Every March, Brain Health Awareness Month raises awareness about the importance of brain health and brain injury prevention.
What we eat plays a vital role in our brain health. Adding brain-boosting foods into your meals is a good step towards staying mentally sharp at any stage of life, helping with cognitive functions such as memory, learning and focus.
We’ve rounded up some easy-to-make and tasty recipes for brain health. Debra MacGarvie, registered dietitian in the Epilepsy Diet Clinic at University Health Network’s Krembil Brain Institute, shares the great health benefits of these recipes.
Blueberry overnight oats
Start your day off right with these delicious overnight oats. Blueberries are known to help with mental clarity and improve focus – a great start to the day! Minimal prep is required the night before to make this perfect breakfast no matter how busy your mornings may be.
“Blueberries are amazing. They can also help heart health, bone strength, skin tissue and mental health. Did you know that one cup of blueberries can provide 24 per cent of an individual’s recommended daily allowance of vitamin C?” – Debra
- 2 cups old fashioned rolled oats
- 2 tbsp chia seeds
- 2 1/2 cups unsweetened almond milk
- 3 tbsp pure maple syrup
- 1 cup fresh blueberries
- Place the oats, chia seeds, almond milk and maple syrup in a large bowl. Stir together until combined. Cover with plastic wrap and store in the fridge overnight
- In the morning, stir in blueberries, leaving some for garnish and divide into jars or bowls
- Top with blueberries, coconut flakes or any other add-ins of your choice, serve and enjoy
Kale salad with lemon dressing
This refreshing kale salad contains two brain-boosting ingredients – avocado and kale. Both can help with memory and lower the risk of cognitive decline. Adding leafy greens such as kale and spinach to meals is highly beneficial for brain health. Top with the homemade zesty lemon dressing and enjoy!
“Kale is a fabulous green vegetable – rich in Vitamin A, K, B6 and C, calcium, potassium, copper and manganese. Spinach, similar to blueberries, decreases oxidative stress.” – Debra
- 1/2 lb kale, chopped (about 8 cups)
- 1 lemon, zested and juiced (or 1/4 cup lemon juice)
- 1 tbsp maple syrup, or other liquid sweetener
- 1 tsp Dijon mustard
- 1 clove garlic, grated as finely as possible
- 1/8 teaspoon sea salt, or more as needed
- 1 pinch black pepper
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 large can (15 oz.) chickpeas, rinsed and drained (equivalent to 1 1/2 cups cooked)
- 1/2 large avocado, pitted and diced
- 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
- To prepare kale, remove and discard stems, rinse and remove excess moisture with paper towel. Set aside
- To make the dressing, in a mixing bowl, whisk lemon juice, lemon zest, maple syrup, Dijon mustard, garlic, salt and pepper until well combined. Slowly whisk in the olive oil until the mixture emulsifies into a creamy texture. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve
- To serve, add dressing to kale and firmly massage a few minutes until the leaves soften and are well coated
- Add chickpeas, avocado and any optional ingredients. Toss and top with Parmesan cheese
Salmon with lemon-herb orzo and broccoli
This delicious and balanced recipe is packed superfoods. Salmon is an excellent protein for supporting brain health and development. Why not add spinach in the last minute of cooking to serve up the ultimate brain food recipe?
“Salmon is known to be rich in omega-3 fatty acids.” – Debra
- 1 cup orzo, preferably whole wheat
- 2 cups chopped broccoli (about 1/2 head)
- 3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, divided
- 1 1/4 pounds skin-on salmon fillet, cut into four portions, patted dry
- 1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
- 1/2 tsp ground pepper, divided
- 4 tbsp chopped fresh herbs, such as tarragon, chives and/or parsley
- 2 tsp lemon zest
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
- Bring 8 cups of water to a boil in a large saucepan. Add orzo and cook according to package directions, adding broccoli for the last minute of cooking. Drain and coat with olive oil to prevent the pasta from sticking together.
- Meanwhile, heat 1 1/2 tsp of oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Sprinkle salmon with 1/4 tsp each salt and pepper. Add to the pan, skin-side up and cook until golden brown for 3 to 5 minutes. Flip and cook until opaque, about 3 to 5 minutes depending on thickness.
- Whisk 2 tbsp of oil, herbs, lemon zest, lemon juice and the remaining 1/4 tsp each salt and pepper in a medium bowl. Add the orzo and broccoli. Stir until combined.
- Serve the orzo mixture with the salmon and drizzle with the remaining 1 1/2 tsps oil
Which brain healthy recipe was your favourite? Take a picture of your meal and tag us on social media @UHNfoundation.