Monday 23 October 2017

Recipes: No has-beans - boosting your brain power

Foodstuffs containing B group vitamins and 'smart fats' can boost your brain power, says Susan Jane White

Susan Jane White

Susan Jane White

Can beans cure dementia? No. But evidence suggests they can arm our brain with an armada of essential nutrients to get our neurotransmitters breakdancing for longer. "In every great production, there are hundreds of people behind the scenes that support the main players," writes Dr Hyla Cass, former Assistant Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at UCLA Medical School.

"The same is true with your brain. These supporters are the vitamins and minerals. They help build and rebuild the brain and nervous system, and keep everything running smoothly."

Of particular interest to Cass are the B group vitamins. A deficiency in B6, she notes, raises our risk of developing depression and can antagonise mental-health problems, such as schizophrenia or dementia, for example. B6 plays a critical role in the production of feel-good hormones in our body called serotonin. No serotonin, no samba. Not sure I like the sound of that. The good news? B6 is found in bananas, chickpeas, beans, nuts and wholegrains, such as millet. These are your new BFs.

Nutritionist and author, Patrick Holford, stresses the importance of "smart fats" that fertilise the brain. Think sardines, mackerel, salmon, herring, chia seeds, hemp seeds and flax seeds. These superfoods all contain "essential fatty acids" that go on to manufacture top-class brain cells. To date, scientific literature on essential fatty acids overwhelmingly suggests that people experience a notable increase in mental clarity and agility. The hallmark of a brainbox? Sardine sambos, darling. And this sprouted-chickpea dip.

Brain-Fuel HUMMUS

Serves 2-3

This is hummus with a mission. We have a serious amount of amino acids to fuel our factory of neurotransmitters from the sprouted raw chickpeas, as well as a hefty serving of those much-coveted B vitamins. Chia and flax provide snazzy essential fats to get your frontal lobe raving. It's like Red Bull for the brain.

You will need:

180g (6oz) dried chickpeas

15g (½oz) milled chia seeds and/or flax seeds

6 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

6 tablespoons tahini

2 cloves garlic, raw

1 tablespoon tamari or soy sauce

240ml (8½fl oz) chilled water

2 tablespoons curry powder

4 tablespoons chopped black olives

Bunch of fresh basil, stems discarded

Extra-virgin olive oil

Pitta bread, cut into soldiers, or dehydrated flax-seed crackers, to serve

Begin on the night before by covering the dried chickpeas in cold filtered water. The next morning, drain the chickpeas and leave them to sit on kitchen paper, near natural light, to sprout. By the time you return from work, they should be sporting teeny tails. This tells you that the chickpeas have germinated. If they haven't, rinse them well, change the kitchen paper and leave for another few hours.

Once the chickpeas have germinated, or swelled in size, tumble them into a high-speed food processor alongside the milled chia seeds and/or the flax seeds, whichever you are using, the fresh lemon juice, the tahini, the raw garlic, the tamari or soy sauce, whichever you are using, the chilled water and the curry powder. Blend until sumptuously smooth. At this point, I add the chopped black olives and the fresh basil to give a chunky finish.

Like heat? Add some cayenne pepper. Fancy some bite? Add another clove of raw garlic. Flirt with flavours.

Tickle the hummus with your best extra-virgin olive oil and serve with pitta bread soldiers. Of course, dehydrated flax-seed crackers will earn you extra points. See you at The Summit, yah?

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