When Dr. Mayer, best-selling author of The Mind-Gut Connection, asked if we would create some tantalizing recipes and delicious science communication (aka. Sci Comm) for his newest book The Gut-Immune Connection: How Understanding Why We’re Sick Can Help Us Regain Our Health - it was literally a no-brainer. We are incredibly proud of this collaboration between NeuroTrition and Dr. Mayer, a gastroenterologist at UCLA’s Center for Neurobiology of Stress and Resilience, and distinguished researcher at UCLA’s brain gut microbiome research centre. I feel so humbled and honoured to be able to share, through this book, what we do in the Sci Comm space - that is, translating neuroscience and nutrition research into delicious brain food recipes - with people everywhere.
In celebration of The Gut-Immune Connection’s launch on June 8th, 2021, we decided to share just one of the recipes NeuroTrition created for the book with you: the Neuro-Nicoise Salad. This recipe is our evidence-based elevation of the Nicoise salad, and in NeuroTrition fashion, we hacked the classic version to make it brain, gut and immune health-loving. Our version, lovingly created for The Gut-Immune Connection, is chock-full of 1) fibre, 2) healthy fats, and 3) polyphenols (antioxidant plant compounds that are anti-inflammatory). These are the three key things Dr. Mayer asked us to load all of our recipes for his book with. We invite you to be the first to enjoy one of my personal favourite salads - with a brainy twist!
And be sure to check out his latest book for the other recipes we developed for it. Plus so much more Sci Comm and valuable need-to-know information about the gut microbiome, the gut based immune system, and how they are at the centre of the current epidemic of chronic non-infectious diseases.
Enjoy a little excerpt below from The Gut-Immune Connection, including the Neuro-Nicoise recipe and the Sci Comm side:
The noble Nicoise salad is so delicious, and is a wonderful example of a gut nourishing meal. We’ve created a little play on the classic version to make it a neuro-supporting one too, and give a nod to the microbiome-gut-brain axis.
It has the classic Nicoise ingredients: green beans, cherry tomatoes and olives (all good sources of fiber and polyphenols). However, while the classic version uses white potatoes and lettuce, this one uses sweet potatoes and arugula so that it is even higher in fiber and polyphenolic compounds (plus, the sweetness of the sweet potato and the pepperiness of the arugula lend this version such a nice flavour profile). Additional polyphenolic compounds are found in the parsley, extra virgin olive oil and garlic. Two other ingredients that are rich in polyphenols are mustard and apple cider vinegar. Mustard is high in gallic acid, caffeic acid, quercetin and kaempferol, which help scavenge free radicals and chelate heavy metals (mustard is definitely our favourite condiment, and this is why!). With apple cider vinegar, the raw version is recommended because it includes the “mother,” a colony of beneficial probiotic bacteria that help support the gut and immune system.
In terms of omega-3 fats, this salad is loaded with them, too. Sardines provide a hefty dose of Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA; 0.74 grams DHA and 0.45 grams EPA per 3 ounce serving), and eggs contain alpha-linolenic acid (ALA; 20- 30% of your daily requirement). Flaxseed oil is a wonderful example of a high ALA oil. And unrefined avocado oil, while predominately a monounsaturated omega-9 fatty acid called oleic acid (the same one found in olive oil), does have a higher amount of polyunsaturated fats than olive oil (2 grams vs. 1.5 grams in 1 tablespoon).
- 1 medium sweet potato (approximately 300-400g) skin on, sliced into 1cm thick rounds*
- 1 Tbsp avocado oil
- 1/4 tsp sea salt
- 4 free range eggs, medium or hard boiled, sliced in half**
- 2 cups (approximately 200-250g) green beans, blanched***
- 1 cup cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
- 1/2 cup nicoise olives, pitted, sliced in half ****
- 2 cans of sardines, drained ***** ******
- 4 cups arugula*******
- 1/2 Tbsp grainy mustard
- 1 1/2 Tbsp raw apple cider vinegar
- 2 Tbsp lemon juice
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 1/4 cup parsley, stems removed and chopped very small
- 1/4 tsp sea salt
- 1/4 tsp black pepper
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 2 Tbsp cold pressed flaxseed oil
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In a medium sized bowl, toss together sweet potato, avocado oil and salt then transfer to the prepared baking sheet. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until the sweet potato is tender when poked with a fork.
- While the potatoes are roasting, make the salad dressing. Add the mustard, vinegar, lemon juice, garlic, parsley sea salt and pepper to a medium sized bowl and whisk together. Continue to whisk as you slowly drizzle in olive and flaxseed oil until all the dressing ingredients are combined.
- In a large bowl, combine potatoes, green beans, tomatoes, olives and arugula, then toss with desired amount of dressing. Plate the salad by dividing it evenly amongst 4 bowls, then top each serving with 1/4 of the sardines (using 1/2 a can of sardines per person) and 2 halves of a boiled egg (1 egg per person). Garnish with black pepper if desired.
*Leaving the skin of the sweet potato on increases fibre content, but be mindful to wash the sweet potato before using.
**Method to boil eggs: Place eggs in a medium sized pot. Pour cool water over the eggs until they are fully submerged and under 1 inch of water, and add 1 Tbsp of vinegar to the pot (adding vinegar to the water makes peeling the shell from the cooked egg easier.) Bring the water to a rolling boil. Once the water is boiling, remove from heat and cover with the lid. Let eggs sit in hot water for 6 minutes for medium boiled eggs, or 12 minutes for hard boiled eggs. Gently strain eggs from the hot water and transfer to a bowl of ice water (this stops the eggs from continuing to cook). Let eggs fully cool before peeling.
***Method to blanch beans: Fill a medium sized pot with water and bring to a boil. Add green beans to the water and blanch for 2-3 minutes until bright green and just tender to touch but still crunchy. Strain from water and let cool before chopping the beans in half.
****Traditionally, nicoise olives are used, however any kind of olive can be used in place of nicoise. Kalamata or green olives are a good substitute.
*****Choose sardines that are in either olive oil or spring water.
******If you do not like sardines, choose another fish high in omega 3’s such as wild salmon or albacore tuna (canned or fresh).
*******Spinach or romaine lettuce can be used to substitute arugula.
If ingredients are stored separately (ie. blanched green beans, baked sweet potato), each will keep in the fridge for 4 days stored in an airtight container. Once the salad is prepared and mixed together, it is best enjoyed immediately.
The dressing will keep fresh in the fridge for up to 7 days stored in an airtight container.