11/23/2014 10:19 EST | Updated 01/23/2015 05:59 EST

Try These Munchies For Mental Magnificence

We've all heard it before: "you are what you eat." For some people that is pizza and beer, and for others it is quinoa and acaii berries. The truth of the matter is an apple a day can keep the doctor away and incorporating certain foods like apples into your diet can literally help you make smarter meal choices - for your body and your mind. Many studies show that consuming brain boosting super foods may assist in warding off brain diseases like dementia, so before you say, "pass the gravy" this holiday season, here are some ways to incorporate foods that benefit your mental wellness.

Choose whole grains over white. The easiest way to cut down on simple carbs is to opt for whole grain rice, breads and pastas. Whole grains are digested more slowly, so glucose also is released more slowly into the bloodstream, keeping you mentally alert longer. Think about it: would you not rather feel fuller longer while improving your focus? For a tasty twist on whole grain bread, sprinkle some extra virgin olive oil, add some fresh rosemary and a pinch or two of Kosher salt and bake. A recipe this easy doesn't have to be written down but the rosemary, a recognized memory booster, will certainly help you remember it.

There's something fishy about omegas. Most people associate omega 3s and 6s with fatty fish, but there are other options that aren't from under the sea. For a brain healthy choice this holiday season, try making a festive stuffing with pumpkin seeds, chia seeds and flax. All are major sources of essential fatty acids. The pumpkin seeds have the added benefit of being a great source of zinc, which can enhance memory. Stuffing is never the same without sage, and the aromatic herb will help improve your focus.

Skip the Yule log; make raw brownies with chocolate avocado frosting. Chocolate contains flavanols, which improve blood flow to the brain and enhance alertness. Avocadoes are loaded with vitamins B6 and E as well as folic acid, and lower blood pressure, a risk factor for cognitive decline. Delicious together, try out this recipe.

Get Nutty this holiday season. When Nat King Cole sang, "Chestnuts roasting on an open fire," he may have known about the benefits of nuts on your brain health. They are great sources of vitamin E, which some studies suggest can help prevent the decline in mental acuity. Raw or roasted doesn't matter so grab a handful and enjoy some by the fire.

Go back to the classics. Just like your playlist wouldn't be the same without your favourite song, tomatoes and broccoli should be staples in your meal any time of the year. Broccoli is a great source of Vitamin K, contributing to healthy and strong cognition, while tomatoes' antioxidant properties can prevent neurological damage often associated with dementia and Alzheimer's. As a fun holiday side dish, try making a broccoli slaw with cherry tomatoes and dried cranberries. The green and red will also help decorate your table.

It's not too early to start that resolution. The holiday season is often filled with over indulging on starchy favourites like potatoes, or yams. Try and resist the urge, after all it could be damaging in the long run. Some studies have shown a possible link between carbohydrate intake and Alzheimer's. Don't wait for January 1st; get a head start on your resolutions by limiting your carbs this season.

Falling into the polite pattern of eating whatever is put in front of you at your family's celebration can be regrettable. Give yourself the gift of health this holiday and make smart choices that satisfy your appetite and provide long term benefit for your body's hungriest organ!

For great tasting recipes that promote brain health, like celeb chef Mark McEwan's delicious turkey kofta salad, visit


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