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Eating for Brain Health

Eating for Brain Health

By Jeannette Hurt

Eating well is important for your brain, not just your body. And tops among brain food is salmon, particularly wild salmon, which stars in this recipe for Pumpkin Seed Encrusted Salmon with Blueberry Balsamic Reduction.

Both salmon and pumpkin seeds boast high levels of omega-3 fatty acids, which are essential in brain tissue development and maintenance. Pumpkin seeds also contain zinc, which can enhance memory and thinking skills. And, a recent University of Cincinnati study shows that blueberries, which are rich in both antioxidants and vitamin C, can improve cognitive performance and brain function.



Pumpkin Seed Encrusted Salmon with Blueberry Balsamic Reduction

Makes 4 servings


In this brain-boosting recipe, pumpkin seeds add crunch to tender salmon filets. A blueberry balsamic reduction sauce gives the dish a bit of sweetness and a touch of tartness, along with a pleasing pop of color. 

1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon shallots, minced (about ½ shallot)
1 clove garlic, minced
½ inch peeled, minced fresh ginger (about ¼ teaspoon)
1½ cups fresh or frozen blueberries
¼ cup balsamic vinegar
¼ cup water
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
¼ teaspoon sea salt, divided
1 pound salmon filets (about 4 filets), with skin
1/teaspoon fresh black pepper
2 tablespoons pumpkin seeds, crushed
Olive oil spray or ½ teaspoon extra virgin olive oil


1. Preheat oven to 350°F.

2. While oven is preheating, heat a small pot over high heat for 1 minute. Add olive oil, reduce heat to medium high and heat for 1 more minute. Add shallots, garlic and ginger, and sauté for 2 to 3 minutes until cooked, but not browned, stirring frequently. Add blueberries, balsamic vinegar, water, honey, Dijon mustard and 1/8 teaspoon sea salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and let simmer, stirring frequently for about 10 minutes. Remove from heat.

3. While blueberry sauce is simmering, season salmon filets with remaining 1/8 teaspoon sea salt and black pepper. Pour crushed pumpkin seeds onto a shallow dish. Dip the flesh side (not the skin side) of each salmon filet into the crushed pumpkin seeds to coat.

4. Spray a cookie sheet or shallow baking pan with olive oil or wipe cookie sheet with olive oil. Place salmon filets, skin side down, onto cookie sheet. Place in preheated oven and bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until salmon flakes easily with a fork.

5. Pour ¾ of the blueberry sauce into a blender or food processor. Purée, then combine with remaining sauce.

6. To serve, place 1 salmon filet on each individual plate and top with 2 to 4 tablespoons sauce.

Note: This dish is delicious when served with rice, quinoa or barley. The blueberry sauce can be used to flavor grain-based side dishes, too. 


Per Serving: Calories: 256; Fat: 11 g; Sat. Fat: 2 g; Cholesterol: 62 mg; Sodium: 215 mg; Carbohydrates: 16 g; Sugar: 12 g; Fiber: 2 g; Protein: 24 g


Originally published in the Fall 2016 print edition

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