FROM THE DIETITIAN’S NOTEBOOK: Brain Health, Food Sounds, Lung Health

Q. What’s the most important thing you can do in life to maintain your brain function?

A. In my opinion, there are four important keys to help put “the brakes” on memory and brain decline. The first is to engage and challenge your brain (take a college course?), task your body physically, build social connections, and eat healthy foods with the nutrients needed daily for brain and body health. There is mounting research that suggests it’s your lifestyle behavior, beliefs, and such choices as living in the “moment of experience” – for example, viewing and appreciating the beauty of nature combined with eating healthy whole foods that can affect your body as well as your brain in a positive manner. In fact, a study published in the Journal of Aging and Health reported that “going outdoors daily has been linked to reduced functional decline and less musculoskeletal pain and sleep problems.” What’s more, the tremendous beneficial effects of a positive outlook, gratitude (for all the things that are good about your life), and living with a purpose, can all significantly influence your mood, and sense of well-being for the better. These viewpoints are supported by research from the Landmark Nun Study, in which researchers’ findings revealed that an “active and socially integrated lifestyle in late life protects against dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.” Bottom line: The most powerful tool you possess to change your inner chemistry and health is your outer behavior, in other words, your lifestyle.

Q. I have the hardest time trying to get my husband to chew his food more quietly. Any helpful hints?

A. An interesting question with an even more interesting answer – especially if you want to lose weight. Did you know that “Sound is typically labeled as the forgotten Food Sense?” It so happens that researchers from Brigham Young University found that people tend to eat less if they’re more aware of their chewing, chomping and crunching sounds while they eat. Therefore, if you’re eating in front of the television, these eating sounds are masked by the loud television sound and music. As a result, these eating sounds are not heard and you can end up eating more calories and possibly packing on some extra weight. The take away from this study is that if you want to cut back on how much you eat, keeping meal times more quiet, with low voices and fewer distracting sounds can help.

Q. My mother is having trouble with her lungs and drug-resistant bacteria. Do you have any natural options to suggest?

A. Well, I did find a recent study published in the journal Respiratory, which reported that curcumin – the active ingredient in turmeric – may help fight drug-resistant bacteria that are a known cause of tuberculosis (infectious lung disease). While this study was conducted using human immune cells (macrophages) in an infected cell culture with the bacteria Mycobacterium tuberculosis, these positive health effects need to be confirmed by another study. My suggestion is to try and incorporate the use of turmeric into your mother’s meals. The positive health effects of curcumin may help her. The best source of Turmeric is to use it as a ground, organic spice and add it to scrambled eggs, lentils, and in curry dishes to help boost their flavor.

Learn more about Registered Dietitian Nutritionist/author Deralee Scanlon on her website, www.beverlyglennutrition.com, and come say hello to Deralee at Natural Grocers – she’s their new “Nutrition Health Coach.”