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The 3 Best Breakfast Habits to Keep Your Brain Sharp, Dietitians Say

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Eating smartly throughout the day is obviously best for your overall health. However, there’s no doubt that there are plenty of benefits to making sure that you’re eating a proper breakfast.

As the Cleveland Clinic notes, studies have shown that eating within the first few hours after waking up can boost energy levels, be beneficial for the heart, and even lower the risk of diabetes. On top of that, a nutritious breakfast can improve cognitive function by boosting your memory and concentration, according to WebMD.

If you want to take full advantage of what early eating can do for your mind, check out the following 3 best breakfast habits that experts recommend for keeping your brain sharp every day. And next, don’t miss The #1 Best Juice to Drink Every Day, Says Science.

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Rachel Fine, a registered dietitian and owner of To The Pointe Nutrition, says that adding flax seeds is a great breakfast habit to adopt for your cognition.

“Flax contains a high percentage of omega-3 fatty acids (ALA) per serving. ALA fatty acids convert in the body to EPA and DHA, which are two important omega-3’s specifically for brain health,” says Fine.

Flax seeds are so easy to incorporate into your favorite breakfast meals, too, but they must be ground in order for you to fully digest them and gain their full health benefits, Fine says. “I sprinkle flax in oatmeal and yogurt,” she suggests. You can also add them to your smoothie.

Related: The Best Foods That Boost Your Memory After 40, Dietitians Say

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Adding walnuts to your morning meal is also a great option, says Frances Largeman-Roth, RDN, nutrition expert, and author of Smoothies & Juices: Prevention Healing Kitchen.

“Whether you’re having a bowl of oatmeal or yogurt, it’s smart to top it with a handful of walnuts. Studies suggest that including walnuts as part of a healthy diet may play a role in helping maintain and improve cognitive health as we age. The benefit comes from the numerous phytochemicals in walnuts.”

How can you make walnuts a part of your breakfast? According to Largeman-Roth, “in addition to adding whole walnuts to dishes, you can also try topping toast with creamy walnut butter.”

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Largeman-Roth also suggests enjoying berries with your breakfast.

“Berries, including blueberries, strawberries, and blackberries, contain plant chemicals that help keep our brains healthy. Many studies have shown that berries help delay Parkinson’s Disease and Alzheimer’s Disease.”

Beyond that, “berries fight inflammation and oxidative stress, which are involved with the aging of the brain,” Largeman-Roth says. “You can top everything from yogurt to toast with fresh berries, and swirl frozen berries into your smoothies.”

Related: The #1 Best Smoothie to Drink, Says Dietitian

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To find out more about what’s ideal to eat for the health of your brain, be sure to read 30 Best & Worst Foods for Your Brain.

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5 Eating Habits to Avoid to Live Like the World's Oldest People

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Did you know that your longevity is only about 25% attributable to genetics? As it turns out, your lifestyle choices, including your diet, can play a massive role in how long you live. Residents of the “Blue Zones”—which include Okinawa, Sardinia, Nicoya, Icaria, and Loma Linda—are well aware of this. Because of their healthy eating habits, they have a larger population of centenarians (people over 100) than anywhere else in the world.

“Following the Blue Zones’ eating habits is a centuries-old proven method to promote longevity, connection, and energy,” says Lexi Endicott, RD and culinary nutrition specialist at To Taste Culinary Nutrition. “You can start adopting these eating principles at 2 or 92; it’s never too early or too late to make food choices that promote your long-term health. Not only do the Blue Zones eating principles help you live a longer, healthier life, but they also naturally promote a longer, healthier life for our planet, too—a double win!”

Just as you can take a cue from Blue Zone residents on what to eat, you can also take a cue from them on what not to eat. Below, registered dietitians share a few eating habits you’ll want to skip if you want to live a longer life.

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It’s all too easy to go overboard on the snacks when you’re bored or distracted. For instance, if you’re watching Netflix or working at your desk and eating straight out of the bag or box, you may find that you frequently eat way more than one portion size.

“When you eat mindlessly, you are more likely to overeat, and you likely will not enjoy your food as much as you could have,” says Endicott. “In one of the Blue Zones—Okinawa, Japan—they have a practice called Hara Hachi Bu, which translates to ‘eat until you are 80% full.’ Saying this phrase before each meal reminds them to not eat too much, which allows Okinawans to tap into their body’s hunger and fullness signals. This strategy can help you, too: eating enough but not too much can keep you nourished while staving off excess pounds.”

If it helps, you may want to pre-portion out snacks to avoid mindless munching.

“Overeating can lead to obesity and further aggravate chronic conditions,” adds Blanca Garcia, RDN, a nutrition specialist for Health Canal.

processed foods
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Processed foods are unhealthy in not one, but two ways: they tend to be loaded with excess sugar, salt, fat, calories, and other additives, and also lacking in essential vitamins, minerals, protein, fiber, water, and phytonutrients.

“High ultra-processed food intake is consistently correlated with increased risk of overweight, obesity, metabolic disorder, cancer, type-2 diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, irritable bowel syndrome, depression, and all-cause mortality,” explains Endicott. “Blue Zones residents focus on whole, natural foods that promote satiety and are packed with disease-fighting vitamins, minerals, fiber, and phytonutrients.”

Trista Best, RD at Balance One Supplements adds that some of the worst options you can have are processed meats (bacon, pepperoni, hot dogs, etc.), salty processed snacks, sugar-sweetened beverages, and packaged sweets.

“Packaged sweets should be avoided because they contain refined carbohydrates which are inflammatory, this can dull the immune system and is detrimental to gut health,” she explains. “Salty snacks contain preservatives and salt which increase the risk of other metabolic conditions like hypertension and cholesterol. And processed meats are off-limits due to their link to cancer and heart disease risks.”

According to Dana Ellis Hunnes, RD—a senior dietitian at UCLA medical center and author of Recipe For Survival—avoiding these foods can support longevity by lowering inflammation, a well-known predictor of chronic disease and early death.

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It’s not that Blue Zoners don’t drink—it’s that they do so in moderation, and they stick with polyphenol-rich wine. For example, Sardinians often enjoy a glass of Cannonau red wine with a meal. Dry reds are an excellent choice because they’re low in sugar and high in antioxidants.

In fact, a 2006 study in Nature found that reds from Sardinia and southwestern France are naturally higher in procyanidins, a type of antioxidant that’s been linked to promoting heart health. Chardonnay, Riesling, and sauvignon blanc are a few white wines with the highest antioxidant levels.

“If Blue Zone residents drink at all, it’s typically just one drink a day, and socially—not to be drunk,” explains Hunnes. “Alcohol is associated with increased risk of certain cancers, like breast and liver cancer, and early death.”

Remember: the 2020–2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends limiting alcohol intake to two drinks or less in a day for men and one drink or less in a day for women in order to prevent the health risks associated with alcohol.

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You don’t necessarily have to go vegetarian to live a long life—in fact, many Blue Zone residents still occasionally enjoy meat, fish, eggs, and dairy in their diets. That said, according to Endicott, the vast majority of their nutrients come from plant-based foods. Blue Zone residents typically only eat about two ounces of meat five times per month, about three ounces three times per week, and about two to four eggs per week.

“They do not consume animal foods in the same way that most Americans do,” she explains. “They consume them in smaller quantities alongside lots of other plant foods. By limiting their animal protein intake, they naturally avoid excess calories, saturated fat, and other potentially carcinogenic compounds.”

Rather than getting all of your protein from animal-based products, Garcia advises leaning into protein-rich beans, lentils, whole grains, vegetables, nuts, and seeds.

“By increasing plant-based protein you include healthy unsaturated fats, vitamins, minerals, and cholesterol-free protein,” she adds.

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Like meat, Blue Zone residents usually reserve sweets for special occasions and celebrations. They don’t eat many foods with added sweeteners and overall only consume around seven teaspoons of sugar per day. The average American consumes more than double that—about 17 teaspoons per day.

Regularly consuming excess sugar can shorten your lifespan by increasing your risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and obesity. such as weight gain and obesity And added sugar isn’t just in the obvious foods like cookies and candy—it’s also hiding in many other unexpected foods like yogurts, cereals, smoothies, condiments, and even salad dressings. Make it a point to always check the nutrition label on processed foods to confirm the sugar content, and try not to exceed a max of 12 teaspoons per day. When you’re craving dessert, do like the Blue Zoners do and enjoy some fresh fiber-rich fruit, which will fill you up while satisfying that sweet tooth.

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The #1 Best Vegetable to Lower Cholesterol, Says Dietitian

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We get it, sometimes eating enough vegetables can be difficult. But if you skip out on veggies, you’re potentially missing out on tons of nutrients, vitamins, and health benefits.

For example, there are certain vegetables that contain heart-healthy and cholesterol-lowering nutrients. In fact, according to Lisa Young, PhD, RDN, author of Finally Full, Finally Slim and member of our medical expert board, carrots are some of the best veggies you can eat to help lower and manage your cholesterol levels.

“Carrots are a good source of soluble fiber, which can help reduce cholesterol levels. They are also rich in beta carotene, the vitamin A antioxidant that can protect you from chronic disease like heart disease,” says Young, “and the best part is, carrots are super versatile. You can munch on them with hummus, add them to a salad, or toast them with olive oil and garlic and enjoy them as a side dish.”

Continue reading to learn how carrots can help your heart, and for more healthy heart tips, check out Side Effects of High Cholesterol After 50.

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Carrots are almost always first associated with your eye health—and for good reason. They are rich in vitamin A, which has been known to help reduce your risk of certain eye diseases. They also contain lutein, which can help lower your risk of macular degeneration. But while carrots are great for your sight, their benefits don’t stop there.

According to Harvard Health, carrots make a great snack for helping your heart and reducing cholesterol because they’re easy to eat and are loaded with fiber.

The connection between dietary fiber and cholesterol is significant. A review published in Nutrients states that both insoluble and soluble fiber has been known to help lower blood cholesterol levels, which ultimately helps in reducing one’s risk of heart disease.

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Another study published in The Lancet found that eating at least 25 grams of fiber a day was known to help manage weight, blood sugar, blood pressure levels, and cholesterol.

Along with its fiber content, carrots can also provide heart-healthy benefits through its levels of beta-carotene. According to a study published in Circulation Research, beta-carotene was said to help reduce the risk of heart disease, cardiovascular disease, stroke, and some cancers.

Lastly, carrots contain vitamin A, which experts know has some connection to your heart health. However, much more research needs to be done before we can say for certain how vitamin A can help your heart.

So, next time you’re in the mood for a quick snack and want to try roasting some yummy vegetables in the oven, try grabbing some carrots and giving your body a dose of heart-healthy nutrients.

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