Can Foods Make You Happy?

Untitled-1If you are expecting to read about comfort foods in this post, you will be sadly disappointed.  I know a lot of us turn to these foods when we are sad or depressed, but while they may occupy you temporarily, I have never had them make me feel better in the long run.  Comfort foods such as pizza, salty chips, and pastries can actually result in increased cravings, lethargy, and irritability.  The truth is that our nutrition is just as important for our mental health as our physical health.  Foods are honestly one of the safest and most powerful forms of medicine we can use!  So this post is about the 5 of the best nutrients and/or foods to eat to boost your mental health and mood.

  1. FOODS RICH IN B VITAMINS: A link has been found between vitamin B deficiency and depression.  B vitamins have been found to improve mood by improving the function of neurotransmitters (the signaling system of the brain).  Foods that are rich in B vitamins include green, leafy vegetables, fish, poultry/meat, and eggs.
  2. MAGNESIUM RICH FOODS: Magnesium is a mineral that is related to the production of serotonin.  Serotonin is the a brain chemical that allows us to feel positive and happy.  Magnesium is also important for overall energy levels.  Foods that are rich in magnesium include beans, broccoli, nuts, seeds, and spinach.
  3. FOODS RICH IN OMEGA-3 FATTY ACIDS: Omega-3 fatty acids (especially one called DHA)  are important for membrane function and nerve function in the brain.  Studies have found that supplementation of omega-3 fatty acids increases brain tissue (grey matter) in areas of the brain associated with mood (amygdala, hippocampus, cingulate).  Depression is associated with a decrease in amount of brain tissue (grey matter) in these areas.  Foods that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids include grass-fed meats, fish, seafood, walnuts, winter squash, and flax.
  4. COMPLEX CARBOHYDRATES: Complex carbohydrates do have nutritional value.  I do not advocate the consumption of wheat because many have gluten intolerance but ancient grains and gluten-free oats are a great addition to a person’s diet.  Ancient grains include quinoa, millet, teff, amaranth, and spelt.  These grains increase serotonin levels and stabilize blood sugar and mood.  The result is better concentration, stable energy levels, stable moods, and reduced cravings.  Personally, I most often use sweet potatoes or winter squash for my complex carbohydrates.
  5. L-THEANINE: L- theanine in an amino acid found in green tea.  It is important because is improves focus and calms the body by stimulating alpha brain waves in the body.

With the above being said, you may be wondering about supplements.  Personally and what I tell my clients is that we should be trying to get the majority of nutrients from quality, whole foods.  We need to change our focus from only eating what tastes good to what tastes good and supports the health and wellness of our bodies.  I also realize that life is busy and there are some that will never eat the fruits and vegetables that they should.  Generally, I recommend that my clients take a quality multi-vitamin and fish oil.  For my clients that do not eat enough fruits and vegetables, I often recommend a red and green powder to get those nutrients and for my clients that do not get enough fiber, I often recommend a fiber supplement.  It is interesting to note that a lot of the foods that are listed above are listed in more than one category.  So, even if you consume only a half of the foods recommended, you will be on your way to helping support your mental and physical health!  Nutrition is something that we live with 24 hours a day.  You cannot out train a poor diet!!!  If you are anything like me, you will notice that many of the things that you could get away with eating at 20 you can no longer get away with as you approach 40!

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My Favorite Autumn Recipes

Autumn is my favorite time of year.  I love the cooler weather, less humidity, and less pollen.  Fall makes me think of comfort foods, apples, soups, and pumpkin.  But the recipes I make also have to be easy, gluten-free, low in starches and sugars, and kid friendly.  So, below are some of my favorite recipes for fall.  I hope you enjoy!!!

SLOW COOKER APPLES FOR DESSERT (OR EVEN BREAKFAST)

Ingredients:

  • 6 apples chopped (no need to peel)
  • 1/2 cup shredded coconut (optional)
  • 1/2 cup coconut milk
  • 1/2 cup chopped raisins or dates
  • 1 Tablespoon cinnamon
  • 1 Tablespoon vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt

Directions:

  1. add all ingredients to crock-pot
  2. cook on low for 4 hours or until tender or cook on high for 1.5 hours

SPICY CROCKPOT CHILI

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound ground turkey, chicken, or bison
  • 1 onion diced
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 15 ounces low sodium tomato sauce
  • 1 can rotel diced tomato
  • 1 can of low sodium diced tomatoes
  • 2 Tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 Tablespoon cumin
  • optional 2 chopped chipotle peppers

Directions:

  1. Brown meat
  2. Toss all ingredients into crockpot
  3. Cook on low for 6 hours or high for 4

TURKEY AND VEGGIE SOUP

Ingredients:

  • 2 pound boneless turkey breast or tenderloin or cutlets (you can also substitute boneless, skinless chicken breast)
  • 8 ounces pre-chopped fresh or frozen celery, onion, and bell pepper mix
  • 3 cloves of garlic chopped
  • 3 cups of chopped broccoli florets
  • 1 pound asparagus, cut into one inch pieces
  • 3 cups low sodium chicken broth
  • 3 cups of water
  • 8 ounces fresh baby spinach
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese

Directions:

  1. Cut the meat into bite size pieces
  2. Add all the ingredients except spinach, black pepper, and cheese to crockpot
  3. cook on low for 6 hours or high for 4 hours or until meat is cooked and broccoli is tender
  4. add spinach and black pepper and cook until spinach wilts
  5. top each serving with 1 tablespoon cheese

PUMPKIN CHILI

Ingredients:

  • 1.5 pounds chicken breast chopped into bite size pieces
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 water
  • 15 ounce can pumpkin puree
  • 14.5 ounce can low sodium chicken broth
  • 14.5 ounce can fire-roasted diced tomatoes with garlic, drained

Directions

  1. add all ingredients to slow cooker and mix well
  2. cook on low for 6 hours or high for 4 hours or until meat is cooked
If you need beans in your chili, you can add 1 can of beans rinsed and drained.
CHICKEN DINNER AND VEGETABLES
Ingredients:
  • 6 boneless, skinless chicken breast
  • 1/2 cup low sodium chicken breast
  • 2 medium tomatoes chopped
  • 1 onion chopped
  • 2 cloves minced garlic
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon thyme
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 cups broccoli florets

Directions:

  1. Place chicken in crockpot
  2. Top with tomatoes, onion, garlic
  3. Mix together remaining ingredients except broccoli and pour over chicken
  4. Cook on low for 7 hours
  5. Add broccoli and cook for 45-60 minutes or until tender
  6. Remove bay leaf and serve

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