Our brains are the most unique part of our bodies. They are what control our quirky personalities and allow us to dream up beautiful, brilliant ideas that move the world forward. And they are sooooo great, when we are feeling focused and in the flow zone. But sometimes when we hit that afternoon slump or a foggy daze takes over, our brains feel anything but beautiful and brilliant.
Coming at you today I’ve got my five favorite foods to eat when I am in need of a major brain boost! I reach for these five when I’ve been studying all day and hitting a slump or want to make sure I’m starting my day off on the right foot.
Blueberries are powerful punches of antioxidants that can help reduce oxidative damage associated with aging. (1) In particular for brain health, blueberries show neuroprotective properties related to memory. (2) These tiny berries are also high in anti-inflammatory phytonutrients and vitamin C. The vitamin C from blueberries aid in the synthesis of serotonin which is vital for regulating mood, sleep, and pain. (3) Some of my favorite ways to enjoy blueberries are topped on oatmeal, in salads, and by the handful!
Oh lion’s mane, what would I do without you. Lion’s mane is a mushroom that actually looks like a full on lion’s mane (hence the name). This medicinal mushroom has been shown to help with the prevention and treatment of cognitive dysfunction and decline. It has also been associated with decreases in depression and anxiety. The healing mushroom has been shown to promote nerve growth factor, a protein in the brain that helps with the development of new neurons. (4) IT’S SO COOL FRIENDS. I put a powdered form in my matcha every morning and it completely jumpstarts my brain. You can check out my go-to recipe in my Healing Mugs ebook. My favorite brands for lion’s mane powders are Om Mushrooms and Four Sigmatic.
Walnuts boast the best omega-3 profile of any nut, you go walnuts you go girl. Omega-3s help make walnuts an amazing anti-inflammatory food which we love for brain health because inflammation makes us feel foggy and unfocused. In addition to its impressive fat content, these yummy nuts contain important minerals and a more bioavailable form of vitamin B6. (5,6) Walnuts make a good snack at school or work because they have been shown to have cognitive benefits, specifically in improving verbal reasoning skills. (2) They boost main neurotransmitters dopamine, serotonin, acetylcholine and GABA. (5) What I find super cool (ok, nerd cool) about walnuts is that they even look like brains!
Okay, hear me out on the rabbit food. Kale is a cruciferous vegetable, high in calcium, magnesium, potassium, iron, folate, vitamin C, vitamin K, and vitamin A. (7) I mean, WOW. Dark leafy greens in general are where your vitamins and minerals are truly at. Your vitamin and mineral levels are extremely important because they can start to wreck havoc on your health when they are out of balance. For example a magnesium deficiency can cause anxious feelings and a decreased tolerance to high stress. Under high stress (such as test anxiety or a big presentation at work) the body requires more magnesium to maintain its normal functions. (3) Kale helps boost serotonin, GABA, and norepinephrine. (5) Give your kale a good olive oil and sea salt massage and I promise you will start craving this bitter green in no time.
Rosemary is a woody herb with powerful antioxidant properties. It’s actually a member of the mint family and has long been studied for its ability to improve attention and focus. The polyphenols in rosemary help to decrease inflammation by reducing nitric oxide production. (8) Rosemary provides protection against neurodegenerative diseases, making it an important herb to keep in your spice cabinet. I love roasting veggies with garlic and rosemary and will commonly put rosemary essential oil in my diffuser when I’m needing some extra inspiration.
Brain Boost Snack Mix
Gluten free, Grain free, Dairy Free, Paleo, Vegan
Makes: 2 cups snack mix
- 2 tbsp ghee or coconut oil
- 2 C walnuts
- 3 tbsp fresh rosemary, chopped
- 2 tsp maple syrup
- 1 tsp sea salt
- 1 C blueberries
- 2 tsp coconut flakes
- Preheat oven to 300 degrees and line sheet tray with parchment paper.
- Melt ghee or coconut oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat.
- Add in walnuts, rosemary, maple syrup, and sea salt and stir until well combined.
- Transfer nut mixture to parchment lined tray and put in preheated oven.
- Bake for 30-35 minutes stirring every 10 minutes to ensure walnuts do nut burn.
- Remove from oven and fully cool. Add blueberries and coconut flakes and mix until well combined.
- Enjoy your delicious brain food snack!
Want to learn more about how to support your brain health and mood with food? I’m launching my ebook in Spring 2019 allllll about foods for calm, focus, grounding, and joy. Sign up below to get exclusive updates!
1. Blueberry Monograph. https://naturalmedicines-therapeuticresearchcom.nunm.idm.oclc.org/databases/food,-herbs-supplements/professional.aspx?productid=1013. Accessed June 18, 2018.
2. Sokolov AN, Pavlova MA, Klosterhalfen S, Enck P. Chocolate and the brain: Neurobiological impact of cocoa flavanols on cognition and behavior. Neurosci Biobehav Rev. 2013;37(10):2445-2453. doi:10.1016/j.neubiorev.2013.06.013
3. Gaby A. Nutritional Medicine. Second. Concord, NH: Fritz Perlberg Publishing; 2017.
4. Khan MA, Tania M, Liu R, Rahman MM. Hericium erinaceus: an edible mushroom with medicinal values. J Complement Integr Med. 2013;10(1). doi:10.1515/jcim-2013-0001
5. Babb M. Anti-Inflammatory Eating for a Happy, Healthy Brain. Seattle, WA: Sasquatch Books; 2016.
6. Walnuts. http://whfoods.org/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=99. Accessed June 18, 2018.
7. Kale Monograph. https://naturalmedicines-therapeuticresearch-com.nunm.idm.oclc.org/databases/food-herbs-supplements/professional.aspx?productid=1484. Accessed June 18, 2018.
8. Peng C-H, Su J-D, Chyau C-C, et al. Supercritical Fluid Extracts of Rosemary Leaves Exhibit Potential Anti-Inflammation and Anti-Tumor Effects. Biosci Biotechnol Biochem. 2007;71(9):2223-2232. doi:10.1271/bbb.70199
What is your favorite food for a brain boost? Hope you have the best week, my friends!
For baking enthusiasts like me, holiday baking is like the olympics of all baking. There are so many different flavors - peppermint! cocoa! gingerbread! oh my! and family classics to get right. You need some that are chewy, some with a good snap, all in the hopes of getting a Paul Hollywood handshake…. ok maybe I’ve been watching just a little too much Great British Baking Show. But for me holiday baking is a big, enjoyable occasion that I look forward to every year because it brings my whole family together in the kitchen.
When I was first beginning my healing journey I was devastated to think that I would no longer be able to enjoy my family’s treasured recipes. No gluten? What was even the point, I thought. I am here to tell my past self and you that it is possible to have your [gluten free] cake and eat it too. It’s even dare I say it, fun, to develop new takes on old favorites or experiment with brand new recipes.
Here are eight recipes to get you started - some are vegan, some contain eggs, all are gluten free.
Vegan Triple Chocolate Peppermint Cookies [V, GF, DF] - Beaming Baker
I brought these to a holiday gathering and discovered that peppermint is a VERY divisive flavor. I have now of course unfriended all of those people because I simply can’t imagine how anyone can hate peppermint! I added some crushed candy canes on top and they looked delightful. For the people in your life who love peppermint, this one is a big hit.
Paleo Chai Spiced Cookies [GF, DF] - Erin Lives Whole
These are the perfect combination of crunchy on the outside with a chewy middle. I don’t do well with cashews so I subbed walnuts and they were delish. I’ve made them three times in the past few weeks.
Tigernut Chocolate Chip Cookies [GF] - Grazed and Enthused
Every time I talk about these cookies I’m met with a “tiger-what?” Tigernut flour is made from tiger nuts, which are a tuber. It’s a great flour especially if you’re following the Autoimmune Protocol. The vanilla bean ghee in these cookies makes them irresistible.
Cookie Skillets Individuals - Rachel Good Eats [GF, DF, V option]
If tigernut is sounding way too exotic for you, these are my other favorite gluten free chocolate chip cookies. Chewy and delicious. Sprinkle on some green and red sprinkles for an easy holiday update.
Creamy Peppermint Patties - Paleo Cookie Exchange Ebook by Grass Fed Salsa [GF, DF, AIP option]
There are a lot of great Paleo holiday recipes in this free e-book provided by Grass Fed Salsa. I love the surprise peppermint taste of these cookies.
Paleo Ginger Molasses Cookies - Ambitious Kitchen [GF]
If you’ve never had a ginger molasses cookie, you’re missing out. I love the combination of the spices and the robust flavor blackstrap molasses adds to any cookie.
Paleo Hot Chocolate Brownie Bites - Unbound Wellness [AIP, GF, DF]
I’m a huge fan of all of Michelle’s recipes and I’m planning to make this one this weekend. I’ve never made my own marshmallows and I’m excited to try it!
Macarons - Tasty [GF]
I just discovered that macarons are made of almond flour and inherently gluten free. I. love. macarons. I am about to become a macaron baking fiend this weekend and am looking forward to the challenge of perfecting these fickle treats. I’m thinking one peppermint filling with a matcha green macaron to really amp up the holiday spirit.
Any of your gluten free favorites that I missed? Let me know below! Happy holidays and happy baking, my friends.
There are very few weeks that go by for me where I’m not making some type of baked good. When I went gluten free for my autoimmune disease I immediately missed all my favorite treats and simply the act of baking itself. Gluten free baking isn’t for the faint of heart - there are usually many failed attempts before you get the flours just right. When you get the recipe in perfect harmony, man oh man is it worth it.
This recipe is one of my absolute favorites. The combo of lemon and poppy seeds is a classic and tastes good anytime of the year. I love making it when friends are coming over or when I’m craving a little something sweet with an afternoon mug of tea. You can leave out the glaze for a simple loaf, but I think it adds a nice touch of flavor. Don’t skimp on the lemon juice here, it helps keep the dry gluten free flours nice and moist.
Lemon Almond Poppy Seed Bread
Gluten free, Grain free, Paleo friendly treat
Makes: 1 loaf
- 1 1/2 cups almond flour
- 1/4 cup coconut flour
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 2 eggs
- 1/2 cup lemon juice (about 3 small lemons)
- 1/4 cup maple syrup
- 1/4 cup coconut oil
- zest of 2 lemons (reserve 1 tbsp zest)
- 1/4 cup almond milk
- 1 tsp almond extract
- 1.5 tbsp poppy seeds
- 1/4 cup coconut butter, melted
- 2 tbsp almond milk
- 1 tbsp coconut oil, softened
- 1 tbsp maple syrup
- 1/8 tsp almond extract
- 1 tbsp chopped almonds
- 1 tbsp lemon zest
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease loaf pan with coconut oil or butter.
- Mix together almond flour, coconut flour, baking soda, and salt until well combined.
- Add in remaining wet ingredients and stir until fully incorporated.
- Fold in poppy seeds.
- Pour batter into pan and bake for 30-35 minutes.
- Remove from oven and fully cool. While cooling, add glaze ingredients to a blender and blend until smooth.
- Add glaze and top with chopped almonds and lemon zest. Enjoy!
I hope you enjoy this delicious little loaf of lemony goodness!
School is in full swing again and the ease of summer days are quickly a daydream of the past. Let’s all let out a collective groan for the monotonous meal that is the brown bagged lunch. *groooooaaaaaaaan* I get it. Packed lunches get old big time and if you’ve got a hectic morning it can be the last thing you want to do to pull out the old tupperware and search around in the fridge for something somewhat edible. On the go lunches don’t need to be sad and boring, but easy to pull together and delicious.
I highly recommend investing in some glassware or mason jars to take your lunch in. Glassware is safe to heat and will last longer and plastics run the risk of leaching chemicals into your food, yuck. I also purchased this bamboo cutlery set over a year ago and I loooooove it. No more plastic forks or carting around the house silverware that inevitably gets lost at the bottom of my backpack. A reusable cloth napkin is also a nice touch in a cute lunch tote.
FOUR ON THE GO OPTIONS
There’s just something so thrilling after you’ve been gluten free for awhile about being able to eat food with your hands. The gluten free option is always just throw the filling in a bowl (salad bowl, burrito bowl, I know you know what I mean). A lettuce wrap is by no means a solid replacement of a good hunk of bread but it does give you back that experience of munchin on a handheld lunch. Against All Grain has a great tutorial for using parchment paper to wrap them up these fragile babies.
Some of my favorite combos:
turkey + salami + cheese + sauerkraut + italian seasoning + olive oil + salt + pepper
hardboiled egg + carrots + purple cabbage + cucumbers + cilantro + hummus
diced chicken + avocado mayo + sea salt + pepper + garlic powder + green onions + dijon mustard + lemon juice
Salads can get boring, reaaaaaal quick. To keep them interesting I use one simple concept - LAYERS. Each bite should be something different and interesting, a little crunch here, a cooked veggie here, and a burst of sweet to top it all off. To keep my on-the-go salads interesting I like to follow a simple formula so instead of looking longingly at lunches around me I’m savoring every dang bite.
GREEN – arugula, kale, spinach, chard, collard, cilantro, basil, mint
ROASTED – carrots, sweet potatoes, turnips, parsnips, butternut squash, broccoli
CRUNCHY – cucumbers, red onions, celery, radishes, almonds, walnuts
FRUITY – blueberries, cherries, apples, strawberries, oranges, pears
DENSE – prosciutto, shredded chicken, carnitas, shrimp, salmon, hard boiled egg
TANGY – balsamic, olive oil + lemon, pesto, cilantro + lime
Confession time - sometimes I’m lazy and don’t feel like putting a cohesive meal together. I truly love a smorgasbord of flavors and as long as I’m eating foods that are going to nourish me and give me energy for the rest of the afternoon, I’m a-okay with a snacky lunch on the go.
Some of my favorites:
rolled up deli meat
nuts (walnuts and macadamia are my fav)
gluten free crackers
Why reinvent the wheel, amiright? If you’ve got a busy week just double your dinner and save a portion to bring to lunch in a mason jar the next day. You can always dress up sad leftovers with an interesting sauce or pesto, top it with a new spice or fresh herbs, or wrap it in a lettuce wrap or tortilla and use it as a filling. Get creative, you might just find your new favorite combo.
What lunches are your go-to’s when you’ve got a busy week?