THE BEST BRAIN FOODS FOR BOOSTING YOUR BODY AND MIND.
How to Eat Delicious real Brain Food that Fuels your Body & Mind.
We all know that we should eat our greens and healthy fats. But WHY should we? Why are these foods better for us, not just the weight issue but also for our performance and brain function. What food feed what in our body and mind? Interested? If so- check out below!
The principles are simple:
We all know that we should eat our greens and healthy fats. But WHY should weAn excellent place to start our exploration of how food affects our health is the brain.
It’s home to trillions of synapses (the junctions between nerve cells) carrying electrical messages that control all our thoughts and actions. Studies have shown that our brains are susceptible to damage caused by a ‘western’ diet high in sugar, refined carbohydrate, processed foods and salt, which give off waste products that cause inflammation in the brain. This is damaging to the blood-brain barrier, a protective layer surrounding the central nervous system that is integral to the health of your brain.Scientific research suggests a Mediterranean diet rich in polyphenols (plant chemicals in colourful fruit and veg) can reduce the incidence of vascular disease that contributes to poor brain health. It protects against diabetes, known to put sufferers at a higher risk of depression and dementia. Studies also show it can slow the development of dementia as well as improve some of its symptoms. Improvements in mental clarity and mood are also linked with this diet. Berries, greens and rich fats need to be included in your diet in order to protect your brain Here are some key ingredients to include in your diet if you want to focus on protecting your brain: GREENS Vital ingredients for a healthy diet, these include cavolo nero, spinach, rocket and sprouts – all containing lots of phytonutrients, which are compounds produced by plants that have been shown by research to dramatically reduce inflammation. This is a key cause of disruption to brain processes and can lead to fatigue and low mood.
OMEGA-3 RICH FATS These are found in oily fish such as salmon and mackerel as well as nuts, seeds and extra-virgin olive oil. Long-chain omega-3 fatty acids are of particular interest. Research shows they can help promote the growth of brain cells, helping the brain to adapt, or rebuild damaged connections. Another benefit of nuts, seeds and oily fish is the quality protein they provide. This breaks down into amino acids (the building blocks of proteins) that are used to create new neurotransmitters, the chemical messengers of the brain that are created when your brain sends signals.BERRIES Well-known for their brain-protective powers, they’re rich sources of polyphenols – beneficial compounds including the antiinflammatories resveratrol and quercetin. Berries may also be involved in the production of a compound called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) that studies show could be a critical component in protecting the brain against disease and also in enhancing our ability to learn and solve problems. WHOLEGRAINS These include brown rice rolled oats, barley and quinoa. Include whole grains in your diet while limiting white bread, pasta and cakes rather than completely rejecting all carbohydrates that cause sugar spikes to occasional treats. They are great sources of antioxidants (compounds found in foods that protect our cells against damage), fibre and B vitamins, all essential for brain health. The brain depends on receiving glucose, a form of sugar, in order to function correctly. Glucose is the main energy provider. But an excessive or erratic supply of glucose in the bloodstream has also been shown to have a negative impact on brain cells. This is why whole grains are so important – they contain high quantities of fibre, which slows the rate at which sugar is released from food into the bloodstream, giving a steady flow instead of spikes and lows.
WATER Aim for two litres a day. Correct hydration is essential for enabling nutrient transfer across brain cells, delivering oxygen and maintaining the integrity of cell structures. Studies also show it improves your memory and problem-solving skills.HERBS AND SPICES Almost all contain key antioxidants and phytonutrients that can reduce the potential of damage to our body cells from pollution, a western diet or other environmental factors – and adding them to your foods can greatly enhance your enjoyment of your healthy new diet. HOW TO PROTECT THE HEALTH OF YOUR HEART There has long been good scientific data showing that eating a Mediterranean-style diet and adopting a more active lifestyle can be as effective as drugs in combatting both high cholesterol levels and high blood pressure – a symptomless condition which also puts you at increased risk of a heart attack. Here are some key ingredients to eat for heart health: A RAINBOW OF COLOURS: The more different coloured fruit and vegetables you eat, the more different types of nourishing micronutrients you will be adding to your diet. Particularly look out for red and purple foods such as berries, beetroot, red cabbage and grapes. These contain plant chemicals such as betalains and anthocyanins, which have been shown to relax blood vessels and lower high blood pressure. CALCIUM AND POTASSIUM: Essential minerals for heart health, these have a vital role in conducting electricity through the tissue fibres of the heart. Calcium can be found in chickpeas, puy lentils and sesame seeds. Both potassium and magnesium are abundant in dark greens including spring greens and Swiss chard. FIBRE: Beans, legumes and pulses offer a variety of useful fibre sources. Eating plenty of fibre is important for gut health, encouraging a robust population of gut bacteria essential for good digestion. A strong colony of gut microbes is also known to lower levels of inflammation in the body, which in turn reduces the risk of developing heart disease.
GOOD QUALITY FATS: It’s now well-known that good fats can help to improve your cholesterol profile, an important measurement used by doctors to predict your risk of having a heart attack. All fats contain both saturated and unsaturated fats and this is quite a complicated and even controversial subject. Include walnuts, pistachios, almonds, oily fish, cold-pressed virgin oils (like avocado, rapeseed and olive) and seeds in your diet wherever possible. Enjoy fats from animal products, like meat and dairy, only occasionally.WHAT OTHER CHANGES CAN YOU MAKE? Lifestyle also has a vital part to play in boosting all-around health. MENTAL TRAINING Mental stimulation has been shown to increase your brain’s ‘grey matter’ – that is, the mass of cells concerned with speech, memory, perception and coordination. CHRONIC STRESS Research shows high levels of stress can lead to structural changes in our brains – suggesting our emotions are so powerful they can actually change our brain’s anatomy. So stress-relieving strategies such as yoga or meditation that heighten neural activity in the brain’s pleasure centres and improve our tolerance to stress are very important. EXERCISE High-intensity interval training (HIIT) and endurance exercises such as jogging and swimming are known to reduce the risk of developing heart disease. Explore ways to be generally more active such as a lunchtime walk or getting a standing desk. SLEEP Sleep deprivation is linked with higher blood pressure, more inflammation and worse cholesterol profiles – all contributing to heart disease. Poor sleep has not only been scientifically shown to increase levels of stress hormones but it also makes you more likely to crave a sugary croissant for breakfast. WHEN YOU EAT Meal timings can have a significant impact on our blood sugar, cholesterol ratios and the overall impact on our heart health. It’s recommended that we all limit our eating to defined ‘windows’ of 10-12 hours, to give our gut a chance to perform the other functions it needs to do. Some Recipes… Tzatziki 100g (3½oz) Greek yoghurt (or dairy-free unflavoured coconut yoghurt) 100g (3½oz) cucumber, grated 10g (¼oz) mint leaves, finely chopped Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper 1tbsp extra-virgin olive oil Combine the garlic and lemon marinade ingredients in a large bowl. Add the tofu and vegetables, coat them in the mixture and then leave to marinate for at least 20 minutes (or ideally overnight). To make the tzatziki, combine the yoghurt, cucumber and mint in a bowl, season with salt and pepper and drizzle with olive oil. SPEEDY GAZPACHO This speedy gazpacho recipe is made from locally grown ingredients and is a heartwarming dish for cold winter days Serves 4 1 cucumber, roughly chopped 6 medium tomatoes (heritage variety if possible) 15g (½oz) basil leaves, stems removed 1 celery stalk, roughly chopped ½ a red pepper, deseeded and roughly chopped 2 garlic cloves, grated Juice of 1 lemon 1tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling 1tbsp red wine vinegar Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper Put all the ingredients in a food processor and blitz until smooth, then season to taste with salt and pepper. Add some water to loosen the soup if needed, then divide it between bowls and drizzle some more oil on top to serve. BAKED RAINBOW CHARD WITH APRICOTS & WALNUTS This delicious baked rainbow chard with apricots & walnuts dish is packed with essential nutrients for bone health and is also great for your heart. It is packed with vitamin K and magnesium, which are both essential for bone health, as well as antioxidant-rich phytochemicals like betalain, which is believed to protect against disease. This dish marries the sweet flavour of stone fruit and chard’s bitter compounds perfectly. The walnuts add some texture as well as providing a source of fats that enable better absorption of the vitamins in chard. Serves 2 40g (1½oz) walnuts, whole or halved 1 red onion, halved and thinly sliced 200g (7oz) rainbow chard, roughly sliced into 2cm-thick strips, stem included 1 fresh apricot, stoned and sliced into thin segments 2tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper Preheat the oven to 200°C/fan 180°C/gas 6. Toss all the ingredients into a large roasting dish with plenty of salt and pepper. Bake in the oven for 18-20 minutes until the chard has slightly crisped up, then remove from the oven and serve with a drizzle of extra oil if needed. GREEK-STYLE GIANT BEANS This Greek-style giant beans dish is oozing with earthy flavours that give the essence of dining abroad, it’s ideal for sharing I love the flavours of the earthy herbs and spinach (Swiss chard or spring greens also work beautifully), while the sweetness from the honey and cinnamon brings a soothing, homely element to the meal. The flavours develop even more when they’re left to mingle and the dish is eaten the next day. Serves 4 2tbsp olive oil ½ a red onion, thinly sliced Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper 150g (5½oz) Swiss chard, spinach or spring greens, finely chopped 400g tin of butter beans, drained and rinsed (or 250g/9oz dried beans cooked from scratch) 400g tin of chopped tomatoes 1tbsp runny honey 1 small red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped 1tsp ground cinnamon 1tsp dried oregano 10g (¼oz) fresh flat-leaf parsley, leaves and stalks finely chopped Preheat the oven to 200°C/fan 180°C/ gas 6. Heat the oil in a large ovenproof frying pan over medium heat. SPRING ASPARAGUS AND PEA SCALLOPS WITH TARRAGON BUTTER This spring asparagus and pea scallops dish served with tarragon butter pairs perfectly with toasted sourdough This may look like a ‘cheffy’ recipe, but in fact, it’s easy. I want to show you can deliver an indulgent dish that has myriad health benefits. Fats are vital to absorb key fat-soluble vitamins in greens, such as E and K. The roe from scallops often get discarded but they’re a source of long-chain fatty acids, EPA and DHA, and vitamin B12, which are essential for brain and heart health. This dish is also great with toasted sourdough to soak up the flavours. Serves 2 3tbsp extra-virgin olive oil 150g (5½oz) asparagus spears, trimmed and cut into 3cm pieces Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper 100g (3½oz) peas (fresh or thawed) 100g (3½oz) tinned flageolet beans (from supermarkets), drained and rinsed 6 shelled and cleaned scallops (with the roe) 5g (a pinch) of fresh tarragon leaves, finely chopped 2tsp butter (grass-fed, if possible, as it contains more nutrients and healthier fats, from online or organic shops) Heat 1tbsp olive oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Put the asparagus in the pan, season with salt and pepper, cover and cook for 5 minutes then add the peas and beans. Cover again and cook for a further 2 minutes, then set aside. Heat a separate pan over high heat. Drizzle the scallops with ½tbsp olive oil and season, then add to the pan. Sauté on each side for 60-90 seconds, until just cooked through. Remove the scallops and set aside. Plate the asparagus, beans and peas, then place the scallops on top. Using the same pan used for the scallops, warm the remaining oil and add the tarragon. Cook, stirring, for 1 minute, then add the butter to the pan and spoon the melted tarragon butter onto the scallops. LEMON, THYME AND HAZELNUT ROAST VEG This lemon, thyme and hazelnut roast dish is a great way of getting your daily allowance of vegetables The thyme and hazelnut combination here works really well and ‘hasselbacking’ the vegetables – cutting slits through them – allows the marinade to penetrate them. It’s a great way of using up vegetables (you can use any root vegetables) and it’s my go-to dish when I know a few people are coming round. It also makes an excellent lunch box filler. Serves 4 300g (10½oz) carrots (use red or purple if you can find them) 300g (10½oz) parsnips (halved if they are thick) 300g (10½oz) swede, cut into chunks (unpeeled) 300g (10½oz) turnips, halved or quartered if large 50ml (2fl oz) olive oil 2 large garlic cloves, grated 1tsp dried oregano 1½ lemons – juice of the ½, and the whole lemon quartered 10g (¼oz) thyme sprigs Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper 25g (1oz) raw hazelnuts, lightly crushed Preheat the oven to 190°C/fan 170°C/gas 5 and line a baking tray with baking parchment. To ‘hasselback’ the vegetables, slice them at 2.5mm intervals across the top, cutting three-quarters of the way through their depth (you can lay 2 wooden spoons on your worktop as a guard, and place the veg in between while you slice, to stop your knife going all the way through). Try to keep the pieces roughly the same thickness so they cook evenly. Prepare the marinade by mixing the oil, garlic, oregano, lemon juice and thyme, along with some salt and pepper, in a bowl. Smother the vegetables in the marinade and place on the baking tray. Cook for 30 minutes, tossing them once, then add the quartered lemons and cook for another 20-30 minutes (or more if needed), adding the hazelnuts for the final 7 minutes. MAIN MEALS SWEET CAJUN SALMON This fantastic sweet Cajun salmon recipe is the ideal dinner for impressing guests and can be easily paired with a variety of salads for a satisfying meal Salmon is a fantastic oily fish that contains essential fatty acids needed to support brain and heart health. When combined with the quinoa, watercress and sweetcorn, it’s a deliciously satisfying meal. The hot Cajun spices contrast well with the small amount of sweetness that comes from the dark sugar. Serves 2 2 x 200g (7oz) salmon fillets (preferably wild, line-caught) 200g (7oz) quinoa 500ml water 1tsp sweet paprika 150g (5½oz) sweetcorn, sliced off the cob (or frozen kernels) Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper 150g (5½oz) watercress, roughly chopped, to serve For the Cajun marinade 2tbsp milled flaxseed (or wholemeal breadcrumbs will work) 2tsp Cajun spice blend Grated zest and juice of 1 lime 1tsp brown sugar or coconut sugar 2tbsp coconut oil, melted Mix the marinade ingredients together in a bowl. Add the salmon fillets and marinate for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, soak the quinoa in a bowl of cold water for the same amount of time. Drain the quinoa and transfer to a dry pan over medium heat and toast for a few minutes. Boil the water then add it to the pan, along with the paprika, sweetcorn and salt and pepper. Simmer for 15 minutes then plate up with the watercress mixed in. Heat a frying pan over medium-low heat and place the marinated salmon in the pan skin-side down, pressing them gently for the first 30 seconds. Cook for 6 minutes, until the top side begins to turn opaque, then flip the fillets over and cook on the other side for 3-4 minutes, until cooked through. Place the salmon on top of the quinoa and watercress, and enjoy. ROAST WALNUT AND SQUASH MEDLEY WITH PERSILLADE This delicious roast walnut and squash medley with persillade is filled with nutrients that keep your heart healthy The microbes in your gut play a range of vital roles, from releasing vitamins to creating fatty acids and hormones that affect your mood and the level of inflammation in your body. This dish – a one-tray bake with French flair – has many sources of fibre and a variety of colours, to help gut microbes bloom, and shows how supporting your gut health can be easy, with no compromise on flavour. Persillade is a herby sauce, a little like a French pesto, made with ingredients we have an abundance of in the UK. Serves 2 (with leftovers) 1 red onion, thickly sliced 300g (10½oz) peeled winter squash, cut into 4cm cubes 200g (7oz) chicory, roughly chopped (about 2 heads) 200g (7oz) portobello mushrooms, thickly sliced 200g (7oz) red peppers, halved, deseeded and roughly chopped 50g (1¾oz) walnuts, halved 50g (1¾oz) cooked chestnuts, halved 2tbsp olive oil Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper For the persillade 4tbsp extra-virgin olive oil 30g (1oz) fresh flat-leaf parsley, leaves and stalks finely chopped 10g (¼oz) fresh tarragon leaves, finely chopped 10g (¼oz) fresh dill, finely chopped (chervil, fennel fronds or chives will also work) ½ a shallot, finely chopped 1 garlic clove, finely chopped Preheat the oven to 200°C/fan 180°C/gas 6. Put the vegetables and nuts on a baking tray, drizzle with olive oil, season and toss. Bake for 45 minutes, tossing halfway through until the vegetables are tender and the nuts are toasted. Combine the persillade ingredients in a bowl with salt and pepper. Remove the vegetables and nuts from the oven, transfer to serving bowls and dollop the persillade over the top. PARSNIP AND BUTTERNUT SQUASH WITH FLATBREADS This glorious parsnip and butternut squash dish with flatbreads is filled with flavours for an aromatic lunch Root vegetables are wonderful sources of nutrients and are largely forgotten over their green, leafy counterparts. Parsnips contain potassium and magnesium – critical minerals for heart health. Keeping their delicious skins on, when you can, means you will benefit from the chemical compounds in these layers, not to mention plenty of fibre. I love making my own flatbreads, but to save time you can simply use thin shop-bought ones. Serves 4 300g (10½oz) butternut squash, peeled and cut into rough 2cm cubes 500g (1lb 2oz) parsnips, cut into rough 2cm cubes 3tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling 1tsp fennel seeds, ground 1tsp cumin seeds, ground 1tsp ground turmeric 1tsp freshly ground black pepper 100g (3½oz) sprouted lentils (from supermarkets, or see tip below) 100g (3½oz) rocket 50g (1¾oz) full-fat Greek yoghurt, to serve (optional) For the flatbreads 150g (5½oz) spelt flour, plus extra for dusting 75ml (2½fl oz) tepid water 1tbsp olive oil A generous pinch of salt and pepper ¼tsp ground coriander Preheat the oven to 200°C/fan 180°C/gas 6. Put the cubed butternut squash and parsnips in a baking tray, drizzle with the oil and scatter the spices on top, tossing to thoroughly coat the vegetables in the spiced oil. Bake in the oven for 35 minutes, tossing them once halfway through and adding the sprouted lentils after 15 minutes until the vegetables are golden. In the meantime, make the flatbreads. Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl. Knead until the dough comes together and is smooth and not sticky, adding more water if necessary, then separate the dough into 4 small balls. Dust the work surface with flour and roll out the balls of dough using a floured rolling pin (or wine bottle) until you have bread about 20cm in diameter. Heat a large, dry frying pan over high heat, then cook each flatbread for 1-2 minutes on each side until lightly browned. When the vegetables are cooked, remove the tray from the oven and fold the rocket through the root vegetables. This will gently wilt the leaves. Wrap the mixture in your flatbreads, drizzling with olive oil or yoghurt on top if you like. Put the chicken breasts in a separate pan, cover with cold water and add the sliced ginger, a little salt and pepper and the pared lime zest. Bring to the boil then reduce the heat and simmer for 10-12 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through – there should be no pink juices when you slice through it. Remove the chicken from the water, set aside, then add the rice noodles to the water and simmer for 3 minutes. Drain the noodles, picking out the ginger and lime zest, and slice the chicken. Build your pho bowls with the noodles, mint, beansprouts, watercress and chicken slices. Pass the broth through a sieve into the bowls and garnish with sliced red chilli, lime wedges, peanuts and spring onion. THAI-STYLE SALMON BURGERS This Thai-style salmon burger is the ultimate alternative to a fast food takeaway and filled with a depth of flavour These Omega-3-rich salmon burgers are an absolute favourite of mine. The punchy herbs and lemongrass give them the depth of flavour and add nutritional value, too. I sometimes use pumpernickel bread or rye bread instead of whole grain, for extra fibre. These burgers are delicious on their own, as part of a platter, or with this salad dressed in spiced coconut cream. Serves 4 2 slices (70g) of whole grain bread (or gluten-free equivalent) 15g (½oz) Thai basil leaves, roughly chopped 15g (½oz) fresh coriander, leaves and stalks roughly chopped 2 spring onions, trimmed and roughly chopped 20g (¾oz) root ginger, peeled and roughly chopped 1 red chilli, roughly chopped 10cm stick of lemongrass (tender base only), roughly chopped 10ml (¼fl oz) soy sauce (or tamari if you’re making the meal gluten-free) 250g (9oz) skinless salmon fillet, cut into thick chunks 1tbsp coconut oil For the salad 100g (3½oz) coconut cream 2tsp red curry paste 100g (3½oz) pea shoots, roughly chopped 100g (3½oz) watercress, roughly chopped To serve Grated zest and juice of 1 lime 15g (½oz) unsalted peanuts, toasted and roughly chopped Blitz the bread in a food processor to coarse breadcrumbs, then add the herbs, spring onions, ginger, chilli, lemongrass and soy sauce and blend to form a paste. Add the salmon and blitz to create a rough burger mixture. Transfer to a bowl then shapes into 4 patties with wet hands. Melt the coconut oil in a pan over medium heat, add the patties and fry for 5-6 minutes on each side until cooked through. Warm the coconut cream in a pan over medium heat with the curry paste until hot. Divide the cream between 4 shallow bowls and top with the pea shoots and watercress. Serve the burgers on top of the salad, garnish with the lime zest and peanuts and squeeze the lime juice over. CHICKEN THIGHS WITH RED ONION, APPLE AND CHESTNUTS This chicken thighs with red onion, apple and chestnuts recipes is a fabulously tasty dish that will have the plates scraped clean The tanginess of the yeast extract and the sweetness of the tomato paste give the vegetables and fruit in this dish a beautiful sticky, savoury finish, and the punchy flavours help counter the bitterness of the greens. The classic pairing of apple and fresh sage works brilliantly with dark greens that are chock-full of vitamin C and folate, also known as vitamin B9, which your body uses to create red blood cells – you could use kale, chard or spring greens instead of the savoy cabbage if you prefer. You can also add 100g fresh or frozen peas with the sage before you put it in the oven, or if you want to increase the fibre content of the meal, try adding 150g cooked puy lentils or butter beans before placing the dish in the oven. Serves 2 2tbsp olive oil 400g (14oz) bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs (about 2 or 3 pieces) ½ a red onion, thinly sliced ½ a red apple, thinly sliced 30g (1oz) cooked chestnuts, roughly chopped (or use unsalted walnuts or hazelnuts) 100g (3½oz) savoy cabbage, finely chopped 10g (¼oz) fresh sage leaves, roughly chopped For the sauce 1tsp yeast extract (eg Marmite) 1tsp tomato paste ½ a vegetable stock cube 100ml (3½fl oz) hot water Preheat the oven to 200°C/fan 180°C/gas 6. Heat the oil in a large ovenproof frying pan over medium heat. Lay the chicken thighs in the pan skin-side down and sauté gently for 6 minutes until the skin browns, then flip them over to cook on the other side. Drain off any excess fat, add the red onion, apple and chopped chestnuts and cook, stirring, for about 2-3 minutes. Combine the sauce ingredients in a bowl. dd the cabbage, sage and sauce to the frying pan and transfer to the oven for 15 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through (if you don’t have an ovenproof frying pan, just transfer the contents of the pan to a baking tray). Remove from the oven and allow to cool a little before serving. JAMBALAYA This Jamalaya dish is filled with delicious ingredients that are great for boosting the health of your heart I sometimes serve it with grilled prawns for extra flair. Serves 4 3tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling 2 red onions, thinly sliced 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped 3tsp Creole Spice Blend (see below) or Cajun spice mix 10g (¼oz) fresh thyme 1 bay leaf 3 celery stalks, finely chopped 150g (5½oz) leeks, trimmed and finely chopped 1 yellow pepper, halved, deseeded and cut into thin strips 100g (3½oz) puy lentils, soaked in water for at least 20 minutes, then drained 200g (7oz) red Camargue rice (from supermarkets, or use whole grain), soaked in water for at least 20 minutes, then drained Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper 400g tin of chopped tomatoes 300ml (10fl oz) vegetable stock (or 1 stock cube dissolved in 300ml/10fl oz hot water) 200ml (7fl oz) water 200g (7oz) leafy greens, such as kale, cavolo nero or spring greens, roughly chopped 20g (¾oz) fresh parsley, finely chopped, to serve Heat the oil in a large frying pan over medium heat, add the onions and garlic and sauté for 2-3 minutes. Add the spice mix, thyme, bay leaf, celery, leeks and yellow pepper, stir and cook for 3 minutes. Add the lentils and rice with a good amount of salt and pepper. Stir to coat and cook for 3 minutes, then add the tomatoes and stock. Cover and simmer for 22-25 minutes, until the water has been absorbed and the ingredients are cooked. Meanwhile bring the water to the boil in a pan, add the greens, cover and cook for 6 minutes, until the leaves wilt. Drain and drizzle with olive oil. Garnish the jambalaya with parsley and serve with the greens. CREOLE SPICE BLEND Ever since I tasted my first authentic Louisianan Creole dish while I was visiting New Orleans during my childhood, I’ve been obsessed with Creole spice blends. As diverse as the region itself, the spice combinations reflect a mix of European, African and Caribbean heritage. I use this amazing blend on everything, from scrambled eggs and mixed roast vegetables to this vegetarian jambalaya above. Makes about 50g (1¾oz) 4tsp black peppercorns 2tsp fennel seeds 4tsp dried oregano 4tsp dried thyme 4tsp sweet paprika 2tsp garlic powder 2tsp onion powder 2tsp cayenne pepper Heat a dry frying pan over medium heat. Add the black peppercorns and the fennel seeds and toast them for about 2-3 minutes, until aromatic. Remove them from the heat and allow to cool, then pound using a pestle and mortar or blitz in a coffee grinder until finely ground. Mix the rest of the ingredients with the ground black peppercorns and fennel seeds, making sure everything is well combined. This Creole spice blend will keep in an airtight jar for up to 6-8 weeks. AUBERGINE AND WALNUT RAGU This aubergine and walnut ragu is a scrumptious dish for sharing with large groups and packed with ingredients that have a positive impact on your gut +28 This aubergine and walnut ragu is a scrumptious dish for sharing with large groups and packed with ingredients that have a positive impact on your gut Italian food is one of my go-to cuisines when I’m making a meal for more than four people. The simplicity of ingredients and cooking methods make it much less stressful in the kitchen so you can focus on enjoying the company of your guests. The nuts provide Omega-3 fats, plus lentils give the dish fibre. In combination, these ingredients have a positive impact on your gut microbes, will lower inflammation and taste delicious. I usually serve this with a simple green salad. Serves 6 200g (7oz) baby tomatoes 400g (14oz) aubergine (about 2 medium-sized), cut into 3cm chunks 50g (1¾oz) walnuts, roughly chopped 2tbsp olive oil 100g (3½oz) celery, finely chopped 1 carrot, finely chopped 1 shallot, finely chopped 10g (¼oz) rosemary needles, finely chopped Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper 2 anchovy fillets from a tin, chopped (optional) 150g (5½oz) puy lentils (from supermarkets), soaked in water for at least 20 minutes, then drained 10g (¼oz) dried porcini mushrooms, rehydrated in warm water for 10 minutes, drained and rinsed 400g tin of chopped tomatoes 400ml (14fl oz) boiling water 5-6 sundried tomatoes, sliced 10g (¼oz) fresh flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped 15g (½oz) Parmesan cheese, finely grated For the marinade 30ml (1fl oz) olive oil 20ml (¾fl oz) balsamic vinegar 6 garlic cloves, roughly chopped 1tsp dried chilli flakes Preheat the oven to 220°C/fan 200°C/ gas 7. Mix the marinade ingredients in a bowl and season with salt and pepper. Scatter the baby tomatoes, aubergines and walnuts in an ovenproof dish and pour the marinade over. Mix everything together well and bake for 30-35 minutes, until the aubergine and tomatoes have softened and the walnuts have browned, tossing halfway through. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat, add the celery, carrot, shallot and rosemary, season with salt and pepper then sauté gently for 5 minutes, until softened. Add the anchovy fillets (if using), lentils and mushrooms and cook for 2 minutes. Add the tinned tomatoes, boiling water and sundried tomatoes and bring to a simmer. Cook for 15 minutes, until the liquid, has reduced to a thicker sauce consistency. Add the roast aubergines, baby tomatoes and walnuts and simmer for 5 minutes, until the lentils have cooked but still retain a slight bite. Sprinkle with parsley and grated Parmesan, and serve. SRI LANKAN CASHEW CURRY This Sri Lankan cashew curry dish has beautiful flavours and is great for the health of your heart and brain One of the first dishes I tried was this cashew curry. Rich in flavour, this bowl of goodness pairs beautifully with simple brown rice but also tastes delicious on its own. Cashews are a great source of resistant starch that releases sugar into the bloodstream much more slowly than potatoes or other starchy foods and helps boost our community of gut microbes. Serves 4 2tbsp coconut oil 15g (½oz) root ginger, peeled and grated 5 garlic cloves, grated or finely chopped 1 bay leaf 1 shallot, finely diced 8-10 curry leaves (optional) 5cm piece of lemongrass (tender base only), thinly sliced (optional) 3tsp curry powder (Sri Lankan or regular) 250g (9oz) unsalted cashews, soaked in water for 20 minutes, then drained Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper 400g tin of coconut milk 100ml (3½fl oz) hot water 400g tin of chickpeas drained and rinsed 100g (3½oz) sweetcorn kernels (frozen, fresh or tinned) 50g (1¾oz) baby spinach 10g (¼oz) fresh coriander, finely chopped Melt the coconut oil in a large saucepan over medium heat, then add the ginger, garlic, bay leaf, shallot, curry leaves and lemongrass (if using) and sauté for about 2-3 minutes until softened and lightly coloured. Add the curry powder and drained cashews, along with a pinch each of salt and pepper, and cook, stirring, for about 2-3 minutes. Add the coconut milk, hot water and chickpeas, bring to a simmer, cover and cook for 20 minutes. Add the sweetcorn and spinach, re-cover and cook for a further 2-3 minutes so the greens are tender. Remove from the heat, stir the coriander through and serve. DESSERTS ORANGE-ZESTED CHOCOLATE BARK WITH BERRIES This orange-zested chocolate bark with berries recipe is the perfect treat for indulging after a long day Chocolate has been promoted as healthy for a variety of reasons, including because it contains flavanol, a compound which can have a positive effect on heart health. I eat a small amount of good-quality dark chocolate, as used in this recipe, as a treat. Makes 1 large piece of bark (serves 4-6) 200g (7oz) dark chocolate (minimum 70% cocoa solids), broken into small pieces 15g (½oz) shelled unsalted pistachios, roughly chopped 15g (½oz) walnuts, roughly chopped Grated zest of ½ a small orange A small pinch of ground cinnamon 150g (5½oz) blackberries and blueberries (see tip, left) Set a heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water, making sure the bowl doesn’t touch the water. Place the chocolate into the bowl and let it melt, stirring occasionally. Meanwhile, line a small baking tray or chopping board with baking parchment. Spread the melted chocolate over the tray to a thickness of about 3mm. Scatter all the remaining ingredients (apart from the fresh fruit) evenly over the melted chocolate and place in the freezer for 20-25 minutes to harden. Snap and enjoy with seasonal fruits. BANANA BERRY SCOOPS This banana berry scoops recipe is the ultimate alternative to ice-cream and packed with ingredients that boost your brain This is an easy dessert to make and I always have a batch in my freezer. Frozen mixed berries are widely available and super cheap. They maintain their nutritional value even when frozen and are a great source of polyphenols, which have been shown to protect our brain cells from damage. This dessert is a great way to introduce berries into our diet regularly, and the chocolate shavings deliver bitter notes to complement the bananas’ sweetness. Serves 2 2 medium bananas, peeled, cut into chunks and frozen (200g/7oz peeled weight) 200g (7oz) frozen mixed berries 100g (3½oz) coconut cream 20g (¾oz) pecans, roughly chopped, plus extra to serve 25g (1oz) dark chocolate, grated Put the frozen bananas, berries and coconut cream into a food processor or blender and blitz until combined and smooth. Add the chopped pecans and combine using a spoon. Divide between 2 bowls, scatter with grated dark chocolate and a few extra pecans. Enjoy immediately. GLAZED PEACHES WITH THYME This glazed peaches with thyme recipe is a delicious dessert choice for impressing dinner guests Since learning that berries are good for brain health and can reduce inflammation, I sneak them into recipes wherever I can. The sharp taste of them contrasts with the sweet stone fruit here, and the base has plenty of fibre from the nuts and more flavour than the usual biscuit base. Serves 4 200g (7oz) pitted dates A pinch of salt 300g (10½oz) raw hazelnuts, soaked in warm water for 10 minutes, then drained 1½tbsp coconut oil 200g (7oz) ripe peaches with their skin on, stoned and cut into 2cm-thick slices 2tsp honey or maple syrup (optional) A few fresh thyme leaves, chopped 100g (3½oz) fresh berries (blueberries and raspberries work well in this recipe) A few shelled unsalted pistachios, toasted and crushed Put the dates, salt and hazelnuts in a blender and blitz until you get a coarse mixture that sticks together when pressed. Line a small, 30cm x 42cm flat baking tray and grease it with half a tablespoon of coconut oil. Press the nutty crust into the tray to make an even 1cm thick layer and place in the fridge to set. Melt the remaining 1tbsp of coconut oil in a pan over medium heat and toss in the sliced peaches. Sauté for 4-5 minutes, until lightly coloured, then drizzle the honey or maple syrup (if using) over and scatter with thyme, then take off the hob. Allow to cool slightly then scatter the peaches on top of the chilled nutty crust, along with the fresh berries and pistachios, and slice to serve. Extracts from The Doctor’s Kitchen Source: The Doctor’s Kitchen: Eat To Beat Illness by Dr Rupy Aujla is published by Thorsons, £16.99. To order a copy for £13.59 visit mailshop.co.uk/books or call 0844 571 0640, p&p free on orders over £15. Offer valid until 16/03/19. Photos: Faith Mason. Food stylist: Marina Filippelli. Prop stylist: Sarah Birks