(Written by Max Lugavere)
This book covered a lot, some things may be a reminder, and some things are well explained, that helps you to connect the dots.
I read many books and some go over the same information, but there are some books that explain it in a way you never forget, so I hope some of these paraphrases work for you and help you to look further into your health.
Some science parts may go over your head, but it helps put the picture together…
Let’s continue with what Max has presented…
Fantastic Fats and Ominous Oils
Fat oxidation has been found in elevated amounts in Alzheimer’s-riddled brains. They may influence the susceptibility of proteins in the brain to cross-link and clump together, thereby forming the plaques that gunk up the brain and are characteristic of the disease.
These chemicals also serve as powerful toxins to the energy-generating mitochondria of the brain and spinal cord. Aldehyde exposure (resulting from consuming rancid oils – ‘fat oxidation’) directly impairs cells’ ability to generate energy. This is pretty bad news for your brain, the chief energy consumer in your body.
Unfortunately, our immune systems today are in a constant state of activation, not due to infectious threat but rather to what we’re eating.
ALA – The Plant Omega 3
In the case of people who get little preformed EPA and DHA, and lots of omega-6s from their diets (vegans who consume lots of processed foods, for example), the brain may actually become omega-3 deficient for this reason.
To eliminate the guesswork when it comes to nourishing your brain with EPA and DHA, go the; “set it and forget it” method: be vigilant in your avoidance of polyunsaturated oils – corn, soy, canola, and other grain and seed oils.
Ensure that you’re getting preformed EPA and DHA from whole-food sources like fish (wild salmon and sardines are great, low-mercury choices), pastured or omega-3 eggs, and grass-fed beef.
Monounsaturated Fats: Your Brain’s Best Friend
However, unlike polyunsaturated fats, monounsaturated fats are chemically stable.
Oils composed primarily of these fats not only are safe to consume but seem to have a number of positive effects in the body.
Some common sources of monounsaturated fats include avocados, avocado oil, and macadamia nuts, and the fat content of wild salmon and beef is nearly 50 percent monounsaturated.
The most famous source of monounsaturated fat is extra-virgin olive oil.
Saturated Fat and the Brain: Friends or Foes?
Thanks to studies, we have some clues as to why people who adhere more closely to the high-sugar, high-fat Standard American Diet tend to have smaller hippocampus – (the structure in the brain that processes our memories)
The studies also tell us that the combination of sugar and saturated fat (common in fast food) can drive inflammation and drain BDNF from the brain.
Trans Fats: A Fat to Be Feared
Man-made trans fats are highly inflammatory, promoting insulin resistance and heart disease (they can raise total cholesterol while lowering protective HDL).
A recent meta-analysis (a study of studies) found that consumption of trans fats was associated with a 34 percent increased risk of all-cause mortality, meaning early death by any cause.
In terms of the brain, trans fats may be particularly damaging. The value of membrane fluidity?
Trans fats can integrate themselves into your neuronal membranes and stiffen them like a corpse with rigor mortis.
This makes it much more difficult for neurotransmitters to do their jobs, and for cells to receive nutrients and fuel. Studies have also linked trans-fat consumption to brain shrinkage and sharply increased risk for Alzheimer’s disease – two things that your certainly don’t want.
But even in healthy people, consuming trans fats has been associated with significantly worse memory performance.
A study published in 2015 found that for every additional gram of trans fat participants ate, their recall of words that they had been asked to remember dropped by 0.76 words. Those who ate the most trans fats recalled twelve fewer words than those who consumed no trans fats at all.
Fat: The Nutrient Ferry
Good fats to your diet (in the form of fat-rich foods like eggs, avocado, fatty fish and extra-virgin olive oil) is that fats facilitate the absorption of critical fat-soluble nutrients like vitamins A, E, D and K, as well as important carotenoids like beta-carotene.
These nutrients have wide-ranging effects on the body, from protecting against DNA damage to guarding the fats that are already present in your body and brain against aging.
Carotenoids – the yellow, orange and red pigments abundant in carrots, sweet potatoes, rhubarb and particularly in dark leafy greens like kale and spinach – have been identified as powerful brain boosters (you can’t see them in dark leafy greens because they’re disguised by the green pigment chlorophyll – but they’re there).
The absorption of carotenoids is negligible unless eaten with a source of fat.
A generous splash of extra-virgin olive oil is an excellent choice, or simply add a few whole eggs to your salad. In a Purdue University study, participants who added three whole eggs to their salads increased their absorption of carotenoids by three – to eightfold compared to when no eggs were added.
If eggs aren’t your thing, add some avocado, and know that in doing so you are reaping the astonishing benefits of fat-soluble, brain power-boosting nutrients like carotenoids.
Overfed, yet starving
The Sour Truth about Sweet Fruit – be careful how much you consume on a regular basis:
Researchers found in a study noted that excessive consumption of high-sugar fruit (such as figs, dates, mango, banana, and pineapple) may induce metabolic and cognitive derangements on par with processed carbs.
Genius Food #3 – Blueberries
Blueberries are among the highest in antioxidant capacity because of their abundance of compounds called flavonoids.
The most abundant flavonoids in blueberries are anthocyanins, which have been shown to cross the blood-brain barrier, enhancing signaling in parts of the brain that handle memory.
Berries were found to be associated: they protected the brain against cognitive loss.
Winter is Coming (For Your Brain)
The occasional higher-carb meal can be helpful for optimizing various hormones and enhancing exercise performance.
The window after exercise is generally the safest time for carbs (like sweet potatoes or rice) to be consumed. Why post-workout? After a vigorous workout, your muscles actually pull sugar from your blood.
As far back as 1983, scientists have known that while adding fat to a carbohydrate meal can reduce the glucose spike, it also increases the amount of insulin released.
Put simply, fat can cause the pancreas to over respond, secreting more insulin for the same amount of carbs! (In reality, fat only delays the entry of glucose into the blood, but prolongs the elevation of blood sugar.)
This makes the advice often given to those looking to lower the blood sugar impact of foods – to add more fat to a carbohydrate meal to lessen the glycemic spike – misguided).
Other metrics, then, are needed to discuss the hormonal and metabolic impacts of carbohydrate ingestion.
Two that are currently understudy are the glycemic load and insulin AUC (or Area Under the Curve) for a given meal.
Glycemic load essentially takes into account how much sugar a typical serving size of a given food will release into your blood, while insulin AUC is the total amount of insulin a food (or meal) will stimulate.
What Makes A Good Carb Go Bad?
Research shows that a healthy person who undergoes one single night of sleep deprivation will have impaired insulin sensitivity the following day – essentially making them temporarily prediabetic, all before any carbs are even eaten!
Genius Food #4 – Dark Chocolate
Cocoa flavanols have been shown to reverse signs of cognitive aging and improve insulin sensitivity, vascular function, and blood flow to the brain, and even athletic performance.
Healthy Heart, Healthy Brain
Statins also lower levels of coenzyme Q10 (C0Q10) a nutrient important for brain metabolism.
Brain metabolism is virtually important, and decreased metabolism has been linked as the earliest measurable feature in preclinical Alzheimer’s disease.
C0Q10 is also a fat-soluble antioxidant, and helps to keep oxidative stress in check.
Lowering it with statins could be bad news for the oxygen – and polyunsaturated fat rich brain.
– Cholesterol is critical to an optimally functioning brain and body, but its mode of transportation, the LDL particle, is highly vulnerable to the insults of the Western diet and lifestyle.
– LDL damage is a product of poor recycling. Easing the processing load on the liver will help it more effectively recycle LDL, preventing it from forming small, dense particles that can develop into plaque in your arteries.
Genius Food #5 – Eggs
Eggs actually boost cognitive function and markers for cardiovascular health.
One study, performed in men and women with metabolic syndrome, found that with reduced – carbohydrate diet, three whole eggs per day reduced insulin resistance, raise HDL, and increased the size of LDL particles to a much greater degree than the equivalent supplementation with egg whites.
Since egg yolks contain many valuable fats and cholesterol that are vulnerable to oxidation, I recommend keeping the yolk runny, or more custard-like, as opposed to cooking it through (hard-boiled, for example).
For scrambles and omelets, this means using low heat and keeping the eggs creamy or soft as opposed to dry and hard.
Fueling Your Brain
To prevent this, a hormone called growth hormone becomes sharply elevated when the body is fasting.
Growth hormone serves many roles, but its main function in adults is to preserve lean mass in a fasted state – that is, to stop the breakdown of muscle protein for glucose.
After just twenty-four hours of fasting, growth hormone can shoot up as high as 2,000 percent, sending our bodies a signal to suspend muscle breakdown and rev up the fat-burning machinery instead.
Fat, on the other hand, is there to be burned.
It’s the body’s firewood, containing more than 3,000 backup calories of brain fuel in just a single pound.
An average-weight person walks around with tens of thousands of backup calories, while an obese person might carry hundreds of thousands!
Unlike with sugar, the number of calories we can store as fat is virtually limitless.
When adipose tissue, the fat that sits underneath our skin and around our waists, gets broken down during times of starvation, fatty acids are released into the bloodstream to be converted by the liver into a fuel called ketone bodies, or simply ketones.
Ketones are easily taken up by the cells of the brain and can supply up to 60 percent of the brain’s energy requirements.
The Solution to Pollution?
Unlike glucose, ketones are considered a “clean-burning” fuel source because they create more energy per unit of oxygen in fewer metabolic steps, thereby generating fewer zombie molecules (free radicals) in their conversion to energy.
Creatine: A Muscle (and Brain) Builder
It’s a necessity in the brain, acting as a high-energy buffer to help rapidly recycle ATP.
While ATP use holds stable during mental exertion, creatinine levels drop in support of the energetic needs of the brain, and higher levels of brain creatine are correlated with better memory performance.
Because they don’t eat red meat or fish, vegetarians and vegans lack the main sources of dietary creatine, and as a result they have lower levels of it in their blood than omnivores.
Dropping Carbs? Eat some Salt
According to cardiovascular research scientist and sodium expert James DiNicolantonio (I loved his book The Salt Fix), during the first week of carbohydrate restriction, you may require up to an additional 2 grams of sodium – about a teaspoon of salt – per day to feel optimal, which can be reduced to 1 gram after the first week.
Remember: individual experimentation is key.
– Ketones are considered a “super fuel,” capable of reducing oxidative stress in the brain and upregulating genes involved in neuroplasticity.
– Certain brains are unable to use glucose effectively, and ketones may provide an alternate fuel source.
– A common misconception is that ketones are created as a result of eating more fat. In actuality, ketones are generated when insulin is reduced, which is the result of fasting or a low-carbohydrate diet.
– Metabolic flexibility is a greater goal than chronic ketosis (unless treating a neurological condition whereby medical ketosis may be warranted). With metabolic flexibility we can enjoy dalliances with ketosis while also nurturing gut health and enjoying the occasional carbohydrate “fuel-up” to sustain physical performance. This won’t interrupt the fat-adapted state.
– Raising ketones with MCT oil while consuming excessive carbohydrates defeats the purpose and ignores many of the underlying problems driving neurodegeneration.
Genius Food #6 – Grass-Fed Beef
Grass-fed beef is a rich source of essential minerals like iron and zinc, where they are packaged in a form that the body can easily utilize. (This is unlike, say, the iron from spinach or zinc from legumes.)
Grass-fed beef is also a great source of omega-3 fats, vitamin B12, vitamin E, and even certain nutrients, such as creatine, which, though not essential, are highly beneficial.
Researchers believe that it was access to these very nutrients (along with the burst of caloric energy from cooked meat) that catalyzed the evolution of our brains into modern cognitive super-machines. Deficiencies in any of these micronutrients are linked with brain-related disorders, including low IQ, autism, depression, and dementia.
Important fact: Eat organ meats and drink bone broth!
Both are full of important nutrients not contained in muscle meat, such as collagen.
Collagen contains important amino acids, which too have become lost to the modern diet.
One of them, glycine, has been shown to improve sleep quality and may increase brain levels of serotonin (important for healthy mood and executive function).
Sacred Sleep (and the Hormonal Helpers)
It solidifies our memories, boosts our creativity, increases our will-power, and regulates our appetite. It resets our hormones, gives our neurons a cleansing bath, and ensures “all systems go” in the various regions of our infinitely complex brains.
It’s no wonder we intuitively know to “sleep on it” before making an important decision.
A sleepless brain, on the other hand, is like marooning your ships on the beach at low tide.
New research even pegs sleep loss as a toxin to your energy-creating mitochondria, putting it in the same category as processed oils and sugar. In one study published in the journal Sleep, a single night of sleep deprivation in healthy human volunteers led to a 20 percent increase in two markers of neuronal injury, suggesting that even one instance of acute sleep deprivation may cause injury to your precious brain cells.
A Sleepless Brain is Primal – and Not In A Good Way
Located at the very front of your brain, just behind your forehead, the prefrontal cortex is thought to be responsible for planning, decision making, expression of one’s personality, and self-awareness itself. A functional prefrontal cortex is very important to daily life.
Unfortunately, this region of the brain – and all its associated tasks – suffers when we are sleep deprived, according to research from the University of California, Berkeley.
This can lead to a reduced ability to regulate our emotions. Why?
The prefrontal cortex usually helps put emotional experiences into context so that we can respond appropriately, but it becomes dysfunctional with sleep loss, letting the primitive and fearful amygdala (the brain’s “fear center”) call the shots instead.
Our brains are programmed to seek out sugar, lest they die come winter.
With a sleep-deprived prefrontal cortex, say goodbye to your willpower and self-control.
If you are prone to overeating or indulging in junk food, just one single night of sleep loss is enough to sidetrack your best efforts at a healthy diet.
(I cover all of these in my Healthy Hormone program)
A hormone called leptin may come from the fat cells around your belly, directed toward a region in the brain that controls energy expenditure. Or cortisol, secreted by your adrenal glands just above your kidneys, may impact parts of your brain involved in memory.
By understanding the relationship between sleep loss and stress have with these master hormone controllers, we may achieve the strongest domain over our willpower – which is to say, we’ll rarely have to use it.
Insulin: The Storage Hormone
Playing a cat-and-mouse game with sleep is not only a bad habit to get into but a poor strategy for long-term health.
Ghrelin: The Hunger Hormone
Another hormone affected by sleep is ghrelin.
Secreted by the stomach, ghrelin tells your brain when it’s time to be hungry. Your ghrelin level increases just before meals or when the stomach is empty and decreases after meals or when the stomach is stretched. This hormone can also impact your behavior: when mice and humans are injected with ghrelin, the number of meals consumed increases.
Ghrelin surges with just a single night of sleep debt. This may be why one night of sleep deprivation will provoke, on average, an excess intake of 400 to 500 calories that dya, mostly from carbohydrates, coinciding with increased inflammation, high blood pressure and cognitive problems.
Eating fewer (but larger) meals throughout the day trains your body to produce less of the hormone.
Science has now revealed that the advice to eat small, frequent meals to “store the metabolic flame” is bunk: metabolic chamber studies – when volunteers live in a room outfitted with instruments that measure how their bodies use air, food, and water under different conditions – who that whether you eat two meals a day or six your metabolic rate is exactly the same.
Reduces decision fatigue, and helps keep the amount of time insulin is circulating to a minimum.
Leptin: The Metabolic Throttle Hormone
Sleep can also negatively affect another hormone involved in hunger called leptin.
Leptin is the “satiety” hormone that helps regulate energy balance by inhibiting hunger, and it plummets with sleep deprivation.
Leptin’s job is to control energy expenditure through its action on the hypothalamus, the brain’s master metabolic regulator. Because leptin is secreted by fat cells, the more fat cells one has, the more circulating leptin.
The brain interprets higher levels of leptin as permission to open up the throttle a bit on the rate at which our bodies burn calories – after all, food is seemingly plentiful! But as with insulin, chronically elevated leptin can cause leptin resistance to develop, and the signal of “satiety: and the positive benefits of leptin on metabolism becomes lost.
This is the unfortunate paradox faced by those who lose weight and try to keep it off – they are fighting against the one-two punch of both lower leptin levels and leptin resistance.
Growth Hormone: The Repair and Preserve Hormone
Chronic stress is one of the major modern growth hormone fighters, directly at odds with maintaining our precious lean muscle tissue. Carbohydrate consumption immediately turns off growth hormone production, providing an explanation as to why low-calorie diets without carbohydrate restriction can lead to muscle loss concurrent with fat loss.
Finally, getting fewer than seven hours of sleep has been shown to negatively affect growth hormone production. In fact, most of the growth hormone in our bodies is produced during slow-wave sleep, so getting two to three full cycles is critical -shoot for eight hours a night.
Cortisol: The Carpe Diem Hormone
Cortisol, a master circadian regulator, peaks upon waking, creating a temporary catabolic state in the body. Often thought of solely as a stress hormone, cortisol is also instrumental as the “waking” hormone, liberating energy as carbs, fat, and amino acids for use in the early daytime hours.
When insulin and cortisol are both present at the same time (i.e., after carbohydrate-rich breakfast), cortisol’s fat-burning effect will be shut down, and it will only exert its catabolic effect on your muscles – clearly, not a desirable scenario.
Should you choose to eat a morning meal it should consist solely of fat and protein and fibrous veggies – not carbohydrates.
The HPA Axis – The Stress Response Switchboard
The cortisol and adrenaline that are now coursing through your body has several effects on your physiology.
For one, heart rate and blood pressure go way up. Pupils dilate. Salivary secretion halts and digestion slows down (digestion is a relatively labor-intensive process, and running from a tiger is not time to be using precious resources on nutrient absorption).
In fact, blood leaves the digestive area, rerouting to more important locations, like your muscles.
Blood sugar is released from the liver, and the parts of the body that are inessential to getting you out of harm’s way become resistant to insulin, making sure that your muscles can get all the glucose that they need.
The immune system becomes suppressed, and blood itself becomes more viscous as platelets (a type of blood cells involved in clotting) begin to aggregate as a cautionary measure in case of blood loss.
Stress is such a vicious, indiscriminate killer – the chronic activation of this antiquated system, once lifesaving, now promotes inflammation, elevated blood sugar, insulin resistance, nutrient deficiencies, increased gut permeability, and more.
But chronic stress plus carbs? That’s a recipe for disaster.
Ever see a person with bulging midsection but surprisingly skinny arms and legs? This is the picture of chronic stress.
It’s completely different from your run-of-the-mill obesity, where everything – legs, arms, butt – is blown up to comparable proportions.
This is because deep abdominal fat, the kind that wraps itself around your heart, liver, and other major organs, not only receives more blood but has four times more cortisol receptors than subcutaneous fat (the fat you can “pinch” below the skin).
When cortisol is elevated, any carbohydrate intake will immediately promote fat storage, and most likely as the deep abdominal fat called visceral fat, which is the most dangerous and inflammatory kind of fat.
This makes concentrated carbohydrate consumption uniquely damaging to a stressed-out person.
(This is another reason why eating carbs first thing in the morning, when cortisol is naturally at its peak, is a bad idea.)
Important Stress-Abating Tips:
– Meditate, don’t medicate. Meditation can be intimidating for first-timers, but it’s worth getting comfortable with it. One small Thai study of stressed-out medical students found that four days of meditation reduced cortisol by 20 percent.
– Spend more time outdoors. We’ve lost touch with nature, but merely seeing greenery mitigates the physiological response to stress and improves cognitive function. Being in nature can also help reduce depressive thoughts and even boost BDNF.
– Exercise smarter. Alternate between “low and slow” aerobic sessions (a bike ride or a hike in nature) and more intense bursts. Chronic medium-intensity cardio sessions (running on a treadmill for forty-five minutes, for example) can actually increase cortisol.
– Have somebody give you a massage (or pay for one – never a bad investment!): A 2010 study out of Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles found that five weeks of Swedish massage significantly reduced serum cortisol compared to controls who underwent only “light touching.”
– Practice deep breathing. Simple yet effective. Exhaling activates the parasympathetic nervous system, responsible for the body’s “rest-and-digest” processes.
Chronic stress was shown to actually activate the immune system of the brain, producing inflammation almost as if the brain were responding to stress as an infection. Inflammation is the cornerstone of many neurodegenerative diseases.
The Metabolic Enhancer
While aerobic activity is the chief way to fortify the brain with new cells, anaerobic exercise is the best way to keep those cells healthy and metabolically efficient.
While everybody’s anaerobic threshold will be different, the principle is the same: by momentarily overloading your body, you provide a powerful stimulus for your cells to adapt, gow stronger, and become more efficient.
Enhanced fat loss. In the morning, cortisol is naturally elevated, allowing for the mobilization of stores fatty acids and sugars that our organs can use for fuel. By fasting, we enable cortisol to do what is does best.
Activation of autophagy. Autophagy is the body’s waste disposal system, whereby cellular junk (including damaged cells that could lead to cancer) get cleaned up. Much of this debrisis pro-inflammatory, and stoking this cleanup process has been associated with dramatically longer life spans and health spans in animals.
Improved hormone profile. Fasting is one of the best ways to boost growth hormone, which is neuroprotective and helps preserve lean muscle tissue.
Increased BDNF and neuroplasticity. Fasting is a potent BDNF booster, which promotes neuroplasticity at any age.
Neuroplasticity is the ability to grow new brain cells and preserve the ones you have,and it even helps to improve mood.
Increased cholesterol recycling. Soon after beginning a fast, the breakdown of excess cholesterol into beneficial bile acids begins.
Genius Food #10 – Almonds
Pro tip: All nuts are healthy.
While almonds are a great go-to choice, macadamias, Brazil nuts, and pistachios are equally excellent options. Pistachios contain more lutein and zeaxanthin (two carotenoids that can boost brain speed) than any other nut. They also contain resveratrol, a powerful antioxidant that has been shown to protect and enhance memory function.
Many people get wrapped up in the macros or the calories when it comes to eating healthy and lose weight, but as this books helps you to understand, food all have powers and some are really high up on the ladder…
Depending what your health requires, we all need different types of food at different times of our lives, for different reasons…
Use the new decade to start your new way of thinking and focus with your health. Grab this book and have a good read – if you do please leave me a comment on what you liked most and what you think you’ll change or incorporate going forward…
It’s always a good investment when it comes to improving your health..
To your health and happiness