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Unte Reader Article (3rd) November-December 1998

Snacks for Brainiacs- How a trip to the fridge can sharpen your mind

By Elizabeth Somer

Like most baby boomers, I am seeking to restore faded powers. That is why I was attracted to this article. I also recognized the author's name from Good Morning America. She is a dietitian and GMA's Nutrition Correspondent. I remember her saying that aging, one could argue, is the great triumph of our modern society. Increased life expectancy would be wonderful news, except that increased longevity brings with it so many things we don't want, from wrinkles to memory loss, from increased body fat to decreased hearing and vision.

Elizabeth Somer states in this article to rather than blame the loss of swift thinking on genes or age, though, look at your diet. What you eat and how you live affect how well you think. Since Somer is a nutritionist, this article best and most specific advice is in that area. For example she says to eat many small meals throughout the day, rather than two or three big ones. She claims that heavy meals divert the blood supply to the digestive tract and away from the brain, leaving you feeling sluggish and sleepy. I have to admit that on days at school when I eat school lunch I find that to be true. I have also seen it in my students 6th hour, which follows lunch. In addition Somer points out that several meals of fewer than 1000 calories keeps weight down. I have experienced this first handed. Another tip Somer supports that will defy the aging process is consuming foods loaded with antioxidants. Antioxidants such as vitamin C, vitamin E, beta carotene, and phytochemicals help prevent premature aging of the brain and nervous system.

Additional good information Somer shares is on exercise and lifestyle choices. I especially took notice to her explanation of skipping meals as a big mistake. She explains that breakfast restocks dwindling glucose stores, the brain's sole source of fuel. Keeping glucose levels in the optimal range enhances learning memory, and thinking. I am guilty of this and so are many of my colleagues. However, I know want to be especially aware of which of my students practice this and see if I can rectify this.

Last of all, Somer describes the importance of staying physically active to maintain the highest level of cognitive function. We all know from personal experiences that exercise increases blood flow, oxygen, and nutrient to the brain. However, knowing and doing are two different things. I would guess, like most things, when it is important enough to each of us we will practice the needed elements that promote longevity and vitality. Then, hopefully we will experience a longer healthier happier life. Somer's advice, coupled with the needed positive mental outlook, gives me the erudition to age gracefully and energetically.

During one of our "morning conferences" with my colleagues we were discussing our failed New Year's Eve resolutions and pledges that come with spring, I found an opportunity to have a discussion for reaction to this article. I find it interesting the movement of conscienceness for our diet and health. I think back to when I grew up our standard meals were meat, potatoes and gravy. I never knew I needed fiber in my diet or to make sure I have enough beta-carotene. Who could have predicted that we now buy bottle water at a price that is higher than gasoline? Now there isn't a day that goes by without me noticing how my peers discuss how their "inner voice" constantly reminds them of their eating habits. There were no two answers alike when I asked about what each of them like to have in the morning. However, we all agreed that how it was importance of our school breakfast program. I have made a correlation of the importance of school breakfast and lunch programs to the importance of Abraham Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs. Maslow believed that learning could not take place until physiological needs such as food, air and water were meet. A student starting the day needs to have the fuel energize himself for learning. Somer's advice, coupled with the needed positive mental outlook, gives me the erudition to age gracefully and energetically.

-- Anonymous, April 09, 1999

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