Six Summer Quenchers that Satisfy Your Body

Summer sizzle is on and blazing! The temperature has been scorching. My son and I were outside tooling around and within five minutes, FIVE minutes y’all, sweat was pouring down my legs! I kid you not. Lucky thing I was wearing black shorts—always bet on black 😉.

The average global temperature is increasing and it is estimated to go up another 1.8 to 4.0 degrees Celsius by 2100 depending on efforts to limit greenhouse gas emissions. Then throw in modern urban development fixtures that can add more degrees to local temperatures such as heat absorption in road tar-seals and concrete buildings. Increasing local temperatures means higher human exposure to heat, which may create unhealthy and potentially dangerous situations for people who don’t have air conditioning or other cooling methods.

The human body maintains a core temperature of 37 degrees Celsius. During hot weather, your body typically cools itself off through sweating or contact with cooler air and air movement. But if these methods are inefficient, that heat generation needs to be reduced. If physical activity is high in a hot environment with an increased core body temperature above 38 degrees Celsius (100.4 degrees Fahrenheit), then diminished physical capacity and mental task ability may occur, resulting in heat exhaustion. Some symptoms of heat exhaustion may include headache, dizziness, fatigue, malaise, and nausea, which can be resolved by proper hydration and cooling. But serious heat stroke and possibly death can happen if body temperature exceeds 40 degrees Celsius. This is particularly important for those who work outside, children, older adults, and those who are chronically ill during these extreme temperatures. So please, please stay hydrated and dress comfortably and, if you can, check in a loved one who needs it during these hot patches.

The key to managing these disrespectful weather conditions is to stay cool and hydrated. So I stock up on my usual high-water content foods like pineapple (also anti-inflammatory) and cucumber. Here are some other surefire ways to beat the heat:

Watermelon

What list for cooling foods wouldn’t be complete without watermelon? Watermelon is synonymous with summer. And I’m saying this as a person who used to abhor watermelon at cookouts. But as you get older, you get wiser and all that. Watermelon is a great hydrator with a moisture content of 93 percent. The fruit is also rich in lycopene, the red antioxidant that gives the fruit its pigment and protects against cancer. It has been reported that the lycopene concentration of fresh watermelon is 40 percent higher than raw tomato. #watermelonwins Some evidence indicates that lycopene is effective against certain cancers including breast cancer, prostate cancer, and lung cancer. What’s more, lycopene works with vitamin E to prevent low-density lipoprotein, the bad cholesterol that results in heart disease. The fruit is also a good source of chromium,  a nutrient that benefits patients with diabetes by regulating blood sugar levels. Watermelon has beta-carotene and vitamin C, vitamin B1, vitamin B6, potassium, and magnesium. It’s summer so watermelon sippers are definitely on hand.

 

Zucchini

I have a love/hate relationship with zucchini, depending on the type of dish that I make with it. Why am I telling you this before I try to encourage you to eat it? Because you will either love it or hate it, depending on the type of dish you make. What I’ve found is that zucchini generally work better when it’s thinly sliced, julienned, or spiralized. Otherwise, you are asking for a sea of mushy veggies. And Mama don’t like mush. This is just my opinion, I repeat my opinion, go for what you know. Zucchinis have a water content of 95 percent and it contains the antioxidants vitamin C and eye-boosting lutein that protects against age-related macular degeneration. The vegetable also has beta-carotene, folate, potassium, magnesium, and phosphorus. Some evidence suggests that zucchini consumption may be beneficial in preventing conditions such as colon cancer and heart disease. Two years ago, we got a spiralizer and it totally changed my relationship with zucchini. Zoodles (zucchini noodles) is one of the best dishes to have on a hot summer night.

 

 

Coconut water

I grew up hearing the lyrics to Harry Belafonte’s song, “Coconut Woman” before I could even speak. Get you coconut water, Man, it’s good for your daughter. When I was about nine years old, I went to Jamaica for the first time to visit my family. I watched with trepidation and excitement as men would climb coconut trees and get green coconuts that looked odd compared to the brown hairy bowling-ball ones that were in America. They would chop off the top with a machete, scoop out a little of the coconut meat, then stick a straw in it (if you were a newbie like me) or lift that shell to right to your lips to drink the sweet juice. I said it once and I will say it again: yardies are hardcore! At the time, I thought it was the craziest thing ever but now I realize how lucky I was to experience coconut water straight from the source itself. Coconut water has protein, sugars, vitamin C, B vitamins, potassium, and iron. This water also has antioxidant and anticarcinogenic properties. But what makes coconut water really special is that electrolytes like potassium and sodium make it a great hydrator for restoring the losses of electrolytes from the body, particularly from areas such as the skin and urinary pathways. According to a 2000 study published in the American Journal of Emergency Medicine, coconut water was effective as a short-term intravenous hydration fluid for one critically ill patient. Don’t get any ideas because this was due to hospital shortage in a remote area of the world. But when it comes to mild dehydration, you can’t go wrong with coconut water when it comes to replenishing those fluids in your body.

 

 

Oranges

I go through these food phases where I will eat a certain kind of food for one of my meals pretty much five days a week. And that was oranges. My weekday breakfast used to be soy yogurt with about half an orange. It was a perfect light breakfast that kept me satisfied until midday. I’ve moved on from that humble breakfast but I still love oranges. What is wonderful about oranges is that they are usually so accessible. I’m a New Yorker so I’ve gotten oranges from street vendors, bodegas, supermarkets—you name it. Oranges are also a high-water fruit with a water content of 85.7 percent. We all know that oranges are chock full of vitamin C and dietary fiber. In addition, the fruit contains thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B6, and vitamin E, as well as minerals such as calcium, potassium, iron, and phosphorus. Oranges are loaded with antioxidant flavonoids and carotenoids that have anti-inflammatory, antimutagenic, and anticarcinogenic properties. Flavonoids prevent the growth of tumors such as colon, oral, breast, and lung cancer cells. Furthermore, these compounds protect against oxidative stress that may lead to cardiovascular disease. Red or blood oranges contain other antioxidant compounds such as anthocyanins that are not present in other varieties of oranges. I love the addition of oranges to a nice lunch or dinner salad.

 

 

Celery

Sometimes at 3:00 or 4:00 in the afternoon, I need a little snack to tide me over until dinner and I have absolutely no freaking clue what to eat. Celery has a crisp, sharp taste that works so well with dips like almond butter and hummus. Chop up a few sticks of this veggie with something to dip with and mission accomplished! Celery is a perfect hot-weather hydrator because it has a water content of 95 percent. This vegetable is rich in vitamin C, folic acid, beta-carotene, potassium, magnesium, silica, chlorophyll, and fiber. Some studies indicate that celery has shown antifungal activity against certain types of bacteria. What’s more, it has been reported that celery is a mild diuretic that may benefit arthritis and gout patients in eliminating uric acid and that the vegetable may have anti-inflammatory potential to reduce joint swelling and pain. I like to add a little celery to my chickpea salad sandwich for crunch and coolness.

 

 

Star fruit (Carambola)

I wasn’t really familiar with star fruit until my son pointed it out at the supermarket and asked if he could try it. I knew enough about it to know that it tastes similar to apple, so why not give it a try? And yes, the fruit does taste like apple with a slight sour undertone. Star fruits are a wonderful refresher because they have an average moisture content of 90 percent. The fruit has nutrients such as vitamin C, beta-carotene, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, calcium, iron, phosphorus, potassium, proteins, and dietary fibers. The leaves and pulp are also a good source of antioxidants flavonoids like quercetin and apigenin that have anti-inflammatory and anticarcinogenic properties. Some research indicates that star fruit may be effective in reducing blood glucose levels and reducing serum triglyceride and total cholesterol levels that may lead to cardiovascular disease. What’s more, the fruit has shown selective activity against brain tumor and liver carcinoma cells. Please note that there have been some reports of toxicity after star fruit consumption for some patients with kidney disease. I like to mix star fruit in my beverages, salads, or just have it plain for a midday snack. No fuss, no muss.

 

 

These are a few of the foods that I like to cool off with. What works for you?

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?

Five Foods to Beat Breakouts and Relieve Rashes

  • It’s summertime and the living is easy—and sweaty!

For the past two summers, I’ve noticed that random pimples will pop up on my forehead, usually near the hairline. And I’ve had some redness and irritation from constantly shaving my legs (Mama likes smooth legs 😉). I’ve always been prone to skin allergies and rashes, particularly eczema flare-ups, which I talk about here. Thankfully, this isn’t eczema but just your garden-variety hot weather breakout and rashes. Phytonutrients or compounds found in plant-derived foods such as curcumin (turmeric) and polyphenols found in fruits and veggies like raspberries and pomegranates (rich in antioxidant ellagic acid) are wonderful basic methods of reducing skin inflammation and DNA damage from ultraviolet radiation. In addition, those of us who are vulnerable to occasional whiteheads and blackheads may want to increase our intake of omega-3 fatty acids. These fatty acids are responsible for skin repair and flexibility. You can read my rundown on this skin mega-nutrient here. That means upping your consumption of foods like flaxseeds, chia seeds, walnuts, and hemp seeds. Here are some of other foods that I partake in when I need to banish breakouts and reduce rashes:

Cucumbers

Cucumber isn’t just a summer-refresher veggie because it has a water content of 95 percent. This vegetable is one of the most important weapons against skin inflammation. Cucumbers are full of antioxidants such as beta carotene (the primary precursor to vitamin A) and vitamin C. It also contains B vitamins, vitamin K, flavonoids such as quercetin and luteolin and minerals such as silica. Silica is absolutely necessary when it comes to collagen production. Collagen is a type of protein found throughout the body and is important for maintaining the tone and elasticity of your skin. I tend to go the traditional route when it comes to cucumbers and enjoy them in my salads, but when I want to go all-out I’ll throw them in a big heaping sandwich like this one.

Brown rice

Rice is my go-to meal when I have no clue what I want to eat for dinner. Or when the clock is ticking and I need something quick fast in a hurry. Or when the cupboards are pretty much out of darn near everything else. You get the picture. Before we jump into the benefits of brown rice, I want to address the elephant in the room: arsenic. It has been reported that rice consumption is linked with exposure to low-level arsenic, which may have adverse health effects. According to the authors of a 2012 study published in Environmental Health Perspectives, “At present, the health effects of low-level arsenic exposure are uncertain…” The conclusion is that further research needs to be done. With that said, brown rice is superior to polished or white rice because it has high dietary fiber and complex carbohydrates (a boon for those who have Type II diabetes), vitamin E, B vitamins, low glycemic index, and minerals such as magnesium, thiamine, and iron. It also has selenium, an antioxidant mineral that is essential for wound repair. Selenium plays a role in protecting the skin from excessive UV light damage and preventing skin cancer. I’m not fussy: I like rice with pretty much everything including lentils, chickpeas, veggie sausage, veggie chicken, black beans, just to name a few.

 

Red bell peppers

Peppers are not something I eat often, but when I do, I love to roast them with a light drizzle of olive oil. Red bell peppers are rich in vitamin C. Most of us know that vitamin C is an antioxidant that destroys free radicals that can damage healthy cells. Vitamin C also forms bonds between collagen fiber strands to provide extra stability and strength. But what makes red bell peppers so darn special is that it contains more than 30 different carotenoids (plant pigments with antioxidant properties) including beta-carotene and zeaxanthin, which I discussed here. Bell peppers also have other nutrients such as vitamin E, thiamine, and niacin. So slice open that sucka and grill it, bake it, or chop it!

Pecans

In my pre-vegan and pre-vegetarian days, I used to cap off a long day at work by stopping at a pretty well-known cookie shop for their signature pecan pie brownies. They were just ooey-gooey madness that melted in my mouth. Those were the good old days before I knew what I know now. But we vegans can still enjoy the sweet taste of pecans and its nutrients. Pecans contain vitamin E, folic acid, calcium, potassium, and magnesium. Some studies suggest that pecans can help prevent the buildup of low-density lipoprotein cholesterol. Best of all, these nuts are a really good source of zinc.  Zinc is a vital nutrient for growth and development including proper immune system function and reproduction (affecting both males and females). Zinc deficiency has been linked to conditions such as Parkinson’s disease, taste impairment, and loss of smell. As far as the skin goes, zinc is a crucial component of wound healing because the nutrient is required for the synthesis of DNA and collagen. I still love pecan pie anything like this treat but my snacks have a little less guilt attached to them.

 

Oats

Oats are my old standby food when it comes to breakfast. They are dependable, filling, versatile, and always healthy. I talk about some of its attributes here. Oats contain vitamin B1, vitamin B6, magnesium, iron, and wound-healing zinc. But oats also have avenanthramides, which are phenolic compounds that are antioxidant and anti-inflammatory. Some research indicates that avenanthramides are associated with the cardioprotective effects of oats. In addition, when applied topically, these compounds may alleviate the inflammation and itching that accompany dermatologic conditions such as eczema and atopic dermatitis. If you are going to go the topical route, please use colloidal oatmeal. Colloidal oatmeal is produced by finely grinding the oats and boiling out the colloidal material for usage. Regular oatmeal in your shower drain is not a good look folks.

 

There you have it, my foods for soothing breakouts and itchy rashes. What do you do?

Six Suggestions for Soothing an Upset Stomach

As I mentioned before, I have suffered from many allergies and chronic inflammation MY…ENTIRE…LIFE. As a result, sometimes I can experience lots of moments of embarrassing and uncomfortable indigestion. You know the kind where you’re sitting at your laptop and you have to tighten your abs—not because you’re pretending to be Vin Diesel—but because you want to prevent your stomach from making a horrible gurgling sound. Okay, maybe it’s just me 😊. Stress, diet, and side effects from medication can also cause an upset stomach. One of the first things I like to do is practice an elimination diet. Too much sugar or gluten are common culprits for me. Maybe I’ll try a yoga asana like a standing forward bend or seated spinal twist to stimulate those digestive juices. You can learn more about what yoga poses help with indigestion here. There are wonderful time-tested natural solutions such as fennel seeds, ginger, dill, and turmeric that are effective with mild indigestion (BTW: please see a physician if this is a chronic condition). But there are some remedies that I return to again and again. Here are a few of them:

Basil

I grew up eating dried basil. I never knew the wonderful aroma and taste of freaking fresh basil until I was an adult. And child!

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It makes such a difference when it comes to flavoring your favorite meals. Basil is loaded with calcium, phosphorus, iron, and magnesium. This plant is an antioxidant but it is also antifungal and antibacterial. In addition, some studies have shown that it is anti-dyspepsia. That means basil contains compounds that work to alleviate indigestion. I like to put fresh basil on pretty much anything like quinoa, sandwiches, and pasta.

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Miso

If you have any kind of gastrointestinal issues, I highly recommend fermented foods like sauerkraut, tempeh, and miso. Miso is made from soybean bean paste fermented with yeast, mold, and bacteria and then it’s combined with salt and water (Note: miso can also be made from rice, barley, and chickpeas). It can be aged from one month to three years. Younger misos are lighter colored than the older ones. Miso contains vitamins and minerals such as vitamin B2, vitamin E, choline, lecithin, and vitamin B12 . The real magic happens during the fermentation process. Soy contains carbohydrates that are difficult to break down for digestion. But the fermentation process degrades complex carbohydrates and proteins to make soy much easier to digest. When I have an upset stomach that won’t quit, I love to have a cup of miso soup. Just a scoop of my favorite miso with some warm water and I’m good to go!

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Chamomile

Chamomile is probably one of the best herbs for nervous tension and anxiety. As a child of West Indian parents, peppermint was a huge staple in my household. So I didn’t discover chamomile until I was a teenager. I honestly don’t remember why I decided to try it but I’m so glad I did. If you are a chamomile fan, you know that it provides serenity and calm in this chaotic world and sometimes we all need that. Numerous studies have shown that chamomile is anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, and antispasmodic.  This antioxidant herb has also been used to treat sluggish digestion, diarrhea, and nausea. Recently, I found this yummy tea with plum overtones that has chamomile as a primary ingredient along other herbs such as licorice and gotu kola.

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Thyme

Growing up, I remember my father putting handfuls of fresh thyme in dishes like rice and peas. That oregano-type taste was always comforting and warming to the tongue. It wasn’t my mind playing tricks on me. In fact, carvacrol and thymol, two major components of thyme, create that warming sensation. Also, these constituents work to ease flatulence and soothe the digestive system. What’s more, thyme is antimicrobial and antifungal. It is great for relieving congestion associated with colds because it stimulates the lungs and expels mucus. If my stomach has been flip-flopping during the day, I will sprinkle dried thyme on my evening meal.

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Millet

Millet is high in protein and dietary fiber, and it contains essential amino acids such as methionine and cysteine. This antifungal grain is rich in phytochemicals like phytic acid that lower cholesterol. But millet is also a prebiotic that stimulates the growth of bacteria that is beneficial to the colon. And it is gluten-free, which is helpful for those of us who suffer from certain digestive disorders or chronic indigestion. I really love this veggie burger that is made with millet (and I’ve tried countless ones over the years!). I almost always have a veggie burger for lunch with a chopped salad of broccoli, tomato, and avocado. It is simple, comforting, and of course, delicious.

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Limes

My husband recently turned me on to limes. I’m usually more of a lemon kind of gal. He started putting slices of limes in his glass of water and I was intrigued. Limes are high in vitamin C and fiber, and low in cholesterol. We all know that citrus fruits like limes are good sources of flavonoids that may protect the body against cancer and cardiovascular diseases. Some studies suggest that citrus flavonoids aid in the digestion process.

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Those are my stomach soothers—what works for you?

Five Foods to Sharpen Your Focus

Usually, I’m a pretty detail-oriented person. Maybe that’s part of being an introvert. But there are days when every little thing in the world distracts me and my brain is like a freaking hamster on a wheel that fell off the spikes. You know how it goes: you want to finish an assignment by a certain time but then the mind minutia rolls in. Did I pack everything for my son’s lunch? Did I put away that thing before I left the house this morning? Do I have time to do that thing in the evening?

What I’ve found is that it is helpful to give myself little ten-minute breaks throughout the day. Then I’m able to refocus and follow through on my main priorities. The other thing is just to appreciate small things in nature. It sounds corny as hell but sometimes just staring at a succulent plant or listening to a bird chirp for a couple of seconds can provide newfound energy for anything that you need to do. Most importantly, don’t forget to hydrate yourself with water throughout the day. Dehydration has been linked to poor mental performance. Here are some other things that helped me to firm up my focus:

Rosemary

I love the smell of rosemary. During the Thanksgiving season, I love to put huge amounts of fresh rosemary on my stuffing. But I usually settle for dried rosemary during the rest of the year. Some studies suggest that rosemary is a powerful antioxidant and antidepressant. In addition, some research indicates that the aroma of this herb may enhance alertness and cognitive function. I like to toss some rosemary on a bowl of potatoes when things start getting a little tense during the afternoon or evening.

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Cashews

Cashews, like many nuts, are rich in the antioxidant vitamin E. Cashews are also a great source of tryptophan, an essential amino acid that serves as a precursor to the production of that feel-good neurotransmitter serotonin. Diets that have a significant level of antioxidants and tryptophan may have a positive impact of mood and cognition. My husband and I love to snack on cashews. They are creamy and buttery delicious. Also, we enjoy Miyoko’s Creamery cheeses*, which are made primarily from cashews. For those of you who are newly vegan, I implore you to please, please try her products because some vegan cheeses can be scary and just…meh. This cheese is the truth. When I first tried Miyoko’s, I got really scared because I thought I ate dairy. It’s that good, ladies and gentlemen.

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Lentils

Lentils are one of the best plant-sourced proteins that you can get. These legumes also contain magnesium, which along with folic acid and vitamin B12 helps the amino acid tyrosine to increase in the brain. Tyrosine is eventually converted to the neurotransmitters dopamine and norepinephrine, which promotes mental energy and alertness. Lentils are a staple on my weekly dinner menu. Why? Because they are hella-easy to prepare. Red lentils do not require any soaking at all and take out thirty minutes in the rice cooker if I’m in a hurry. But other times, I will pick up prepared lentils from the supermarket and use them for lentil tacos.

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Chia Seeds

Chia seeds are chock full of alpha-linoleic acid (ALA) the precursor to omega-3 fatty acids. ALA is converted to eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). You can read more about it here. DHA is essential for brain plasticity, maintenance of learning and memory and neurological development. Some studies indicate that low levels of DHA may be linked to cognitive decline in older adults. So we want to consume as many healthy fats like this one (BTW: walnuts and flaxseeds are wonderful sources too). My all-time number one breakfast is chia pudding because it is so simple to make. I mix in things like oats, pumpkin seeds, pineapple—you name it, if I want it, then it’s all up in there! On days when I really need that extra boost of energy, I will throw in a little protein powder like this one.

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Broccoli

Broccoli was one of the few vegetables that I liked eating as a kid. I remember my mother would buy the frozen rectangular packs from the supermarket for our side dishes during the week. You know the ones where the broccoli is drenched in cheddar cheese sauce because that was the only way that my brother and I would eat it. It took me many years to really learn how to prepare and appreciate this wonderful vegetable. Broccoli is high in vitamin C, the antioxidant that has free radical scavenger properties and promotes brain function. Despite my scary introduction to this vegetable, I am blessed to say that I am now mature enough to enjoy broccoli without a darn thing added to it.

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Those are just some of the foods I enjoy for boosting my mental energy. What are some foods that enjoy?

*Please note the opinions are my own. I was not paid to plug Miyoko’s cheeses.