Cook This Book: The Healthy Mind Cookbook

It has been a few months since my last review but I promise Cook this Book is coming back with a bang! This month’s selection The Healthy Mind Cookbook is as fascinating as it is flavourful.

It will find a welcome place on my cookbook shelf and I hope it makes its way into your kitchen too.  Let’s get into it…

The What

This month’s selection is The Healthy Mind Cookbook: Big Flavor Recipes to Enhance Brain Function, Mood, Memory and Mental Clarity by Rebecca Katz and Mat Edelson. This is my favourite type of cookbook: part textbook and part culinary temptation. Scientific investigation of the gut-brain connection has grown exponentially in the past 10 years. The Healthy Mind Cookbook begins by outlining the growing evidence that what we eat can both directly and indirectly affect brain health.  The ways in which diet can affect the brain are far reaching. It is not just about memory, but also stress, anxiety, depression, learning, focus, sleep and energy. Researchers are now discovering more about neurogenesis – the concept that an adult brain is capable of generating new brains cells (neurons) to replace damaged or dead cells. Research suggests the intake of specific nutrients such as omega 3, vitamin E and flavanols may actually promote neurogenesis. Food nutrients can also be protective, combating damage from free radicals, inflammation and metabolic byproducts such as homocysteine (a waste product of protein metabolism). The book’s second chapter entitled Culinary Pharmacy is an encyclopedia of more than 80 ingredients with notes on how these ingredients support memory, mood, sleep, energy and cognition.  Whether you’re trying to convince a certain someone to eat their broccoli or you feel the need to justify your chocolate habit, this is a great reference to have on hand.  It’ll motivate and inspire you to diversify what’s on your plate.

The second part of this book provides you with a multitude of ways to do just that. Katz and Edelson have put together dozens of tempting and nourishing recipes. Enticing titles and crisp photography will have you saying “oooo” and “mmm” and planning your next grocery trip. (More about the recipes below)

The Who

Rebecca Katz calls herself a “Culinary Translator” to describe her mission “to translate nutritional science to the plate.” In The Healthy Mind Cookbook Katz succeeds in her mission. Her passion for science is met with equal enthusiasm for food that both excites and nourishes. Her writing is motivating and heart felt. Katz’s father died of dementia in his eighties after a decade long struggle so this book is a personal project but it has a universal reach. There are very few families unaffected by dementia, strokes, depression or some other brain related disease. And if the threat of disease is not motivating enough, surely we all want to perform to the best of our ability, whether it be at work, school, or in creative endeavors. A professionally trained chef with a masters of science in health and nutrition education, Katz is the author of 4 cookbooks including The Longevity Kitchen and The Cancer-Fighting Kitchen. With that kind of resume Katz clearly knows a thing or two about maintaining a healthy brain!

The Why

The author delivers a convincing message: supporting the brain is not only important and possible, but also pressing. Researchers are showing that memory problems can begin as early as our twenties and thirties so we ought not to wait until our hair turns grey to start thinking about ways we can nourish our brain in the kitchen. To do this requires a commitment to quality ingredients.

“…we’re asking more and more of our brain: we’re demanding it be smart, alert, adept, adaptive…in short, to be with the program at all times. That’s a tall order for any organ, let alone one that often isn’t getting the right fuel for the job. If the brain is our premier organ, there’s little doubt it needs premium fuel, the ol’ 93 at the pump. But a lot of folks who own premium cars are tempted to stick in lower grade fuel and save a half-buck a gallon, because after all, gas is gas, right? Not exactly. Keep putting in 87 instead of 93, and pretty soon the engine knocks, the timing goes off, and instead of being able to quickly accelerate to information superhighway speed, you’re left in the slow lane wondering where you put your glasses when all the while they’re on top of your head. This book is all about giving your brain the right fuel to do the job you want it to do… I’ve come to see this book as a way to help you make friends with your brain, turning it into a trusted ally instead of a capricious companion.”

Katz not only provides the motivation, she provides the how to. Let’s check out the goods…

The Eats

One of the most appealing things about this book is its approachability. Recipes are creative but not overly complex. It so frustrating when a cookbook draws you in and then proceeds to list impossible to find ingredients or convoluted instructions. In The Healthy Mind Cookbook the aim is to relax your approach to cooking. Katz includes time saving strategies, tips on organizing your kitchen, your meal and your prep work. She also outlines a flavour building formula she dubs FASS (fat, acid, salt and sweet). Using ingredients from each of these categories will build wow factor and culinary confidence says Katz.  It’s evident that while Katz wants her readers to be informed she also wants them to have fun.

Recipes focus on whole food ingredients and unique flavor combinations. Some dairy is found but the majority of recipes are both dairy and gluten free (major bonus!) Sections include Soups, Vegetables, Meats and seafood, Any time foods, Tonics & Elixirs and Sweet Bites. Also included is a section of “Dollops.” These vinaigrettes, nut-based creams, salsas and sauces can be kept on hand to add a burst of flavor to an otherwise ordinary dish. Here are a few recipes I’m looking forward to trying:

Gingered Butternut Squash Soup with Walnut Cream p. 47

Provencal Seafood Stew p. 61

Coconut Ginger Lime Kale p. 86

Mediterranean Sockeye Salmon Salad p. 113

Grilled Bison Burgers with Caramelized Onions & Crispy Shitakes p. 125

Olive, Lemon Zest & Thyme Muffins p. 150

Pumpkin Tart in a Cashew Crust p. 213

Do your brain and your taste buds a favour and pick up this book! And while you’re at it why not gift it to a friend?


Kate McMurray, Certified Holistic Nutritionist

http://www.katemcmurraynutrition.com