Need some food for thought? Tana Amen, B.S.N., and husband-psychiatrist Daniel G. Amen, M.D., share a brain-friendly favorite (made with quinoa) from their Change Your Brain, Change Your Body Cookbook.
This is your brain. This is your brain on drugs. If you are visualizing a fried egg right now, those TV commercials made a lasting impression. It’s not unlike the thought-provoking message you get after listening to award-winning psychiatrist Daniel G. Amen, M.D., speak about his brain research—and look at the brain images of some of his patients. After seeing what a healthy brain looks like (compared to one that’s not so hot), you realize that the fried egg analogy wasn’t that far off. And you start to wonder what you can do to make your own brain look better (even if you’ve never seen its scan).
Fortunately, there’s a lot you can do, and nutrition leads the way. It’s a cornerstone of Amen’s better brain program, outlined in his many books, the latest of which—Change Your Brain, Change Your Body: Use Your Brain to Get and Keep the Body You Have Always Wanted—prompted its own companion cookbook, co-authored by Amen’s wife, Tana, a nurse and health specialist. “I wanted to show people how we eat at the Amen household and that eating in a brain-healthy way can be both nutritious and delicious,” she says.
According to Tana, fueling your brain with better food is so easy and has big benefits, many of which people may not realize. “The brain is involved in everything we do,” she explains. “If it’s troubled, you make bad decisions with your money, work, relationships—just about everything. But when your brain works right, you work right.” Your brain is also Command Central when it comes to maintaining a healthy weight. “It’s your brain that pushes you away from the table telling you that you have had enough, or gives you permission to have that third bowl of Rocky Road ice cream,” she says. “If you want a better body, the first place to always start is by having a better brain.”
Here, we share the Amens’ Quick Wit Quinoa Salad, which is great solo or as a side dish. A lesser-known brain food, quinoa turns up in several recipes in the Amen cookbook because of its mental merits. “Quinoa is a wonderful source of a gluten-free whole grain that is high in protein and has a low-glycemic index, which helps balance blood sugar,” says Tana. “In some people, gluten can cause allergies, which diminishes overall blood flow to the brain. What’s more, it’s delicious hot or cold, and children usually like it.” Brain appétit!
Quick Wit Quinoa Salad
1 cup quinoa
1 red onion, thinly sliced
1 Tbsp. refined coconut oil
1 to 2 tsp. cumin
2 cups water
1 15-oz can black beans, drained
2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
2 Tbsp. pine nuts
2 avocados, diced
1 red bell pepper, finely chopped
1/3 cup cilantro, finely chopped
1 bunch green onions, finely chopped
2 celery stalks, finely chopped
4 Tbsp. fresh lime juice
3 Tbsp. flax oil or extra virgin olive oil
Real Salt (a brand of sea salt) to taste
Bring the quinoa and water to boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook until the water is absorbed, approximately 10 minutes. When quinoa is finished, strain and rinse well under cold water.
Meanwhile, in a medium skillet, heat coconut oil over medium heat and sauté red onions until transparent, approximately 3 to 5 minutes. Let cool. In a large mixing bowl, mix all ingredients together. Toss well. Serves 10.
Per serving: Cal (188); Total fat (7 gm); Chol. (0 mg); Prot. (6 gm); Carbs (25 gm); Sod. (90 mg); Fiber (7 gm)
by: Tana Amen, B.S.N. and Daniel G. Amen, M.D.
Excerpted from the just-released Change Your Brain, Change Your Body Cookbook. Printed with permission from MindWorks Press. For more information about the cookbook and recipes, visit AmenClinics.com.
Black beans: fiber, protein
Red bell pepper: flavonoids
Lime juice: flavonoids
Avocados: good fats
Flax or olive oil: good fats
Did You Know?
Gluten-free and delicious, the cereal grain quinoa contains a balanced set of amino acids, making it an excellent source of complete protein to fuel the ultimate supercomputer: your brain.
Dr. Amen’s CHANGE YOUR BRAIN, CHANGE YOUR BODY Questionnaire is a great start to helping you evaluate the health and well-being of your brain and body.
Think of this tool as the beginning of optimizing the brain-body connection. For many years Dr. Amen realized that not everyone is able to get a brain scan to check on the health of his or her brain. So, in order to bring the life-changing information that he has learned through his imaging work to the most people, he has developed a series of questionnaires to help predict the areas of strengths and vulnerabilities of the brain.
To take the test visit …
Need an afternoon mental pick-me-up? “First, make sure to get enough sleep, and hold the caffeine in the morning,” says Tana Amen, B.S.N. “Choose higher-protein foods to help with focus and energy, such as a few raw nuts.” Ever notice that a walnut half looks like a brain? It’s an easy way to remember that this nut has more brain-friendly omega-3 fats than other nuts.