My DNA test revealed that I have the APOE4 gene, aka “the Alzheimer’s gene” with a small risk for this debilitating disease, so I am always on the lookout for ways to improve cognitive health. My best defense against cognitive decline is staying active and mobile, but the foods I eat are super important to keep brain cells healthy, growing, protected and strong.
I created my 5-ingredient brain boosting brownie recipe with brain health in mind. But I don’t want any old brownie recipe with refined sugar, too much fat and “dry” carbs that linger on to the hips of a 40+ woman, like me. I have modified the brownie to keep the muffin top away and satisfy any sugar cravings without going into the danger zone of highly palatable foods leading to mindless eating and more intense sugar cravings.
WHAT’S INSIDE THESE BROWNIES?
These brain boosting brownies contain 3 super foods that boost brain health – nuts, chocolate and coconut oil. Almonds from the almond butter (make sure the label says 100% almonds) contain monounsaturated fatty acids, phenols, flavonoids, phenolic acids, riboflavin and L-carnitine which are believed to lower the risk of neurlogical diseases like Alzheimer’s among many other benefits to the heart.
Walnuts are great for the brain, because it is rich in vitamin K to support brain cell growth and function.
I added cacao powder, because it’s rich in magnesium, iron, calcium, manganese, magnesium, copper, potassium and zinc. The caffeine in cacao beans are a stimulant that can improve mental alertness, focus and concentration. Chocolate is also known to improve cognitive performance in spatial memory.
- “Epicatechin, the main flavonoid in cacao, improves various aspects of cognition, preserve cognitive abilities during aging, and even puts you in a better mood (5).”
Research is still ongoing, but many believe there is enough evidence to show that the medium chain triglycerides found in coconut oil can lead to improvements in brain function in patients with mild forms of Alzheimer’s.
There’s enough fat in these brownies to keep energy levels up, so I don’t want to add any more from butters and oils. An excess of fats or carbs in my body will lead me to store it…mostly in the form of belly fat. My solution: pumpkin! Pumpkin gives these brownies the creamy texture that butter would, but without the added fat and calories. Plus, there is a ton of fiber that sweeps out cholesterol and keeps me satiated.
The extra benefits I get from this 5-ingredient brain boosting brownie recipe is not only fat burning, but youth preserving skin protection. Pumpkin is rich in beta carotene (what makes it orange in color) that protects my skin from the sun’s harmful UV radiation. The extra vitamin C and E in pumpkin combat free radicals that damage skin while keeping my skin firmer and slowing down wrinkle formation.
The key is to steam fresh pumpkin or buy unsweetened canned pumpkin. Canned pumpkin should only have one ingredient: Pumpkin!
I change the sweeteners I use in this recipe according to what I can find wherever I am in the world. Lately in Spain I have been using xylitol, but I had great success in Hong Kong with monk fruit sugar. I prefer sugar alcohols to coconut palm sugar, fruit, honey or maple syrup to avoid any spikes in insulin, keep calories low and maintain minimal, yet satisfying, sweetness. Any sugar, no matter if it’s a sugar alcohol or not should be taken in moderation. My objective is to train my brain to drop sugar cravings and be satisfied with minimal sweetness.
2 cups pumpkin puree, homemade (steamed) or canned (unsweetened)
1 cup unsweetened salted almond butter (add a dash of salt if unsalted)
8 tablespoons unsweetened cacao powder
1 tablespoon monk fruit sugar (xylitol or erythritol, adjust quantity accordingly if pumpkin is not sweet)
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
coconut oil for pan
- Preheat oven to 175C (350F).
- Grease square or rectangle cake pan with oil.
- Beat first four ingredients in a bowl with mixer.
- Stir in walnuts
- Pour batter into the greased pan and top with sprinkle of mini dairy free dark chocolate chips if you want an extra touch of sweetness.
- Bake in oven for 30 – 40 minutes. Don’t worry if it’s not fully cooked through. Keep it more moist than dry.
- Cut into 16 pieces after it cools down.
- Store the brownies in an airtight container in the fridge or freeze them up to 6 weeks.
Check out the difference in macronutrient content (and sugars!) between the Hack My Age brownies and a traditional brownie recipe. Less is more!