Super Foods That Combat Brain-Drain

Many patients I speak to state in different ways that they have “brain-drain.” The old noggin is not working like it once did. They desire an improvement in their memory and concentration. Foods that nourish the brain are essential for a brain-boosting effect.
Following are 10 of the top foods and drinks that can improve brain function and even reduce your risk of dementia. I worked with a top-notch holistic chef to create formulas to incorporate these superfoods into tasty and healthy recipes.
To optimally boost brain function, you must consume these foods regularly and restrict unhealthy foods such as refined carbohydrates, excess alcohol, and trans fats.
  1. Turmeric: In India, where this orange root is a staple ingredient (particularly in curries), Alzheimer’s rates are 4.4 times lower for adults ages 70-79 compared to the United States. More palatable fresh than dried, the turmeric rhizome is delicious peeled and grated or minced, then included in fresh juices and Indian fare. Try sautéing garlic, ginger, and turmeric root in extra virgin olive oil; then adding vegetables and chickpeas. Top with fat-free plain yogurt or raita.
  1. Salmon: Research indicates that fish consumption might lower the risk of dementia. High in omega-3 fatty acids and lower in mercury than other oily fish, salmon is an intelligent choice. If you’re not a salmon fan, try trout, sardines, or herring instead. Bake in a parchment paper or foil packet or poach in fish or chicken stock.
  1. Blueberries: Want to delay the aging of your brain by two-and-a-half years? According to a recent study, eating blueberries might do the trick. Plus, fiber- and vitamin C-rich blueberries have among the highest antioxidant concentrations of any fruit. Try them in oatmeal, smoothies, or whole-grain pancakes.
  1. Coffee: Might a cup of coffee a day keep the neurologist away? Possibly. So, feel free to swallow any guilt or concern about your coffee habit. Just try to drink your antioxidant-rich joe sans sweeteners. To reduce bitterness, opt for light-roast beans, and stir in unsweetened vanilla plant milk or skim milk. Tea is also a wise choice; consider matcha, a powdered Japanese green tea with a very high concentration of antioxidants. In any case, choose organic products.
 
  1. Dark chocolate: Antioxidants in cacao (especially epicatechins) have been associated with improved cognitive performance, boosted mood, and reduced risks of Alzheimer’s and stroke. Just be sure to limit your consumption to about one ounce per day and to choose varieties with zero or sparse added sweeteners (opt for the highest cacao content percentage you can take, at least 70%). For a no-cook, healthy dessert, serve a small square with a handful of fresh berries and a few toasted nuts.
  1. Spinach. Spinach and other dark leafy greens (such as kale and collards) are abundant in vitamin K, folate, beta carotene, and lutein, linked to delayed cognitive decline. Saute in olive oil with garlic and chile flakes, and sprinkle with toasted pine nuts. Or, add to juices, smoothies, salads, and cold yogurt dips.
  1. Avocados: These social media stars boast (health-promoting) monounsaturated fat, along with vitamin E and fiber. In addition to avocado toast and guacamole, use in place of mayonnaise in dips and tuna salad.
  1. Walnuts: With omega 3 fatty acids, fiber, and vitamin E, walnuts are delicious and For the most flavor and aroma, toast lightly (set the timer, as nuts can burn quickly). Try sprinkling atop oatmeal, fresh fruit, and salads. For alternatives, go with flaxseeds and chia seeds.
  1. Beans: Generous in protein, fiber, and B vitamins; beans satiate and stabilize blood sugar. For the perfect texture, soak overnight and cook the following day. Still, nothing beats canned for convenience. If you can opt for BPA-free packaging. Before using, rinse in a strainer to remove excess salts. Try incorporating cooked (mild) white beans in smoothies and quick breads (even brownies!).
  1. Quinoa: Technically a seed, quinoa is a fiber-rich complete protein with all nine essential amino acids. Plus, it takes only 15 minutes to cook! To avoid the bitter taste of its natural coating, rinse before simmering (use a fine strainer). If you’re still not won over, try whole grains, such as brown rice, farro, or barley, instead.
Recipes
Salmon with walnut gremolata
Serves 2
Gremolata is a raw Italian condiment consisting of lemon zest, parsley, and garlic. Here, we add walnuts for brain-boosting nutrients. To expedite the preparation, zest the lemon before juicing.
Olive oil cooking spray
3 small garlic cloves
½ cup fresh Italian flat-leaf parsley leaves
¼ cup raw walnuts
1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp fresh lemon juice
¼ tsp fresh lemon zest
¼ tsp coarse salt
1/8 tsp ground black pepper
1 lb. salmon fillet (pin bones removed)
1 tsp Dijon mustard
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F, and line a baking sheet with foil; grease foil with cooking spray (or olive oil). Add garlic to a food processor, and process until minced, about 10 seconds. Add parsley, walnuts, oil, juice, zest, salt, and pepper, and pulse about 20 times—scraping down the sides of the bowl—until the mixture achieves a pesto-like consistency.
  2. Pat salmon dry and place on greased foil, skin side down. Brush flesh with mustard, then coat evenly with the parsley-walnut mixture. Roast until opaque and flaky, 12-15 minutes.
  3. Cut salmon into two portions. Carefully slide a knife under the flesh to separate it from the skin. With a spatula, transfer the skinned fillet portions to two plates, and serve.
Nutrition facts per serving: Calories: 596. Protein: 49 g. Fat: 43 g. Sodium: 298 mg.
Fiber: 1.5 g.
 
Lime spinach with pomegranates
Serves 2 (Makes 1 cup)
In this colorful side dish, both spinach and pomegranate seeds offer health benefits. When prepping the spinach, be sure to trim any tough stems and to wash the greens very well until the water runs clear. For convenience, purchase pomegranate seeds (arils) in the refrigerated portion of the produce section.
2 tsp extra virgin olive oil
2 TBSP thinly-sliced green onion
2 tsp minced jalapeno
2 tsp minced garlic
3-1/2 cups fresh spinach leaves
¼ tsp coarse salt
1/8 tsp ground black pepper
½ tsp fresh lime zest
2 TBSP pomegranate seeds
  1. Heat oil in a 10-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. When hot, add onion, jalapeno, and garlic, and saute until softened, about four minutes.
  2. Add spinach, salt, and pepper, and saute until wilted, about two minutes. Stir in zest.
  3. With tongs, transfer to a paper towel-lined bowl to drain the spinach. Once drained, divide between two plates, and sprinkle with pomegranate seeds. Serve immediately.
Nutrition facts per serving: Calories: 59. Protein: 1 g. Fat: 4 g. Sodium: 240 mg. Carbs: 4 g. Fiber: 1 g. Sugar: 1 g.
Chickpea, mango, & avocado salad
Serves 2
Boasting beans, vegetables, and fruits (including avocado), this entrée salad is a feast for the palate—and brain! Look for cooked chickpeas in BPA-free packaging.
13.4-ounce box unsalted chickpeas (garbanzo beans)
1 cup diced red bell pepper (about 1 medium)
¾ cup diced red onion (soaked in cold water for five minutes, then drained)
½ cup diced (de-seeded) tomato
½ cup diced (peeled, de-seeded) cucumber
½ cup diced ripe mango
¼ cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro or parsley leaves
3 TBSP white balsamic vinegar
2 TBSP extra virgin olive oil
2 TBSP minced jalapeno
1 tsp minced garlic
½ tsp coarse salt
¼ plus 1/8 tsp ground black pepper
1 avocado, diced (about 1 cup)
  1. To a medium-large bowl, add all of the ingredients except for the avocado, and toss well. Divide between two plates, and top with the diced avocado. Serve immediately.
Nutrition facts per serving: Calories: 461. Protein: 7 g. Fat: 26.5 g. Sodium: 480 mg. Carbs: 71 g. Fiber: 16 g. Sugar: 22.5 g.
 
Ginger & espresso hot chocolate
Serves 2 (Makes 1 cup)
Velvety and not too sweet, this hot chocolate is rich and sophisticated. Feel free to swap in ground ginger (use 1/8 tsp instead).
1 cup plain unsweetened almond milk (or other unsweetened plant-based milk or skim milk)
2 tsp unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp espresso powder
¼ tsp grated raw ginger root
1/8 tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp coarse salt
½-ounce unsweetened chocolate (100% cacao content)
1 TBSP plus 1 tsp honey
¼ tsp vanilla extract
  1. Bring milk, cocoa, espresso, ginger, cinnamon, and salt to a boil in a small, heavy saucepot over medium-high heat.
  2. Once boiling, immediately turn off the heat. Whisk in chocolate, honey, and vanilla. Once the chocolate melts, pour into two small cups, and serve.
Nutrition facts per serving: Calories: 117. Fat: 5 g. Protein: 1.5 g. Sodium: 120 mg. Sugar: 12 g. Carbs: 18 g. Fiber: 1 g.