A Brain-Healthy Shake

For this week’s blog, I’m posting the 'recipe' for the shake I drink for lunch, since a few people have emailed for more specific information than I gave in my December 15th blog (see the thumbnail photo of French fries). This blog was based on a Harvard/Tufts study in which people were coached into craving bran cereal and cardboard chicken. The word recipe is in quotation marks to indicate my ironic use of the term. We generally expect that a recipe, a real one, is a list of ingredients and proportions and instructions which will result in something that actually tastes good to someone, somewhere.

My shake is about what you’d expect, taste-wise, from an unsweetened blend of green vegetables, fruit, and fermented milk. It’s very filling, though, and I find it energizing. It probably has at least a thousand calories, maybe more. I’m not recommending it to blog readers, because a few of the ingredients are potentially bad for you (which does not distinguish these ingredients, according to Internet wisdom, from popcorn, lipstick, jogging, computers, sunscreen, and oranges). Also, I’m not a nutritionist. I’m a middle-aged person experimenting with foods which supposedly reduce brain fog and belly fat and do not interfere with sleep.

Nevertheless, here’s how I make the shake:

1/2 cup full-fat Greek yogurt: Greek yogurt has a lot more protein in it than regular yogurt, and I’m convinced this is why I no longer need chocolate chips and peanut butter to make it from 3:00 to our Spanish style, super late dinners.

1/2 cup frozen organic kale, steamed: Be cautious with raw kale, which can be about as tough as tree leaves and not so good for some people. The book 50 Shades of Kale has mixed drink and chocolate chip cookie recipes using this "sexy" (the authors say) vegetable that sound intriguing and delicious.

3/4 cup full-fat coconut milk: This article is worth reading. I use coconut milk in my shake, but I use coconut oil whenever I can in foods.

3/4 cup mixed organic blueberries and strawberries

2 teaspoons Bragg apple cider vinegar or, if you want the shake to taste better, 1/2 cup of organic apple cider or apple juice: Apple cider vinegar is very acidic (it can be used as drain cleaner—imagine what it might do to your tooth enamel), so I don’t put much of it in the shake. There’s a lot of mixed press about apple cider vinegar. Here’s a 2006 article which is old but contains good information.

1 tablespoon chia seeds: Grind them up—they expand to the point that at least one person has choked on chia seeds and lived to post a horror story about it.

1-2 teaspoons cinnamon

1 tablespoon almond butter. I like the way it tastes.

Enough water to make it pourable and drinkable.

I put the supplements, not vitamins,* I take into the shake (sans any plastic capsules—I pull the capsules apart to release the powder). Then I blend it at top speed until nothing is recognizable and it’s an awful shade of greenish purple no one in their right mind would ever paint on a house. I think middle age is a lot more trouble than its inverse, adolescence, and so wish for the days when I rolled out of bed looking okay, even with rumpled hair, and ate donuts for breakfast and potato chips for lunch. This week I’m also posting a blog from Los Angeles caregiver Jim Duchene. I appreciate Jim’s sense of humor and compassion, and I think other caregivers will, too. Let me know if you try the shake and can suggest any improvements other than several tablespoons of sugar.

I don't take many vitamins (B and D mainly). I figure I get them from my food.

Comment from Jim Duchene, February 21, 2015: I finally had the opportunity to try your lunchtime shake and was pleasantly surprised by how good it tasted (vinegar?). I wasn't expecting it to taste bad, but I'm a generally cautious person by nature. My wife looked at me as if I was nuts, but my youngest daughter tried it with me. A few minutes after trying it, she tells me, "Wow, I can even see more clearly now!" And, you know what, I could too. I told her it was the chia seeds. I first read about them in Men's Health magazine in an article written by Christopher McDougall, who wrote the excellent book, Born To Run, which was about ultra marathon runners and the Tarahumara Indians who live in Mexico. My hat's off to you, Dr. Cail, for warning us about the acidic nature of vinegar. In all the recipes I've read that include the use of vinegar, this was the first time someone warned their audience that it could eat away at their tooth enamel. Excellent recipe. I think I'll go run a hundred+ mile marathon now.

Reply from Mary, February 21, 2015: Thank-you for saying my shake tastes good and is not just drinkable. I think the apple cider vinegar is the most problematic ingredient (as far as taste), but I'm convinced it gives me energy so I stick with it. I'm glad you tried the recipe! It's a bit of work. I saw a compelling news story a while back about a professor who had been diagnosed with early Alzheimer's. She was staving off her symptoms with a daily shake made out of brain-healthy ingredients she'd researched. I can't imagine it would have the same effect for everyone suffering with early-stage AD, but it seemed to be working for her. Am beginning to believe we can delay AD, at least in its earliest, preclinical stage by eating right and exercising. The next blog I post will be about the recent UCLA pilot study that lists things we can all do to try to keep our brains healthy.