Nutrition: Some Vitamins May Aid in Enhancing Brainpower

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There is growing evidence that certain vitamins may help boost brainpower and memory. But it doesn’t take mega doses.

B vitamins are vital to normal brain and nerve function. But the B vitamin, folate — found in leafy green vegetables, legumes and other foods — has earned special attention, according to Healthy Years, a publication of UCLA School of Medicine. Studies have shown that changes in mood and mental function occur during folate deficiency, including depression and dementia in the elderly. Cognitive decline and some forms of dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease, are associated with lower folate levels.


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In addition, an adequate intake of antioxidants (like vitamins C and E) and anti-inflammatory nutrients (like omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids) is an essential part of the defense system against brain aging. Data suggest a link between poor intake of antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids, found in fish oils, and a greater than expected incidence of late-onset dementia. Antioxidants appear to have a role in neuroprotection, and some studies have shown a link between antioxidant vitamins C and E and improved cognitive function and slowed progression of Alzheimer’s disease. However, researchers say the evidence is not strong enough to suggest vitamin or vitamin C supplementation in preventing Alzheimer’s.

The best advice? Focus on the dinner plate — eat a well-balanced diet, and if necessary, supplement with a daily multivitamin. This means a diet with regular helpings of fish, plus a variety of whole grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts and seeds. All of those are sources of nutrients helpful for brain functioning, such as folate, B vitamins, vitamin C, vitamin E and omega-3 fatty acids. — UCLA “Healthy Years”

Q & A

Q: Do vegetable oils need to be refrigerated?

A: Not for safety reasons, but refrigerated oils last longer. Natural antioxidants in vegetable oils help fight spoilage. Still, all oils eventually turn rancid, developing an off smell and taste. How soon this happens depends on the type of oil, how it has been processed, and how it is stored. While some oils have a shelf life of one or more years under normal conditions, natural or unrefined cheap doxycycline oils last only about four to six months.

To keep oil fresh longer, keep it away from heat, light and air. Seal tightly. Buy only what you will use within a few months. If you buy a larger size, you might want to refrigerate it. Chilled oils may form harmless crystals, which clear when the oil warms to room temperature. Flaxseed, sesame and walnut oils have a short shelf life, so keep them refrigerated. — UC Berkeley Wellness Letter, September 2010

RECIPE

Here’s a recipe for Chicken Fajitas that are low in fat and cook quickly; the latter is especially important in this summer heat wave. The recipe is from “Weight Watchers New Complete Cookbook.”

Chicken Fajitas

2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

1 tablespoon reduced sodium soy sauce

1/2 teaspoon chili powder

1/4 teaspoon ground cumin

Pinch crushed red pepper flakes

10 ounces skinless boneless chicken breasts, cut into thin strips

4 teaspoons vegetable oil

1 green bell pepper, seeded and thinly sliced

1 red bell pepper, seeded and thinly sliced

1 onion, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced

Four 6″ fat-free flour tortillas

1/2 cup salsa

1/4 cup nonfat sour cream

Chopped cilantro, to garnish

To prepare the marinade, in a quart-size sealable plastic bag, combine the lime juice, soy sauce, chili powder, cumin and pepper flakes; add the chicken. Seal the bag, squeezing out the air; turn to coat the chicken. Refrigerate, turning the bag occasionally, at least 2 hours or overnight. Drain the chicken and set aside; discard the marinade.

In a large nonstick skillet, heat 2 teaspoons of the oil. Saute the bell peppers and onion until softened, 8 to 10 minutes, adding a tablespoon or two of water if the mixture becomes too dry. Transfer to a plate and keep warm. In the skillet, heat the remaining 2 teaspoons of oil. Saute the chicken until cooked through, about 3 to 5 minutes.

To assemble, soften the tortillas according to package directions. Divide the chicken and sauteed vegetables among the tortillas; garnish with salsa, sour cream and cilantro. Serves 4.

Per serving: 226 calories, 19 g protein, 22 g carbohydrate, 7 g fat, 43 mg cholesterol, 8 g fiber, 314 mg sodium.

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