3 Delicious, Brain-Supporting Sauces From A Nutritional Psychiatrist
There's nothing that makes it less exciting to eat nutritious foods than dry, bland dishes. When it comes to spending time in the kitchen, whipping up a meal you're proud of, adding a delicious sauce to the mix will take your cooking from just OK to incredible. As a nutritional psychiatrist, one of the things I love about making sauces from scratch is I can include strategic ingredients to support brain health—so you're left feeling great both physically and mentally.
My favorite brain-supporting sauces.
Incorporating the right combination of ingredients into your cooking can do so much more than fill you up—certain foods and spices actually have the ability to sharpen your mind and promote brain health.
Looking to add some intrigue to your cooking with homemade sauces to benefit your body and mind? Here are my three favorite go-to sauces to elevate any dish, all of which incorporate brain-nourishing ingredients. Check out the video above for a demo, or find the full recipe below:
Fermented foods like miso paste are particularly great for reducing inflammation in the gut, which directly connects to the brain via the gut-brain axis. The avocado oil in this recipe is rich in healthy fats, which lend their own powerful brain benefits—but extra-virgin olive oil is another great option, especially if you want to turn the sauce into a dressing.
- ½ cup white miso paste
- ¼ cup avocado oil
- ¼ tablespoon kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- Combine ingredients together in a bowl.
- Whisk until combined.
Kale & Walnut Pesto
If you're looking for a flavorful and brain-healthy pasta sauce or marinade for your favorite protein source, a kale and walnut pesto will not only enhance the flavor profile of your meal but also support your brain and gut function. Kale is packed with folate, which can promote a positive mood, and it's also loaded with prebiotic fiber, which will allow for an even healthier gut microbe. Let's not forget walnuts, which are rich in omega-3 fatty acids to fuel the brain. Why buy your pesto at the store when you can make a brain-nourishing recipe from home?
- ¼ cup olive oil
- ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese (or nutritional yeast)
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled and microwaved for 30 seconds
- 2 cups baby kale, washed
- ¼ cup walnuts
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
- ½ teaspoon salt
- Blend the pesto ingredients in a blender or food processor on medium speed.
- Add cold water to loosen the mixture if needed.
Curry Leaf & Carrot Yogurt Sauce
Healthy fat is the common thread tying each recipe together, and my curry leaf and carrot yogurt dressing is no exception. Here, I use avocado oil to help bloom the spices, which enhances the flavor and wakes up the nutrient bioactives. Turmeric is a classic inflammation-easing spice, and fresh curry leaves are intricately tied into Ayurvedic tradition to improve both digestion and mood. Carrots are high in carotenoids, linking back to cognitive wellness and a positive mood.
- 2 tablespoons avocado oil
- ½ teaspoon turmeric
- A pinch of black pepper
- ½ teaspoon ground cumin
- 3 curry leaves (chiffonade)
- ½ cup grated carrot
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 cup yogurt
- Heat oil in a pan over medium heat. Add spices and allow to bloom.
- Add carrots and sauté for 3 minutes.
- Pour mixture into a bowl and add yogurt. Mix until combined.
Uma Naidoo, M.D. is a nutritional psychiatrist, professional chef, nutrition specialist, and author of This Is Your Brain on Food (An Indispensible Guide to the Surprising Foods that Fight Depression, Anxiety, PTSD, OCD, ADHD, and More). She is currently the Founder and Director of Nutritional and Lifestyle Psychiatry at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), the first US clinic of its kind where she consults on nutritional interventions for the psychiatrically and medically ill. Naidoo is also a culinary instructor at The Cambridge School of Culinary Arts. She writes for Harvard Health and Psychology Today and has just completed a unique video cooking series for the MGH Academy, which teaches nutritional psychiatry using culinary techniques in the kitchen.