At Mealtimes

In A Natural History of the Senses, author Diane Ackerman points out that taste is tightly linked to social activity—the Power Breakfast, celebratory meals, state dinners, ice cream and cake for birthdays, wine and drink for all types of occasions. And since taste is such a sensitive, intimate sense, it is closely linked to emotional memory— think "comfort" food.

As we grew up, we usually shared the day's events with our families at an evening meal. Foods mark special events in our lives or are associated with religious rituals

(the Jewish Seder), or a holiday (Thanksgiving), or a birthday or anniversary.

At meals, our visual, olfactory, tactile, taste, and even our emotional/ pleasure systems are in

high gear, feeding associations into our cortex and tapping directly into the most primed memory circuits. Think about it...the sight and feel of silverware, glasses, candlelight...the tastes and textures of bread, finger foods, fried chicken...the tapestry of smells...the sounds of sizzling steaks, clinking glasses, conversation and laughter as well as the emotions that foods evoke...make mealtime potentially a gustatory free-for-all for the senses.

And yet, because it's easier, we tend to make mealtimes predictable and repetitive: We eat the same cereal every morning, the same deli sandwich for lunch, and, if it's Tuesday, meatloaffor dinner. However, mealtimes, more than our other daily activities, offer us the chance to bring all our senses to the table in a pleasurable and brain-healthy way.

Every meal provides an ideal opportunity to engage with spouses, children, friend, or coworkers, and these interactions have demonstrable positive effects on brain health. By changing how you eat, without changing what you eat, you benefit your brain.

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