Mood Lifting Food

By: Soha Darwish

Fighting depression is achievable and does not have to entail a list of medications which can lead to serious irreversible side effects. It’s a simple holistic process; first shift your mindset, increase your physical activity during the day, then comes what you eat which plays a vital role in how you feel – after all ‘you are what you eat!’ 

This month’s topic ‘Fighting Depression’ made me delve into several studies on mood lifting foods and I can assure you it’s not a myth, it’s simply chemistry.

To boost your feel-good hormones, alongside plenty of water intake, fruits and vegetables; add these mood-boosting foods to your weekly meal plan.

They contain certain high levels of selenium, omega 3, tryptophan, vitamin B6 …etc. which all help in raising the mood-lifting hormone serotonin, also aid better sleep and control anxiety.  

Here are some of those favourable ingredients with their key nutrient:

1) Brazil nuts, mineral selenium.

2) Salmon (oily fish), omega 3 – fatty acids.

3) Oats (wholegrains), low glycaemic index foods + mineral selenium.

4) Bananas, amino acid tryptophan as well as vitamins A, B6 and C, fibre and potassium.

5) Chickpeas & Lentils, Low GI (High GI might perk you up at first, but they have actually been proven to deplete your mood).

6) Spinach (Dark green leaves), Folate, vitamins B3, B6 and B12.

7) Dark Chocolate (70% cocoa or more), a square of dark chocolate causes the brain to release endorphins and boost serotonin levels.

I am suggesting here a few recipes packed with of those mood-lifting ingredients, trying to include several of them in one recipe to maximise the desired effect!

A Hearty Porridge Bowl:

A steaming hot porridge bowl is a familiar companion throughout our life; it just keeps getting more interesting and trendier. Especially its cold version where you soak the oats overnight in cold milk in the fridge and add your toppings in the morning .. still hearty yet refreshing!

➢ Shopping Basket: 

1 cup of porridge oats – 2 cups of milk or any nut milk – ¼ cup of water– 1 to 2 tbsp honey or maple syrup – pinch of salt – 50g Brazil nuts, chopped– dark chocolate chips, unsweetened – pinch of salt.

  • 1. Put the oats in a heavy-base saucepan, add the milk and water, then boil for 8 – 10 mins.
  • 2. Take it off the stove and stir in the honey or maple syrup and let it cool down from hot to warm.
  • 3. Top it with chopped Brazilian nuts and the dark chocolate chips. 
  • 4. If you prefer it cold; just add the honey with the toppings and stir all in when serving!

Spinach & Chickpeas Stew:

Sharing a winter staple recipe at our household and oh, the joy and comfort it brings are just immeasurable! Now I understand the science behind it, I honestly didn’t know …a must try!

➢ Shopping Basket: 

400g frozen spinach, whole or chopped – 1 medium onion, finely chopped or grated – 2 garlic cloves, minced – 1 chickpeas can, drained – 4 tbsp of tomato paste or passata – 2 handfuls fresh dill, finely chopped – 3 tbsp olive oil – salt& pepper.

  • 1. Start by sautéing onion and garlic in olive oil until light golden colour, in a medium-sized saucepan.
  • 2. Add the frozen spinach and stir-fry with the chopped dill, until thawed. You can cover with a lid for 1 minute to speed up the melting process. 
  • 3. When water dries out, add tomato paste then sauté for another minute. Cover withwater and simmer for about 10 minutes.
  • 4. Stir in the drained chickpeas and simmer for an extra 2 minutes. 
  • 5. Transfer into an oven clay pot, drizzle with olive oil, then bake in a preheated oven 200  ̊ for about 20 to 30 minutes, until sauce is thickened and surface is glisteningbrown. An important step that transforms this simple vegetable stew which can be served with rice or even quinoa (a mood-lifting ingredient).

Dijon and Worcestershire Sauce Salmon:

Can’t remember how I came up with this brilliant combination of flavours! Certainly,tanginess always goes well with fish; a simple recipe with big flavours.

➢ Shopping Basket: 

2 skinless & boneless salmon fillets (medium size) – 2 garlic cloves, minced – 2 tsp Dijon mustard – 4 tbsp Worcestershire sauce – 3 tbsp olive oil – 2 tbsp lemon juice – salt & pepper.

  • 1. In an oven dish drizzle half of the olive oil and lay the salmon fillets.
  • 2. Mix all remaining ingredients well and rub it equally over the salmon fillets. You can leave for about 30 minutes for a quick marinade.
  • 3. Cook in a preheated oven 180 ̊ for about 20 minutes; don’t overcook this dedicate fish – it has to remain flaky, soft and easy to cut with a simple fork.