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Brain Healthy Christmas Cookies to Spread the Joy

Holidays and special events…we all overeat, especially at Christmas.  It is so hard to turn away and not indulge during the celebrations. Every specialty food is loaded with preservatives, additives and yes…sugar.  But I have found a Christmas Cookie which gives the perfect ingredients for the proper, nutritious feeding of our head brains and our gut brains without excess sugar.

These cookies date back to the middle ages when the advent of celebrating the birth of Christ began to replace traditional European solstice rituals.  Around this same time, commerce instigated gastronomic changes into the world of cooking, particularly introducing foreign spices.

Nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves and black pepper, along with other spices, were just starting to become widely used with dried exotic fruits like citron, apricots and dates adding sweetness and texture to desserts.

These ingredients, along with sugar were not always readily available and quite expensive.  Combined with lard or butter, gastronomic treats hosting these ingredients would have been prized as expensive delicacies.  Only on the most important holiday could families afford treats like these which led to a baking bonanza to prepare for Christmas.

And unlike pies or cakes, cookies could be easily shared and given to friends and neighbors. Christmas cookies date back to these medieval gifts.

For example peppery Papparkakor from Sweden, lemony Krumkake from Norway, almond flavored Letterbanket from Holland and/or spicy Lebkuchen from Germany are traditional Christmas delicacies.

Granted, however similar, ingredients today are not the same ingredients of the middle ages.  So in translating traditional ingredients for modern day ingredients, we have two basic ‘good head brain and gut brain’ problems…flour, specifically gluten, and sugar.  In analyzing these historic Christmas cookie recipes for healthy brain ingredients, Lebkuchen from Germany, holds the best promise as it calls for no flour, you can make it low sugar and it has a high ratio of nuts.  Honestly:  this recipe is a bit involved but the taste without the guilt is so worth the effort.  Treat you and yours.  Merry Christmas.

Thanks go to economist David D. Friedman for his medieval German cookbook research and Kimberly Killebrew, her website, The Daring Gourmet, for the inspiration for making this dish brain food accessible.

 

German Lebkuchen

Ingredients

  • 5 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups honey
  • 1 teaspoon quality pure vanilla extract
  • 2 cups almond meal
  • 2 cups hazelnut meal ^
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3 teaspoons Lebkuchengewürz, homemade preferred(see **below for the recipes)
  • 4 ounces candied lemon peel, homemade preferred, **
  • 4 ounces candied orange peel, homemade preferred, **
  • Blanched whole almonds cut in half lengthwise +

^I did not have any hazelnut meal in the pantry so I used 4 cups of almond meal and cookies were superb!

+just buy sliced Almonds at grocery

For the Chocolate Glaze:

  • 3 ounces quality dark chocolate powder
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil – do not use butter

Directions: Place chocolate and oil in a small bowl and slowly heat, stirring occasionally, until melted. If glaze becomes firm, reheat.

Instructions

1. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.
2. Pulse candied lemon and orange peel in a food processor until finely minced. Set aside.
3. In a large mixing bowl, beat the eggs until foamy. Add the sugar, honey and vanilla extract and beat until combined.
4. Add the ground almonds and hazelnuts, salt, baking powder, Lebkuchengewürz, and candied lemon and orange peels and stir vigorously until thoroughly combined. (You can use a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat for about 2 minutes). The mixture will be wet but if it is too thin to scoop add some more almond or hazelnut meal.
5. Scoop blobs of the mixture onto a greazed or parchment paper lined cookie sheet and press down with the bottom of a glass to make flat. Dip glass in bit coconut oil if dough sticks.
6. Bake on the middle rack of the oven for 25-28 minutes. Remove the cookie sheet and allow to cool completely.
7. Once cooled, place a wire rack over a cookie sheet (to catch the drippings). Dip half the Lebkuchen in the chocolate glaze letting the excess drip back into the bowl and then place the Lebkuchen on the wire rack. Arrange 3 almonds on each Lebkuchen while the glaze is still wet and leave out to hardened.
8. Keep stored in an airtight container or in refrigerator to keep chocolate solid if you have hot Christmas weather. They will keep for several weeks and the flavor improves with time.
9. Makes about 35

 

Authentic Lebkuchengewürz (German Holiday Spice Blend)**

THE essential ingredient to authentic tasting Lebkuchen, absolutely NOTHING compares to the bold and vibrant flavors of homemade Lebkuchengewürz!
Servings: 4 tablespoons

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground green cardamom
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground star anise
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground mace
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Instructions–Combine the spices together and store in an airtight jar in a cool, dark place for up to one year.

 

How to Make non sugary Candied Lemon and Orange Peels**

Store bought candied citrus peels coated in crystallized sugar loaded with preservatives and additives is NOT what we want. Honey is the answer.  Plus the taste is so much nicer.  (These homemade citrus peels are the 2nd key to good tasting Lebkuchen.)

 

Ingredients

  • Peels from 3 oranges and 4 lemons (Can also use grapefruits, Meyer lemons, limes as long as washed and scrubed as citrus is highly sprayed. Use organic if possible.)
  • 2 cups water
  • ¾ cup honey

 

Instructions:

  1. Slice both ends of the citrus fruits and remove peel. You can remove a little of the white pith but not necessary.  (I just keep all my citrus peels and store in freezer and pull out when needed.) Slice the peels into ¼ inch wide strips.
  2. Cover peels in water and boil for 15 minutes, pour in a colander to drain and rinse twice.
  3. Boil 2 cups fresh water and honey to blend honey. Bring peels to a boil then simmer for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally or until peels become translucent.
  4. Use splotted spoon to remove peels to a wire rack to drip dry. Save excess syrup and add to your smoothie or hot tea.
  5. You can wait to cool to immediately use in Lebkuchen or keep drying for one or two days. Can store in airtight container in refrigerator for few months.

 

5 White, ‘Brain Damaging’ Foods

They kill your brain cells, point blank. Over time, brain fog, lack of memory, and additional cognitive impairment leading to Alzheimer’s and other dementias pursues.

 

What are “they”?  The 5 white brain damaging foods.  These include:

1) white wheat flour

2) white rice

3) white corn (yes it is white when processed, when the skin is removed)

4) white potato and

5) white sugar

 

All of the above damage, stop or even kill the neurotransmitter communication between your gut brain (the gastrointestinal tract or GI tract) and your head brain (the Central Nervous System).   With no communication, the cells in both brains die.

 

Here’s how the killing spree begins:

 

It starts with gluten, a protein found in wheat, rye and barley.

 

Some perspective. Did you know that we humans have nearly 23,000 genes in our bodies? Guess how many wheat gluten has? The answer: around 150,000.

 

So, in a nutshell, we can’t digest gluten, which essentially eats us, not the reverse.

According to Alessio Fasano, M.D., the father of ‘no gluten’, Harvard scientist and author of book, Gluten Freedom, whether you are a celiac disease victim or not, gluten dissolves the lining of every consumer’s small intestine allowing partially digested foods to seep out of the intestine into gut tissues, eventually ending up in your blood.  Your immune system is called in to attack these invading, partially digested food particles.

 

Think of it this way, your immune system is constantly in attack mode whenever you eat:

 

  • cereal for breakfast
  • a donut for morning snack
  • a  sandwich for lunch, along with crackers and pretzels for an afternoon snack
  • a roll with dinner or
  • a cookie for a midnight snack

 

Do this every day, 365 days a year, for all of your life (but hopefully not beyond this reading) …and your immune system never rests.  It just sort of goes mad, crazy.

As your immune system eats up all the invading chemicals, it eats up the good healthy cells too.  This is called chronic inflammation or hyper inflammation.

 

Gluten eventually gets into your blood, eats the lining of the blood vessels and breaks the blood head brain barrier where these undigested particles seep out into your brain, depositing toxins and other invading chemicals.

 

The head brain’s own separate immune system (the glyphatic system) is then called into action to flush out these foreign invaders.  BUT, it too goes mad, resulting in hyper inflammation and killing more head brain cells, the good and the bad.

 

Additionally, the blood bowel barrier is also broken where foreign invaders run rampant and hyper inflammation ensues (no one ever talks about that—hello IBS, hemorrhoids, constant diarrhea or other elimination troubles!)

 

The solution and the near instant reversal of such problems?

 

Give up the gluten!

 

AND say bye bye to white foods that turn into sugar, like white potatoes, rice and corn — all simple carbohydrates which turn immediately into sugar.

 

Did you now that consumption of excess sugar creates insulin resistance? Let’s take a look at this.

 

Insulin is needed to get nutrients into our cells. It’s also a major switching station for many processes in the body. We all know the pancreas produces insulin.  Well, our head brain also produces insulin and head brain insulin is specifically used to get nutrients into our head brain cells.

 

The more sugar we eat, the more insulin is needed to get the nutrients up in the head brain cells, until finally our brain just gets worn out and quits producing insulin, and becomes insulin resistant.

 

And really, can you blame it?  It is over worked with trying to get rid of the sugar plus it has better things to do like ensure the heart keeps beating and the lungs get enough oxygen.

Kim and Feldman from the neurology department at the University of Michigan published a study reviewing insulin resistance at the core of developing Alzheimer’s disease.

 

Interestingly, another name for some types of dementia and varying stages of Alzheimer’s is “Diabetes III”.

Here, the insulin resistant brain cells are starving, our head brain immune system then goes mad, and all this results in hyper inflammation…all due to our MAD diet (Modern American Diet).

 

Yes, we are doing this to ourselves. The top caloric intake foods in the United States as per the US Dietary Guideline Advisory Committee: grains/dessert breads, breaded chicken, soda, pizza, alcoholic beverages and pasta.  Look at how the 5 White Damaging Brain Foods make up the top of the MAD diet and perhaps the daily diet for many of us.

 

To make sure we keep our memory and full cognizance as well as overall good health, we’ve got to treat and feed both our head brain and our gut brain with all natural, no processed foods, specifically staying away from the 5 White Brain Damaging Foods…I’ll say it again….white wheat flour, white rice, white corn, white potatoes and white sugar.

 

What you eat, affects your brain. Eat to better your brain, not damage it.

 

Helping get and keep your Gut-in-Gear so you can keep your memory, have good brain health and age successfully,

 

 

 

 

Sources:

Alessio Fasano, M.D.

https://www.massgeneral.org/doctors/doctor.aspx?id=19184

Info on no gluten:

His book, Gluten Freedom

And video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?reload=9&v=0rTAhlJ9PMM

Kim and Feldman from the neurology department at the University of Michigan published a study reviewing insulin resistance is at the core of developing Alzheimer’s disease.

https://www.nature.com/articles/emm20153

 

 

Special thanks to Healthy Meals Supreme, reprinted from their blog https://healthymealssupreme.com/5-white-brain-damaging-foods/

 

 

The purpose of this information is to convey knowledge. It is not intended to diagnose, treat or cure your condition or to be a substitute for advice from your main healthcare professional. Sincerely, I wish you and yours the very best in brain health.

www.JanetRichPittman.com

 

Janet is a Certified Dementia Practitioner and former Dementia Healthcare Administrator.  After years of being at the bedside, holding your mother’s hand trying to caress the dementia way, Janet immersed herself in brain research.  Now Janet is on a mission to power up people’s brains to prevent Alzheimer’s and other dementias, even reverse cognitive impairment.  Learn more about Janet here.

 

Greek Yogurt and Kefir—Are They ‘Brain’ Safe to Eat?

No, and here are four quick reasons, but…

The four reasons:

Casein

Lactose

IGF-1

Gut Intolerance

 

Casein is a protein that envelopes nutrients and will not allow their absorption.  So when you put fruit on your cereal and coat it with milk, it is a waste, you just pass all the nutrients.

IGF-1, or insulin growth factor1, is a hormone our bodies naturally create and which dairy consumption increases.  We need IGF-1 to develop and grow our bodies from infancy onward but after our late 20s, when our brain has fully developed, we don’t produce as much or need as much, a balance must be established.  When we don’t have enough IGF-1 our brain function suffers, when we have too much, damage ensures due to overabundance, damage like cancer progression.  Just let your body makes its own IGF-1, and you do that by eating clean, go moderate on meat proteins and by-pass the milk.

Lactose is a type of sugar that requires a special enzyme to digest it.  Many folks don’t produce this enzyme or call it up to digest the lactose in milk.  Consequently, bloating, pain, cramps, diarrhea, gas, nausea and possibly vomiting –just general all out stomach torture–is a result of not being able to digest the lactose. Is this you?  If not, intolerance has been known to occur suddenly so be watchful, just bypass the milk.

Even if you seem to digest milk okay, it still messes up your gut flora; it keeps your microbiome off kilter.  Gut imbalance leads to difficulty digesting foods, inflammation and overall problems with immunity.

Yet with everything, there is an exception….kefir and Greek yogurt.  Again, your microbiome must be in balance, the good and the bad bacteria equaling out. Your microbiome needs just a bit of fermented food to keep the good bacteria stirring and working.  Fermented products such as kefir and Greek yogurt can give the gut needed bacteria and help it stay in balance.  But, understanding the intolerance, just omit it from your diet. Eat kombucha, sauerkraut, kimchi and miso; these are other fermented foods that will certainly do the gut bacteria balance trick.

If Greek yogurt and or kefir are all you have and if you can tolerate it, consume it with the knowledge of IGF-1 and casein. To get around casein, eat your Greek yogurt or kefir first thing in the morning with no additives and at least 30 minutes to an hour prior to consuming with other foods. In other words, no blueberries with the yogurt and wait an hour before you sip on your morning bone broth.  To ease with the IGF-1 production and prevent an overload, go easy on other animal proteins same day.

Basically know, only baby cows are to drink cow’s milk. Omit it from your diet to ensure the best brain health.

So how do you get rid of dairy?  If you are used to it every day, i.e. nightly ice cream, yogurt or cream in your coffee, check out my 5 Secrets to Getting Your Gut in Gear, found here.

Here’s to your good brain health,

 

 

Janet Rich Pittman, SCALA, CDP

Brain Health Specialist

 

The purpose of this information is to convey knowledge. It is not intended to diagnose, treat or cure your condition or to be a substitute for advice from your main healthcare professional. Sincerely, I wish you and yours the very best in brain health.

www.JanetRichPittman.com

Again, if you are used to it every day, i.e. nightly ice cream, yogurt or cream in your coffee, how do you get rid of dairy?  Check out my 5 Secrets to Getting Your Gut in Gear, found here.

Sources:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3698444/

https://academic.oup.com/endo/article/149/12/5958/2455262

https://www.mdpi.com/1422-0067/18/11/2441/htm

https://ghr.nlm.nih.gov/condition/lactose-intolerance

http://naturalsociety.com/dairy-antioxidants-nearly-useless/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17213230

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/?term=Antioxidant+activity+of+blueberry+fruit+is+impaired+by+association+with+milk

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24939339