Brainfood: May Edition
GETTING ENOUGH COFFEE, GAINS FOR YOUR BRAIN, AND MARIJUANA AS PRE-WORKOUT FUEL
When topics like plant-based eating or the microbiome make the news, we always get a little thrill—it makes us feel like proud parents. And we know you share our desire to stay up on developments in science and spirit, to indulge our curiosity, and to tap into the collective consciousness of everything from the microbiology of the gut to the waxing and waning of the moon.
Now, in the spirit of remaining ever open to new knowledge, we’re giving this ongoing conversation its very own home on S Life. Each month, we’ll bring you the latest in health, wellness, and nutrition, and share dispatches from Sakara HQ. It’s all part of our bigger mission to feed your body and your mind.
Gains for your brain
You exercise to train and tone your body—perhaps it’s especially on your mind as summer approaches—but what about your brain? A new study supports neurofeedback, a therapy that “exercises” brainwaves, as an effective method to improve brain health quickly. The results suggest this treatment initially used by NASA to train lunar astronauts could help with depression and potentially prevent strokes and illnesses like Parkinson’s.
In the study, subjects who underwent just 30 minutes of brain training exhibited impressive results: increased integrity in the part of the brain that connects the left and right hemispheres, a stronger neural network that controls body movements, and improvements to the part of the brain that’s impaired by depression, stroke and Parkinson’s. Your brain has an incredible ability to adapt quickly, but it needs regular exercise just like your body.
The rule of five
Maybe you’re an artisanal pour-over fanatic, or perhaps you just love the ritual of that first cup of coffee upon rising. Either way, your daily brew offers health benefits beyond just helping you start your day: it’s rich in antioxidants that protect the body against wear and tear, and numerous studies have linked it to living a longer, healthier life with less risk of things like heart attack and stroke.
But if you’re an imbiber of caffeine, then you’re probably familiar with the potential downsides, like digestive upset, jitters, and insomnia. The question remains: how do you strike the perfect balance? Fortunately, a large-scale study of coffee drinkers has determined the ideal number of cups per day to support optimal health: five. While coffee has heart benefits up to a certain point, once your daily habit reaches (a rather generous, no?) six cups a day, it begins to negatively impact your heart health, to the tune of 22% increased disease risk. Rejoice—you can keep your single-origin cold brews and frothy oat milk lattes, as long as you stick to five or fewer.
(Want to mix up your morning beverage routine? Try this recipe for the Reishi Cappuccino from Erewhon’s famed Tonic Bar.)
Relax—it could save your life
Here’s a theory: the recent rise in mainstream popularity of meditation, adaptogens, yoga, crystals, and all manner of alternative healing modalities and metaphysical esoterica has something to do with the fact that we’re collectively stressed out. Whether you blame it on the daily deluge of worrying news headlines or our hyperconnected digital existences, we’ve all got a lot on our minds these days. And while a little stress is normal, science has shown us once again that chronic stress is toxic.
A study of more than 130,000 siblings in Sweden found that diagnosis of a stress disorder like PTSD is associated with a 60% increased risk of heart disease. The study of siblings is significant because it shows that, for instance, you could have the same genetic background and upbringing as your brother, but if he experienced trauma resulting in acute stress, he may be more likely to suffer a heart attack, blood clot or other cardiovascular event.
This is only the latest in a long line of studies showing a link between stress and disease; chronically elevated stress can mess with your skin, your digestion, your mental function, your love life, your longevity...the list goes on and on. Find a way to unwind that works for you—it’s not a luxury, it’s a necessity.
In other news…
-Could your pre-workout fuel come in smokeable form? A study from (no surprise here) the University of Colorado found that people who used marijuana shortly before or after working out spent more time exercising per week, enjoyed their workouts more, experienced improved recovery and felt more motivated to exercise.
-Chronic fatigue syndrome is a mysterious and misunderstood condition—such that sufferers struggle to get doctors to take their complaints seriously. (It’s often chalked up to a psychosomatic response to anxiety.) That may change, now that Stanford University researchers have developed a diagnostic test for the condition.
-Leeds has become the first city in the UK—and among the few worldwide—to see childhood obesity rates decline. It’s credited to a program that helps parents encourage healthy eating habits at home. One side effect? Some parents report that their efforts to improve their children’s eating habits resulted in their own weight loss as well.
The winter months are about getting cozy and turning inward...but brighter, warmer days are the signal to get out of our heads and into our bodies. In honor of our clients participating in the annual Best Body Challenge (four weeks of Sakara nutrition + weekly workouts by Ballet Beautiful), HQ is celebrating our favorite ways to get moving:
“I love a long, slow, and steady run. Knowing that all I need is my body and all I have to do is put one step in front of the other is very calming and centering for me.”—Meredith, Clean Boutique Marketing
“Going to the playground or the park with my son might not burn that many calories but it's my favorite way to move. Pushing him on the swing or going down the slide with him on my lap...even climbing on the jungle gym. It truly nourishes my inner child.”—Amanda, VP of Partnerships
“I am the happiest when I’m a dancing queen—I go to contemporary or hip-hop dance class every week.”—Hannah, S Life Editor
“The rebounder! Jumping on the trampoline gives you instant energy, the same kind you felt when you were a kid—plus, it's easy to keep at home to do whenever. Just five minutes makes a difference.”—Lindsay, West Coast Partnerships
“A big walk on a sunny day listening to music or a podcast.”—Amelia, Graphic Designer