March 15, 2018
As you may know, I’ve made it my personal mission to link the latest research of nutrition’s impact on brain health and general wellbeing, with my personal knowledge of what good food can do for everyone’s state of mind. And in this, I have learned so much! Here are some of my favourite ingredients for boosting brain health…
Curcumin is the component of turmeric (Curcuma longa) that is responsible for its bright yellow colour and it is also the aspect of Turmeric that contributes to its ability to decrease inflammation and oxidative stress. Oxidative cells are thought to be one of the main causes of Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative diseases. It is difficult for our bodies to absorb turmeric, but consuming it with black pepper enhances curcumin’s bioavailability many times over because of the piperine in black pepper. It’s also a good idea to include a good fat such as coconut oil, this enhances absorption because curcumin is fat-soluble. My recipe for Turmeric, Soy & Ginger Chicken can make this health giving spice an easy mid-week option.
Recipe > Turmeric, Soy and Ginger Chicken
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Anyone who knows me or has eaten with me will know how much I love extra virgin olive oil; punchy in flavour and grassy in hue, it is the ingredient I use most in my cooking. For those who share my appreciation, this is great news from a health mont of view too. In particular to brain health, which is not in the least the only benefit to extra virgin olive oil consumption, it helps fight age-related cognitive decline because it protects against inflammation, oxidative stress and ADDLs, proteins that are toxic to the brain that can trigger dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. It’s difficult for me to think of a recipe that I don’t use Extra Virgin Olive Oil in, but this is one of my favourites for the fact it also stars salmon.
Many studies have shown that people who eat more fish have slower rates of cognitive decline, which is of course of importance to anyone interested in maintaining optimal brain health. One mechanism could be related to grey matter in the brain. Grey matter is the major functional tissue in your brain, containing the neurons that process information and store memories. Studies have shown that people who eat fish every week have more grey matter in the centres of the brain that regulate emotion and memory. All fish are good for you, but some fish are better than others, and the fatty types of fish are considered the healthiest because they are higher in fat-based nutrients. For maximum brain health choose fatty fish like salmon, trout, sardines, tuna and mackerel. I’ve been making this recipe on high rotation lately.
Nuts are a wonderful addition to our diet for so many health giving reasons, but particularly in regards to brain health, their high levels of Vitamin E and omega 3 help reduce inflammation and boost cognitive function. One of my favourites, and also one of the best choices for brain health are walnuts. Walnuts significantly reduce degenerative protein deposits in the brain and aid the brain's natural waste removal processes which supports the area of the brain responsible for cognitive function and memory retention. I use walnuts all the time as we are lucky to have a regular yearly bounty from our own trees, so you will find plenty of my recipes include walnuts, but this salad is my go-to dishes to be sure I’m getting all I need on a weekly basis.
Having a garden is my best kind of health advice, and even if that means only having one of two pots with fresh herbs on your windowsill, I absolutely swear by the benefits of being able to add freshly picked greens to your cooking, as much for flavour as for health. I have probably mentioned my love for parsley too many times to count, but it is for good reason. One of the easiest herbs to grow, parsley can be utilised year round and offers impressive levels of Vitamin K, vitamin C, folate, iron and magnesium, but it’s the presence of luteolin, an important flavonoid, which makes such a big difference to brain health. It’s the inflammation in brain cells that affects cognition and induces neuro-degeneration, and in many cases this can be controlled by consumption of luteolin-rich food. So when you read one of my recipes calling for lots of freshly chopped parsley, don’t hold back!