Breakout the pie tins and preheat the oven, the holiday season is upon us! Holiday foods are notoriously caloric and unhealthy…but with a few thoughtful tweaks your family feast could be a brain boosting hit! As the resident foodie at Brainhackers, I’ve been tasked with finding the best, most brain-fueling versions of Thanksgiving classics. So grab a pen and start your shopping list, the search for mental holiday nutrition ends here:
Rosemary Glazed Almonds & Pecans with Raspberry
(Image and recipe courtesy of Sunny Anderson.)
Not only is this sweet and savory snack good for noshing, it also packs a triple punch of power to your brain. Almonds have been linked to restoring memory and cognitive function in Alzheimer’s patients (source); rosemary protects the brain against chemical free radicals which are linked to neurodegeneration (source); and raspberries contain polyphenols which reduces inflammation and helps slow the brain’s aging process (source).
Sweet Potato Soup with Miso and Ginger
(Image and recipe courtesy of The Kitchn.)
miso promotes gut health which is linked to overall mental and physical wellness; and ginger has antioxidents which safeguard brain cells against oxidative stress, something that is common in neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s Disease (source).
Beet, Avocado, and Arugula Salad with Sunflower Seeds
(Image and recipe courtesy of Martha Stewart.)
This salad is as pleasing to the eyes and tummy as it is to the brain. Not only do the nitrates in beets boost blood flow to your brain cells which helps with mental performance, the vitamin k and folates found in avocados prevent blood clots in the brain and improve cognitive function both memory and concentration (source).
Kale Salad with Butternut Squash, Pomegranate and Pumpkin Seeds
(Image and recipe courtesy of Epicurious.)
We all know green leafy veggies are good for us, but kale is among the best – especially when it comes to brain health. The brain depends on essential vitamins and minerals to function and just one cup of raw kale gives you 134% of the recommended daily amount of vitamin C, 206% of the recommended daily amount of pro-vitamin A, and 684% of the recommended daily amount of a vitamin K (source). And if that nutrition wasn’t enough, numerous studies also suggest pomegranates help protect your brain from different forms of damage (source).
Chestnut Stuffing with Fennel
(Image and recipe courtesy of Food & Wine.)
Stuffing is my favorite Thanksgiving food so I was determined to find a recipe that was both brain-friendly and delicious. Although this modern take on classic dressing is especially good for cognitive functioning -It contains fennel which is a vasodilator that increases oxygen supply to the brain (source), and chestnuts which are full of brain boosting vitamin b (source) – I was surprised and delighted to learn that the traditional stuffing recipe is actually full of brain food! Bone broth, celery, eggs, and extra virgin olive oil have all been shown to improve cognitive functioning and memory (source).
Blueberry and Dark Chocolate Pie
(Image and recipe courtesy of Better Homes & Gardens.)
Finish off your Thanksgiving feast with a slice of this pie and your brain will thank you. The antioxidants found in blueberries and dark chocolate are linked to improved short-term memory. Blueberries contain anthocyanidins, a nutrient that powerfully neutralizes free radical damage to brain cells (source); and dark chocolate contains flavanols which promote neuron growth and enhance connections between neurons (source).