This month we’ve collaborated with the fabulous Estef Solar from Become Nutrition to bring you a brain-boosting recipe.
Estef is a qualified nutritional therapist based in Cardiff.
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BRAIN BOOSTER BOWL
We’ve all been there. Brain fog kicks in, memory starts working at low speed, focus disappears completely once we have digested our mid-morning snack (and the three cups of coffee we’ve had for breakfast. Naughty). We then tend to grab a quick filling meal or sandwich deal, or even worse, abuse the sugary treats to keep us going for the rest of the day – convenient, yes, but not a great idea if you want more energy, better performance and less stomach rumble. After those speedy lunches, digestion feels heavier and the carb crash is even worse than the morning slump! With some planning and 10 minutes in the kitchen the night before, you can prevent that mid-afternoon energy trough and face the tasks ahead in a much happier way.
If you want to increase your alertness, keep your energy levels up, support focus and concentration and feel fuller for longer, food is your best ally. Next time you go shopping, save the trip to the supplement aisle for another time, and instead explore the fresh veg shelves in all their goodness… The more colour you put in your plate, the better and faster results you’ll get.
This quick and easy recipe is just an example of what you can do to prevent brain ageing and promote emotional balance in busy, demanding times. It has some of the nutrients you need to feed your brain some high-quality fuel, but also to nourish your whole body in one go: vitamins and minerals, especially magnesium, from the almighty kale and green leafy veg to support the nervous system, improve our liver detoxification function and help you deal with stress more efficiently. Antioxidants from pomegranate and beetroot, to keep the brain young, oxygenated and protected against the dangerous free radicals. Prebiotic fibre that feeds our ‘good bacteria’; plus probiotics from fermented foods, which increase and improve the diversity of our microbiota – key to good digestion and the health of our second brain, the gut. Of course, healthy fats to support the integrity of our brain barrier and cell walls, and to promote sustained energy production (hello walnuts and olives, coconut and olive oils, also sesame seeds!). Vegetable protein from black beans, the powerhouse of the bean family, full of energy-boosting B-vitamins, fibre and calcium. Great colours, textures and flavours that will nourish the body, nurture the brain, and leave you fuller for longer. What’s not to like?
I find this recipe perfect for meal prepping and lunch boxes, with minimum kitchen time and a small ingredient list. The base is vegan, but easily adapted to any dietary model by making small tweaks and additions like the ones I’ve included at the end.
Please enjoy while making food (any food), and if you want to read a bit more about Nutrition, Lifestyle Medicine or simple tips for everyday health, drop by and say hi anytime on Facebook, Instagram or my website.
FOR THE KALE CHIPS
– Generous bunch of curly kale leaves: you can make a big batch and enjoy the leftovers as a snack throughout the day.
– 1 ½ tsp sesame seeds
– 1 tbsp raw organic coconut oil, melted
Preparation: pre-heat the oven at 175º (gas mark 3). Wash the kale leaves, cut in snack-sized bits and dry well with a paper towel. Toss the kale, coconut oil and sesame seeds in a bowl and mix well with your hands. Spread the oiled leaves on a baking tray, in a single layer. Bake for 10-15 minutes, moving the tray every few minutes to separate the chips, until the leaves are crispy (but not burnt!). Sprinkle some Himalayan or sea salt on top, and some chilli flakes if you enjoy food with a bit of a kick.
FOR THE SALAD
– Big handful of mixed green leaves (I’ve used spinach, rocket and chard)
– 2x cooked baby beetroots
– 1/3 can black beans
– Garlic stuffed green olives from the Riverside Market in Cardiff (support your local farmer’s market! The produce is amazing, you will reduce plastic use and the stall owners could talk about food for hours)
– 1 tbsp organic sauerkraut
– 1/3 cup chopped walnuts
– 2 tbsp pomegranate seeds
– Olive oil, juice of ¼ lemon and pink Himalayan or Sea salt to taste.
Preparation: combine all the ingredients on your favourite bowl and sprinkle with the salt, olive oil and lemon juice. If you are taking it to the office the next day put the dry ingredients on a tub (ideally non-plastic one) and wait until lunchtime to add the dressing.
WHY NOT TRY…?
For extra vegan goodness: add avocado, a source of healthy omega 3, fibre and a vast array of vitamins and minerals.
Make it vegetarian: add a boiled egg cut into small pieces for extra protein and choline, an excellent brain nutrient.
Make it flexitarian: add some oily anchovies, a great source of protective omega 3 and protein.
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