If you’ve ever thought a bite of chocolate was heaven or smiled when somebody offered you a French fry, then you know food can make you happy. The idea that what we eat can improve our mood is still an emerging and exciting science. Coined as nutritional psychiatry, the theory is that our brain works best when powered by premium fuel, in the form of high-quality foods. Vitamins, minerals and antioxidants found in nutrient-dense foods, researchers have discovered can boost the gut’s healthy bacteria, and act as the main producers of the mood-influencing neurotransmitter serotonin, the neurotransmitter that’s responsible for happiness and well-being.
Enjoying a collection of these rich, nourishing foods is known to feed the brain the right combination of nutrients to operate at the optimal level while combating oxidative stress and reducing cellular damage to brain cells.
It’s important to recognize the effects between a quick brownie-fueled high and the long-term impact and nutrition value food can have for the brain. Researchers have released numerous studies linking consumption of junk food with impaired brain function that can ultimately lead to mood disorders.
Though there is no one specific food that is almighty and healing, improving your cognitive skills, there are food groups that offer a variety of nutritional benefits and should be a part of a regular diet. Below are some healthy brain foods that you should consider adding to your plate at meal times.
The dark, leafy greens such as spinach, kale and chard, nuts such as almonds, pumpkin seeds, and dark chocolate are all sources of magnesium and have been found in studies to reduce your anxiety levels. Magnesium is also known as an essential mineral helping your heart, muscles and immune system function properly.
This holiday classic should be enjoyed all year round, here’s why: Turkey is not only a rich source of protein, skinless turkey is low-GI (maintaining the body’s insulin levels) low in fat, is a source of iron, zinc, potassium and phosphorus. It’s also rich in vitamin B6 and niacin, which are both essential for the body's energy production. Turkey meat contains the amino acid tryptophan, which studies have found can reduce anxiety levels in the body while playing an important role in strengthening the immune system. And, if that wasn’t enough, turkey is a source of selenium, which is essential for thyroid hormone metabolism.
The holy grail for gut health, foods such as Kefir, kimchi, sauerkraut, miso and tempeh all contain probiotics that boost the levels of good gut bacteria. This is essential for feeling good. Your gut literally talks to you, holds your thoughts and feelings, and is a big factor in mood boosting.
Inflammation plays a large role in lowering your mood and triggering sluggish, slow energy levels. Adding turmeric to your cooking aids digestion and of course adds a delicious flavor to your weeknight meals. Sprinkle it on shrimp, add it to a stir-fry, over barbequed vegetables or stir into your favorite casseroles such as chili con carne.
The best fish to eat in the Omega 3 fish family are anchovies, sardines, mackerel, and salmon. The American Heart Association recommends two servings per week of omega 3 fatty acids (fish) to help improve your mood and lower the risk of depression by lessoning inflammation of the brain.
The well-researched and popular Mediterranean diet promotes eating real food – vegetables, fruits, beans, nuts, whole grains, olive-oil, and lean protein. Propelling this diet over the rest are studies associated with improved mood and a reduced risk of depression and cognitive decline.
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Stove Top Time: 30 minutes
wonderbag Time: 2 hours
Paella is a Valencian rice dish originating from the coast of Eastern Spain near the Albufera Lagoon. Your guests will swoon over this super easy, simple and delicious approach to paella.
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 onion, peeled & diced
2 red and/or yellow peppers, seeded and diced
5 cloves garlic, peeled & sliced
4 chicken drumsticks
1 ¼ pounds Andouille sausage
(sliced into medallions) or chorizo (crumbled)
1 ½ cups passata (tomato purée/strained tomatoes)
4 cups chicken stock
2 cups long grain rice
1 cup frozen peas
1 large pinch saffron strands (or a pinch of turmeric)
2 tsp paprika
1 bay leaf
¾ pound raw tiger or king shrimp
½ pound mussels (in shell)
2-3 medium tomatoes, each sliced into 8 pieces
Salt and pepper
Warm 2 Tbsp of olive oil in a 5-6 quart pot over a medium heat. Add the onion, garlic and pepper and sauté for 5 minutes until softened but not browned.
Add the chicken drumsticks and Andouille sausage, season with salt and pepper and sauté until lightly browned on all sides. Add the passata to the pan and cook for 3-4 minutes, stirring just once or twice to allow the passata to thicken.
Stir in the stock, rice, peas, saffron (or turmeric), paprika and bay leaf. Place the shrimp, mussels and tomato pieces on top and let simmer with the lid secured for 20 minutes.
Place the lidded pot into your wonderbag and seal it for 2 hours. Season to taste and serve with lemon slices.