Call it intuitive eating, but even with all the altruistic notions I’ve had about avoiding eating anything with a face, I have also known that eating fish at least once in a while was like giving my body a gift.
I even knew it as a vegetarian, 14 years ago, before the birth of my first child when my carnivorous tendencies of yesteryear suddenly resurfaced (likely because I was deficient in certain key nutrients).
Now, as a staunch flexitarian and a confirmed intuitive eater, I eat what I feel I need rather than what any given “diet” may either recommend or discourage. It turns out I was right about fish. Sure, it’s been called “brain food” for as long as I can remember. That’s because Vitamin D, not found in many other foods than fish, is key for brain development and function.
The "Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry" compared more than 3,000 European men aged 40 to 79 in a neurological test, and discovered those with higher levels of Vitamin D processed information more efficiently and thought more clearly during the test.
DHA, a polyunsaturated omega-3 fatty acid found throughout the body, is another reason to dine on seafood considering we make less of it as we age, which can put a damper on our cognitive abilities.
A Tufts University study looked at 900 elderly people over the course of nine years, and found that eating fish three times a week meant they were less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. Apparently, a DHA deficiency could also mean poor mental health for a younger person whose diet doesn’t include enough selenium, vitamins A and D, phosphorous, magnesium, and iodine. Especially selenium and Vitamin D help brain function, which can play a part in mental health issues including depression, anxiety, mood disorders, addiction, and bipolar disorder, to name a few.
To maintain the proper DHA levels for optimal health, the recommendation is to eat about 14 ounces of fish per week, or three servings about the size of your fist. Here is one delicious and nutritious way to experience your brain on fish.
- Cooking spray or oil mister
- 1 bunch broccolini (6 ounces)
- 3 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
- Kosher salt
- ¾ cup halved cherry tomatoes
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- Pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
- 4 flounder fillets (about 4 ounces each)
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon chopped fresh oregano
- 2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
- Preheat the oven to 450.
- Lightly spray a 9x13-inch baking dish with oil.
- Trim 1 inch off the stems of the broccolini and halve the stalks lengthwise.
- Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat.
- Add 2 teaspoons of the olive oil, and then add broccolini.
- Season with 1/8 teaspoon salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until crisp-tender, about 4 minutes.
- Add the tomatoes and a pinch of salt and cook 1 minute.
- Add the garlic and pepper flakes and cook 1 more minute.
- Season the flounder with ¼ teaspoon salt and black pepper, to taste.
- Put the fish in the prepared baking dish and drizzle with the remaining 1 teaspoon oil and the lemon juice, and sprinkle with the oregano.
- Bake until the fish is partly cooked, about 5 minutes.
- Remove the baking dish from the oven, top the fish with the broccolini and Parmesan, and return the dish to the oven.
- Bake until the fish is cooked through and opaque, about 10 more minutes.
- Serve hot.
Source: The Skinny Taste Cookbook