Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Brain food

With my finals coming up in a couple of weeks I've started to think more about what I'm eating and how it affects my concentration (that's not to say I don't still indulge in some chocolate as a post-revision treat!)

I've been reading up on foods that are meant to be good for your brain and while some, such as turmeric, are a little more obscure, others are really common and super-easy to fit into your daily diet, like eggs.  This evening my meal contains lots of foods which are good for your brain.

Superfood Supper
I used salmon (an oily fish which apparently helps improve your attention span), eggs, brown rice (a wholegrain which will improve your concentration and focus), spinach and broccoli (pretty much all green leafy vegetables are recommended).

So here's my recipe for fried salmon, with egg-fried rice, steamed tender-stem broccoli and wilted spinach, with a mug of green tea.

For two portions you will need:
brown rice (about 100g)
some oil for frying
2 salmon fillets (skin on)
salt and pepper for seasoning
a small pack of tender-stem broccoli
2 eggs (beaten)
100g spinach

  1. Cook the rice for 20-25 minutes in simmering water.  Drain and leave in the saucepan to one side.
  2. Heat some oil in a pan and place the pieces of salmon, skin side down, into the pan.  Season your salmon with some salt and pepper.  Cook for 5-10 minutes (until the salmon is cooked to about halfway - this will vary depending on how thick your fillet is), then turn it over and cook for another 5 minutes or so, until the salmon is cooked through.  Remove from the pan and place onto a plate.
  3. I steamed my broccoli in a microwaveable steam bag for 4-5 minutes.
  4. While the broccoli is steaming return the pan to the heat and add the rice, then pour in the beaten egg.  Fry for a couple of minutes, stirring, so that the egg cooks in with the rice.  Add the spinach to the pan and toss with the rice, cover the pan for a minute or so to allow the spinach to wilt slightly.
  5. Place the broccoli and rice mixture onto the plate with your salmon and serve.

I realised as I was serving this that I had forgotten about a sauce.  Although this is fine without a sauce it may be a little dry.  Luckily I had some soy sauce in the cupboard and drizzled a little on.  If you're not a fan of soy sauce then you could also squeeze a little lemon juice over the salmon.

As for what to drink, green tea is meant to be good for you as it contains a small amount of caffeine which will help with your concentration, but not too much.

Green Tea
There are loads of other superfoods which you can try: beans, lentils, blueberries (which I've heard delay short-term memory loss - excellent when cramming!), nuts, avocado (a good source of fat and it reduces your blood pressure which is in turn good for the functioning of your brain) and pomegranate juice (which is meant to thin the blood, enabling good circulation which is good for the brain).  As for the turmeric I mentioned earlier, it helps to repair brain cells and regulate your mood.  The reason I included eggs in my meal is because they are a good source of vitamin D which helps to alleviate depression.  You can get vitamin D from being outside in the sun, but with the weather the way it is at the moment that seems like a rather unreliable source!

Finally, and most importantly, cocoa solids (i.e. dark chocolate) are also a good source of caffeine as, like green tea, it occurs in small quantities so is better for you than coffee.  Not only that, chocolate also helps with concentration, improves blood flow to the brain and as if that wasn't enough it also stimulates endorphins which make you feel good!

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