, a 2010 study found that blueberry supplementation decreased depressive symptoms in older adults who suffered from memory changes. I have blueberries in salads, chia pudding, smoothies, but it’s summertime so I want blueberries on my ice cream y’all! BTW, I like this ice cream a helluva lot right now.

 

Cauliflower

Cauliflower was always second best for me compared to broccoli. It seemed like bland runner-up to other veggies. When I became a vegan, I found out that cauliflower could be exciting. You can make cauliflower hot wings—MADNESS! Soooo good!!! Cauliflower, like other brassica vegetables, contains carotenes, vitamin C, folic acid, calcium, and iron. And it has glucosinolates, plant metabolites that can protect against cancer. Most importantly, cauliflower contains memory-enhancing choline. Half a cup of cooked/boiled cauliflower can supply 24mg per serving of choline. So don’t be afraid to cram on this cruciferous veggie!

 

Edamame (soybeans)

I have talked about my fan fair with certain types of soy like tempeh here. Soy is a top plant-based protein that contains all the essential amino acids to maintain and build muscle. Some research has shown that soybeans may have potential for cancer prevention because of the high content of genistein, one of its isoflavones. But soybeans are also a high-choline food. Some animal studies have shown that soy isoflavones may reduce memory deficits and may have a positive influence on spatial memory tasks. What is great about edamame is that they are immature soybeans that have more protein and vitamins than regular soybeans. Edamame contains vitamins B1 and B2, calcium, and phosphorus. I love to snack on edamame as an appetizer when we go out to restaurants because of the light, mild taste never overwhelms the rest of the meal. I like to eat this brand at home.

Rosemary

Rosemary is the ultimate brain booster. I talked about how rosemary may help improve your focus here. Rosemary has antioxidant polyphenols such as rosmarinic acid that also has antiviral and antibacterial properties. It has been reported that rosmarinic acid may be a therapeutic agent for Alzheimer’s disease. Other compounds found in rosemary such as carnosic acid have anti-inflammatory and antitumor effects. And some evidence suggests that rosemary may serve as an antidepressant. Some animal studies indicate that rosemary may improve short and long-term memory processes. In fact, a 2012 study showed that rosemary had a positive effect on memory speed for older adults. Fresh rosemary is killa’ on top of potatoes but when that’s not available, dried rosemary can be a refreshing addition as well.

 

Those are the foods I use to fight memory loss, what foods fuel your memory?

Five Ways to Handle Headaches

Last Sunday, I woke up with a bothersome sinus headache. I knew that it was connected to the pollen floating around from the previous day. In fact, as my family and I were driving back and forth for our errands, my son looked out the car window and pointed to the small white wisps and said, “Look at all the pollen blowing in the wind!” I rarely get headaches at all, thank goodness, but unfortunately headaches are all too common for many people that we know and love. Common triggers for headaches may include:

  • Foods such as ripened cheeses, chocolate, vinegar, and fermented foods
  • Caffeine
  • Hunger
  • Dehydration
  • Drug-related reactions
  • Hormonal factors such as menstruation and pregnancy
  • Visual stimuli such as glare, eyestrain, and flicker
  • Odors and smells such as paint and exhaust fumes
  • Seasonal factors such as sudden changes in weather, humidity, heat, and cold
  • Allergens such as pollen
  • Head trauma
  • Neck pain
  • Sexual intercourse

Chronic headaches can result in lost peace of mind and income. It is estimated that 156 full-time work days were lost because of headaches, at a possible cost of $25 billion in lost productivity. So it is absolutely important to identify these triggers and to prevent these headaches from occurring if possible. And most importantly, seek professional medical attention if you are a chronic sufferer.

On the rare occasions that I do have a headache, there are certain foods that I like to indulge in for relief. Here are some of them:

Green Tea

Green tea leaves contain caffeine (I know, I know, I just said caffeine may be a trigger—I’ll explain), theophylline, essential oils, and polyphenols. Okay, caffeine influences the central nervous system by decreasing fatigue, increasing wakefulness, and facilitating idea association. That’s why we like it now and again, but moderation is the key. In addition, theophylline causes a relaxation of the bronchial smooth muscle and stimulates on a respiratory level. This is beneficial for those of us who are suffering from allergy-related headaches. Also, those polyphenols are powerful antioxidants that have anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties that boost our immune system, definitely a plus when healing your body. Green tea is my beverage of choice for most mornings. I have it plain without an ounce of sweetener (it took me a while to get used to that!) with a dash of amla powder and lemon or ginger juice.

 

Cayenne Pepper

Cayenne Pepper contains the compound capsaicin that stimulates circulation and aids digestion.  Some evidence suggests that capsaicin has strong anti-inflammatory properties that may be useful in treating conditions such as neuropathic pain. And some clinical studies have found that capsaicin may be effective in relieving and preventing sinus headaches, cluster headaches, and migraine headaches. Cayenne peppers also contain vitamins and minerals such as vitamins A, C, and E, calcium, magnesium, iron, and potassium. I like to sprinkle cayenne pepper on my morning avocado toast on when I need it.

Garlic

I grew up with a Jamaican mother who wouldn’t hesitate to put fresh garlic or garlic powder on any meal she was preparing for dinner that night. And when I say garlic, I don’t mean a dash. I mean a full-blown massive attack where you are walking away with some halitosis. I am proud and, a little bit scared to admit, that I inherited a little of her sensibilities when it comes to this plant. I don’t think I put as much garlic in my dishes as she did, but just enough for my husband to yell that he can smell it from the living room 😊. Garlic is a stimulant, antiseptic, antihypertensive, and carminative. This plant has vitamin A, C, sulfur, iron, calcium, selenium, magnesium and manganese. But most importantly, garlic contains compounds such as allicin that have antioxidant properties for scavenging the body for those damaging free radicals, which is definitely helpful when combating pain. I like to have raw garlic cloves with my dinner for that extra boost of flavor.

 

Ginger

One major rule in my household is that we use garlic and ginger in treating a lot of common illnesses like colds and coughs. Again, it’s the Jamaican background, my friend. Ginger, like garlic, is a potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory. This plant has been studied as a treatment for conditions such as post-operative nausea and vomiting. But some studies indicate that ginger may be as effective as medications like sumatriptan for treating acute* migraines. I like to have a spoonful of fresh minced ginger first thing in the morning before eating any meal. Lately, I’ve been enjoying this brand below.

 

Magnesium-Rich Food

I have spoken about why it is important to have magnesium as a staple in your diet here. Magnesium deficiency may be associated with headaches. For example, some studies have shown that low magnesium levels have been found in patients with cluster headaches. And it has been reported that magnesium may be an effective complementary treatment for migraines. I like to take the preventive route and have a high magnesium food like chickpeas with rice when I feel the slightest bit of pressure coming on.

 

So these are some of the ways I ward off headache woes. How do you do it?

*Again, please note that I am not a medical professional, so it is absolutely important to consult one before using any method to treat a serious condition.