In North America, we are obsessed with our bodies. We focus on diets and foods and working out to ensure we look good. But I’ve learned that as we age it’s just as important to focus on keeping our brain healthy, free of inflammation and brain shrinkage — two of the 5 hallmarks of dementia and Alzheimer’s, which is now an epidemic in North American and around the world. Some of these practices involved in creating brain health include physical exercise and yoga, meditation, mindfulness, and gratitude.
But there are also spices that have also been proven to help boost brain function. I make a hot beverage at home that can replace a cup of morning coffee or late night tea. I call it Brain Latte. This hot beverage is Paleo, Keto, diabetic, and anti-inflammatory friendly. It’s sugar-free, low in carbs, and substantially satisfying. Most importantly, this drink contains a combination of oil and spices that directly contribute to brain function.
MCT Oil: Coconut oil is fashionable right now. Everyone knows that this saturated fat is actually good for us. But have you heard of Medium-Chain Triglycerides in foods or MCT oil? It’s an important part of coconut oil that contributes to brain function. Another term for triglycerides is fatty acids. So, another way of referring to MCTs is MCFA (medium-chain fatty acids).
The word “medium” refers to the length of the chain of the fatty acids. Oils can contain short- medium- and/or long-chain fatty acids. Most oils have all three.
Medium-chain fatty acids have tremendous health benefits, such as:
- Helping us maintain a healthy weight (healthy, saturated fat that makes you feel full more quickly and, therefore, results in a tendency to eat less)
- By raising your metabolic function, it helps us reduce stored body fat
- Provides us with more energy
- Improves our digestion
- Balances our hormones
- Improves our mood
- Fights bacterial infections and viruses
- Helps our body absorb fat-soluble nutrients in foods
1 tablespoon MCT oil (work your way up to this as it can act as a
MCTs are also vital to maintaining a healthy brain. MCT oil has been proven to improve cognition and memory. I can attest to this first-hand.
Samuel Henderson, Ph.D. is renowned for having patented MCT oil. He was the first to discover that MCTs improve cognition and memory. MCTs produce ketones. The brain treats ketones as fuel, much like a carbohydrate (sugar). MCTs cross the blood-brain barrier (BBB). This is why the ingestion of MCTs has an immediate and positive effect on the brain.
Foods containing MCTs include: coconut oil (15%); palm kernel oil (7.9%); cheese (7.3%); butter (6.8%); milk (6.9%); and yogurt (6.6%).
We prefer to ingest MCT oil as an additional dietary supplement and incorporate it into our cuisine. It is readily available for sale at health-food stores. You’ll find it on shelves beside avocado and grape seed oil.
Before incorporating MCT oil into your diet, consult your physician. If it is okay for you to ingest this oil, start with just a small daily intake, about ½ teaspoon. It takes time for your digestive tract to get used to it and it can act as a laxative. Take ½ teaspoon for at least a week. If your digestive tract is fine, then you can slowly increase the amount.
MCT oil does not solidify like coconut oil. It can be clear or light yellow in colour and is tasteless and odourless. Therefore, it’s a fantastic ingredient to add to a variety of dishes. It can be added to dressings and sauces, as well as to baked goods. It is key to add oil after cooking or baking. Do not use MCT oil for frying. High heat will kill its nutritional properties. Add the oil at the end of the culinary process, or to uncooked foods and dishes.
I have also added it to spaghetti sauce (after the sauce is already cooked) and to whipped cauliflower and roasted garlic on shepherd’s pie. I drizzle this odourless and tasteless oil over soups, stews, and chili. I use MCT oil in my Lawyer’s Lethal Latte as a base ingredient instead.
Ground Turmeric: My husband and I love to dine at a local restaurant called House of India in our city. We love curry. So it was pleasing to hear that the key ingredient called curcumin in the Indian spice turmeric is believed to prevent the spread of amyloid protein plaques that cause dementia. In Japan physicians at Kariya Toyota General Hospital in Kariya City evaluated three case studies involving turmeric and concluded that the herb showed relief of dementia symptoms and improved overall cognitive function. The study involved patients taking turmeric capsules for one year, which found improvements with their symptoms.
Ground Cinnamon: Every morning my father puts cinnamon on a quarter slice of toast with peanut butter and eats it. Since undertaking this morning ritual, he says he no longer experiences angina when he walks. Cinnamon has many health benefits for the body and the brain, including anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties to help to heal irritable bowel syndrome, gastric cancers and stomach flus, as well as colds, a sore throat and cough.
It possesses two compounds called cinnamaldehyde and epicatechin that help prevent clumps of the tau protein from occurring in the brain, and therefore is believed to help prevent dementia. Cinnamon also helps to regulate insulin levels for diabetics. And for this reason studies suggest that it may also contain anti-Alzheimer’s properties.
Ground Ginger: Ginger is closely related to turmeric and cardamom. It is also renowned for its medicinal properties. Ginger is used to treat nausea, menstrual pains, and relieving joint pain. It lowers blood sugars, aids in digestion, and contributes to brain function. Inflammation in the brain is one of the hallmarks of dementia and Alzheimer’s. Some studies in animals have found that the antioxidants in ginger can prevent inflammation in the body and brain. Evidence also suggests that ginger can enhance brain function.
Stevia: Stevia is a “sweet” sugar substitute. In fact, it is 200 times sweeter than sugar! It has been a sweet staple in the South American diet for centuries. With zero calories and a glycemic index of zero, stevia has become a popular substitute for diabetics and those on a low glycemic diet. While it derives from a plant, stevia is highly refined so might also fit into the ‘artificial’ sweetener category. In my opinion, its benefits far out weight its disadvantages when it comes to preventing and slowing the progression of dementia. Cheap versions of stevia can possess a bitter after taste. So be sure to purchase one that is reasonably priced and tastes great. Stevia is not a good substitute for sugar in baking. It comes in various forms, such as granulated and fluffy or concentrated, for example.
Here is the recipe:
BRAIN SAVVY LATTE
8 ounces of coconut milk (unsweetened)
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
2 packs stevia (only for Paleo and Grain-free, not Whole30)
Pinch of freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon MCT oil (work your way up to this as it can act as a
In a blender or magic bullet add all ingredients. Puree until frothy. Transfer to a small pot. Heat to the desired temperature. Pour into a cup. Drizzle with MCT oil.