Scientists are learning more and more about how our diets can help protect our brains. Things like omega-3s from healthy fats like fish oil, flavanols from nuts, seeds, veggies, citrus fruits and chocolate, and high fiber from whole grains and vegetables all contribute to improved brain function.
Consuming omega-3s has been linked to greater activity of a chemical known as brain-derived neurotropic factor (BDNF). BDNF is believed to be responsible for kick-starting the growth of new neurons. Those flavanols increase BDNF levels too. (Yes, it’s true dark chocolate really is health food!)
High fiber diets increase butyrate in the colon which is neuroprotective in the brain. The recipes below include fennel which has 7 grams of fiber per serving. This alone is higher than the average grams of fiber eaten per day by most North Americans and helps achieve the goal of 30 grams per day.
Fennel, Orange & Mint Salad
2 small to medium bulbs fennel, thinly sliced
2 tsp fennel greens, chopped
1 large orange, peeled and chopped into small squishy cubes
¼ to ½ small red onion, thinly sliced
3 tablespoons fresh mint, chopped
¼ cup olive oil
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon honey
Salt to taste
1. Mix together all of the dressing ingredients, set aside.
2. Mix fennel, orange, and onion together in a medium bowl, add fennel greens and fresh mint.
3. Pour dressing over salad and stir.
4. Serve over greens or on it’s own. It is an excellent accompaniment to fish!
Slow Roasted Salmon with Fennel, Citrus and Chilis
1 medium fennel bulb, thinly sliced
1 blood or navel orange, very thinly sliced, seeds removed
1 Meyer or regular lemon, very thinly sliced, seeds removed
1 red Fresno chile or jalapeño, with seeds, thinly sliced
4 sprigs dill, plus more for serving
Kosher salt and coarsely ground black pepper
1 2-lb. skinless salmon fillet, preferably center-cut
¾ cup olive oil
Flaky sea salt
Preheat oven to 275°. Toss fennel, orange slices, lemon slices, chile, and 4 dill sprigs in a shallow 3-qt. baking dish; season with kosher salt and pepper. Season salmon with kosher salt and place on top of fennel mixture. Pour oil over. Roast 30–40 minutes for medium-rare. Salt and pepper to taste. Serve topped with fresh dill.
Fennel Top Pesto
Greens of 2 fennel bulbs, coarsely chopped
2 handfuls fresh basil
1-2 garlic cloves
2 tablespoons lemon juice
½ cup nuts or seeds (almonds, walnuts, sunflower seeds)
½ – ¾ cup olive oil
Salt to taste
1. Add all ingredients except for olive oil and lemon juice to
food processor, process until finely chopped.
2. Add lemon juice, then olive oil while motor running, add
olive oil until desired consistency.