A delicious, versatile protein, salmon is a potent anti-inflammatory food, thanks to its high omega-3 content. Of all fish, salmon contains the highest amount of omega-3 fatty acids.
Regular consumption of salmon has been linked with myriad health benefits: keeping bones and joints strong, reducing risk of heart disease, contributing to glowing, more elastic skin, promoting brain health and even as a mood enhancer (it can have an anti-depressant effect).
In addition to omega-3, salmon—specifically wild-caught salmon—is also a rich source of Vitamin B-12 (essential for brain health), Vitamin D and selenium (nutrients that support thyroid health), as well as a good source of iodine, Vitamin B-6 and choline.
One caveat: source matters. I encourage you to consume wild-caught Alaskan salmon (the best varieties include Coho, Sockeye, Pink and Chinook) because they contain minimal toxins. Pass on farm-raised salmon, which are fed grains (corn and soy), ground up fish, antibiotics and injected with artificial coloring. Farm-raised salmon also contains higher levels of toxins, such as cancer-causing PCB’s and flame retardant additives, like as polybrominated dipheny ether (PBDE), an endocrine disruptor.
Fish isn’t called “brain food” for nothing! Salmon is a rich source of protein and healthy fats that are precursors to the neurotransmitters (brain chemicals) dopamine and acetylcholine. Pairing salmon with green tea doubles its brain-enhancing capabilities. The polyphenols in green tea can help make dopamine available where it is needed, and regular consumption of green tea can help enhance insulin sensitivity, which helps the brain receive a steady supply of glucose for energy—and side bonus…can also help with weight management.
What are dopamine and acetylcholine? And why do they matter?
Dopamine is the brain chemical that fuels motivation, drive and focus. It also affects our emotions and how we experience pleasure and reward. Because dopamine affects whether we feel full after a meal and our ability to manage cravings, it plays an important role in weight management. Low dopamine levels will not only leave you feeling sluggish and irritable, your metabolism will slow down, and you will gain weight—no matter how much you exercise and how little you eat. When dopamine is balanced, you can easily eat until you feel full, then get up and walk away from the table. If dopamine levels are low, however, you might find yourself mowing through a couple pints of ice cream or a box of cookies, yet still not feel physically—or emotionally—full.
Acetylcholine, on the other hand, controls your brain speed, and it regulates your ability to process sensory input and access stored info. Acetylcholine deficiency can manifest as forgetfulness, issues with memory and brain fog. Maintaining optimal acetylcholine levels requires adequate consumption of healthy fats. Studies show that green tea polyphenols can exert a neuroprotective affect. For example, green tea polyphenols can also help inhibit the activity of an enzyme called acetylcholinesterase, which can lower acetylcholine. (Alzheimer’s is characterized by lowered levels of acetylcholine).
Brain chemistry talk aside…this dish is easy to make, flavorful and delicious!
Green Tea-Infused Salmon
1-1/2 to 2 pounds wild-caught salmon fillets, ideally Alaskan
2 teaspoons pure sesame oil
2 teaspoons coconut vinegar
*I recommend the brand Coconut Secret
1 cup brewed green tea, ideally, loose leaf
(*If using a tea bag, I recommend Yogi brand green tea)
1 teaspoon raw honey
1/2 cup finely chopped shallots
2 to 3 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon ground chipotle
1 teaspoon Spanish (smoked) paprika
Preheat oven to 375°F.
Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl, whisking until well combined.
Place salmon in a baking dish (I like to use a 13×9 Pyrex glass baking dish or a 10” Pyrex glass pie plate) and pour marinade over fish.
Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate marinated salmon for apx. 1 hour. OR…you can bake immediately.
Bake on the center rack, uncovered, for 12-15 minutes, or until salmon is opaque. Serve immediately.