Functional Nutrients For Brain Health is a perfect title for this book as it outlines the different foods that can cause different health effects. What is a common misconception people have about food and brain health?
As we enter a new millennium, we are endowed with astounding knowledge about our Universe and ourselves and it is in our best interest to use them to our maximal advantage. We have to strive to protect our environment, our health and well-being and continue the momentum in the right direction. For this, we have to harness and combine the wisdom of the past with the insight and progress gained in the current information era. Lifestyle options with adequate and nourishing food, exercise and rest are needed to cope with the challenges we face every day.
Thus, the focus of this book is to provide guidelines for preserving and enhancing our capacities of intellect and thinking with proper dietary practices. This is especially important as we have extended lifespans, a plethora of commercial food products, food supplements, food fads and drugs that may be baffling to consumers. With increases in incidence of neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s, dementias and symptomatic brain disorders like autism, a retrospective look into how diet can influence proper brain function can help alleviate these conditions.
The brain is the control center of the body and as such, it has to function ideally for the rest of the body to be in perfect health. Besides its role in coordinating motor and sensory functions, the human brain has a major function in higher-order thinking and information processing skills. The role of the brain in fact extends beyond the physical into the meta-physical realm and consciousness.
A common misconception that people have about food and brain health is that what is good for the body is also good for the brain. However, this may not always be true, because every system in the body is specialized and nutrient needs are based on this. A high protein diet may favor an athletic body but may not be an ideal composition for brain functional activities. Similarly, a ketogenic diet may favor weight loss but may not be the best fuel for the brain. Also, growing fetuses, infants and children can have different nutrient requirements than adults for proper brain development.
What were some topics in the book that were important for you to cover?
I would consider this book as a preliminary attempt to understand the relation between diet and brain health. There are contradictory views on the effects of foods on brain health and the diversity of dietary practices, cultures, food availabilities makes it challenging to discern the right foods to use and the wrong foods to avoid. The approach I used for my book is to look closely at “best practices” in cultures where brain health was a priority and use scientific data to support their dietary styles. Another approach was to look at studies where specific diseases were correlated to dietary principles and try to have a disease model with a scientific basis to fit into these conditions.
However, to make the book useful to consumers, I have some dietary guidelines, plans and recipes which is the ultimate goal and this is a work-in progress.
One thing that I discovered with some of the food discussed was that although foods have health benefits they often also carry negative affects. What is a food that carries more health benefits than negative affects?
The ideal food, especially for infants and children, is milk. It is a complete food with correct proportions of macro and micronutrients and fluids. For adults, adequate and optimal quality and quantity of nutrients is important and foods can be beneficial when this principle is applied. Foods should also be customized according to a person’s needs and health status to maintain the body in homeostasis.
Do you plan to write more book on health and well being?
At this time, I would like to concentrate on making my ideas and work useful by applying the knowledge base about diet and health into the actual practice of planning diets. Also, providing people with better awareness and information regarding scientific evidence and strategies, so they can make informed choices in their food habits.
The evolution of mammals and humans is marked by a massive expansion of higher thinking abilities which has paralleled changes in associative regions of the brain and inter-neuronal connections.. This book aims to portray the role and influence of dietary factors in brain health and its intricate networks and has suggested menu options in diet planning for preserving healthy cognitive functions and preventing disease. With increasing life span, it has become a challenging issue to preserve the normal functions of the nervous system and prevent cognitive decline due to aging processes. The rising rates of diseases like obesity, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, autism, depression disorders that affect personality and brain health can be countered by dietary practices that establish better equilibrium and homeostasis in the body and central nervous system. Thus, optimal brain health involves nurturing and maintaining these capabilities and the structural and metabolic networks in the brain. Some of the relevant macronutrients (Caloric Energy, Carbohydrates, Proteins and Fats) and micronutrients (Vitamins, Minerals, Phytonutrients – Flavanoids, anti-oxidants, etc.) and their cellular and systemic functional roles in normal and abnormal health are discussed. Traditional practices in dietary control in cultures with a strong history of mental abilities have been used as the foundation for many of the recipes and suggested diet plans, while scientific advances in our understanding of the nervous system has been used as the rationale for some of the dietary modifications to achieve optimal cognitive abilities and preserve memory functions, especially in the aging process.
Cascarones follows the life of a Mexican American girl in Texas that must balance her culturally rich heritage in a whitewashed school. Why was this an important book for you to write?
It was important for me to write and share my story since I believe that diversity is so important to all of us. Everyone needs to know that being different is a gift― especially our young readers. They need to be able to see themselves, their culture, and their traditions in books, music, and movies. Since reading has always been one of my passions, I realized that there was a lack of published stories that reflected Mexican American families such as mine.
When I was growing up, I loved it when our teachers would take us to the library to check out books. As I grew older, I started to realize that most of those books were about people that I couldn’t relate to. The characters weren’t anything like my family or friends. They didn’t look like us and definitely didn’t talk like us. When I started visiting bookstores, the same seemed true. Even today, it is still difficult to find books written by Mexican American authors in libraries or bookstores. I felt it was important to write about my beautiful culture and traditions so that readers would be able to experience the rich and colorful experiences that I was so privileged to grow up with.
We get to explore Suzy’s character all the way to adulthood. What were some driving ideals behind her character?
Cascarones is about a Mexican American girl growing up in South Texas always surrounded by family and friends. Love, faith, and simple fun are seen through her character. In a way, her stories are universal because everyone has their own version of Suzy’s story.
She grew up surrounded by people who left a huge impression on her just by being in her life. Her character is able to change and adapt to the situations that change in her life. Many of the characters in Cascarones are based on people who passed away at a very young age. They are vital to Suzy’s life and helped to shape who she becomes. Since Suzy grows up in a large extended family that is surrounded by love, she realizes that everyone in her life is important even though she is faced by challenges.
Each story gives more insight into the family as well as their culture and history. What were some themes you wanted to explore in this book?
The title Cascarones represents the cycle of life. The cascaron starts out as an egg with so much promise for life. The gold yolk inside symbolizes the life that we all have since we all start our journey as an egg. However, in order to make a cascaron the egg is removed, and the shell is then decorated in the most beautiful and artistic way possible. It is then cracked, falls to the ground and becomes part of the earth. It fertilizes the dirt and is reborn with the grass, trees, and flowers. That is what happens to us. Our life begins as an egg. We all have a gold yolk that represents our inner soul, but at the end our body goes back to the ground. The shell or the cascaron represents us, for we are all here only temporarily. In an instant we could be gone, for we do not know when our time will come. Life is fragile, just like a cascaron.
Everyone has a story inside of them waiting to be written. If there is not anything out there that reflects who you are, then it’s up to you to do something about it. Whether it’s about one’s religion or no religion, culture, or even sexual orientation it’s important to share one’s own story. Start writing and get the message out to everyone else. Once the writing starts, the rest will fall into place.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
My next book is titled The Golden Egg and should be released next month. I’m really excited about it because it will be a bilingual chapter book. One page will be in English and the following page in Spanish. Even though Cascarones has some Spanish in it, many people have asked about a bilingual version.
I also have a poetry book that is forthcoming. Poetry is something that I truly enjoy, and it’s a beautiful way to express feelings in an artistic way. I have several selections that I’m excited to share with readers.
Cascarones is a young adult bildungsroman, a coming of age story narrated in a non-linear fashion that revolves around the life of a Mexican American family living in the Rio Grande Valley in Deep South Texas. The main character, Suzy, as well as her family and friends are encircled by rich traditions and culture of the region, shaping who she becomes. There are many beautiful people depicted in this novel who helped transform Suzy. The narrative shifts from present to the past to connect the reader with cultural traditions that changed through the years. It exposes how Easter was and is currently celebrated in the Rio Grande Valley and growing up during the sixties and seventies as a Mexican American amidst discriminatory undertones.
Sylvia Sánchez-Garza was born in Mercedes, Texas and raised in Weslaco, Texas. As a young girl, her family moved to Houston, Texas for a few years while her father worked on his doctorate at the University of Houston. She returned to and settled in the Rio Grande Valley. “I knew that it would always be my home,” Dr. Sánchez-Garza confessed. She and her husband live in Edinburg, Texas and own a real estate business. She has four sons, who make her very proud. She holds a B.A. in English, an M.A. in School Administration, and a Ph.D. in Leadership Studies. Cascarones is her first novel.