“There is no health without mental health,” stresses psychiatrist Prof Jim Lucey, of St Patrick’s Dublin. So, what if you could eat to charge your brain?
What if there were foods to help fertilise your brain cells?
There are! Recipes pumped with omega-3 fats and B-vitamins are your new BFs (Brain Fertilisers).
Isn’t it great to find a food you love, that loves you back?
I’ll be broadcasting in RTE on 99.5 FM (Upbeat FM) this Friday October 10th for Mental Health Week,
giving listeners a list of Brain Fertilising foods that taste unbelievably good.
Hope you’ll join me.
Great! So can beans cure dementia?
No. But evidence suggests they can arm our brain with an armada of essential nutrients to get our neurotransmitters breakdancing for longer. “In every great production, there are hundreds of people behind the scenes that support the main players” writes Dr Hyla Cass, former Assistant Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at UCLA Medical School. “The same is true with your brain. These are the vitamins and minerals. They help build and rebuild the brain and nervous system, and keep everything running smoothly. They are your brain’s best friends.”
Of particular interest to Cass are the B group vitamins. A deficiency in B6, she notes, raises our risk of developing depression and can antagonise mental health problems such as schizophrenia or dementia for example.
B6 plays a critical role in the production of feel-good hormones in our body called serotonin. No serotonin, no samba. Not sure I like the sound of that.
The good news? B6 is found in bananas, chickpeas, beans, nuts and wholegrains like millet. These are your new BFs.
Patrick Holford stresses the importance of “smart fats” that fertilise the brain. Think sardines, mackerel, salmon, herring, chia, hempseed and flax. These superfoods all contain “essential fatty acids” that go on to manufacture top class brain cells and other brain-related nomenclature.
Mamasita likes the sound of that, especially as the foods he lists are so stonking delicious. But beware; the side effects of eating such foods include luminous skin, mood enhancement and happier hormones.
Grilled Mackerel Fillets with Easy-as-Hell Fennel Salad
Mackerel is a gloriously rich fish, spinning with omega-3 goodness. You can make this salad the day before and keep it covered in the fridge, away from thirsty fingers. We serve it with cauliflower mash which holds immodest amounts of that vitamin b6. But boiled potatoes are also fab. Serves 5.
2 medium fennel bulbs
1 garlic clove, crushed
1/2 cup / 125ml extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 tablespoons good-quality sherry vinegar
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 teaspoon whole black or white peppercorns, crushed
6 tablespoons pitted green olives (not canned)
5 fresh mackerel fillets
Make sure your fennel is fresh and tender – age tends to turn the outer layers leathery. A bit like ourselves.
Find the special slicing blade that fits snugly into your food processor’s bowl. Thinly slice both fennel bulbs, reserving the wispy fronds to garnish the dish later. You can also use a Japanese vegetable slicer or a mandoline if you have one, but remember to keep the bulbs whole, which makes slicing much easier. You’re looking for very finely sliced fennel (a sharp knife and patience also works).
In a separate bowl, socialise the garlic, olive oil, sherry vinegar, fennel seeds and peppercorns. Spoon into your finely sliced fennel and leave to infuse until hunger hollers. This dish will last a good few days in the fridge.
And now, for the mackerel. If you’ve never grilled oily omega-3 fish from fresh, you’re in for a colossal treat. Here’s a step-by-step to get you going.
1. Find a friendly fishmonger near you
2. Ask him nicely to gut the fish for you. It helps if you bring homemade cookies or jokes.
3. Give the fish a really good rinse from any residual blood which would otherwise turn bitter. A lick of olive oil, and throw on a hot barbecue or grill.
4. As soon as the sides of the fish start turning up (around 2-4 minutes), turn the fish over and repeat on the other side.
That’s it. Fish is so easy to cook. Just don’t forget about the bones. Gently pull the flesh away from the main bone once cooked, and the rest is a cinch.
When you’re ready to serve, scatter the fennel fronds on top of the fennel salad, followed by the pitted green olives. If added in advance, the fronds will wilt and turn grey while the olives will cannibalise the fennel’s delicate taste.
Great with boiled potatoes, smothered in parsley and olive oil. We serve everything on the kitchen table and let guests help themselves.