Certain wild cereals, or grasses, contain edible components in their grain, botanically a type of fruit. Grains are small, hard, dry seeds, with or without attached hulls.
Some argue that from an evolutionary standpoint, grains are a relatively new addition to our diets and therefore should be excluded.
Undoubtedly grains have existed for many millennia, but the problem with harvesting had been that first of all these grains must be separated from the inedible grasses, requiring some winnowing process. Secondly, the wild grains usually shatter when ripe, dispersing the seeds, making collection difficult. Then the tiny hard grains would have to be further processed to avail digestion. Thus, patches of such grains in the wild may not have been favored by hominids until at least primitive hand tools were used and present near sites of grain-containing grasses.
Nevertheless, grains were apparently consumed well before animal domestication 10,000 years ago.
For example, a large amount of starch granules has been found on the surfaces of Middle Stone Age stone tools from Mozambique, showing that early Homo sapiens relied on grass seeds starting at least 105,000 years ago, including those of sorghum grasses. That’s more than 5000 generations ago.
Of course if one has celiac disease, gluten intolerance, a food allergy or sensitivity to grains, grains should be avoided.
Grains for brains (as well as other organs)
Whole grain includes dark bread, whole-grain breakfast cereal, popcorn, oats, bran, brown rice, bran, and many other examples.
Whole-grain foods contain fiber, vitamins, magnesium and other minerals, phenolic compounds and other phytonutrients, which may have favorable effects on health by lowering serum lipids and blood pressure, improving glucose levels, insulin metabolism and endothelial function, as well as alleviating oxidative stress and inflammation.
A meta-analysis of 15 cohort studies with nearly a half million participants revealed that whole grain intake was associated with a reduced risk of vascular disease.
There is an association between dietary whole grain intake and mortality; two large prospective studies of more than one hundred thousand participants indicated a significant life extension independent of other dietary and lifestyle factors.
The effect was pronounced up to one-half serving per day after which there was a leveling off. This is shown in the figure below, taken from the Wu et al. aforementioned article, where the mortality risk is plotted against servings of whole grain.
Relative Mortality Risk v. Whole Grain Intake
 Mercader, J. (2009), Mozambican Grass Seed Consumption During the Middle Stone Age, Science, 326.
 Anderson, J. W. (2003). Whole grains protect against atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease. Proceedings of the Nutrition Society, 62(01), 135-142. doi:10.1079/pns2002222.
 Tang, G., Wang, D., Long, J., Yang, F., & Si, L. (2015). Meta-Analysis of the Association Between Whole Grain Intake and Coronary Heart Disease Risk. The American Journal of Cardiology, 115(5), 625-629.
 Wu, H., Flint, A. J., Qi, Q., Dam, R. M., Sampson, L. A., Rimm, E. B., . . . Sun, Q. (2015). Association Between Dietary Whole Grain Intake and Risk of Mortality.JAMA Internal Medicine JAMA Intern Med, 175(3), 373.
by R Aiken MD PhD @rcaiken
Nutritional yeast has a nutty, cheesy flavor and is often used to emulate cheese, thicken sauces and dressings, and to provide an additional boost of nutrients, particularly B vitamins, folates, thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, selenium and zinc. It is a complete source of essential amino acids.
Impressive research exists that supports a positive effect of nutritional yeast on stress and related immune function resulting, for example, in a decrease for the susceptibility to the common cold. Beta glucan fiber, found in baker’s, brewer’s and nutritional yeast, helps to maintain our body’s defense against pathogens. And this is extended to improvement in mood states, related to immune vitality and emotional vitality.
For endurance athletes who place significant stress on their bodies, regular ingestion of this substance is recommended.
Keep a container of nutritional yeast on your countertop and regularly, even daily, use about one heaping tablespoon (4 grams) on a variety of foods.
 Auinger, A., Riede, L., Bothe, G., Busch, R., & Gruenwald, J. (2013). Yeast (1,3)-(1,6)-beta-glucan helps to maintain the body’s defence against pathogens: A double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled, multicentric study in healthy subjects. European Journal of Nutrition, 52(8), 1913-1918. doi:10.1007/s00394-013-0492-z.
 Talbott, S. M., & Talbott, J. A. (2012). Baker’s Yeast Beta-Glucan Supplement Reduces Upper Respiratory Symptoms and Improves Mood State in Stressed Women. Journal of the American College of Nutrition, 31(4), 295-300. doi:10.1080/07315724.2012.10720441.
by R. Aiken MD PhD @rcaiken
Foods and beverages made with beans from the Theobroma cacao tree have been consumed by humans for over 5000 years, in pre-Colombian cultures along the Yucatan, including the Mayans.
Cocoa is the dried and fully fermented fatty seed of the fruit of the cocoa tree, native to the Americas. Cocoa liquor is the paste made from ground, roasted, shelled, and fermented cocoa beans, called nibs. It contains both nonfat cocoa solids and cocoa butter. Cocoa liquor is what is referred to as ‘‘percent cacao’’ on food packaging. Cocoa powder is made by removing some of the cocoa butter from the liquor.
Chocolate is a solid food made by combining cocoa liquor with cocoa butter and sugar. The proportion of cocoa liquor in the final product determines how dark the chocolate is. Milk chocolate, typically containing 10%–12% cocoa liquor, is made with the addition of condensed or powdered milk to the chocolate mixture and is the chocolate consumed most in the United States. Semisweet or bittersweet chocolate is often referred to as dark chocolate and must contain no less than 35% by weight of cocoa liquor.
Raw unprocessed cocoa is one of the richest antioxidant foods in the world. Studies indicate that cocoa has an effect on carbon dioxide levels that affect blood vessels and improve blood flow. This has positive implications, for example, on reducing the risk of stroke.
Cocoa is a rich source of polyphenols, mainly flavanols, which have been recognized for having positive effects on vascular disease, cancer, diabetes, inflammation, oxidative stress, and blood pressure. Because flavanols have the capacity to cross the blood-brain barrier, enhancing brain blood flow through the increased production of NO, which has been proposed as a mechanism involved in brain health
Any form other than raw typically contains added fat and sugar and is to be avoided.
Overall, research to date suggests that the benefits of moderate cocoa or dark chocolate consumption likely outweigh the risks of obesity and glycemic load.
 Wood, G.A.R.; Lass, R.A. (2001). Cocoa (4th ed.). Oxford: Blackwell Science.
 Shrime, M. G., Bauer, S. R., Mcdonald, A. C., Chowdhury, N. H., Coltart, C. E., & Ding, E. L. (2011). Flavonoid-Rich Cocoa Consumption Affects Multiple Cardiovascular Risk Factors in a Meta-Analysis of Short-Term Studies. Journal of Nutrition, 141(11), 1982-1988. doi:10.3945/jn.111.145482.
 Nehlig, A. (2012). The neuroprotective effects of cocoa flavanol and its influence on cognitive performance. British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology Br J Clin Pharmacol. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2125.2012.04378.x.
by R. Aiken MD PhD @rcaiken
Turmeric is a spice with perhaps the highest antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of any culinary spice – or herb. One active component of turmeric is curcumin (the pigment responsible for the bright yellow color of the spice), which may have natural antidepressant qualities and has been shown to protect neurons from the damaging effects of chronic stress.
The beneficial effects of curcumin in the pathophysiology of major depression are probably related to its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, inhibition of monoamine oxidase, and modulation of neurotrophic factors and hippocampal neurogenesis and neuroplasticity.
In a randomized controlled trial , a comparable efficacy was obtained after curcumin monotherapy (1000 mg/day) compared to fluoxetine monotherapy. Supplementation of conventional antidepressants with curcumin (1000 mg/ day) has shown to be an effective and safe enhancement.
Meta-analysis of data from the six clinical trials revealed a significant reduction in major depressive symptoms following the administration of curcumin in combination with piperdine (see below). These studies all used the 1000 mg/ day and the anti-depressant effect was best after a duration of six weeks.
Turmeric suppresses pain and inflammation similar to non-steroidal anti-inflammatories but without the potential side effects. The health benefits derive, as for Rhodiola and Maca, from “xenohormesis” – a biological principle that explains why environmentally stressed plants produce bioactive compounds that can confer stress resistance and survival benefits to animals that consume them (see Chapter 6).
Turmeric contains about 2% by weight curcumin, so a tablespoon of turmeric (6.8 grams) contains about 136 mg of curcumin. To get 1000 mg/ day curcumin from raw turmeric would then require more than seven tablespoons. Supplements that purport to contain 500 mg curcumin are commercially available.
One tablespoon of turmeric (1000 mg) per day with a pinch or two of ground pepper (see below) is recommended. If you grate the turmeric root yourself, be prepared to wear gloves as the color is so intense you will have yellow finger tips otherwise.
 Kulkarni, S. K., Bhutani, M. K., & Bishnoi, M. (2008). Antidepressant activity of curcumin: Involvement of serotonin and dopamine system. Psychopharmacology, 201(3), 435-442. doi:10.1007/s00213-008-1300-y.
 Liu, D., Wang, Z., Gao, Z., Xie, K., Zhang, Q., Jiang, H., & Pang, Q. (2014). Effects of curcumin on learning and memory deficits, BDNF, and ERK protein expression in rats exposed to chronic unpredictable stress. Behavioural Brain Research, 271, 116-121. doi:10.1016/ j.bbr.2014.05.068.
 Sanmukhani, J., Satodia, V., Trivedi, J., Patel, T., Tiwari, D., Panchal, B., . . . Tripathi, C. B. (2013). Efficacy and Safety of Curcumin in Major Depressive Disorder: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Phytother. Res. Phytotherapy Research, 28(4), 579-585. doi:10.1002/ptr.5025.
 Yu, J., Pei, L., Zhang, Y., Wen, Z., & Yang, J. (2015). Chronic Supplementation of Curcumin Enhances the Efficacy of Antidepressants in Major Depressive Disorder. Journal of Clinical Psychopharmacology, 1. doi:10.1097/jcp.0000000000000352.
 Al-Karawi, D., Mamoori, D. A., & Tayyar, Y. (2015). The Role of Curcumin Administration in Patients with Major Depressive Disorder: Mini Meta-Analysis of Clinical Trials. Phytother. Res. Phytotherapy Research, 30(2), 175-183. doi:10.1002/ptr.5524.
by Aiken MD PhD @rcaiken
Black pepper has an ancient history of being a highly desirable but expensive spice. It has even been used as a currency.
Piperine is a simple and pungent alkaloid found in the seeds of black pepper. Piperine is commonly known as a bioavailability enhancer for a number of nutraceuticals, including antioxidants and anti-inflammatories, as well as for its neuroprotective activity. The Journal of Food and Chemical Toxicology reported that the compound piperine in black pepper increases the cognitive function of the brain and helps mood disorder.
Piperine helps the body absorb curcumin and therefore enhances curcumin’s antidepressant effect long-term. There may be similar absorption assistance given to selenium, vitamin B12, and beta-carotene.
Piperine has shown multiple mechanisms of action, including inhibition of MAO enzymes, elevation of brain serotonin (5-HT) brain derived neurotropic factor (BDNF) levels, and modulation of HPA axis.
Because of its intense taste in small quantities, it is typically used as just a few “pinches” into turmeric recipes.
Typically 2.5 mg/ kg is used so for a 70 kg person that would equal 175 mg; a teaspoon of black pepper weighs about 2000 mg, so this is less than 10% of a teaspoon – otherwise known as a “pinch” or two.
 Johnson, J. J., Nihal, M., Siddiqui, I. A., Scarlett, C. O., Bailey, H. H., Mukhtar, H., & Ahmad, N. (2011). Enhancing the bioavailability of resveratrol by combining it with piperine. Molecular Nutrition & Food Research Mol. Nutr. Food Res., 55(8), 1169-1176. doi:10.1002/mnfr.201100117.
 Ying, X., Yu, K., Chen, X., Chen, H., Hong, J., Cheng, S., & Peng, L. (2013). Piperine inhibits LPS induced expression of inflammatory mediators in RAW 264.7 cells. Cellular Immunology, 285(1-2), 49-54. doi:10.1016/j.cellimm.2013.09.001.
 Shrivastava, P., Vaibhav, K., Tabassum, R., Khan, A., Ishrat, T., Khan, M. M., . . . Islam, F. (2013). Anti-apoptotic and Anti-inflammatory effect of Piperine on 6-OHDA induced Parkinson’s Rat model. The Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry,24(4), 680-687. doi:10.1016/ j.jnutbio.2012.03.018
 Mao, Q.Q., Xian, Y.F., Ip, S.P., and Che, C.T. (2011). Involvement of serotonergic system in the antidepressant-like effect of piperine. Prog. Neuropsychopharmacol. Biol. Psychiatry 35, 1144–1147