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Brain Foods Make You Think Differently for Back-to-school

Students might start thinking a little differently, once they learn about brain foods, and how they can help their concentration and make their school work easier.

The most important meal of the day is breakfast. Kids who eat breakfast consistently do better on tests. Getting better grades is important, but making time to eat breakfast is tough. "If you don't have time for a sit down breakfast, grab a handful of walnuts, a whole grain breakfast bar, yogurt, or some peanut butter stuffed inside a whole wheat pita," advises Dave Grotto, a registered dietician, nutrition expert and director of nutrition educational services at Block Center for Integrated Cancer Care & Optimal Health. "Stay away from the high sugar/caffeine foods like doughnuts, soda and coffee," explained Grotto. "Eating those foods can provide immediate fuel (glucose) to the brain, but it's a very short-term fix. As your glucose level falls, concentration becomes difficult and you end up feeling tired and ready for a nap. Try making a fruit smoothie the night before so you can grab it in the morning and guzzle it on the way to school," suggests Grotto, who recently coached contestants auditioning for 'Who Wants to be a Millionaire' about specific brain foods that are optimal for concentration, and those that will slow a person down. "Use fresh fruit like blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, red grapes, and pomegranates ? all high in antioxidants, which research shows enhances cognitive function, recall and memory. Add some yogurt, mix in two tablespoons of peanut butter, for a supercharged brain smoothie. This tasty concoction will zap the brain into an A+ charged state of concentration that will last for hours."

One of the best brain boosters is the dependable egg. Eggs contain protein and choline. Choline is one of the B vitamins that participates in many biological processes, and is especially important for healthy brain, cardiovascular, and liver function. Check the label for the type of eggs that are rich in Omega 3 fatty acids, which are also naturally lower in cholesterol. Omega 3 fats contain DHA, an essential fat needed for brain development and for reducing harmful brain plaques.

Students who chow down on burgers, fries, chicken nuggets or pizza at lunch, will get a quick blood sugar surge, accompanied by that all too familiar crash, most likely just as it's time to walk into their next class. Studies have shown that consuming a high fat diet can impair learning skills as well as memory. Instead, try a grilled chicken sandwich on a whole grain bun, or grilled tuna or salmon burgers on whole wheat bread. Lean proteins with whole grains, along with some healthy fats, will help students sustain energy and maximize their potential throughout their school day.

Like gasoline in a car, students need to fuel themselves in moderation throughout the day. "If hunger pangs hit in mid-morning, mid-afternoon, or as soon as you come home from school, avoid snacking on candy bars, soda and potato chips," says Grotto. "These foods can raise cholesterol levels, contribute to weight gain and obesity, and an increased risk of diabetes. Instead, choose brain food snacks like almonds, walnuts, sunflower seeds, whole grain cereal bars, peanut butter and fruit juice-sweetened jelly on whole grain bread. Instead of soda, mix non-sweetened grape juice with green tea. Green tea has the same healthful antioxidants as red grapes and berries. If you need a chocolate fix, the news is good. A small bar of dark chocolate ? rich in antioxidants, is fine. Or. some dark chocolate chips with some healthy nuts ? good for you and tastes great!"

Students need to keep their levels of concentration up to absorb all the information teachers are feeding to the brain. At night brain power needs to be maintained to handle homework and studying, to say nothing about extracurricular activities and a busy social life. "Feeding your brain the foods it needs, will help you think in a new way about what you eat," concluded Grotto.

The Block Center for Integrative Cancer Care and Optimal Health was founded in 1980 by Penny and Keith Block, M.D. with a focus on treating the patient as a whole person, not treating just the diagnosis or symptoms. The Center's research-based treatment integrates an innovative approach to the best of conventional medicine with scientifically sound complementary therapies -- therapeutic nutrition, botanical and phytonutrient supplementation, prescriptive exercise, and systematic mind-body strategies -- to enhance the recovery process. Block has pioneered this "middle ground" approach to cancer care and optimal health ? designing a total treatment plan that is tailored to the precise needs of each patient, using a unique set of clinical and laboratory assessments. The Block Center is breaking new ground with the creation and development of Cancer Rehab as an innovative treatment modality, and currently is the only private North American medical center using chrono-modulated chemotherapy. While the Block Center is a full treatment clinic, it is involved in collaborative research with M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas as a Community Clinical Oncology Program (CCOP) and is also engaged in clinical cancer research with other university facilities in the United States and Israel.

Betty Hoeffner, is a freelance writer who writes articles on a number of subject matters.

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