For an afternoon last week, I had a case of Spring Fever and my brain was on loan. Was it the week of unusual warm weather for March or was it brain overload? Whatever it was, I decided to fill up on some known brain foods.

My Top 7 Brain Foods include Salmon, Yogurt, Walnuts, Eggs, Quinoa, Sunflower Seeds and Berries.  These foods all contain essential nutrients that contribute to proper brain functioning and mood.

The Brainwave on Salmon, Yogurt and Walnuts!

Salmon:

  • Recent research identifies that the Omega -3 Fatty Acids DHA and EPA (DHA = Docosahexaenoic acid,  EPA = Eicosapentaenoic Acid) have a significant role in brain health. The brain’s reliance on DHA and EPA starts early in life and continues throughout adulthood.  Adequate intake of DHA and EPA are fundamental to proper brain function including cognitive ability and balanced moods.
  • Both wild and farm salmon contain anywhere from 1.2 to 2g (combined DHA and EPA) per 100g serving, which makes it an excellent source.

How much fish should you be eating?

The current recommendation in Canada is to consume at least 2 servings of fatty fish per week to increase your intake of Omega-3 Fatty Acids. Check with your dietitian regarding the amount of DHA and EPA you should be consuming daily.

Yogurt:

Yogurt is a fermented dairy product made from milk that contains carbohydrates, protein and fat (some are fat free), vitamins and minerals essential to proper body functioning. It is one of my favourite foods. I prefer a plain, 2% milk fat version with no artificial sweeteners, so I can add fresh berries and walnuts getting more brain health ingredients!

  • The protein found in yogurt is of high quality, and contains all of the amino acids the body needs. Protein amounts can vary – so read the Nutrition Facts Table carefully. The form of carbohydrate found in yogurt is a sugar called lactose that is digested via enzymes in our body and then absorbed and used for energy. Carbohydrates are the brain’s primary energy source.
  • Yogurt contains a good ratio of protein and carbohydrates to keep the brain energized.  So it is the perfect afternoon snack!
  • Yogurt contains several B vitamins. Several vitamins make up the vitamin B complex. Fatigue, irritability, poor concentration, anxiety and depression can all be signs of a deficiency of one or more of these.
  • The Gut/mind connection – more research is focusing on this. When the yogurt contains, live, active probiotics to promote a healthy gut, this may improve psychological health. Keep your eye on this exciting research.

Walnuts:

  • Walnuts contain high amounts of ALA (Alpha Linolenic Acid is the Omega-3 FA found in plants and nut oils). Compared to other nuts,
    walnuts contain the highest amount of ALA, with a 28g (one ounce serving) of walnuts providing 2.5g.
  • ALA may play a role in the prevention of age-related brain deterioration such as Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Consuming walnuts may improve cognitive and motor performance in both children and adults.

Walnuts, like other nuts have a high amount of fat, so watch the portion size. A recommended serving of walnuts is 28g (one ounce), which equates to 12-14 walnut halves (1/4 C).

Here’s a tasty spin on baked salmon that includes all three of these yummy brain foods

Walnut Crusted Salmon with Cucumber Yogurt Sauce 

Recipe adapted from: http://www.familycookbookproject.com/view_recipesite.asp?rid=2618831&uid=21972&sid=43201

Ingredients:

  • 1 C. finely chopped walnuts
  • 2/3 C. bread crumbs
  • 2 Tbsp. butter or margarine, melted
  • 2 Tbsp. fresh parsley, chopped
  • 4x 6 oz. salmon fillets, skinned
  • 4 tsp. (approximately) low-fat mayonnaise

Cucumber Yogurt Sauce:

  • 1 C. plain 2% fat yogurt
  • 1 small garlic clove minced
  • Half an English cucumber, grated

Directions:

1. Preheat the oven to 425º.

2. Combine the walnuts, bread crumbs, butter, parsley in a bowl and season with salt and pepper to taste.

3. Season the salmon fillets with salt and pepper if desired and set (skinned side down) on an oiled baking sheet.

4. Spread a teaspoon or so of mayonnaise on top of each fillet and top with the walnut mixture, pressing the mixture into the fish. Bake the salmon until just done, about 10 to 12 minutes.

5. While the fish bakes make the yogurt sauce: in a small bowl combine all ingredients and season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve with the fish.

Along with exercise, good sleep and food — enjoy better brain health!