We’d eat a salmon salad with berries for the culinary benefits alone, but this dish is also packed with major nutrition benefits for the brain. In Dr. Annie Fenn’s new cookbook, The Brain Health Kitchen, home cooks can find practical recipes and kitchen tips designed to keep our brains younger, sharper, more vibrant, and much less prone to dementia.
“Food choices are at the heart of the solution to Alzheimer’s and dementia. I’ve written this book to help you take care of your brain while still eating delicious food,” Annie says. “The earlier you begin eating with brain health in mind, the better. In doing so, you will cultivate a brain that is resilient to age-related cognitive decline from all causes, especially Alzheimer’s.”
Scientific studies have shown that diets high in foods with powerful neuroprotective properties lower their risk of Alzheimer’s and dementia. One such diet, the MIND diet, a spin-off of the Mediterranean and DASH diets, emphasizes the foods that are most neuroprotective—berries, leafy greens, vegetables, fish and seafood, whole grains, nuts and seeds, poultry, beans and legumes, olive oil, and red wine.
The results of a study of the MIND diet showed that when participants adhered to the MIND guidelines most closely, there were 53% fewer cases of Alzheimer’s after just four and a half years. Even participants who followed the diet less rigorously had an astounding risk reduction of 35%. In addition, participants who followed the diet most closely over time showed improvement in cognitive function.
Enjoy Dr. Fenn’s delicious recipe packed with all the ingredients we love to eat.
Strawberry-Avocado Salad With Salmon, Basil, And Lime
This dinner salad includes three brain-friendly food groups: berries, fish, and leafy greens. I created it to honor the legacy of Dr. Martha Clare Morris, lead researcher of the MIND diet study and author of more than 60 papers on nutrition and brain health. Her research showed that eating an additional ½-cup serving of strawberries every week could dramatically reduce Alzheimer’s risk.
Besides the strawberries, there’s another berry here: pink peppercorns. The fruity flavor of pink peppercorns is a revelation if you’ve only used black pepper in your cooking. These spicy, dried berries are feisty and floral, adding a pretty finish to many dishes.
¼ cup plus 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
Four 3- to 4-ounce salmon filets, about ¾ inch thick
¾ tsp kosher salt
1 grapefruit, preferably Ruby Red
2 tbsp lime juice
1½ tsp raw honey
4 loosely packed cups mixed baby greens
1 large ripe firm avocado, sliced
1 pound strawberries, halved (about 2 cups)
½ cup fresh basil leaves, large ones torn into pieces
Freshly ground pink or black peppercorns
1. Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C).
2. Coat a ceramic dish or rimmed baking sheet with 1 tsp of the oil and place the salmon (skin side down if skin-on) on it. Drizzle the salmon with another teaspoon of the oil and sprinkle with ½ tsp of the kosher salt.
3. Bake until the flesh easily flakes with a fork, about 12 minutes for medium-rare or 15 minutes for well done.
4. Meanwhile, zest the grapefruit to yield 1 tbsp, then cut off the stem ends and use the knife to cut away the peel. Slice between the white pith and the flesh to remove the sections. Squeeze any juice left from the peels into a small measuring cup. Add any juice collected on your cutting board. Discard the peels.
5. In a small bowl, whisk the remaining ¼ cup oil, 1½ tbsp of the grapefruit juice, the reserved zest, the lime juice, honey, and the remaining ¼ tsp kosher salt.
6. Place the greens in a large shallow bowl. Drizzle half the dressing over the greens and toss well.
7. Divide the salad between plates, then top with the avocado, grapefruit segments, and strawberries, dividing evenly. Top each serving with a piece of salmon. Drizzle with the remaining dressing.
8. Garnish each plate with basil leaves, a few pinches of flaky salt, and as much freshly ground pepper as you like.
Tip: To get beautiful avocado slices, cut each avocado in half from top to bottom and remove the pit. Gently peel back the skin from the flesh and slice each half into six to eight lengthwise slices.
Note: Cilantro and mint can be used instead of basil to finish the salad. Tender herbs like cilantro, basil, and mint are leafy greens that are dense with brain-healthy phytonutrients. If you have an abundance of fresh herbs on hand, use all three.
Recipe and photo reprinted with permission from The Brain Health Kitchen cookbook by Annie Fenn (Artisan Books). Photographs by Alexandra Grablewski.