Who Knew? A Diet for a Healthy Brain

Mushrooms have a high and unique antioxidant content, fiber and protein contribution—and they provide good amounts of important brain vitamins and minerals. Try Norene Gilletz’s recipe for Mediterranean Stuffed Mushrooms.
Photo | Courtesy of Norene Gilletz

As we get older, we have moments when we forget why we walked into a room or where we put the car keys.  We may worry that these are signs of dementia or worse.

Worry no more! Norene Gilletz has done it again. Who knew there were good foods to help your brain and foods to be avoided?  Her newest informative book “The Brain Boosting Diet: Feed Your Memory” (Whitecap Books) has more than 200 recipes developed by Norene that will help boost your brain, as well as information on the science behind the recipes by Dr. Edward Wein. The book also aims to show the reader how to slow down potential cognitive decline.

Loaded with beautiful color photos and lots of wonderful hints and tips, including the role of supplements in a brain-healthy diet, this book shows  you how the diet fits with other lifestyle measures to stave off memory loss and reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s and dementia while stressing the awareness of  the three deadly dietary sins that put your body and brain at risk: too much food, too much sugar and carbs, and too much processed foods.

You can choose a brain beneficial diet plan based on your personal preference, including plant based, the Mediterranean diet, MIND Diet, and BBD (Brain Boosting Diet), while focusing on selective food combinations and preparation, an approach not previously published. This book belongs on every health-conscious person’s cookbook shelf.  Knowledge, health, taste and enjoyment are here for you.  Visit Norene at www.gourmania.com.

Mix-and-Match Smoothie Bowl

dairy | pareve option | gluten-free | Passover option | makes 2 servings

Turn your smoothie into a meal! Smoothie Bowls are thicker than liquid smoothies, so eat them with a spoon. Serve them in a bowl, topped with colorful fruits and crunchy nuts. Have a fun day sundae—any day!

Berry Smoothie Bowl
1 cup (250 mL) frozen blueberries
1 cup (250 mL) frozen sliced strawberries
1 cup (250 mL) plain Greek yogurt (skim or 1 percent)
Sweetener equivalent to 1 tablespoon (15 mL) sugar

1/2 cup (125 mL) blueberries, raspberries and/or sliced strawberries
1/4 cup (60 mL) slivered almonds, walnut pieces and/or pecan halves
2 tablespoons (30 mL) pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds or chia seeds (omit for Passover)

In a food processor fitted with the steel blade, combine frozen berries with Greek yogurt and sweetener. Process with several quick on/off pulses, then scrape down sides of the bowl. Process 1 to 2 minutes, until blended.

Transfer mixture to two bowls. Arrange toppings in an attractive design overtop each bowl. Serve chilled.

Dr. Ed says:

  • Nutritional benefits: This recipe packs a big punch because of the fiber-loaded berries, the simple antioxidant vitamin C, and other complex antioxidants.
  • Yogurt will provide some important vitamin B12, not readily available from plant sources, plus probiotic bacteria and some vitamin D. When used with the nut toppings, we get a good shot of natural vitamin E and good levels of important brain minerals, magnesium and zinc.

Mediterranean Stuffed Mushrooms

dairy | pareve option | gluten-free | Passover | reheats and/or freezes well | makes 24 stuffed mushrooms

These are excellent as either an appetizer or a low-carb side dish. A food processor makes quick work of preparing the stuffing. Roasted red peppers also come in jars.

24 large cremini mushrooms
1 tablespoon (15 mL) olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic (about 1 teaspoon/5 mL minced)
1/2 cup (125 mL) roasted red bell peppers, drained and chopped (see Norene’s notes)
1/3 cup (80 mL) chopped sun-dried tomatoes (optional)
1 package (10 oz/300 g) frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
2 tablespoons (30 mL) chopped fresh basil (or 1 teaspoon/5 mL dried)
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup (125 mL) grated low-fat mozzarella or Parmesan cheese

Wash mushrooms quickly and pat dry with paper towels. Remove stems and chop coarsely, reserving mushroom caps.

In a large nonstick skillet, heat oil on medium. Add onion, garlic and chopped stems. Mix well and sauté about 5 minutes, or until tender. Stir in roasted bell peppers, sun-dried tomatoes (if using) and spinach, and mix well. Cook until most of the moisture has disappeared, about 3 to 4 minutes, stirring occasionally. If the mixture begins to stick, add a little water. Season with basil, salt and pepper; let cool.

Stuff mushroom caps with the onion/garlic mixture, using a teaspoon to mound the filling slightly. Arrange stuffed mushrooms in an oblong baking dish sprayed with nonstick cooking spray. Sprinkle with Parmesan. (Can be prepared in advance and refrigerated, covered, overnight.)

Bake, uncovered, in a preheated 350°F (175°C) oven for 15 minutes, until golden.

Norene’s notes:

  • Roasted red peppers: Preheat broiler or BBQ. Broil or grill red bell peppers until skins are blackened and blistered, about 12 to 15 minutes, turning them occasionally. Immediately place hot peppers in a bowl, cover and let cool. Scrape off skins, using a paring knife. Rinse quickly under cold water to remove any bits of charred skin. Cut peppers in half and discard stems, cores and seeds. Cut peppers into long, narrow strips. Refrigerate or freeze.
  • Variation: Instead of roasted red peppers and sun-dried tomatoes, use 1/2 cup (125 mL) chopped red bell pepper and 1 stalk chopped celery. Instead of basil, use 1/2 tsp (2 mL) dried thyme.
  • Pareve option: Omit cheese and sprinkle mushrooms with chopped almonds.

Dr. Ed says:

  • Cremini mushrooms: Mushrooms have a high and unique antioxidant content, fiber and protein contribution, and the fact is that they provide good amounts of important brain vitamins and minerals. They are also very low in sugar and digestible carbs.
  • Spinach is used extensively in this book because it has been highlighted as especially beneficial for brain health. This is attributed to its high content of carotenoid antioxidants, especially lutein and zeaxanthin, as well as its high content of the brain-related nutrients, vitamin E, folate, vitamin C, magnesium and manganese.
  • If you consume several mushrooms, you will get substantial levels of protein, fiber, antioxidants, vitamin C (primarily from the bell peppers and spinach), vitamin B12, folate, magnesium and zinc.

Did you know? Lutein and zeaxanthin have been found to be important to prevent macular degeneration in the eyes, because the eyes are linked to the brain.

Black Cod with Tiny Roasted Tomatoes

pareve | gluten-free | Passover | do not freeze | makes 4 servings

One oven, two pans—this easy and elegant meal is excellent for entertaining. You won’t have to fish for compliments!

Tiny Roasted Tomatoes
4 cups (1 L or about 2 pints) cherry or grape tomatoes (remove any stem ends)
2 cloves garlic (about 1 teaspoon/5 mL), minced

Freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons (30 mL) olive oil

4 black cod fillets (5 oz/150 g each)

Freshly ground black pepper
2 cloves garlic (about 1 teaspoon/5 mL), minced
2 tablespoons (30 mL) chopped fresh basil + extra for garnish

Preheat oven to 400°F. Place an oven rack in the lower third of the oven and a second rack in the middle of the oven.

Tiny Roasted Tomatoes: Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Add tomatoes and sprinkle with garlic, and salt and pepper to taste. Drizzle with olive oil and, using your hands, mix well, coating tomatoes on all sides. Spread out evenly and roast, uncovered, in the lower third of the oven for 6 to 8 minutes.

Fish: Meanwhile, coat a 9-by-13-inch glass baking dish with nonstick cooking spray. Place fish in the prepared dish and sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper. Top with garlic and basil.

Place fish on the middle rack of the oven and bake, along with the tomatoes, for an additional 10 to 12 minutes. When done, fish will flake when gently pressed with a fork and tomatoes will be tender.

Spoon roasted tomatoes over fish and garnish with additional basil. Serve hot or at room temperature.

Norene’s notes:

Black cod, also known as sablefish, has a delicate, silky texture and a rich, buttery flavor, which is why it is sometimes called butterfish. It is delicious poached, baked or grilled.

Halibut with tiny roasted tomatoes: For a different twist, use halibut fillets instead of black cod. Chilean sea bass also makes a scrumptious substitution.

Dr. Ed says:

Black cod is a fish with one of the highest omega-3 concentrations available, at an average of 1.4 g per serving. Compared with halibut, at less than 500 mg per serving, it’s a no-brainer to choose black cod.

Tomatoes, the other major component of this recipe, are primarily known for their high content of carotenoid antioxidants, especially lycopene. They also provide excellent amounts of vitamin C and good amounts of fiber, potassium and zinc.

Overall, black cod makes this recipe an excellent source of omega-3 fat, as well as vitamin D and vitamin B12.

Did you know? Because of their long lives in deep cold waters, black cod store much of their fat in the form of omega-3s. They have the highest omega-3 content of any white fish—even higher than many species of salmon.