5 Times Brain Health was in the Spotlight at the Year’s Biggest Nutrition Meeting (Plus Recipe!)

The largest global gathering of who’s who in nutrition just wrapped a successful four days of updates on the latest nutrition science and trends, and brain health was in the spotlight like never before. The conference is hosted by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and is dubbed the Food & Nutrition Conference & Expo (FNCE). Here are five ways brain health stole the show.

  1. The top mind of the MIND diet research was at FNCE. That’s right: Martha Clare Morris, PhD, Rush University Medical Center, and MIND diet research lead presented on the closing day of sessions. 
  2. For the first time ever, the President’s Lecture was devoted to nutrition and how foods can help or harm the brain. 
  3. Awesome RDs who contributed recipes to The MIND Diet book were taking the meeting by storm. Here are just a few: Sharon Palmer, Amy Gorin, and Christy Wilson.
  4. The MIND Diet book visited with booths featuring MIND diet approved brain-healthy foods: Oldways Whole Grain Council, Dole Chopped SaladsNut Health, PulsesWild Blueberries, Blueberry Council, CA Strawberries, Red Raspberries, and Olive Oil.
  5. The MIND Diet book itself appeared in cameos with some superstars we’re pretty lucky to be friends with, like fellow authors of healthy eating books, and a group of Columbia University nutrition alumni.

This year’s FNCE meeting was in Boston, and between the waterfront convention center, daily seafood dinners (and some lunches), and the brain nutrition lectures, you won’t be surprised that I was inspired to share a delicious seafood recipe along with this post (bonus MIND foods: berries, leafy greens, and olive oil).

Salmon and Blueberry Salad with Red Onion Vinaigretteblueberry-council-salmon-and-blueberry-salad

Warm salmon, red onions, and blueberries make a sweet and savory pairing in this salad. It’s perfect for lunch or dinner.

MIND foods: Olive oil, fish, leafy greens, berries

Yield: 4 servings

Time: 35 minutes to prep; 25 minutes to cook

Difficulty: Easy

 

Salmon-Blueberry Salad Ingredients

1 medium red onion, thinly sliced in half rings

1/4 cup red wine vinegar

1 teaspoon sugar

1 teaspoon salt, divided

1/4 teaspoon pepper, divided

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided

1 1/2 pounds salmon fillets, cut crosswise in 4 portions

6 cups lettuce leaves, torn into bite-size pieces

1 cup fresh blueberries

 

Directions

1. In a microwaveable cup, combine onion, red wine vinegar, half the salt, and half the pepper; cover loosely with plastic wrap and microwave on high for 1 minute. Let stand, stirring occasionally, until onions turn pink, about 15 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, preheat grill or broiler. Brush 1 tablespoon of the olive oil on both sides of the salmon fillets; sprinkle with remaining . teaspoon of salt and ⅛ teaspoon of pepper. Grill or broil salmon, skin side down, until just cooked through, about 6 minutes. Divide lettuce leaves among four dinner plates and place salmon in the center. With a slotted spoon, remove onions from vinegar; scatter onions, along with the blueberries, over and around the fish. Whisk remaining 2 tablespoons of the olive oil into the vinegar mixture. Drizzle vinaigrette over salmon.

Nutrition: 290 calories, 16 g total fat, 2 g saturated fat, 30 g protein, 6 g carbohydrates, 1 g fiber

Recipe and image courtesy of U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council

What Makes a Meal MIND-Worthy?

MIND Diet book author is a registered dietitian, and culinary school trained, so recipes are healthy and delicious
MIND Diet book author in her chef whites

There are 75 recipes in The MIND Diet book to get you started, but when you’re ready to make your own meals, rest assured that the guidelines for creating healthy MIND diet meals are simple. The beauty of the MIND diet is its simplicity. The complicated part is done (the research). Based on natural whole foods, the MIND diet includes plenty of plant foods, complemented by a healthy helping of seafood and poultry. And don’t forget the wine!

How do you know if your meal is worthy to be tagged #minddietmeals? Simple, it will contain any of the 10 basic brain-healthy food groups, and none of the five brain-harming ones. With these basic guidelines, you’ll be creating your own MIND diet meals in no time.

The MIND diet’s brain-healthy food groups (and how often to eat them):

  1. Whole grains – 3x per day (i.e. daily)
  2. Vegetables – 1x per day (i.e. daily)
  3. Leafy green vegetables – 6x per week
  4. Nuts – 5x per week (e.g. a daily snack during the workweek)
  5. Beans – 3-4x per week (i.e. about every other day)
  6. Berries – 2x per week (e.g. fresh berries over 2 to 3 days, or frozen berries anytime)
  7. Poultry – 2x per week
  8. Fish – 1x per week
  9. Olive oil – use daily (I like CA Olive Ranch because it has a seal of authenticity from California Olive Oil Commission)
  10. Wine – 1x per day (i.e. one 5 oz glass daily)

 

The MIND diet’s brain-harming food groups (You’ll see there’s room for moderation, but reducing these foods as much as possible has many benefits for overall health):

  1. Butter/solid fats – less than a tablespoon per day
  2. Pastries/sweets – less than 5x per week
  3. Red meat – less than 4x per week
  4. Fried/fast foods – less than 1x per week (e.g. one or two times a month)
  5. Cheese – less than 1x per week (e.g. one or two times a month)

 

What are some simple meal ideas you can think of that include some of the 10 brain-healthy food groups?

Creamy Berry Smoothie

This superfood smoothie features the berries most researched for brain health: blueberries and strawberries. A protein bonus comes from the almond butter and soft tofu, a mild-tasting and very blendable kind of tofu that incorporates seamlessly into soups and smoothies, where it adds a high-protein, vegetarian and dairy-free creaminess.

MIND foods: Nuts, beans, berries

Prep time: 5 minutes

Skill level: Easy

 

Ingredients

1 cup strawberries, fresh or frozen

1 cup blueberries, fresh or frozen

1/2 cup soft tofu, drained

1 T almond butter

1/2 cup unsweetened almond-coconut milk

1 medium ice cube, optional

blueberries, almond milk, almond butter, strawberries, soft tofu
ingredient

 

Instructions

Combine all ingredients into a blender. Pulse until fully combined. Additional ice cubes may be added for a colder temperature or thinner consistency, according to preference.

 

Nutrition: 180 calories, 8 g total fat, 1 g saturated fat, 6 g protein, 24 g carbohydrates, 5 g fiber