When reading Dr. Eric R. Braverman’s book, Younger (Thinner) You Diet, I was impressed by how much space he devotes to eating foods that promote brain health. I’ve known for years that eating the right antioxidant-rich, organic foods can keep your body young and healthy. But I didn’t realize how much our diet can affect our brains.
Omega-3 fatty acids are crucial for feeding the brain, which needs fat to produce neurotransmitters. This means ingredients such as fish, nuts, avocados, and olive oil can lower our risk for dementia. That’s good news.
Eggs also raise acetylcholine levels. Eggs contain choline, a building block for acetylcholine. So if you want to feel a little more focused, make yourself an egg salad sandwich. Stir some turmeric into your olive-oil-based mayonnaise before you fold in your chopped eggs, and you’ll have a brain-empowering lunch. Add some chopped celery for an extra choline boost.
Other foods containing choline are almonds and coffee. If you add a splash of almond milk to your morning coffee, you’re feeding your brain. Grate some fresh nutmeg into your cup and now you’re boosting your serotonin levels, too. Serotonin is another important neurotransmitter. It keeps your brain in sync and helps elevate your mood. The spice saffron also helps fight depression by raising serotonin levels. Add lots of saffron to a seafood paella to feed your brain and your belly.
Tryptophan—found in poultry, eggs, oats, and avocados—also builds serotonin. If you’re feeling blue, a turkey-avocado sandwich on oat bread ought to help lift your spirits. Add arugula for a shot of choline and a bite of peppery flavor. The turkey and the oat bread also contain tyrosine. Tyrosine (a third neurotransmitter) builds dopamine, which creates brain power. That’s one powerful sandwich.
What else does your brain need? A fourth major neurotransmitter, GABA, helps maintain your brain’s rhythm. Foods that contain inositol will help your brain make GABA. Inositol is found in high amounts in bananas, broccoli, and brown rice.
My favorite spice, turmeric, is also key to brain health. Fresh turmeric root fights inflammation and contains antioxidants. The best way to enjoy fresh turmeric is to juice it. Once juiced and strained, it can be stored in a tightly closed container in the refrigerator for up to a week.
FRESH TURMERIC JUICE
YIELD ½ cup (4 oz.)
¼ lb. turmeric root, peeled
½ cup water
1. Slice the turmeric root until it measures about 1 cup.
2. Place the turmeric slices in a food processor or blender. Add a bit of the water and blend at low speed. Gradually increase speed, slowly adding water until all of the water is used up and mixture is smooth.
3. Strain the juice using a fine-mesh strainer, cheesecloth, or coffee filter.