Did your mom ever tell you to eat your fish because it’s “brain food”? Turns out that once again, she was right.
“Everyone with a brain should know how to feed it,” writes psychiatrist Drew Ramsey, MD, in his new book, Eat Complete ($27, amazon.com), which focuses on 21 nutrients essential to brain health (including of course, omega-3 fatty acids).
“There’s one silver bullet in health, and it’s in the shape of a fork,” says Dr. Ramsey. “When people nourish themselves, it really does transform your health. I’ve seen that clinically.” Here, he shares three delicious recipes from the pages of his book. Each incorporates foods rich in brain-boosting nutrients.
Why it's so good for you: "This pizza is the best way to get your vitamin B12 levels up," says Dr. Ramsey. "It’s needed to create serotonin and dopamine, so it’s essential for mood, energy, and focus. If you’re deficient, you feel cloudy in your thinking, drained of energy, and you tend to be more pessimistic if not outright depressed."
½ lb. clams, well rinsed under cold running water
6 Tbsp. olive oil
2 cloves garlic
¼ tsp. salt
2 cups packed kale leaves
½ lb. frozen pizza dough, defrosted (whole wheat or gluten-free)
½ cup grated pecorino Romano cheese
1 cup baby arugula or microgreens
- Preheat oven to 450ËšF.
- Fill a large stockpot with 3 inches water and bring to a boil over high heat. Add clams, cover, and cook for 2 to 3 minutes or until shells open and clams are cooked through inside. Drain and pull clam meat from shells. Chop clams and set aside.
- Place olive oil, garlic, and salt in a food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Add kale and pulse again until a chunky mixture forms.
- Roll out dough and place it on a pizza pan or baking sheet. Top with kale mixture and, using back of a spoon, spread it almost to edges of dough. Sprinkle with clams and cheese. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes until edges are cooked and golden. Remove from oven and sprinkle with arugula. Serve immediately.
Per serving (2 thin slices): 408 Calories; 17g Protein; 30g Carbohydrates; 26g Fat (5g Saturated); 26mg Cholesterol; 1g Fiber; 759mg Sodium
Marinated Kale Salad with Shaved Asparagus, Olives, and Orange Zest
Why it's so good for you: "The dose of vitamin K is very high in this recipe," says Dr. Ramsey. "Vitamin K makes these long fats that surround and protect brain cells. It’s like the insulation around an electrical wire." The salad is also high in vitamin A, "which directly functions in the brain and nervous system," Dr. Ramsey adds.
1 10-oz. bunch kale (blue dwarf, curly, or lacinato), stems trimmed
1 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1 lb. asparagus, trimmed
½ cup assorted olives, pitted and chopped
½ tsp. hot or mild paprika
½ cup sliced almonds
- Tear kale leaves and place them in a large bowl along with olive oil. Squeeze leaves with your fingers, crushing kale to tenderize it, for about 1 minute. Using a microplane grater, finely grate zest of 1 orange and transfer zest to bowl with kale.
- Shave asparagus using a potato peeler or mandolin. Add asparagus to bowl with kale along with olives and paprika and toss well. Refrigerate salad for at least 1 hour.
- Just before serving, prepare oranges. Using a sharp paring knife, remove orange peel and white pith and thinly slice oranges. Divide salad among four plates and top with orange slices and almonds.
Per serving: 205 Calories; 8g Protein; 23g Carbohydrates;12g Fat (1g Saturated); 0mg Cholesterol; 7g Fiber; 157mg Sodium
Quinoa-Mushroom Frittata with Fresh Herbs
Why it's so good for you: "This dish is rich in selenium, a mineral that is essential in thyroid health, so it's important to mood and weight regulation and overall metabolism," Dr. Ramsey says. "It also utilizes a lot of fresh herbs, which have been used as healing compounds since the early days of medicine."
3/4 cup uncooked quinoa (or 1 1/2 cups cooked)
6 large pasture-raised eggs
½ cup grated Parmesan
¼ cup chopped fresh basil
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh chives or tarragon
1 tsp. minced fresh thyme leaves
¼ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
4 scallions or garlic scapes, thinly sliced
1 cup sliced mushrooms such as maitake, shiitake, or chanterelle, brushed clean and sliced
¼ cup assorted pitted olives, pitted, whole, or chopped
- Cook quinoa according to package instructions. Let cool.
- In a large bowl, whisk eggs, then stir in quinoa, Parmesan, herbs, pepper, scallions or garlic scapes, and mushrooms. Coat a medium, ovenproof skillet with a thick layer of olive oil. Place over medium-high heat, add egg mixture, and sprinkle with olives. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes without stirring.
- Preheat broiler with rack in second position from top. Broil frittata until top is lightly browned and eggs have firmed up in center, 3 to 4 minutes. Remove frittata from oven and let it rest for 3 minutes. Loosen edges with a spatula and cut into 6 wedges. Serve immediately.
Per serving: 232 Calories; 13g Protein; 14g Carbohydrates; 14g Fat (6g Saturated); 295mg Cholesterol; 2g Fiber; 409mg Sodium
From Eat Complete: The 21 Nutrients That Fuel Brainpower, Boost Weight Loss, and Transform Your Health. Copyright © 2016. Excerpted with permission of Harper Wave, an imprint of Harper Collins Publishers.
Photos: Ellen Silverman