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5 Brain-Boosting Foods for Back-to-School

by Vanessa Voltolina

Whether you’re hitting the books or getting back to a more normal work routine, it’s important to stock up on foods that keep you alert and balanced throughout the day. Your brain can’t work without energy, and it needs a steady supply of the right kinds of foods to help it function at its highest levels.

Here, the experts from Curves International, Inc.—Nadia Rodman, Director of Nutrition and Amanda Turner, registered dietitian—explain why certain foods help boost brainpower, and provide yum recipes for you to try at home. Here’s how some popular eats can get those mental wheels turning:

Brain-Boosting Food: Salmon

Cold-water fish, like salmon, mackerel, herring, trout and tuna, contain high amounts of omega-3 fats. “Omega-3s are a potent anti-inflammatory substance that are highly concentrated in the brain,” says Turner. “Some studies have shown that omega-3 fats are positively associated with increased cognitive and behavioral performance.”

Recipe Below: Salmon with Mango Avocado Salsa

Brain-Boosting Food: Berries

Raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, and strawberries all contain high levels of antioxidants, which help to protect the brain from free radical damage. Free radicals are components naturally produced in the body from metabolic reactions, exposure to pollutants, stress and more, explains Turner. “Antioxidants directly remove free radicals from the blood stream,” she says, “which helps prevent damage to brain cells.”

Recipe Below: Raspberry Parfait

Brain-Boosting Food: Walnuts

Nuts like walnuts, almonds, and pecans are good sources of vitamin E, says Turner. Vitamin E is an antioxidant vitamin that helps keeps brain function at its maximum by protecting brain cell membranes from damage by free radical components.

Recipe Below: Walnut Pesto Fish w/ Green Beans & Rice

Brain-Boosting Food: Spinach

Did you know that dark green, leafy vegetables, like spinach, arugula, kale, Swiss chard, and collard greens contain some of the highest levels of antioxidants as compared with other fruits and vegetables? Antioxidants help to boost brainpower by removing free radicals from the blood stream and protecting brain cells from damage.

Recipe Below: Pasta with Chicken & Spinach

Brain-Boosting Food: Beets

From the dark red color of beetroot, it’s easy to identify it as a potent source of free radical fighting antioxidants. “Beets also naturally contain nitrates, which, through a series of metabolic reactions, help to dilate blood vessels and improves blood flow to important organs, including the brain,” Turner says. The more blood and oxygen the brain has access to, the better it will function.

Recipe Below: Halibut with Arugula & Beet Root

Curves Complete Recipes by Nadia Rodman Director of Nutrition for Curves International, Inc. :

Salmon with Mango Avocado Salsa
5 oz salmon filet(s) (1 filet is 3 oz)
1/4 tsp(s) oil – olive
1/4 tsp(s) chili powder
1/4 mango(s) – medium
1/4 avocado(s) – medium
2 tbsp(s) onion(s) – red
1/2 tbsp(s) cilantro – fresh
1/4 lime(s)
1/4 tsp(s) garlic powder
1 cup(s) broccoli – fresh

Directions:
1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Place the fish in a small baking pan. Brush on both sides with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and chili powder. Place in the oven and roast about 18 minutes or until the fish beings to flake.
2. Meanwhile steam broccoli, and make salsa. To make the salsa, dice mango, red onion, jalapeno and avocado; mince cilantro. Combine vegetables and toss with the juice from one lime and garlic powder.
3. Enjoy Salmon with salsa and broccoli.

Raspberry Parfait
4 oz cheese – cottage (1%)
4 oz raspberries
1 tbsp(s) flaxseed (linseed) – ground
1 tsp(s) cinnamon

Directions: Combine ingredients and enjoy!

Walnut Pesto Fish w/ Green Beans & Rice
1 garlic clove(s)
1/4 cup(s) cilantro – fresh
0.25 oz walnut halves
1 tsp(s) oil – olive
pepper – cayenne (crushed)
salt
1 fish – orange roughy or other white (1 filet is 4 oz)
1 cup(s) beans – green (fresh)
1.7 oz rice – brown (dry)

Directions:
1. Preheat the oven to 375°F.
2. For the pesto, combine garlic, cilantro, walnuts, and oil in a food processor. Add cayenne pepper and salt to taste, and process until smooth.
3. Place fish in a baking dish and top with pesto. Bake for 12-14 minutes, or until the flesh is just cooked through.
4. Place a steamer insert in a saucepan and fill with water to just below the bottom of the steamer. Cover and bring water to a boil. Place green beans in steamer insert and cover. Steam for about 3 minutes or until tender.
5. Cook brown rice according to package directions.
6. Serve fish with streamed green beans and brown rice.
Tips: 
Orange roughy may be substituted with any other white fish if desired.
1.7 oz = 1/4 cup dry = 3/4 cup cooked brown rice
1/4 oz = 5 walnut halves

Pasta w/ Chicken & Spinach
5 oz chicken breast(s) (1 breast is 4 oz)
2 cup(s) spinach leaves – fresh
1 tsp(s) oil – olive
1 oz pasta – penne – whole wheat (dry)
1/2 cup(s) sauce – marinara
2 tbsp(s) cheese – Parmesan (grated)

Directions:
1. Cook pasta according to pasta instructions.
2. Grill Chicken to desired degree of doneness. Allow to cool slightly, and slice into thin strips.
3. Sauté spinach in olive oil. When the spinach is wilted, add marinara (pasta; tomato relish) sauce and warm through.
4. In a small bowl, combine pasta, grilled chicken and sauce mixture. Top with Parmesan cheese and enjoy!

Halibut with Arugula & Beetroot
1 tbsp(s) crème fraiche
1/4 tsp(s) horseradish
1/2 tbsp(s) cream
1 red halibut filet(s) (1 filet is 4 oz)
1/4 lemon(s)
3/4 tsp(s) thyme
1/2 tbsp(s) parsley
3/4 tbsp(s) oil – olive
1 cup(s) arugula
1/2 cup(s) beet root
1/4 shallot
1 tsp(s) vinegar – balsamic
1 tsp(s) vinegar – red, wine
1/2 potato(es) – medium (6 oz)

Directions:
1. Zest and juice 1/4 of a lemon. Keep the juice separate from the zest.
2. Season the fish with lemon zest, thyme and parsley. Cover and refrigerate for 4 hours. Remove the fish from the refrigerator 10-15 minutes before cooking to bring it to room temperature.
3. Preheat the oven to 400 F (200 C). Rinse the beets and toss them with 1 tsp oil and a pinch of salt. Place the beetroot in a roasting pan with a bit of water at the bottom. Cover the pan with foil and roast until the beetroots are tender- about 40 minutes. Bake potato until cooked through.
4. Meanwhile, dice 1 tsp shallot and slice 1 T shallot.
5. To make the vinaigrette, combine diced shallots, both vinegars, 1/2 tsp lemon juice and 1/4 tsp salt in a small bowl. Whisk in 1 tsp olive oil.
6. Stir crème fraiche and horseradish in a small bowl. Whisk in cream and 1/4 tsp lemon juice, a pinch of salt and pepper.
7. Let the beets cool then slip the skins off and cut them into wedges. Toss the beets and sliced shallots with the vinaigrette. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
8. Heat pan over high heat for a couple minutes. Season fish with salt and pepper. Add 1 tsp olive oil to the pan. One minute later, add the fish to the pan and cook for 4 minutes. Lower the heat to medium low and cook the fish on the other side for a couple more minutes.
9. Place arugula on a plate. Top with beets and a drizzle of the horseradish cream sauce. Top with fish. Serve with baked potato.