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Welcome to What To Eat

by | May 4, 2023 | What To Eat

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Welcome to the weekly What To Eat email, a bit of Brain Food talk this week…

Most of you will know by now that my Dad has vascular dementia so when I heard a snippet on the news about Early Onset Dementia being on the increase, I thought it was worth revisiting. I mean I KNOW you know what not to eat (white flour products, sugar, ultra-processed stuff yada yada) but are our diets up to scratch, cognitively speaking?

In terms of food that’s good for the brain and may stop cognitive decline, I’ve blabbed on about eating 3 portions of wholegrains a day and 6 of leafy veg per week but I haven’t yet covered the Omega 3 conundrum. And I know I almost certainly don’t eat enough.

Omega 3 fatty acids are a bit of a wonder stuff. They have a wide range of health benefits from preventing depressionand easing the symptoms of ADHD to fighting inflammation (which causes BAD things) and slowing down cognitive decline.

So where do we find these acids?

The go-to foods containing the strongest concentration of omega 3 is oily fish:

Salmon

Mackerel

Sardines

Herring/Kippers

Oysters

Anchovies

Salmon is clearly the favourite fish here I’ll wager (when was the last time you had a kipper?)- and it is the richest source of omegas of all foods.

But I don’t agree with farmed salmon (here’s why) and the wild stuff (Keta, Sockeye, Choho, Chinook) is too expensive for the suggested 2 portions a week. Ditto oysters. So that leaves us, realistically (as although I ate a LOT of herring while in Sweden once, I just know it wouldn’t travel well) with Mackerel, Sardines and Anchovies.

Now I love a bit of smoked mackerel. It’s so salty it pairs beautifully with roast sweet potatoes, red onions and creamy goat’s cheese. And if you buy it ready prepared, the house won’t even smell of fish for a week.

Mackerel paté is also a lifesaver (I’ve had it for lunch every day this week since researching this piece) Findlaters is v good but it is so very easy to whip up your own..

Anchovies are mostly unloved, salty, chewy little critters, but are much better suited to playing the supporting role in a dish rather than being the star attraction- try roast lamb studded with anchovies, rosemary and garlic or whipping up a punchy, anchovy-spiked Caesar salad dressing (to which I am completely addicted but just mix the fish with shop- bought mayo). Adding a few chopped anchovies adds depth of flavour to roast vegetable dishes too- Potatoes baked in an Anchovy Cream is a favourite.

It’s quite possible that I’ve only ever eaten a sardine in Spain, cooked over charcoal, but as tinned sardines are arguably the cheapest way to get Omega 3 into the family. I’m going to dish up this Sardine Puttanesca sometime soon and I reckon the kids would really like these Mackerel Fishcakes

If you do like a bit of salmon and you’d prefer responsibly farmed fish, go for Loch Duart or Glenarm Organic Salmon.

Non-fishy ways to notch up your omega intake would be eating flaxseed, chia seed (sprinkled on cereal or hidden in baking), brussel sprouts and walnuts. But if you’re not taking a fish oil supplement, the advice is to eat A LOT of these foodstuffs. Here are 20 of the best.

If you just can’t get the kids to eat any of this, try mixing melted dark chocolate with flaxseeds, almonds, walnuts and brazil nuts plus a handful of raisins for sweetness.

Bet they eat that.