The Brain & Mental Health: Food, Exercise & Mood, Part Two

 NOTE: Last month, Mental Health Month, I posted Part One of the topic drawing on Dr. Amen’s terrific book, The End of Mental Illness. Today I am completing this topic, using Dr. Sanjay Gupta’s book, Keep Sharp, which focuses more on a healthy brain, especially for dementia, rather than mental illness, per se, but covers the topics of food, mood, and exercise quite well. Here are some highlights and quotes that apply to the whole body, which includes the mind.

“…In order to best take care of your body, you have to first take care of your mind.” (Introduction)

“ No matter what your DNA says, a good diet, regular exercise, not smoking, limiting alcohol, and some other surprising lifestyle decisions, can change that destiny.” (Intro.)

In one of his “boxes” to highlight information, Dr. Gupta writes about statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, noting that 80% of Americans don’t get enough regular exercise. Equally important is the analysis that involved adults from age fifty to age 71. If these people exercised between two and eight hours per week from their teen years until their sixties, they have a “29 to 36 percent lower chance of dying from any cause over the twenty-year period.” (p . 101)

The above stats are a great endorsement for staying active at any age. As 96 year old Dick Van Dyke said in a documentary about older actors, “Keep moving!”

96-year old Dick Van Dyke (aka The Energizing Bunny! es)

Dr. Gupta covers muscle mass, the importance of “white matter (bundles of nerve fibers trough which messages pass between different areas of gray matter),” how exercise should be a lifetime activity, and as he notes on page 112, “exercise is a daily nonnegotiable activity like brushing my teeth.”

Since I am a big believer in the relationship between food and general health, including mental health, I think Dr. Gupta’s “Guide to Good Eating,” starting on page 170-176 is extremely important. Here are his ideas using the acronym: S.H.A.R.P:

S: Slash Sugar and Stick to Your ABCs. (A foods are ones to consume regularly, like fresh fruits and veggies. B foods are additional foods to include, such as whole grains, and C foods are foods to limit, such as fried foods and red meat).

H: Hydrate Smartly. According to the author, our ability to identify we are thirsty diminishes and also we often mistake hunger for being thirsty. He notes that there is a link between how hydrated you are and your energy levels as well as brain rhythm.

A: Add More Omega-3 Fatty Acids from Dietary Sources. Because our Standard American Diet is heavy on Omega 6s and not Omega 3s, we need to eat more “brain-nourishing” gems from seafood, nuts, and seeds” and fewer “processed, friend and baked food.” The 1:1 ratio of early humans is not honored, and he notes that the ratio is more like 12: 1 to 25:1 omega -6 to omega-3.

R: Reduce Portions. The emphasis here is in cooking your own meals so you can control the portions you eat. He also writes about different ways of preparing food that are more healthful, such as avoiding frying foods and replacing that technique “ with boiling, poaching, steaming, or baking.”

P: Plan Ahead. Here the author recommends that by planning ahead, we won’t “get caught” to buying and eating simple carbs, low fiber, and saturated fats. By planning ahead (ex. I take an apple or banana with me when I shop in case I get hungry.)

At the end of this section he provides a list of ideas called “Feeding Your Brain,which draws upon S.H.A.R.P. with some additional practical tips, such as eating a wide variety of different colored veggies, reminiscent of what he recalls as “eating the rainbow,” read labels, etc.

I read some time ago in a book by a doctor that diet is 80% of your health and exercise is 20%. I am not sure I agree with that ratio, but I do agree that some people tend to eat junk and they can go to the gym to exercise and offset the junk food (I disagree with that).

To me, eating well may not be 80% of our health, but it certainly is very important, with exercise as also necessary to stay healthy, especially as we age. Find your own balance/ratio and see how you feel, changing your habits as needed to remain healthy with your family doctor’s input.

Dr. Gupta’s book is an excellent overall guide to attain what his subtitle says:
Build a Better Brain at Any Age.

KEEP SHARP  is published by Simon & Schuster and costs $28 hard copy.


Revolutionary Love: A Political Manifesto to Heal and Transform the World  by Michael Lerner

(I have also listed this under Earth Day Every Day because the manifesto includes healing the planet. es.)

This book is an amazing proposal/philosophy/declaration by author Michael Lerner for repairing the world at all levels: environmentally, socially, politically, and spiritually.

The book is divided into two parts: Part I is entitled, “Transcending the Crippling Dynamics of Oppression” and Part II is called, “Strategies for Building the Caring Society.” Both contain eye-opening connections between people and the planet and the future of life on Planet Earth, the only home we know that needs repair desperately.This i

In the Introduction, Michael Lerner defines Revolutionary Love:

“Revolutionary love seeks to reunite all sections of the population into a democratic force capable of healing and repairing the world (the Hebrew concept of tikkun olam) and saving it from environmental disaster.” (p. 24)

This is a massive undertaking because as the author notes next, we need to overcome “the fear, the pain, and the traumas that often cripple our abilities to see clearly what is happening in our world and what we could do to change things.”

The book is basically a blueprint to do just what Lerner describes in the Introduction and throughout the book, giving us several scenarios to ponder and ideas that we can embrace, if we have the courage and the commitment to do so.

Revolutionary Love is more than 400 pages and  packed with so much information that you need to read it slowly in order to absorb the author’s enthusiasm, his commitment to the manifesto, and the ideas he puts forth. On the next page of the Introduction Lerner reminds us that, “Unless we simultaneously transform our economic and political arrangements to overcome class-stratified society, patriarchy, and racism, our compassion, empathy, and generosity will not stop the destruction of the Earth.” (p. 25)

And his book attempts (and succeeds) to inspire the reader to take the steps needed to transform our way of life and our thoughts to accomplish all that he suggests. This is no simple task and requires commitment from all of us, at whatever level we can manage.

His passion and pleas for loving kindness and caring permeate the book and are at the core of his manifesto, which could also be called a blueprint for survival.

The chapters in each section are compelling. Here are two titles, one from Part I and one from Part II: Toxic Self-Blaming and Powerlessness and Major Institutional Changes for Building a Love and Justice Movement. Each chapter builds on the previous one, so when you reach the end of the book, I think you will conclude, as I did, Yes! This is possible.  And necessary, starting with a new bottom line that maximizes our ability as human beings to be “loving, generous and caring”

I urge to read this book in order to start your own revolution love packet and do what you can to make this manifesto a reality. The book is published by University of California Press and is available as hardcover and paperback. Get out your highlighter and start learning about Revolutionary Love, step by step! Rabbi Lerner can also be contacted at:







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