Early Light: Have a berry good day

I got a kick out of listening to classmates try to remember people and places during our reunion this past weekend.

With help from a lot of folks, we were able to piece together our past.  All this got me thinking about my neurons and how I might stall the aging process which has been escalating since I hit the ripe old age of fifty-twelve.

I overheard a doctor on The Today Show talking about “brain” foods – those things that contain flavonoids which can boost the memory function. Other nutrients that have been found to improve memory are folate and omega-3 fatty acids.

You might want to include the following on your grocery list list this week.


Berries have some of the highest concentrations of antioxidants among fruit, and all berries are rich in healthy anthocyanins and flavonols,which may help protect against the breakdown of brain cells. Some encouraging animal studies have suggested that diets rich in flavonoids may help reverse memory loss in humans. They’ll will be appearing in farmers’ markets soon, and I will be in line to stock up.

Leafy greens

Leafy greens like spinach, kale, collard greens, mustard greens, and turnip greens are loaded with folate which seems to have a direct effect on memory. In a study done at Tufts University in Boston, reseachers followed 320 men for three years and tracked their blood levels of homocysteine — an amino acid that has been linked to a higher risk of heart disease. The participants who had high levels of homocysteine showed memory decline; those who ate foods rich in folic acid, however, which directly lowers homocysteine levels, demonstrated a protective effect against memory decline.

I wish they’d do a study pitting southerners against Yankees.  Bet those south of the Mason Dixon line will score better because of our penchant for turnip greens.

Fatty Fish

More good news for the South.  What could be better than a plate of Mississippi Pond Raised catfish – fried of course. Research suggests that when it comes to food and memory, fish should be the star of the show — specifically, fatty fish like salmon, sardines, herring, and mackerel and the generous amounts of omega-3 fats they provide. In fact, a study published in the Archives of Neurology in November 2006 found that subjects with the highest levels of omega-3s were significantly less likely to be diagnosed with dementia than subjects with the lowest levels.

Another, earlier study, conducted by researchers at the Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, followed more than 3,000 men and women for six years to see how diet affected their memory. Those who ate fish at least once a week had a 10 percent slower memory decline than those who did not eat fish, a difference that gave them the memory and thinking ability of a person three years younger.
Strive to eat three 4-ounce servings of fatty fish per week. If that’s not realistic, consider using fish oil supplements.


coffee_roaster(1) Here’s more good news for coffee lovers: About two years ago, researchers from the University of Innsbruck in Austria found that caffeinated coffee can temporarily sharpen a person’s focus and memory. After giving volunteers the caffeine equivalent of about two cups of coffee, they used magnetic resonance imaging to observe that the volunteers’ brain activity was increased in two locations, one of which is involved in memory. Volunteers given no caffeine showed no increase in brain activity.

Another study, published in a leading neurology journal, found that the effects of caffeine may be longer lasting in women. This four-year-long study involved about 7,000 participants who all went through baseline evaluations for cognitive function and blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and other vascular issues.

The researchers reevaluated the participants at the end of two years and again at the end of four years; they found that women 65 and older who drank more than three cups of coffee per day (or the caffeine equivalent in tea) had about a third less decline in memory over that time than the women who drank one cup or less of coffee (or the caffeine equivalent in tea) per day.

The results held up even after the researchers adjusted them to take into account other factors that could affect memory function, such as age, education, baseline cognitive function, depression, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, medications, and chronic illnesses.

The researchers speculated that this caffeine-memory association was not observed in men because it’s possible that the sexes metabolize caffeine differently.
One thing to keep in mind, though, is that unfiltered coffee (such as espresso, as well as coffee made in a French press) contains compounds that can raise cholesterol levels, especially in people who are already battling high cholesterol. To be safe, stick with filtered coffee, and of course, be moderate when adding milk and sugar! (Source:  Joy Bauer.com.)

8 thoughts on “Early Light: Have a berry good day

  1. Hi Emily,

    Just thought I’d throw this into this discussion.

    To get the most bang for your buck, you can get the preferred RED salmon in a can at the grocery store, for just a little bit more than what you’d pay for the pink canned salmon. (Canned salmon is LOTS less expensive than any other form of salmon one can buy, and remember that 4 oz at a serving isn’t all that much of it.)

    Reason for ALWAYS buying RED salmon is that it has to be WILD, which is considered a safer fish to eat.

    Just thought I’d throw this cost containing information out as cost can be a limiting factor with alot of people’s budgets. I think the red has a little better flavor than the pink — probably one of the reasons it costs a little more, but it’s worth the difference for the health and taste benefits, that is unless you just don’t like the taste of any of it.

    Unless you can grow your own greens, frozen ones from the grocery store may be your best choice, particularly since it takes a while for “fresh” ones to arrive on your self, and then, if they sit in your frig for very long, by the time you use them, they’ve lost alot of their food value.

    Many frozen fruits and vegetables are frozen quickly right in the field where they are grown — can’t get much fresher than that. I’ve also noticed more varieties of greens coming out in frozen form lately, for those who like variety. Just waiting for bok choy or baby bok choy to come out in that form, and then, we’ll have to get a bigger freezer!

    Living here in the big city, it’s a bit easier for me to buy frozen things grown in the USA, but they do cost a little more, because the brand we buy comes in smaller packages by a few ounces, but hey, how many of us throw out those small amounts of leftover vegetables anyway? Also, these are organic, so I think they are actually pretty reasonable, given those factors.

    However, there is one U.S. organic brand that comes in brown bags that doesn’t quite taste as fresh to me as the ones in more colorful bags that we’ve been finding in the freezer section at our local health food store lately.

    It pays to shop around for what tastes good to you, is healthy, and that you can pay for. Other than frozen spinach (recently from the USA) ‘ve not found any organic frozen greens at the store, but somehow, I just don’t think that can be far away.

    What are some of your experiences with cooking greens in a healthy manner that still taste good!


  2. How do you use the canned salmon, Nancy. I’ve never bought it because I didn’t know what to do with it. Priced some fresh salmon today and decided way to expensive…

  3. In cooking greens, I always use chicken bouillion cubes in the water; however, it has lots of salt, so taste before adding salt. Just a tablespoon of olive oil helps! The canned salmon is good over salad greens. Rinse it first in cold water!

  4. Hi Ann,

    You are so right about the canned red salmon being good over salad greens. Thanks for the tip about the cold water, and adding olive oil to the greens.

    I have to admit that I sometimes treat myself to a smaller label brand of salmon that I buy at Whole Foods, but very seldom due to the price. It is smoked over alder wood, as I recall — a real luxury for me, but then I don’t have many places I can eat out, so this is a substitute for eating out in my budget.

    The smoked alderwood flavor makes it even better over the salad greens. (Emily, that’s what I ate at the reunion, right out of the can. Had to have something to keep me from drooling while watching ya’ll eat that beautiful fried chicken! I remember what that tastes like only too well! Ha!)

    I can also eat it right out of the can! I HAVE to have things that aren’t packed with soy oil, or vegetables oils as most of the latter mostly consist of soy oil!

    Most bouillons are either not gluten free or else have something else I have a food sensitivity to. I think the main thing that’s a problem is that the few that are gluten free still have dietary yeast, and I have that issue as well.

    Sooo…just in case someone else has problems with these food allergens, I’ll tell ya what I can use in place of buillon cubes for all sorts of things:

    I have found that Kitchen Basics stocks are helpful for lots of things, and they do make a chicken stock that does not appear to have any but basic ingredients and spices (no mystery ingredients), and none of the major allergens are mentioned on the label. I’ve never had any problems after consuming these, and I usually know by 24 hours in my case.

    Alot will depend on what flavor/s you want to put into the particular food — this is more for savory, but if you just want plain chicken flavor, there are other chicken broths that come in a carton that wouldn’t have these additional flavors — just chicken, like the buillon. Perhaps one could just reduce down the latter a bit for more flavor.

    Many stores won’t have them, but I find it more practical to buy the Kitchen Basics stocks that come in in 8 oz. cartons. (The bigger cartons are good if you will be using all or most of it in a week’s time.

    What’s nice about the 8 oz cartons is that I don’t have to store the left over amount in the frig, just throw the carton away. Also, these take up less storage space in the cabinet (before they are opened, of course). If my use requires exactly a cup, I don’t even have to get out a measuring cup, just throw the stuff in.

    What do I do with the stocks, you ask? Welp, sometimes I’ll throw a small carton in with something in the crock pot — like beef stock for a beef stew.
    Other times, I might use the flavor I want to cook rice in in place of water.

    These are also good for braising on the stove. This brand even has seafood stocks — lots of flavors if you can find them locally — betcha they have a website if you want to see what all they carry. Sometimes you can get your local stores to stock more variety, but sometimes they can’t due to their supplier. I really don’t get how all this works, but perhaps Emily can explain why that is.

    Emily, have you ever cooked salmon crochettes (sp)? I don’t due to the eggs, but I could substitute an alternative flour that doesn’t have gluten if it weren’t for the egg issue. Besides, the less fried the better, right?

    Just thoughta sumpin — you could pour the leftover broth or stock from the big cartons into an ice tray and freeze, so you wouldn’t have to throw out what’s left after it had been open a week. Might make more sense to reduce it down before freezing it, and then, just throw in the number of cubes required for your usage. After all, you can always add the water back in when you’re cooking right?

    Most of the people I know who do the freezing bit, will take the cubes out of the ice trays, and put them into a freezer bag, and then back into the freezer for later use.

    Time to run!

  5. Em,

    I think, if you don’t have a good salmon rub to sprinkle over the raw salmon before cooking it, you might be able to use The Spice Hunter line’s Key Lime Pepper Blend, which happens not to have salt as an ingredient.

    Baron’s Savoury Secrets (found at Whole Foods here) has a Jamaican Jerk seasoning that has sea salt as it’s first ingredient, that I think would be good to cook the canned salmon in.

    There are probably similar spice combinations sold in more common brands, but these are just two that I happen to like to use on the red salmon. For instance, McCormick’s has a Caribbean Island Blend Seafood Seasoning that has simpler ingredients — just onion, spices (??), salt, sugar, garlic, and red pepper. Probably everyone can easily locate McCormick’s seasonings.

    I haven’t tried a bunch of fancy recipes for this, but I can make it taste good on a salad. I would love to hear about anyone’s experiences with preparing canned red salmon in different ways, however.

    There’s another “Salmon Rub” in the fat white cardboard cycydrical shaker containers — you know, the one that has that heavy set chef’s picture on his products, I think. This one’s specifically for salmon, so that should be a good choice. I’ve used it in the past, but can’t remember exactly what it’s like. Seems like most have sugar in them for sure.

    Welp, that should make it a little easier to shop for seasoning, if you want to try one of these. Just remember to buy the red salmon rather than the pink as if it’s red, it’s got to be wild — all red salmon are wild.


  6. Where can you buy that Spice Hunter brand? Haven’t seen it in our area. So do you mix the canned salmon like tuna salad or what? I used to love my mother’s salmon croquettes, which she made with the canned stuff, but I don’t fry any more. Wonder if they can be oven baked.

  7. Emily,

    I should think that it would be difficult to bake the traditional croquettes any other way than to fry ’em, but I’m no authority on that — haven’t made those in a while.

    I’m pretty sure we used to use the pink kind in the can for those when I grew up — I, too, loved those! Not sure whether they’d taste the same in the red, but you could try it.

    Tell you what I did the last time I got a wild hair to make those — I
    e-mailed our cousin, Marilyn, and she sent me directions. No…really…I did that!

    In terms of Spice Hunter, a few years ago, I went to a place called “World Imports” or something that starts with the word “World” which has all sorts of imported things (so what’s different about that, you ask?). Anyway, they had a huge selection of seasonings under this label. If I’m ever over that way again, I will check to see if they still carry that particular product.

    Meantime, you might want to check out the big Italian chef’s “salmon rub” in the big white cardboard shaker. If your grocer carries any of that line, he should be able to special order you any other of their products that are still in being sold.

    Since I can’t have mayonaise due to the eggs, I’m probably not the best
    person to ask about making the canned salmon like you would a tuna salad, but I know that there’s a way to make it into that kind of a salad.

    What I do is to just sprinkle some bits of red salmon that are flavored, either with the fancy alder wood smoked stuff that we get at Whole Foods (not very often), or we sprinkle some kinda rub (usually they contain sugar, maybe brown sugar, as one of their main ingredients) on frozen wild salmon that we’ve been buying in the frozen seafood section at Whole Foods.

    After the rubbed or seasoned salmon is grilled (in the toaster oven sometimes), we sprinkle the finished product on our green salad. I got a couple of packages of this frozen fish last time as they had a good sale. It’s less expensive than “fresh” and I think it’s fresher at the time it’s frozen. (We’ve been doing this more than the canned red since I’ve been here with Mother for some reason.) You can just add the amount of protein you need to a salad, and thus, make the more expensive frozen kind go a little further.

    Anyway, I’m sure that one could just as easily add the same typeof seasonings/rubs to the red canned stuff in a frying pan, and then, pour it over any combination of green salad that you chose.

    Anyway, it shouldn’t really make any difference if you use red salmon that comes in a can that you should find at all kinds of grocery stores, but as Ann suggested, we should rinse the salmon off with cold water before using it.

    If you can find some kind of gourmet rub in one of those little bitty packages, you could go that route, but it would be priciest that way, I’m sure. Probably could find some recipes for salmon rubs on line somewhere as another alternative.

    I suppose that if the other flavors you have in a salad are tasty enough, you wouldn’t even need to flavor the cooked salmon, other than with salt and pepper, particularly if you are just adding the salmon to add some protein to your meal. I actually think I used to do this with leftover restaurant salads — just throw in some cooked salmon the next day to make a more complete lunch out of the leftover salad the next day. I sometimes need something quick and easy to fix around here, so that’s one of our go-to things, depending on what’s on hand.

    Not sure I’ve helped you very much! Let me know what you come up with to do with the canned red salmon.


  8. Em,
    It’s Cost World, so that place doesn’t start with World. Have you ever heard of these import places?
    Also, my sister thought she saw the Spice Hunter product I mentioned at Krogers.
    The “salmon rub” is a product of Paul P’s, and the big fat container isn’t white after all.
    My b-i-l gets little packages of salmon rub sometimes, so I asked him today if he’d get an extra package at one of our Texas large chain groceries that has an upgraded store not too far from here. If he remembers to bring one, I’ll throw it in an envelop and mail it to you, just not sure when he’ll be going there next.
    Tonight, we had a concoction salad consisting of romaine lettuce, canned tonga tuna, red onion, avocado, lime juice, Drew’s “creamy” Italian salad dressing. Lime and the Drew’s sound pretty contradictory in flavors, but it was actually not a bad combination. May have inadvertantly discovered sumpin! Cuz

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *