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We all want to be smart–or at the very least, feel smart. And we also want to know how to make the most healthful, yet still enjoyable daily food and fitness choices to maximize our energy level and brain power. I recently spoke with the wonderfully brilliant and personable Samantha Heller, MS, RD, CDN, author of Get Smart: Samantha Heller’s Nutrition Prescription for Boosting Brain Power and Optimizing Total Body Health (The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2010) and host of “Samantha Heller’s Health & Nutrition Show” on NYU Langone Medical Center’s Sirius XM DOCTOR Radio. Here are some of the highlights of our very interesting and informative conversation:

What inspired you to write Get Smart?

Almost daily I hear people complain about being forgetful, unfocused, fatigued and mentally foggy.  Simultaneously we’re facing an epidemic of brain related dementias including Alzheimer’s disease.  I began to review the research on how lifestyle affects brain health and realized there were simple steps we can all take to reduce the risk of cognitive decline and dementia, improve our memories, mental focus, and mood AND find our car keys!

As we get older, our memory starts to fade. This is especially true for those who feel sleep-deprived because of an extensive to-do list or having a new baby at home. Can you share a few of your tips for how busy, overworked, stressed-out people can preserve their brain power and memory?

Our brains are made up of 100 billion neurons. What we eat has a profound affect on how well our brains function and how well the neurons communicate. Take fat for example. Two-thirds of our brain is made up of fat. The fats we eat get incorporated into our brains. Unhealthy fats like saturated fats (from animals) and trans fats (found in processed and many fried foods) can impair the neuron’s ability to communicate and stay healthy. Eating foods with healthy fats like those from nuts, avocados, soy and olive & canola oil, helps keep our brains sharp and running smoothly. Research also suggests that a good supply of healthy fats helps improve mood and behavior in kids and adults. Mom’s take note: healthy food = happier, smarter kids.

How is your book different from the countless diet books out there (besides the fact that you’re not only a highly credentialed, super-smart health professional, but you are able to dumb-down the science to make healthy eating accessible, practical, and doable)?

Get Smart is the only medically peer reviewed health book on the market today. This means that all the tips, recommendations and information are solid, scientifically based, and accurate. My goal was to make Get Smart entertaining, easy to read, informative, motivating and practical for everyone.

What would you say to people who say it’s just too much work and too time consuming to eat healthfully? Any tips people can follow to ease into healthful eating painlessly?

They are right. We should just forget about healthy eating all together…. Ok, ok….seriously…..

You have to want to make healthy choices and be motivated to be successful with behavior change. With Get Smart I try to show why eating good food is important for brain health as well as weight loss and decreasing the risk of many chronic diseases. With some basic swaps you can make meals and snacks healthy, quick and fun. You can eat healthfully on the cheap too. Once you commit to feeling energetic, focused and happy, it becomes a whole lot easier to make healthier choices.

Want more from Samantha? Check out the delicious dip recipe from Get Smart below. If you make it, send me a photo and I’ll post it here!

Strawberry Tofu Fruit Dip

Ingredients

1 cup silken tofu

2 tablespoons maple syrup

½ teaspoon cinnamon

½ teaspoon 100% vanilla extract

1 cup + fresh or frozen strawberries (any berries will do)

Directions

Combine all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth and creamy. Garnish with a sprig of mint. Serve chilled. Use as a dip or topping for fruit such as strawberries, pineapple and bananas.

About the Author: Samantha Heller is a registered dietitian, certified dietitian/nutritionist and exercise physiologist with a dual Master of Science degree in nutrition and applied physiology from Teachers’ College, Columbia University. Samantha was the senior clinical nutritionist at NYU Langone Medical Center for almost a decade. Samantha is a frequent fixture on national television. For more information about Samantha and Get Smart,  visit her Web site: http://www.hellerhealth.com/Samantha_Heller_Health,_Nutrition_%26_Wellness/Welcome.html.

Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from the author’s publisher.

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