Change your diet, change your brain – MORESO!

February 15, 2010

Young zombie

Help your brain before you have to resort to the non-vegan practice of eating someone else's. Photo by Ateo Fiel.

In today’s newsletter we’re going to be talking about how to leverage a psychological study to better deal with meat eaters who might otherwise give you a hassle, but it turns out that there are a lot of little “brain hacks” out there, and many can be used on yourself.  Here’s one to build a healthier brain while you cook.

In the world of physical exercise, most trainers will advise you to switch up your routine every now and then, because your muscles get used to performing specific actions and the benefits of training will start to taper off the more accustomed you become to a workout program. Your brain isn’t that much different.

Even though we aren’t seeing as much snow here in my part of Canada as the Eastern US is getting right now, I like to imagine the brain as a series of highways in the winter.  The roads are neural pathways (yes, everything I learned about neurology, I learned from that blinking panel in Data’s head in Star Trek, OK?) that need steady traffic to stay clear of snow that slows everything down.  If you don’t use a road for a while, it gets snowed in, and it’s not just the “juggle chainsaws” skill that starts to atrophy; everything else on that “block” gets a little duller.  “Keeping the roads clear” can be pretty simple, actually – I’ve heard many times that standing on one foot (and triggering balance practice) can do a lot to stimulate the brain all by itself!

Now, we’ve all heard that eating a healthful plant-based diet can do a lot for the body, which includes the brain (not least of which is by ensuring a steady supply of blood,) but using the snowplow analogy can make our food choices really count, even before we’ve eaten them!

Try new things in the kitchen just like you’d try new exercises in the gym.  Sure, you could try new recipes (we talk about how to avoid “recipe reruns” here,) but you can also vary the way you prepare each meal.  A lot of people have told me they enjoyed our “new” way to prepare a pepper, so I’ll link to it again here to spark your imagination, but there are a lot of ways you can prep your vegetables.

I can think of at least 5 different ways to prepare garlic, for example – how many can you dream up?  How many have you used lately?  Sure, there’s usually one “best” way that you always go to (and it’s probably different than the way your friend does it,) but being strongest at one technique means you’re by definition a bit weaker on others, so revisit them from time to time to strengthen your brain’s pathways – like I said, it probably won’t be just that skill that benefits.

This works for brand new techniques as well as revisiting old ones, and I think you’ll find an immediate bonus that working in the kitchen becomes a little more fun.  Over the longer term, you just might be ensuring better overall brain health in the bargain.

Photo by Ateo Fiel

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