New evidence suggests that the Mediterranean diet can provide us with the right nutrients for healthy brain development and cognitive function throughout life. Studies have shown it can improve brain resilience and protect against cognitive degeneration. It helps to lower our risk of anxiety and depression. And for those who already have depression, studies demonstrate a significant reduction in symptom severity when you adhere to this pattern of eating.
My latest book Mediterranean Mood Foods 2019 has over 70 easy-to-prepare recipes included. This book helps keep those who follow the ten nutrition pillars, in great shape physically and mentally while still enjoying delicious food.
This is a favourite of mine, as a weekend brunch after gym. It is super topped with grilled mixed mushrooms, but tomato and basil are great too. When I don’t have fresh basil, chilli flakes are my go-to. Avocados are rich in good monounsaturated fat, which supports the production of acetylcholine, the memory and learning brain chemical. A good balance of fats (with more unsaturated fat and less processed trans and saturated fat) promotes a healthy blood flow to the brain. Tastes so good too.
Sourdough, avocado and feta doorsteps (recipe from Mediterranean Mood Foods)
½ large or 1 small avocado
Squeeze of lime or lemon juice
Drizzle of extra virgin olive oil (optional)
1 garlic clove (optional)
2 thick slices of sourdough or 100% wholegrain bread
2 ripe tomatoes, finely chopped
2 matchbox-sized pieces of feta cheese
A few fresh basil leaves, shredded
Lots of freshly ground black pepper
Chilli flakes (optional)
What to do…
Coarsely mash the avocado with the lime or lemon juice on a plate.
If you’re using sourdough, rub a little extra virgin olive oil and a smashed garlic clove onto the bread if you like.
Spread the mashed avocado on the heated bread, then top with the chopped tomatoes, crumbled feta and basil.
Get your black pepper and chilli flake grinders and season to your taste.
Puy lentil Sheppard’s pie
Ingredients – serves 4
For the base filing
1 tbsp of olive oil
1 onion finely chopped
2 sticks of celery finely chopped
3 carrots peeled and diced
1 garlic clove crushed
1 tbsp of tomato puree
1 x 400g of chopped tomatoes
1 tsp of paprika
200g of puy lentils
500 ml of vegetable stock
For the mash topping
800 g of sweet potato, peeled and cut into large chunks
Freshly grated nutmeg
Parmesan for grating (1 to 2 tbsps)
Handful of fresh chives (optional)
What to do
Heat the oil in a saucepan and gently cook the onion, celery, carrots and garlic until they soften
Add the tomatoes, tomato puree, sugar, bay leaf, paprika, lentils and stock, stir and simmer gently for 20 to 25 minutes. You may need to add more water as lentils suck up a lot of liquid.
Don’t add salt until after cooking as it toughen the lentils
Meanwhile simmer the sweet potato chunks in salted water for approx. 15 minutes, until soft.
Drain the sweet potatoes and mash with parmesan, nutmeg, chives , salt and pepper.
Add salt and pepper to the lentils and spoon into a large dish (approx. 28 x 20 x 5)
Spoon the mash over the top and use a fork to smooth over
Bake in the oven for 20 minutes, allow to cool a little before serving
Serve with a big green leafy salad. Enjoy!
Paula Mee, Author and Food Consultant is available to give Nutrition Talks online. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss any ideas you may have.