Food for mood
By Leslie McGrath Taylor
From Mother Earth Living
Considered the “father of modern medicine,” the ancient Greek physician Hippocrates advised, “Let food be thy medicine.” Before we had medicine, humans collected foods – often berries, bark and herbs – and made teas, poultices and potions to build strength and restore health. (And it was a piece of moldy bread that led to the discovery of penicillin.)
Our mood states are part of overall health, and their influence on the body’s functioning-the ability to fight off infection, to regenerate cells, to recuperate from illness and accidents-is profound. Nutritious food, carefully prepared and mindfully eaten, could be our natural Prozac.
Anxiety and stress
Stress-related complaints – sleep disorders, headaches, gastrointestinal problems and heart disease, among others – are the No. 1 reason Americans visit doctors. Foods high in iron and B vitamins, such as avocados, whole grains and soy, help the body replenish what stress depletes.
Western medicine attributes depression to a disruption in the flow of certain brain chemicals (serotonin, norepinephrine and dopamine) which can be brought on by an event, genetic factors or some combination of the two.
Many Eastern medicinal traditions say depression is centered in the liver, which influences digestive and general health. Eating liver-supportive foods such as onions, garlic, cruciferous vegetables and herbs such as turmeric and dandelion can help keep the liver functioning well. Foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which stimulate antidepressive brain chemicals, can naturally improve mood.
During a period of grief, people can experience wide-ranging effects, from sleeplessness to oversleeping, lack of appetite to overeating, depression to intense agitation. Eating healthy comfort foods and high-quality proteins such as lean meats and soy products helps ensure physical health when you’re grieving.
Summer tempeh stir-fry with blueberries and lemon
This light, fresh dish packs a nutritional wallop. Flax seeds and tempeh are high in omega-3 fatty acids, which can reduce symptoms of depression, among many other health benefits. Blueberries teem with antioxidants, and their fruity acid tones balance the tempeh’s earthiness.
Yields 2 to 3 servings
1/3 cup reduced-sodium soy sauce
4 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon honey
2 tablespoons peanut or grapeseed oil
1 block tempeh (8 ounces), cut into 1/2-inch slices
2 to 3 green onions, rinsed and cut into 1/4-inch lengths (white and green parts)
2 cups peas, fresh or thawed
1 cup fresh blueberries, rinsed
1 tablespoon flax seed, ground
1/2 lemon, zested
Combine all sauce ingredients in a bowl and whisk.
Place a wok or large frying pan over highest heat, add oil and swirl to coat bottom. When oil begins to shimmer, add tempeh, tossing regularly for 4 minutes until it begins to brown. Add onions and peas. Toss 2 minutes, then add sauce. Toss for another minute and turn off heat. Just before serving, gently stir in blueberries.
Serve stir-fry alone or atop whole-wheat pasta or brown rice. Sprinkle with ground flax seed and lemon zest.
Open face TLT with chunky guacamole
A filling vegetarian meal with bright summer flavors, this comforting tofu sandwich is loaded with stress-fighting B vitamins. The healthy fat in avocado combined with the gentle taste of orange makes a healthy substitute for mayo. The vitamin C in the tomato and avocado enhances the body’s absorption of the iron in the tofu.
Makes 2 sandwiches
1 ripe avocado
1/2 cup orange juice or juice of half of an orange
Salt and pepper
1 square baked tofu*, sliced through the middle to form two, 1/2-inch-thick slices
1 medium tomato, sliced thin
2 to 4 pieces hearty whole-wheat bread
2 leaves romaine lettuce, rinsed and torn in half
Prepare guacamole: Remove pit from avocado and scoop out flesh. Add half the orange juice (the acid in the juice will keep the avocado from browning) and mash with a fork, leaving a bit chunky. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.
Prepare tofu: Place sliced tofu in a small frying pan over medium heat for 2 to 3 minutes, then flip and continue heating for another 2 minutes. In the meantime, slice tomato and season with salt and pepper. Lightly toast bread.
Assemble: Spread a generous amount of guacamole on the toast, then layer tofu, tomato and romaine.
*You will find a variety of baked tofu at most health-food stores. It has a dense texture, like cheese, and comes in many flavors (such as barbecue, teriyaki and Thai). Choose your favorite or make it yourself: Buy firm tofu, press liquid out onto dry paper towels and slice. Marinate slices in your favorite sauce for at least half an hour. Then bake at 300 degrees for about 45 minutes.
Few foods are more comforting than ice cream. Try this healthy nondairy alternative packed with magnesium and potassium. It’s inexpensive and a cinch to make.
2 ripe bananas
4 teaspoons powdered organic cocoa, unsweetened
1 teaspoon honey or maple syrup, optional
Peel bananas and break into large pieces. Drop into a blender, followed by cocoa powder and sweetener. Cover and pulse until smooth.
Scrape mixture into a freezer-safe container with a lid. Freeze at least 2 hours. The mixture will have a scoopable texture similar to ice cream.
Excerpted from Natural Home, a national magazine that provides practical ideas, inspiring examples and expert opinions about healthy, ecologically sound, beautiful homes. To sread more articles from Natural Home, please visit www.NaturalHomeMagazine.com or call 800-340-5846 to subscribe. Copyright 2009 by Ogden Publications Inc.
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