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    THE NIBBLE’s Gourmet News & Views

    Trends, Products & Items Of Note In The World Of Specialty Foods

    This is the blog section of THE NIBBLE. Read all of our content on TheNibble.com,
    the online magazine about gourmet and specialty food.

TIP OF THE DAY: Eat More “Brain Foods”

When they’re in season, load up on delicious,
low-calorie asparagus. Photo of grilled
asparagus with romesco sauce* courtesy
California Asparagus Commission.

 

Many people make New Year’s resolutions about general health and appearance: Dieting is Americans’ #1 resolution. But how about brain power?

Many recent studies indicate that certain nutrients can positively affect the brain—specifically in areas related to cognitive processing. They promote stronger blood flow which leads to mental sharpness, and reduce the risks of heart disease and neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and dementia.

Several studies led by Fernando Gómez-Pinilla, Ph.D, a leading neuroscientist at UCLA, show that the super fats your brain needs most are omega-3 fatty acids. Your brain converts them into DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), which enhances neuronal communication and promotes neuronal growth.

In other words, the right nutrients can help our health, aging process and more efficient brain-body functioning.

To boost your brain power, eat these foods recommended by Michael Gonzalez-Wallace, the author of Super Body, Super Brain and the website SuperBodySuperBrain.com.

 

NIBBLE ON THIS LIST OF BRAIN FOODS

  • Apples: Eating an apple a day protects the brain from oxidative damage that causes neurodegenerative diseases such Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. The nutrient that acts as protection is quercetin, a phytonutrient (antioxidant).
  • Asparagus: Asparagus is rich in folic acid, which is essential for the metabolism of the long chain fatty acids in your brain.
  • Berries: Studies show that people who eat blueberries, strawberries and other berries improve their memory and their motor skills. In addition, their antioxidant properties can protect the brain from the oxidative process.
  •  

  • Dark chocolate: Dark chocolate helps with concentration powers. Cacao has very powerful antioxidants (polyphenols and flavanola) that contain natural stimulants that increase the production of feel-good endorphins. Trick: For optimal benefits, you need to eat dark chocolate with less than 10 grams of sugar per serving. Look for bars with 70% cacao or higher.
  • Lean Beef: Lean beef is rich in vitamin B12, iron and zinc. These vitamins and minerals have been shown to maintain a healthy neural tissue. (Sorry, but most burgers are not made from lean beef.)
  • Salmon: Salmon contains omega-3 fatty acids, which studies have shown to be essential for brain function.
  • Dried oregano: Certain spices have powerful antioxidant properties. In several studies, oregano has been shown to have 40 times more antioxidant properties than apples, 30 times more than potatoes, 12 times more than oranges and 4 times more than blueberries or strawberries. However, by weight spices are minimal compared to other foods, so you’ll need to sprinkle it on everything from eggs to salads, sandwiches, soups, pastas and and other mains. Here are six more antioxidant spices.
  •  

    Salmon and succotash. Photo courtesy McCormick.com. Here’s the recipe.

  • Walnuts: Walnuts are rich in protein and contain omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins E and B6, which all promote healthy neural tissue. They are also the most heart-healthy nut (details).
  • Whole grains: Whole grains deliver fiber and vitamin E that help promote cardiovascular health, which helps improve the circulation to the brain. On another front, they are great cholesterol-fighters (details).
  • Yogurt: Yogurt and other dairy foods are filled with protein and vitamin B that are essential to improve the communication between nerve cells. You can enjoy it at every meal and for snacking (turn it into a garnish for soups and vegetables instead of sour cream).
  •  
    “Life is about choices,” says Gomez-Wallace. “Selecting the right nutrients can play a key role in your health.”

    It’s easy to include several of these brain foods in your daily meal and snacking plan. Just keep a list with you to remind you of why, for example, an apple a day instead of a pear keeps the doctor away.

     
    *Romesco sauce (salsa romesco) is a nut and red pepper-based sauce that originated in Catalonia, Spain. It is typically made from roasted or raw almonds, pine nuts, and/or hazelnuts, roasted garlic, olive oil, bitxo chiles and/or nyora peppers (a small, round, variety of red bell pepper). Other common ingredients can include roasted tomatoes, red wine vinegar and onions. It is a popular sauce with seafood (with fennel or mint leaves added) and anything from poultry and lamb to vegetables.

      





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