Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Spinach and blueberry salad with walnuts

This year I am features editor of my school's student newspaper- The Merionite. Being part of the features crew is great because our section encourages articles on essentially anything that people find interesting. I will be having a monthly nutrition column, giving tips on healthy eating with a different theme each time. For the September issue I wrote about foods that can make you smarter.

Nourish Your Mind, While Nourishing Your Body

The last vestiges of summer are suddenly fading and with another year of school to look forward to, it’s time to start sharpening that brain of yours. This year, like all other years, you promised yourself to try extra hard in school and get those desirable grades. Of course, studying extra hours at night can help improve your grades, but did you know that there are actually certain foods that are proven to improve your intelligence? Yes, many studies show that some foods help brain cells communicate, improve memory, and increase brain health. Obviously this doesn’t mean that you can simply indulge in these foods and forget about studying, but it does mean that there may be an additional way to help you achieve your best this year. So get yourself back on track with the following brain foods that are sure to power your mushy grey matter through the next nine months.

The coffee bean is full of healthy antioxidants, amino acids, vitamins and minerals. Coffee’s caffeine is also vital to its protective affects.

We’ve all heard about the benefits of dark chocolate, yet we still feel guilty while eating it as it is still labeled as a “treat” food. Now it seems that chocolate is related to improving memory. This does not mean that you can hit the vending machine and just grab a Snickers Bar whenever; however, it does mean that occasional chocolate sessions are fine, and potentially beneficial.

You’ll be thankful of your love for these dark rounds when you hear of the mighty benefits they provide. Blueberries are arguably the best brain food and are shown to improve learning ability. In addition, they are one of the most powerful anti-stress foods. Try to avoid sweetened dried blueberries and opt for the fresh ones!

How could a nut that actually looks like a brain not provide you with brainpower? The healing power of walnuts is primarily due to their high concentration of omega-3 fats. These are the very fats that make up 60% of your brain (yes, you have a fat brain!).

The monounsaturated fat in avocados promotes increased circulation and blood flow. Eating lots of avocado can also lower blood pressure levels, which is known to benefit the brain. Lower blood pressure may increase cognition and I.Q.

Here’s another reason to eat an apple a day: Apples are a great source of an antioxidant that protects your brain cells. Make sure to eat your apples with skin as that is where most of the antioxidants are found- it’s also a delicious and easy way to add fiber to your diet.

Note: “Although these foods are important to include in your diet to boost brain function, don't forget the importance of having an overall well balanced diet every day" (Tara Simpson, Registered Dietitian and Director of Client Care of Nutritional Health Systems).

To get a healthy dose of these brain foods, try tossing them into a salad. It’s an easy and delicious way to incorporate these foods into your diet. Don’t be afraid to experiment! Why not toss a few chocolate chips into your bowl? After all, they enhance brain function right?

Rainbow Salad


Raspberry vinaigrette salad dressing
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 tablespoons raspberry wine vinegar
2 tablespoons white sugar
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/8 teaspoon dried oregano
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper

1 (10 ounce) package baby spinach
1 Granny Smith apple, sliced thin
1 pint fresh blueberries
1/4 cup walnuts


1. Mix all the dressing ingredients in a small bowl.
2. In a large bowl, toss the spinach and sliced apple with the raspberry vinaigrette. Scatter the blueberries and walnuts over the top and serve.

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