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This Neuroscientist's Salad Recipe Is Brimming With Brain-Healthy Nutrients

Hannah Frye
mbg Assistant Beauty Editor By Hannah Frye
mbg Assistant Beauty Editor
Hannah Frye is the Assistant Beauty Editor at mindbodygreen. She has a B.S. in journalism and a minor in women’s, gender, and queer studies from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo. Hannah has written across lifestyle sections including health, wellness, sustainability, personal development, and more.
This Neuroscientist's Salad Recipe Is Brimming With Brain-Healthy Nutrients

If you're craving an extravagant recipe, you might look to a professional chef for advice. If you're in the market for a brain-boosting meal, however, you may want to ask a neuroscientist for their recommendations. 

Luckily, we already did the latter for you: Here, a neuroscientist's go-to lunch recipe that both fuels his brain and satisfies his midday hunger. 

A neuroscientist's go-to lunch for brain health.

On an episode of the mindbodygreen podcast, clinical neuroscientist psychiatrist Daniel Amen, M.D., says he always reaches for a salad rich in colorful, brain-boosting vegetables. In fact, he gobbled one up right before jumping into the interview: "I just had lunch, and I had a big salad with red bell peppers, orange bell peppers, cucumbers, and olives," he shares.

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Why does Amen opt for this instead of a sandwich or other carb-heavy meal? "I have found that eliminating all simple carbohydrates at lunch including sugar, white bread, or other products made from white flour such as bagels and white pasta, potatoes, and rice can make a dramatic difference in energy and focus in the afternoon," he previously told mbg

Plus, bell peppers (especially red) are chock-full of vitamin C, which provides your brain with the support it needs for optimal memory, cognitive function, and mood regulation. One large bell pepper contains around 210 milligrams of vitamin C, while 1 cup (or one serving) has around 115 milligrams. Olives, on the other hand, feature healthy fats, which are known for their brain-supporting benefits. If you want some extra brain-boosting protein and omega-3s, feel free to top your salad with a serving of fatty-acid-rich fish like wild-caught salmon.

In terms of dressing, Amen prefers to stick with olive oil as the base, as raw olive oil "can be so healing and helpful," when it comes to brain health, he says. Specifically, high-quality olive oil is rich in polyphenols, which are powerful brain-protective antioxidants.

Without further ado, here's our Amen-inspired recipe. Simply toss all of these ingredients in a large bowl and enjoy:

  • 2 to 3 handfuls of leafy greens (kale, spinach, arugula, etc.) 
  • ½ red bell pepper, chopped
  • ½ orange bell pepper, chopped
  • ¼ cucumber, chopped
  • ¼ cup green or black olives
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon vinegar 
  • 1 serving wild-caught salmon or other source of protein
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The takeaway. 

While this salad may not win the award for the most complex recipe out there, it's certainly a winner in terms of brain-loving power. Of course, this is just one expert's take on the recipe, but feel free to tweak it to incorporate your favorite flavors. If you want to dive deeper into Amen's best practices for cognition, check out his daily brain-supporting routine or his full podcast episode here.

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