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—one of my 26 FoodTrients—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. My favorite spice, turmeric, is also key to brain health. As Dr. Braverman explains, “Turmeric stimulates the production of acetylcholine [acetylcholine is a neurotransmitter that regulates our brain’s processing speed], and it has been proven to help unclog amyloid, the garbage that mucks up the pathways of the brain.” You can find many wonderful recipes using turmeric in my cookbook, as well as on the website (Turkey in Turmeric Sauce, Turmeric Rice, and Turmeric Juice).
Eggs also raise acetylcholine levels. Eggs contain the FoodTrient 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. An Asian stir-fry made with broccoli, Chinese cabbage, soybeans, cashews and my Tangy Ginger Dressing will definitely boost GABA levels. Serve it over brown rice for even more effect. The Chinese cabbage contains choline and the soybeans contain lecithin. Lecithin and choline both help your brain produce acetylcholine.
To make your brain really happy, you might want to end your day with my cookbook recipe for Brazil Nut Tarts. Brazil nuts contain choline and Omega-3 oils to grease the wheels of your mind. How’s that for a smart dessert?