MIND-ful Superfoods

by Joel Anderson

These days, we’ve all probably heard of superfoods. Numerous lists online and in magazines describe the superfoods you should know and eat. But what makes a food a superfood? And is this sound nutrition or just hype? Will you really benefit from including these superfoods in your diet?

Foods are often given the “super” moniker based on nutrition density, whether that be vitamin and mineral content, levels of antioxidants, or amounts of healthy fats or other macronutrients. The antioxidant or anti-inflammatory properties of these foods often lands them into this category. Most often, these foods are plant-based. While more exotic foods such açai, mangosteen, and goji berries are often on these superfood lists by virtue of their antioxidant profile, more common foods such as kale, blueberries, and salmon are considered to be superfoods, too. But will incorporating these superfoods improve your health or provide you with a nutritional edge?

As much as we might sometimes like the idea of a magic nutritional bullet, one food or nutrient alone will not solve all nutritional ills or halt a chronic disease in its tracks. More current human nutrition research focuses on overall dietary patterns rather than on specific foods or nutrients. Our dietary patterns have more to do with our overall eating habits and the variety of foods that we consume, as well as the form in which we consume these.

Many have heard or read about the benefits of the Mediterranean diet. First examined by Ancel Keys following World War II, the Mediterranean diet has an abundance of vegetables and fruits. The style of eating has received a lot of attention over the past several decades given the relationship between the Mediterranean diet and reduced incidence of cardiovascular disease. In fact, this is what led Keys to study the dietary pattern in the 1950s. The benefits of the Mediterranean diet are supported by nutrition research over several decades. As a graduate student, I co-taught a course on the Mediterranean diet.

A similar dietary pattern that’s getting more buzz lately has been termed the MIND diet. In this case, MIND stands for the Mediterranean-DASH diet intervention for neurodegenerative delay (MIND). The DASH diet refers to the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension dietary plan supported by research funded by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Older adults who follow the DASH and Mediterranean diets most closely have higher levels of cognitive function. However, the MIND diet score is more positively associated with slower decline in cognitive function than either the DASH and Mediterranean diets alone. In the case of the MIND diet, there is an emphasis on a few key superfoods for which there is a solid body of research. Specifically, the MIND diet focuses on the inclusion of dark leafy greens (think kale, collards, and spinach) and berries, like blueberries, raspberries, and strawberries. Why these?

A number of research studies reported a slower decline in cognitive function with higher consumption of vegetables, with the greatest protection coming from green leafy vegetables. And while all of these studies found no association between overall fruit consumption and cognitive decline, one study did find evidence that berries may have a protective effect on the brain related to cognitive function. While the MIND diet needs further research, this dietary pattern, which includes some key superfoods, may be a great way of maintaining or improving brain health that might have beneficial effects overall given the emphasis on vegetables, fruits, and whole grains.


file-php Joel Anderson Contact

Joel G. Anderson, Ph.D., CHTP, is an Associate Professor at the University of Tennessee College of Nursing. He holds a Doctor of Philosophy Degree in Nutrition from the University of North Carolina-Greensboro, a Bachelor of Science Degree in Biology from the University of North Carolina-Wilmington, and a certificate in Advanced Clinical Dementia Practice from the University of Michigan. Dr. Anderson completed a postdoctoral research fellowship at the Center for the Study of Complementary and Alternative Therapies at the University of Virginia. Dr. Anderson’s research interests involve the use of non-pharmacological strategies to enhance symptom management and caregiver support in dementia.

A Wish for My Children

By Sarah Colby

I have two sons.

One is six feet and 125 pounds and can’t gain weight. He is mostly sedentary and eats atrociously. A few years ago, when he got a respiratory illness, he got worse fast. He did not have the 10 pounds to lose that he lost. It was scary and to this day, I wish I could personally thank the inventors of the medicines that saved his life.

My second son is about six feet, three inches and well over 300 pounds. He goes to the gym, is physically active (much more than my first child but still less than I would like) and eats a pretty healthy diet. He was 18 pounds at 2 ½ months of age, wore size 16 shoes by the time he was 12 and has always been as far above the growth charts as the charts are wide.

The ultimate irony- I am a childhood obesity prevention researcher.

Obesity is a worldwide public health crisis. Medical cost associated with weight-related illnesses may cripple our economy. Many overweight or obese children of today may become young adults with diabetes. If things continue unchanged for those young adults with diabetes, what will it do for the workforce and economy if they begin to lose their eyesight, kidneys, or feet when they are barely even middle-aged? Will our children grow up to be healthy enough to take care of their own families, contribute to society, or to protect our country? Sound dramatic? It is a realistic concern. And that does not even begin to address the human suffering that occurs at every point of this spectrum.

This threat has been widely recognized and many are dedicated to changing the outcome of this story. The great news is that among young children we are beginning to see positive changes in the overweight/obesity trends. The efforts to reach families, schools, and communities, through education, programs, policies, systems, and environmental change appear to be having an impact. That investment of research funds and time may be making a real difference.

So what patterns of healthy eating might be making a difference? In general, most of us need to consume a variety of foods, in moderation, more natural and unprocessed, enough fiber (we almost all need more beans), lean proteins, more water, and eat all the colors. No, sorry, colorful candies don’t count. If you absolutely want to cut something out of you and your child’s diet- added refined sugar. That is the one thing that I can say is fine for almost everyone to cut completely out of their diets.

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http://www.investitwisely.com

So if I know all of this, why do I still have one child seriously underweight and one child obese? Because it is not that simple. We don’t have all the answers, but we don’t give up. I talk to them about food not because they should look any specific way, but because I want them to be happy, healthy, and living the life they want to live. It is hard to be happy when we hurt and if we get sick from the way we eat and live, then we hurt. I teach my boys to enjoy healthy food and be active. Our job as parents is to provide healthy foods at every meal or snack, have regular meal times, let our kids see us enjoying eating healthy foods and being active, cook meals with our kids, eat together as a family, not use food as a reward or a punishment, and then, here is the key, not focus on what they are eating or their weight. That is the most and best we can do until we have more answers. I also believe that teaching my boys to love and appreciate their bodies and that they are beautiful the way they are, is most important. Weight matters not because we all need to look a certain way or fit a certain body type, it only matters because it impacts our health and our lives. Celebrate you, love you, accept you and live the life you want to live. That is what I wish for my children.


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Sarah Colby Contact
UT Knoxville

Dr. Colby is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Nutrition at the University of Tennessee. She is an obesity prevention behavioral researcher with a focus on health communication through novel nutrition education strategies (including marketing, arts and technology). In addition to her focus on novel communication strategies, she has research experience with young children, adolescents, and young adult populations; community-based participatory action research; Latino and Native American populations; food security issues; and environmental and economic influences on food behavior.

Get Out and Play!

by Dawn Coe

Growing up in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, I spent most of my free time outside playing with the neighborhood kids.  We played sports and games such as basketball, street hockey, “kick the can” and “washers”.  Although I spent a great amount of time outdoors, very little of that time was spent engaged in nature.  The urban setting offers few opportunities to truly experience nature.

After high school, I moved to Michigan.  Living in Ann Arbor, I began to experience nature primarily through hikes and trips to the arboretum.  I later settled down with my husband on Lake Michigan, taking advantage of the lake and hikes in the surrounding area.  Eight years ago, my family moved to Knoxville.  We immediately fell in love with the area and started going on family hikes shortly after my daughter’s birth; taking her on her first hike at only two weeks old.   As a parent, I know the importance of physical activity for children.  Therefore, my husband and I have always modeled a physically active lifestyle for our children.  I love that our children have grown to love the outdoors and have a natural tendency towards being active.

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Favorite activity on the Michigan lakes!
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Going on a family hike.

As a pediatric exercise physiologist, I have always known the positive benefits of children engaging in an active lifestyle.  As my research has evolved during my time at the University of Tennessee, my research line has veered towards the measurement of outdoor activity and activity behaviors in children.  Through this research, I have found that activity in nature provides a host of additional benefits to children than what is seen with physical activity alone.  Outdoor play encourages risk taking, providing opportunities for children to become more aware of their bodies as well as engage in vigorous activity.  Play in nature also provides a variety of sensory experiences (i.e. motor, visual, tactile) and the opportunity for active, imaginative play.  These types of experiences not only benefit the child physically but also mentally.  In general, young children (3–5 years old) should accumulate approximately 180 minutes of activity per day, while school-aged children (6-17 years) should accumulate at least 60 minutes of daily moderate (brisk walking) to vigorous (jogging) physical activity that is developmentally appropriate.

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The view from the top of Mt. LeConte

I feel the multitude of benefits of outdoor activity provide a strong impetus for me to continue encouraging my children to engage in outdoor play.  While both of my children currently take part in athletic pursuits, they still enjoy our family time outdoor together.  We try to periodically “unplug” and enjoy fun days in the Urban Wilderness or Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Resources detailing the importance of nature play in children can be found in Richard Louv’s Last Child in the Woods and on the Children & Nature Network website (http://www.childrenandnature.org/).


Dawn Coe Contact
UT Knoxville

Dawn P. Coe, Ph.D. is an associate professor in the department of Kinesiology, Recreation, and Sports Studies within the College of Education, Health, and Human Sciences at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.  Dawn is a Fellow of the American College of Sports Medicine.  Dawn’s research focuses on physical activity assessment in youth, natural playground activity and behavior, and the impact of physical activity and physical fitness on academic success in children and adolescents.  Dawn enjoys watching her children play sports and spending quality time outdoors with her family.

 

How to Avoid the “Holiday 5”

By Keith Carver

It’s the annual holiday gauntlet. You know…the calorie trap that begins with Thanksgiving and culminates New Year’s Day.

Countless office casseroles and baked goods appear in break rooms all across Tennessee. Evening functions and holiday dinner parties fill our calendars. And if we aren’t careful, we can easily pack on unwanted pounds.

Listed below are a few suggestions to keep us on track during this dangerous eating season:

Holiday BakingTreat yourself. Tasty goodies are aplenty this wonderful time of year. Look at your calendar and create a battle plan for your days. Will you be attending the office holiday party? If so, eat a reasonable breakfast and lunch to prepare for your co-worker’s famed cheesecake. Knowing there’s a reward at the end of the day can help you from grazing in the hours leading up to the party.

Water with LemonDrink your water. Water keeps you hydrated and healthy during the winter months and also helps you feel full. Having trouble keeping up with how much water to drink? Try the 3/3 method: drink three glasses of water before lunch and three glasses after. Another tip is to drink a glass of water before attending a function. The sensation of being full will help you from overindulging.

LatteWatch for hidden calories in your favorite holiday drinks. Love eggnog and boiled custard? Remember that even a small glass of these holiday favorites can contain up to 350 calories. And those wonderful holiday beverages from retail drive-thrus? Some can pack a whopping 500 calories in even the smallest containers!

Tennis ShoesGet out and walk. It’s cold outside, but even a brisk 20-minute walk can make a big difference with your calorie count and metabolism. Take time to exercise every day during the holidays. Walk the dog. Park at the back of the parking lot. Take the stairs. Do whatever you can to increase your activity. Exercise not only helps with the battle of the bulge, it also helps you to…

Moon in SkyGet some sleep. Our schedules are packed with functions and shopping, but make time to rest. In addition to impacting your productivity and leading to mental fatigue, studies show a lack of sleep also can lead to mindless overeating during the holidays. You plan your days carefully during the holidays, but be sure to include your rest schedule, too.

I hope you find these tips helpful and encourage you to share your own below.

May you be surrounded by family and friends during this holiday season!


The Carver FamilyKeith Carver  Blog  Contact
UT System Administration

Keith is husband to an amazing woman and dad to three active children. He enjoys getting outdoors with his wife, Hollianne, fishing, watching his children play sports all over East Tennessee and reading biographies of historical figures. He currently serves as the executive assistant to UT President Joe DiPietro.