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Parent/Student Orientation & Teacher Training
How to prepare for success: mind & body
Add in theory to crowd out
We all know that sugary beverages and processed foods are not the healthiest
choices, for body or mind. A diet based on real foods, those that grow in the
ground, like fruits, vegetables, healthy fats, (actually whole) grains, as well as
lean, high-quality proteins are important to give the brain the right building blocks
for optimal health. It is the unhealthy foods, however, that are often the most
difficult to eliminate. Rather than attempting to take a food AWAY, using an ADD
in approach is often a painless way to success. What can we start to add in that
will make us feel good, and nourish growing brains as well? Take the focus and
energy off of all of the things that we think we are doing wrong, and instead put
attention on what we can add in to enrich our lives. The result is a natural
“crowding out” of the unhealthy foods that the body no longer craves, once it is
receiving substantial nutrition.
You are what you eat
Food plays a vital role in our lives: you are what you eat – literally! This is not
just a metaphor that we learn as children. Digestion begins in the mouth, then
continues on into the stomach as food is broken down, and ultimately absorbed
into the blood. That blood travels to every part of your body, making up your
cells, tissues, bones, organs…in short, your food literally becomes your entire
body. That same blood travels to your brain and so food becomes your thoughts
as well. Our food determines how we feel physically, the state of our health, the
thoughts we think, the choices we make, the mood we are going to be in, and the
efficiency with which we will do our work. For these reasons, it is imperative to
remember that you are what you eat. If we eat excellent, real, whole, living,
energetic, nutrient-dense, super foods, then that is exactly what we will be.
Choose real food
Real food grows in the ground - or walked around. Okay, swam around, too.
That’s about where it ends. Probably the most important guideline for healthy
eating is to choose real foods. While this may seem obvious, the majority of
items found in conventional supermarkets is processed, packaged food depleted
of nutrients, and often filled with chemicals and additives that are both
unrecognizable and detrimental to the body and specifically, to the brain. When
we consume these foods, the body spends time and energy trying to break down
toxins, ultimately storing them and creating a breeding ground for inflammation,
imbalance, and dis-ease. Not only are we not providing any nutrition, then, but
we are forcing the body work twice as hard - it's like making the crew work
overtime for no pay. How long do you think the crew is going to continue to work
like that? The body is so amazing, that the answer is, for many, quite a while,
which is why we often don't recognize the damage until symptoms of dis-ease
begin to surface.
Chemicals and pesticide residues are abundant in our foods and may be linked
to many dis-eases in the body. A recent study showed cucumbers to have over
80 pesticide residues, with blueberries and spinach over 50. As the term organic
pertains to real food, there are some foods more affected than others. The
Environmental Working Group ( releases an annual list of the most
highly-pesticided fruits and vegetables and encourages consumers to buy
organic versions of the worst offenders. This is a useful strategy for those new to
organic or on a budget; however, let us not be fooled into thinking that a thickskinned banana or an onion on the bottom of EWG's list is completely free from
harmful toxins. Plants take in their nutrients - and anything else found in the soil
- through their stems directly to the plant's internal system.
The phrase organic simply means food grown without the use of pesticides,
herbicides, fungicides, sewage-sludge irrigation, or genetically-modified
organisms (GMOs). It does not, on its own, necessarily, indicate that a food is
health-promoting, as we can find an abundance of less-than-excellent processed
organic products on the market today. While they are a step in the right
direction, let us not forget that processed food is processed food.
Genetically-modified organisms are relatively new, considering that they have
only been around for thirty years or so. They are “organisms” created in a lab by
splicing DNA from various species. Many studies connect GMOs to infertility,
endocrine system disorders, as well as tumor growth, just to name a few. Soy
and corn are the most genetically-modified crops, so read package labels and
avoid non-organic corn/soy-based ingredients, such as soybean oil or corn
starch. Cotton, potatoes and zucchini are also highly genetically-modified.
Certified organic foods are not permitted to contain GMOs.
Superfoods for brain support
Superfoods naturally contain a superior concentration of nutrients in a small
package. They are usually hearty plants that can often survive well without the
use of chemical pesticides. Superfoods can include mainstream produce items
like kale, asparagus, and broccoli sprouts, as well as lesser-known fruits,
vegetables, seeds, nuts, herbs, and mushrooms from the far reaches of the
earth. We are blessed to be living at a time in which we have access to these
types of outstanding sources of nutrition. Now, more than ever, the soil in which
our crops are grown is depleted of the minerals our bodies need to thrive. Since
World War II, we have introduced nearly 80,000 chemicals into the environment,
which has taken its toll on our soil. While a healthy soil ideally contains over fifty
minerals, the average soil for American crops contains as little as seven. By
incorporating superfoods into our diets, we can make up for the lack and begin to
experience a new level of health we may have never known existed. As with all
new foods, it is suggested to add these in slowly and gradually. They are
powerful, and will get to work cleaning up body right away. For someone
currently eating the Standard American Diet, the body may need some time to
adjust. Start with less than the recommended amounts and work your way up.
Top superfoods:
goji berries
bee pollen
raw cacao
hemp powder or seeds
chia seeds
blue-green algae
coconut oil, water, manna, butter
The following top 10 guidelines can help kids stay sharp all day long, and
affect brain development well into the future.
1) Eat a real food breakfast
According to a study conducted at Harvard University, people who don’t miss
their breakfast and make sure to eat a nutritious breakfast, remember more, are
more alert and even their reaction time on the road is better than those who skip
breakfast continuously. The brain consists of 100 billion “hungry” cells. The cells
need a constant supply of energy for essential activities. Although brain cells
comprise only about 2% of the total body mass, yet they consume about 20% to
30% of daily calories we eat. It is beneficial to eat foods rich in complex
carbohydrates, that are digested slowly in the digestive tract, such as actual
whole grains or seeds, like oats, buckwheat, and quinoa, not empty, refined
grains like bagels, sugary cereals and muffins.
omelet with coconut oil and veggies on sprouted grain bread
green smoothie with frozen berries, coconut water, and whole oats
sprouted grain english muffin with nut butter
1) Add antioxidants into the diet
The recommendation in brain and memory research is to eat foods rich in
antioxidants to maintain a good memory. The brain uses about 20% of the
body’s overall oxygen and is therefore subject to the attack of particles called
free radicals. These are unstable molecules that attack, hit and destroy cells and
DNA in general, specifically brain cells.
Fruits and vegetables, especially brightly-colored ones, contain phytochemicals
that protect brain cells from damage done by free radicals. Superfoods like goji
berries, açai, cacao and reishi and chaga mushrooms are extremely high in
antioxidants. One study by a university in the Netherlands showed that students’
thinking abilities increased when they ate foods rich in the antioxidant beta
o eat foods high in beta carotene like goji (highest), carrot, sweet potato,
o melon
o add in foods high in vitamin C like broccoli, orange, onion, lemon, swiss
o chard, strawberries
o add in fruits and vegetables that are red or purple, like berries, cherries,
purple cauliflower, eggplant, which contains antioxidants that maintain the
lipids in the brain cell membrane.
o add in foods that are good sources of the antioxodant quercetin, like apples,
red onions, white or yellow onions, and red, purple and green grapes
1) Turn the plate around to make greens the star of the meal
Most Americans were raised to plan out meals around the animal protein, which
was always the main part of the meal. Now we are turning the plate around to
focus on the foods that help to bring oxygen to our cells, antioxidants,
phytonutrients and life-giving enzymes to our bodies. Of course we include
protein, which can be in the form of high-quality animal meat, as well as many
plant-based sources; it is not, however, the main focus of the meal. We balance
the amount of protein in proportion with the rest of the plate.
Full of folate and vitamins, dark leafy greens like spinach and kale are part of a
healthy diet linked to brain support and lower odds of getting dementia later in
life. One study on rats showed that rats who were fed spinach had no problems
of memory loss. Kale contains sulforaphane, a molecule that has detoxifying
abilities, and diindolylmethane, which helps new brain cells grow. Broccoli
contains quercetin, and is an excellent source of folic acid as well. Beets and
beet greens are an excellent source of folic acid and anthocyanins.
try a veggie-based recipe (see resources below)
blend into smoothies
juice in a juicer for a great after-school energy boost
homemade soups
add to omelets
saute greens at dinner drizzled with olive oil (the dash of fat helps
the body absorb vitamins).
o make chips out of kale: Cut kale from stems/ribs, drizzle with olive
oil and a bit of salt, and bake.
o visit the Farmer’s Market and discover new and delicious greens
1) Incorporate high-quality Omega 3s (DHA, ALA, EPA)
Omega-3 fats are essential because the body isn’t capable of making them, and
so humans must obtain them through the daily diet. Naturally fatty fish are a good
source of vitamin D and omega-3s, which protect the brain against cognitive
decline and memory loss. Salmon, tuna, and sardines are all rich in omega-3s.
Low Omega-3 levels have been linked to memory loss and Alzheimer’s.
Omega-3 rich foods are necessary, as 50% of the brain is fat and functions
properly by consuming omega-3 fatty acids.
DHA is an essential component of Omega 3s in operating the nerve cells. It helps
regulate brain signals operation and release hormones such as serotonin.
Vegetables, especially green leafy ones, such as: kale, parsley, mint, Brussels
sprouts, spinach and watercress, are rich in ALA, one form of omega-3 fatty
o take a high-quality fish oil, krill oil, or cod liver oil supplement
o ground flaxseed or oil, chia seeds, hemp seeds and oil, walnuts and arugula
are all good sources of Omega 3s
o add in wild-caught seafood such as: anchovies, halibut, herring, mackerel,
oysters, salmon, sardines, trout, tuna, cod (limit tuna due to mercury
o grill, roast, or add to a salad or sandwich (homemade Caesar dressing is a
great way to get in anchovies, and no one will know they are there!)
1) Eat actual whole grains
Complex carbohydrates are fiber-rich whole grains. They are crucial to the
brain’s functioning because they are its main source of fuel. When the body
absorbs complex carbohydrates, they are broken down into glucose, which the
body and brain use as energy. The fiber in complex carbohydrates slows the
body’s absorption of energy, which ensures that the brain gets a slow and steady
supply of fuel. The more WHOLE the grain, the more fiber, iron, and vitamins the
grain will contain. Once is has been processed into a “whole grain” product,
(crackers, breads, cereals, pastas), the grain itself has been pounded,
pulverized, etc., so that it is no longer whole, and much of the essential nutrition
has been lost. The best source of a whole grain is a whole grain, not a
processed food made from what was once an actual whole grain. These include:
all rices, oats, barley, buckwheat/kasha, bulgur, millet, amaranth, spelt, freekeh,
farro, and quinoa, even though it is technically a seed, and not a grain.
Whole grains that have been sprouted are now a superfood, containing more
protein, b vitamins and trace minerals than in their previous state. Sprouted
grain products like Ezekiel bread, for example, are far more nutrient-dense than
virtually any other whole grain product.
o use buckwheat to make a hot breakfast with apple, cinnamon, raisins and
real maple syrup
o cook quinoa and add to soups, salads or wraps
o prepare rice or barley dishes instead of pasta
o try Ezekiel bread, english muffins, pita, tortillas, and sandwich rolls
1) Include choline
Choline is a nutrient that is essential for brain development and memory function,
and it helps the brain communicate with the rest of the body. It is found in the
yolk of eggs, and in beans, brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, buckwheat
(including soba noodles), and lean beef.
o serve sunny-side-up eggs (choline is destroyed at high heats)
o make buckwheat pancakes or waffles
o try a stir-fry of lean grass-fed beef, broccoli, and cauliflower over soba
1) Investigate blue-green algae
Blue-Green Algae is a wild superfood with a fantastic array of brain-specific
phytochemicals, a huge selection of antioxidants, minerals (especially zinc,
selenium, and magnesium), amino acids (it is a complete protein), vitamins,
enzymes, and many unique nutrients. It is one of the richest food sources of
antioxidant compounds, and is one of the most nutrient-dense foods yet
discovered, containing easily absorbable minerals, vitamins, enzymes,
chlorophyll, complete proteins, Omega fatty acids, polysaccharides, and many
unique phytonutrients that boost the neuro-endocrine system. It has been used
to treat ADHD, and in Germany is used as a substitute for Ritalin.
o look for blue-green algae from Klamath Lake
o add to smoothies
o add to raw desserts, such as cashew ice cream
o do not heat
1) Don’t be afraid of healthy fats
Olive oil and avocado contains monounsaturated fat, which contributes to healthy
blood flow, and healthy blood flow means a healthy brain. Coconut oil is
saturated fat, but efficiently-absorbed medium-chain fats, as opposed to the
unhealthy long-chain saturated fats that Americans are now looking to avoid.
Each of these healthy fats nourish both the developing and aging brain.
o add coconut oil or avocado to a smoothie of water, fruit and greens
o cook with coconut oil at high heats
o cook with olive oil at low-medium heat
9) Check Vitamins D and B12 levels
Vitamin D increases nerve growth and plays an important role in many of the
brain’s functions that involve planning, processing of information, and memory.
Vitamin B12 is closely related to nerve health. It keeps our mind sharp while we
are aging. A lack of this essential vitamin may shrink the brain. Lack of
concentration, mental fogginess, and having problems with memory are all signs
that may indicate a B12 deficiency.
o have levels tested to see if Vitamin count is low
o use a high-quality, whole food-based supplement to increase levels
10) Probiotics and cultured foods
The gut and brain work closely together. Just as in the brain, the gut contains
neurons which produce serotonin. Serotonin is often referred to as the “feel-good
“hormone. Sugary beverages, antibiotics and processed foods kill healthy gut
flora and may impact overall brain health, mood, and behavior. Incorporating
probiotics, through supplements or cultured foods, is among the best ways to
optimize gut flora and subsequently support brain health.
o add in cultured foods like raw sauerkraut, pickled beets, pickled carrots
o take a high-quality supplement like Dr. Ohira’s or Dr. Mercola brand
The Healthy Kitchen 101 by Jennifer Kelly (
Superfoods by David Wolfe
Disease-proof Your Child by Dr. Joel Fuhrman
Food Rules by Michael Pollan
Greens Glorious Greens by Catherine Walthers