Earlier this week, scientists from Central Michigan University announced that the antioxidants in tart cherries may help stave off the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. The researchers used a compound with extracts from tart cherries and found that it improved brain function in mice with Alzheimer’s symptoms and reduced symptoms of Huntington’s disease in other lab animals. More research must be done to see how these findings hold up in more rigorous trials, but they are a hopeful first step for cherry-lovers!

In light of this recent research, I created a brain healthy salad recipe featuring tart cherries. (If you can’t find tart cherries at your local store, you can buy them online here.) The recipe also uses kale, a hearty winter green that is a true superfood, packing in 400% of the recommended daily allowance of vitamin A in just one cup, and offering a host of antioxidants. To round out the salad with even more brain-boosting ingredients, I’ve added some toasted walnuts, which are a great source of Omega-3 fatty acids, and olive oil, which is rich in antioxidant and anti-inflammatory polyphenols.

{For more details and references on these and other brain healthy foods, you can find a glossary with links to published studies here.}

RECIPE FOR BRAIN HEALTH: Kale Salad with Tart Cherries & Toasted Walnuts
serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup walnuts, roughly chopped
  • 8 oz. kale leaves
  • 1/2 cup dried tart cherries
  • 2 ounces crumbled goat cheese
  • 3 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/2 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1 Tablespoon Dijon mustard (smooth or grainy)
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

Directions:

  • Put walnuts in a small saute pan and toast over medium low heat, about 5 minutes, until just starting to smell fragrant. Pour into bowl to cool.
  • Prepare the kale by running your thumb and forefinger from the bottom of the stalk to the top to separate the leaves from the stalks. Discard stalks. Rinse leaves well and dry with towels. Roll leaves tightly and slice thinly to create ribbons.
  • Put dried kale ribbons in serving bowl and top with toasted walnuts, cherries, and crumbled goat cheese.
  • Put olive oil, vinegar, mustard, honey, salt, and pepper in a small bowl and whisk well to combine. Pour over salad, toss, and let sit 10-15 minutes before serving.