by Lynn Burshtein
A unique cookbook that aims to boost brain health plus slow down memory loss and cognitive decline with healthy and delicious recipes also provides educational tidbits about this critical area of wellness.
The Brain Boosting Diet: Feed Your Memory, (Whitecap Books, Ltd.) co-authored by Norene Gilletz and Dr. Edward Wein in December 2019 (both authors passed away in 2020) focuses on the relationship between nutrients and foods and cognitive function and is presented in a fun and accessible manner.
Gilletz was a best-selling cookbook author who launched her career with Second Helpings Please in the late 1960s. A pioneer in her field, she had a reputation early on for her tasty but easy-to-follow recipe books that made use of modern appliances such as the Cuisinart (Pleasures of Your Processor) and microwave ovens (Microways). Dubbed by Toronto food columnist Rose Reisman as the “Kosher Julia Child of Canada,” Gilletz had a cult-like following among her fans and was a mentor to thousands of chefs and foodies. Later in her career, she focused on the use of foods to promote health and fight illnesses, most notably in her cookbooks, Norene’s Healthy Kitchen: Eat Your Way to Good Health; the Low Iodine Diet; and this, her last release, the Brain Boosting Diet.
Each of the approximately 200 recipes in this curated collection of brain-boosting recipes are paired with succinct scientific tidbits from co-author Wein, a leading biochemical expert and food research scientist who was also well-respected in his field. In the first part of the cookbook, “The Science Behind the Recipes” Wein provides an analysis about the risk factors contributing to Alzheimer disease and the ways to mitigate risks of cognitive decline with the use of nutrients into one’s diet, and other positive lifestyle changes (e.g., eliminating sugar, carbohydrates and processed foods).
In the second part of the book, “Recipes to Feed Your Memory,” Gilletz incorporates the research into accessible and tantalizing recipes. Alongside the instructions for the colorful “Mix and Match Smoothie Bowls”, there is brief commentary (referred to as “Dr. Ed Says”) that exalts the benefits of B12, probiotics and Vitamin D found in yogurt and the healthful properties of brain minerals, including magnesium and zinc in nut toppings. As an aside to the crowd-pleasing Portobello Mushroom Pizza (recipe), Dr. Ed notes that “mushrooms are one of the few sources of the powerful antioxidants glutathione and ergothioneine…. [and] also have reasonable amounts of important brain nutrients.” The book is organized sensibly, providing readers with a “shopping cart” list of supplements and ingredients to have on hand.
The recipes included in the book will appeal to a cross-section of foodies with a variety of dietary preferences and restrictions. Recipes include vegetarian, dairy-free, kosher, Mediterranean and gluten-free options, among others. And the serious subject-matter and scientific commentary in Brain Boosting Diet does not make the book any less a joy to pore over. The eye-catching photography and family-friendly appeal is trademark Gilletz and should be a welcome and important addition to any collection of healthy-eating cookbooks.
Editor’s note: This book review is not intended as a substitute for medical advice. Readers should consult with their medical practitioners regarding their health and diet.
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Lynn Burshtein is a Toronto-based writer and regular contributor to Travel to Wellness