Tuesday, 2 May 2017

May 2013: brain food





BRAIN FOOD


"Ten Foods to Stimulate Your Brain!" There are plenty of websites that list foods to improve your brain, your memory, or which protect against Alzheimers. All say something different, though usually not by much. Let's see what they have in common.

OMEGA 3 is mentioned by every single one. In fatty fish, and also eggs. It is best absorbed from food. Don't have too much from supplements, this may cause excess bleeding, particularly in people taking anticoagulant drugs. [1]

TURMERIC/CURCUMIN - found in curry powder.

VITAMIN E: in nuts and seeds (also B6 and folate).

FOLATE which lowers homocystein. In dark leafy greens, (pea)nuts/seeds, liver, peas/beans, and marmite ("may slow cognitive decline").

EGGS - for protein, choline, B vitamins and essential fatty acids.

WHOLE GRAINS - for long-lasting carbohydrates and B vitamins.

FLAVONOIDS from veg and fruit, such as/like leafy greens, onions, berries etc - don't try to get these from supplements. [2]

When eating all of these foodstuffs as whole foods, not too much processed, we also take in the vitamins, minerals and fiber which help absorb and use them. Unless you are ill or elderly, only use supplements when really necessary.

Frequently eating small meals will help keep your concentration up, and prevent mental fatigue and   blood sugar fluctuations which could lead to energy crashes.
Never skip breakfast.

Most websites also mention moderate amounts of chocolate, and some even coffee. Why do I not copy those here wholeheartedly?
Chocolate always comes with sugar. For 146 reasons not to eat sugar, see [3]. Also, sugar is addictive, which often makes it very difficult to eat it in moderation. Fructose is even worse. [4]

Coffee may help us focus and gives a short burst of energy which is useful for an exam. But it also temporarily increases heart rate and blood pressure. And soon body and mind build up a tolerance: getting the same boost takes ever more caffeine. If you want caffeine to help when you need it, it's better to let your brain "dry out" for several days first.
And don't forget, caffeine only increases the output and quality of your work if this doesn't require nuanced or abstract thinking. It doesn't help creative energy, or thinking beyond basic tasks. [5]
Coffee may even cause male incontinence - eek!

Here follows 'What to Eat and Sow' in May. In view of the cold facts of 2013 however, it might be better to look at last month's lists when figuring out what to eat and to sow .....

EAT:
Veg: spring greens, cabbage, chard, cauli, spinach, salad leaves/lettuce, radish, rocket, asparagus, sorrel, watercress, rhubarb, seakale.
Herbs: chives, parsley, mint, lovage, summer savoury and chervil.
Wild food: broom buds, chives, dandelions, fat hen, hogweed shoots, hop shoots, meadowsweet, sea spinach, sorrel, watercress, wild fennel, wild garlic, wild rocket, samphire.
Game: wood pigeon, lamb, mutton, guinea fowl, rabbit, duck.
Your fishmonger may sell samphire: serve fresh in salads or have as veg with melted butter. Wash thoroughly and don't add salt.

SOW:
direct: beet, calabrese, carrots (though June sowings get less rootfly), french/runner beans, kohlrabi, lettuce, sweetcorn, swede, spring onions, spinach (beet), courgettes, marrows, (sugar) peas. If pea moth's a problem, wait till mid May.
in seedbed to transplant: leeks, cabbage, cauli, sprouting broccoli (early May), kale.
in trays: beans, courgettes, cucumbers, melon, pumpkins, pepper, sweetcorn, tomatoes.
plant out: cauli; cucumbers, marrows, pumpkins, tomatoes, squashes late May.

Fill gaps with cover crop green manures like alfalfa, buckwheat, crimson clover, Essex red clover, fenugreek, lupin, mustard, phacelia or trefoil, all available from Organic Gardening. For 'what to grow when and where?' see http://www.theecologist.org/green_green_living/how_to/438015/how_to_grow_a_green_manure.html.

NETTLE SOUP
60g young nettles, weighed after stripping from the stalks, 1 large onion, 50g butter, 2 largeish potatoes, 1l water, 2 tblsp creme fraiche, seasoning, nutmeg.
Wash nettles. Melt butter and simmer chopped onion until golden. Add nettles and chopped potatoes, cook for 2-3 mins. Add water, simmer for 20 mins. Liquidize. Add seasoning plus grated nutmeg, serve with creme fraiche.

SWISS CHARD and SESAME STIR FRY: sidedish.
400g chard leaves, 2 onions, olive oil, 1 heaped tblsp toasted sesame seeds, 1-2 tblsp balsamic vinegar, 1 heaped tblsp chopped coriander leaves or crushed seeds.
Chop onions in half and slice. Chop chard into strips, dry thoroughly. Heat wok or heavy pan (no oil) and toast the seeds until they start to pop, put aside. Heat oil in the wok, add onion. Stir fry for 5 mins, until soft. Add chard and stir fry for 3-4 mins, until wilted. Turn off the heat. Add vinegar, coriander and sesame seeds, mix. Serve immediately.  

CREAMY MASHED POTATOES with GOAT'S CHEESE and FRESH SAGE  
900g potatoes cut into 2cm cubes, 140g soft goat cheese, 60ml sour cream or whole milk, 2 tblsp butter, 4 tsp chopped sage, sage sprigs.
Cook potatoes in salted water until tender; drain. Add cheese, milk and butter; mash. Mix in sage; season. 
Garnish with fresh sage sprigs.
This can be made 2 hours ahead. Let stand at room temperature. Rewarm slowly, and thin with more milk, if it is too thick. 

KIDNEYS in YOGHURT
450g kidneys, 15g flour, 1/2 tsp paprika, salt, pepper, 2 tbsp oil, 1 small chopped onion, 1 tsp dried rosemary, 140ml yoghurt, chopped parsley.
If you don't want the flavour to be too strong, soak the kidneys in water for a while. Then skin and slice thinly, removing core with scissors. Toss in flour, seasoned with paprika, salt and pepper. Fry onion until golden. Add kidneys and rosemary. Fry over a high heat for 5 mins, until kidneys are tender but still juicy. Add yoghurt. Reheat without boiling, season. Serve, sprinkled with parsley.

ANCHOVY SPINACH 
Heat olive oil on low, add 3-5 anchovy fillets. Mash up with wooden spoon. Add cut spinach, fry very gently (covered if it is perpetual spinach) till done.
Especially nice with fish.


SPRING GREENS with ANCHOVIES, CREME FRAICHE, LEMON and PINE NUTS 
Spring greens, anchovies, garlic, balsamic vinegar, creme fraiche, lemon juice, pine nuts, salt, pepper.
Dry toast pine nuts. Remove stems from the cabbage and chop. Chop garlic. Drop both into boiling salted water for 6 mins. Drain, save liquid for stock. Melt at least 4-5 anchovies in some of their oil and maybe a little bit more olive oil. Cook gently until they break down and soften. Add balsamic vinegar, some lemon juice and plenty of creme fraiche and freshly ground pepper. Tip greens into the mix and stir to warm and coat it. Put on mashed potatoes, pine nuts on top, serve immediately.

BUTTERY SPRING GREENS with CREME FRAICHE
 500g spring greens, 200g peas (weighed after podding), 35g butter, 4 tbsp crème fraîche, ginger.
Put chopped cabbage in boiling salted water; 5 mins later, peas. After 5 more mins, drain. Add ginger. Saute drained veg in butter for ab. 5 mins, stir in crème fraîche, season, serve.  


SARDINE OMELETTE, serves 2.
1 tin sardines or pilchards in oil, 4-5 eggs, butter, 2 finely sliced shallots (or 1 small red onion), seasoning, (red pepper, parsley). 
Drain sardines of oil and break into large flakes. Break eggs into a bowl, season and beat lightly. Heat butter (or the sardines-oil), mix sardine flakes, shallots and seasoning into the eggs, then pour into the  buttered pan. Cook, with just a little bit of stirring, until barely set: flip over to finish cooking for just half a minute. Serve at once with green salad, or tomatoes, or bread and butter, or all three. You may add some chopped red pepper to the egg-sardine mix before putting it in the pan.





NEXT MONTH: CHOCOLATE

[1] http://www.livestrong.com/article/361033-is-too-much-omega-3-bad-for-you/
[2] www.psychologytoday.com/articles/200307/flavonoids-antioxidants-help-the-mind
[3] http://rheumatic.org/sugar.htm
[4] http://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/is-fructose-bad-for-you-201104262425 and
     http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/86/4/895.full

[5] http://lifehacker.com/5585217/what-caffeine-actually-does-to-your-brain and
www.psychologytoday.com/blog/prime-your-gray-cells/201106/does-coffee-perk-your-brain-or-not-0