More than 300 people participated in the Surry Alzheimers Walk last weekend in an effort to fund research to end Alzheimers. It’s an important cause that touches a lot of people.
Some of that research is beginning to show that diet and lifestyle is as important to the brain as it is to the heart. A healthy diet isn’t going to cure Alzheimer’s or dementia but according to a study published earlier this year in “The Lancet,” it can slow mental decline in older adults at risk of dementia.
The Mediterranean diet may help prevent brain atropy in old age as well as reduce the risk of heart disease. A perhaps lesser known factor in keeping a brain sharp is dairy. Low levels of vitamin D correlate with an increased risk of developing dementia, reported the journal Neurology last year.
Laura Buxenbaum, assistant director of nutrition affairs for the Southeast Dairy Association, says that “‘milk and yogurt are some of the best dietary sources of vitamin D.” She adds that sunscreens used to prevent skin cancer inhibit the body from absorbing vitamin D from the sun making dietary sources more important.
Buxenbaum states that lactose free milk has vitamin D and that most natural cheeses are low in lactose. “Most individuals should be fine eating them.” She also says that the probiotic content of Greek yogurt breaks down the lactose and that most individuals can tolerate yogurt. When asked if it would be okay for a lactose intolerant person to give yogurt a try or if they should consult their doctor first, she replied, “Not a whole carton at first. Everybody is different but most individuals should not have a problem.”
As far as the difference between organic and conventionally produced dairy, Buxenbaum insists that the nutritional value is the same. She also says that all milk, both conventional and organic, is antibiotic-free.
Zach Myers, owner of Myers Dairy Inc. in Jonesville and vice president of the Southeast Dairy Association, agrees that the milk produced on his farm contains no antibiotics.
Myers, who has 900 head of dairy cattle on his farm, making it one of the ten largest dairy farms in North Carolina, says that it is a misconception that organic farmers don’t use pesticides. “They use some of the same pesticides that I do.” Myers doesn’t think it’s a problem. “Milk is one of the most tested food products out there.”
So think about adding dairy to your list of brain foods. Or maybe walking. “Older individuals who walk just one to two miles a day tend to have a 35 percent lower rate of developing Alzheimer’s and other dementias,” according to Nutrition Action. Maybe an Alzheimer’s walk should be a daily affair.
All recipes are courtesy of the Southeast Dairy Association.
Banana Bread Muffins
Serves 12 (serving size: 1 muffin)
1 cup mashed ripe banana
1/3 cup low fat buttermilk
4 tablespoons butter, melted
1 large egg
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
5 ounces all-purpose flour (about 1 1/8 cups)
1/4 cup ground flaxseed
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
Preheat oven to 350°.
Combine bananas and next 3 ingredients (buttermilk through eggs) in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed. Beat in sugar. Combine flour and next 4 ingredients (flaxseed through cinnamon). Add flour mixture to banana mixture; mix just until blended. Spoon batter into a 12-count muffin tin filled with nonstick paper liners. Sprinkle each muffin with 1 teaspoon walnuts and bake at 350° for 30-35 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Remove from oven; cool 5 minutes in pan. Remove muffins to wire rack and cool completely.
Nutrition per serving
183 calories, 3g protein, 28g carb, 1.7g fiber, 7.2g fat (3.2g sat), 186mg sodium, 36mg calcium
Testing Notes: Without walnuts, calories drop to 167.
Fish Tacos with Mango-Lime Crema
Serves 4 (serving size: 1 tacos)
2/3 cup 0% Greek Yogurt
2/3 cup chopped fresh mango
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
1 teaspoon finely grated lime zest
8 (6-inch) corn tortillas
1 lb firm white fish (such as mahi mahi or tilapia)
1 tablespoon all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 cup shredded red or green cabbage
1/2 cup finely chopped avocado
1/4 cup thinly sliced green onion
To make crema, combine first 4 ingredients (yogurt through lime zest) in a mini chopper or blender. Puree until smooth. Yield: 1 cup
To make tacos, warm tortillas in a dry nonstick skillet over medium high heat until they begin to brown. Pile together on a plate; cover and keep warm.
Cut fish into 24 similar size pieces. Combine flour, salt, cumin and pepper flakes and toss with fish pieces to evenly coat. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium high heat. Add fish and cook for 4-6 minutes, turning once halfway through cooking time, or until fish is opaque throughout.
To make tacos, place 3 pieces of fish in each tortilla. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon of crema and top with one-eighth of the cabbage and 1 tablespoon avocado. Drizzle another tablespoon of crema over each taco and top with 1/2 tablespoon thinly sliced scallion.
Nutrition per serving:
360 calories 29g protein, 35g carb, 5.0g fiber, 12.2g fat (1.4g sat), 501mg sodium, 181mg calcium
Cardamom, the exotic spice that gives Chai tea it’s unique flavor, is a fun addition to this snack mix. If you can’t find it, substitute cinnamon or nutmeg. Be sure to store the granola-style gorp in an airtight container to keep it crisp.
Serves 4 (serving size: 1/2 cup yogurt, 2 T gorp, 1 teaspoon honey)
1 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
2 tablespoons plus 4 teaspoons honey, divided
2 tablespoons canola oil
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 cups 0% Greek Yogurt
Preheat oven to 325’.
Combine oats, pumpkin seeds and walnuts on a large baking sheet lined with parchment paper; toss to mix.
Combine remaining ingredients in a small microwave safe glass measuring cup or bowl, whisking to blend. Heat on HIGH for 20-30 seconds or until honey melts; pour mixture over dry ingredients and toss until well blended. Bake for 15 minutes at 325’ or until mixture begins to brown lightly, stirring a few times to keep it browning evenly. Cool until ready to use. (Yield: 2 cups.)
To assemble sundaes, scoop 1/2 cup yogurt into each of four sundae cups (could be done with an ice cream scoop so it looks like ice cream.) Drizzle each with 1 teaspoon honey and sprinkle with 2 tablespoons gorp.
Nutrition per serving.
173 calories, 14g protein, 17g carb, 1g fiber, 6.1g fat (0.7g sat), 159mg calcium, 67mg sodium
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Reach Bill Colvard at 336-415-4699, on Twitter @BillColvard or by email.