We first met Esther Blum, a registered dietitian and holistic nutritionist when she was working on her first book, Eat, Drink, and Be Gorgeous. The book catapulted to bestseller lists, she was booked on Dr. Oz, the Today Show and many others, and courted by national magazines to impart her sage advice to their readers. During the process, we also became huge fans of her savvy approach to nutrition as well as dear friends. There isn’t anyone we’d rather talk food with over a martini (her favorite) than Ms. Blum. Esther is now the author of 4 bestselling books with another on the way, and continues to challenge women to heal their relationships with food and their bodies and become the best version of themselves.
With the change of seasons and start of a new school year days away, it’s not unusual for us to feel a little out of sorts. We notoriously reach for food that is not the most nutritious (we’re looking at you, nachos!) so we asked Esther to give us a few recipes to support our mental clarity and we’re on board to give it a try. Read on…
I help people reverse chronic illness, heal their relationship with food and their bodies, and create a powerful belief system so they can take ownership of becoming healthy and whole, love themselves unapologetically, and understand that their highest version of themselves is well within reach.
After having my son, I developed what I like to call “Momnesia”. My oh-so-organized Virgo self suddenly started leaving my wallet at restaurants, shrinking my husband’s dry-clean only shirts in the wash, and showing up to appointments on the wrong day.
It happens to the best of us.
To compound matters, I also developed insomnia due to a wicked case of Epstein-Barr Virus that took its toll on my nervous system and my memory while I was in the thick of it. Over time, I’ve definitely gotten my groove back and recovered my cognitive function, so I wanted to share some of my very best tools to help you keep your mind and memory sharp over the years. I use these foods with my clients to help them heal from chronic illness, repair their nervous systems, and live their best lives possible.
These are the foods to fill up on now so you can take charge of your mental real estate. Let me know how it goes!
Wild Alaskan Salmon – beauty and brains!
Wild Alaskan Salmon is my number one go-to for a clean, cold water, fatty fish. It is rich in omega-3 fatty acids that support communication between the neurotransmitters of the brain and keep your circulation flowing. It’s no surprise that the Inuit population has a diet that is 60% fat from fish and whale blubber, because the omega-3 fats specifically help prevent depression during the cold, dark winter months.
Wild Alaskan salmon also contains DMAE (dimethylaminoethanol), which boosts neurotransmitter production in the brain, keeping your mood stable and sharp. DMAE tightens and tones the muscles underneath your skin, supporting the contours of your face and keeping your skin radiant, taut, lifted, and contoured. Think of it as a face-lift in your fridge!
Best of all, Alaska is the only state that does not allow fish to be farm-raised, so the waters are clean and pristine and their fish are remarkably low in mercury and contaminants. My favorite source of wild Alaskan salmon is Vital Choice – simply delicious and worth the splurge. You can eat it hot or cold; the gamey flavor pairs well with chimichurri sauce or sriracha sauce. Sprinkle it over cabbage in tacos, or keep it simple with lemon juice and avocado slices.
Roasted Salmon Tacos (recipe from The Barefoot Contessa)
3/4 pound green cabbage, cored and finely shredded
1/2 seedless cucumber, unpeeled, halved lengthwise, seeds removed and very thinly sliced
1/4 cup good white wine vinegar
3 tablespoons minced fresh dill
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the salmon
Olive oil, for greasing the pan
1 3/4 pounds center-cut fresh salmon fillet, skin removed
2 teaspoons chipotle chile powder
1 teaspoon grated lime zest
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice, divided
12 (6-inch) Siete grain-free tortillas
4 ripe Hass avocados, seeded and peeled
3/4 teaspoon sriracha sauce
At least an hour before you plan to serve the tacos, toss the cabbage, cucumber, vinegar, dill, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper together in a large bowl. Cover and refrigerate, allowing the cabbage to marinate.
When ready to serve, preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Brush a baking dish with olive oil and place the salmon in it. Mix the chile powder, lime zest, and 1 1/2 teaspoons salt in a small bowl. Brush the salmon with 1 tablespoon of the lime juice and sprinkle with the chipotle seasoning mixture. Roast for 12 to 15 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fish, until the salmon is just cooked through.
Wrap the tortillas in 2 foil packets and place them in the oven with the salmon. Roughly mash the avocados with the remaining 2 tablespoons of lime juice, the sriracha, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper.
To serve, lay 2 warm tortillas on each of 6 plates. Place a dollop of the avocado mixture on one side of each tortilla, then some large chunks of salmon, and finally, some of the slaw. Fold the tortillas in half over the filling (they will be messy!) and serve warm.
Wild Blueberries – anti-aging for the brain
Wild blueberries are the bomb diggity of superfoods because they contain twice the antioxidants of regular blueberries. They grow in the harshest of conditions in the wild, surviving brutally cold winters and hot summers, making them a resilient force in your body and brain. Jam-packed with a variety of natural phytochemicals like anthocyanin, wild blueberries are the only fruit proven to protect the brain against age-related memory loss. There is a growing body of research to show their power in the fight against cancer and Alzheimer’s, too. Make sure you eat at least 1 cup every day in a smoothie or mixed into a fruit salad. If you can’t find them fresh, they can be found year-round in the freezer section of your grocery store.
1 cup wild blueberries (frozen or fresh)
1 cup fresh or frozen cherries, pitted
1 tbsp raw cacao powder
1.5 cups coconut water
Blend ingredients together until combined; serves 1-2.
Spirulina Powder – heavy metal sponge
Spirulina is the most concentrated form of any organic food on the planet. It contains all 10 essential amino acids, B12, chlorophyll, and trace minerals that are deficient in our modern day diets. Spirulina draws out environmental toxins and heavy metals from your brain and central nervous system and safely pulls them out of the body. In doing so, it provides a gentle but effective systemic detox and clears out brain fog. I love to add a tablespoon to my morning smoothie (see recipe above) for a protein boost — and spectacular energy throughout the day!
Sweet Potatoes – healthy carbs
Sweet potatoes are one of the healthiest foods to pop out of the ground. Chock-full of the powerful, free-radical fighting beta- carotene, sweet potatoes give the immune system a beautiful boost in the winter months.
Although they are sweet, these orange spuds are a slow-release carb loaded with potassium and will stabilize your blood sugar, energy and mental focus for hours after ingestion. I love to batch cook about 3-4 large sweet potatoes for the week and then have them with eggs in the morning, or as a cold afternoon snack either with a smear of mustard or sprinkled with sea salt or cinnamon. Delish!
Roasted Sweet Potatoes
Slice sweet potatoes in half; place face-down on a large glass baking pan. Roast at 425 degrees F for 45 minutes; smear on coconut oil and sprinkle with sea salt. The next day, chop them up and heat up in a skillet to go with your scrambled eggs.
Pomegranates – antioxidant queen