There is a strong link between food and mental health. It’s so easy (especially in lockdown) to get caught up eating junk food all the time. However, this has long term negative effects on mood and mental health. A way to overcome this is to introduce healthier and tastier foods that are good for both body and mind, and they are all vegan!
When you are stressed or nervous it can often be felt in your stomach as the brain and gut are intricately linked. I’ve picked out 5 foods that have positive effects in dealing with mental health. I have also given tips on how you can use them to make delicious foods and drinks to enjoy throughout the day.
Top 5 Natural Mood Lifters
Chia Seeds – a treat to get you out of the bed
Pineapple – a refreshing pre/post fitness’s workout drink
Kale – a snack for any time of the day
Sauerkraut – a perfect accompaniment side dish for meals (well most meals)
Cashews – also a type of curry that rivals the tikka and korma
Chia seeds are an amazing source of omega-3. Your brain uses omega-3 to build brain and nerve cells, and these fats are essential for learning and memory. There is evidence to show that omega-3 delays age-related mental deterioration and diseases such as Alzheimer’s.
Overnight Chia Pudding Recipe
My sister in law gave me this recipe to make overnight Chia pudding and now I am addicted. Simply add almond milk to chia seeds and place in the fridge. In the morning sprinkle over with your favourite nuts or dried fruits. This snack has everything you need as it provides you with healthy fats, fibre and protein. I add a huge handful of chopped up pistachios to mine and it makes a delightful pudding-style treat to start the day off.
I bloody love pineapples and I am so glad that when researching this exotic fruit, I found out that they help break down mucus and fight bacteria. They contain a powerful enzyme that has also been shown to be useful in recovery following surgery and chemotherapy.
Pineapple Smoothie Recipe
Nothing is more refreshing after a workout session than a pineapple smoothie. All you need to do is cut up your pineapple pieces into chunks and blend in a food processor. You can of course edit to include other fruits or add supplements for a recovery shake. But remember; the pineapple is the star ingredient in this!
Kale is an amazing all-rounder. It has high levels of Vitamin C, A, K, and is a good source of omega-3. One serving of kale has the same amount of Vitamin C as an orange. Kale is crowned a ‘superfood’ and has been known to fight depression and help boost your mood.
Kale Chips Recipe
Eating your greens doesn’t mean just salads. You can make a great snack using kale. My favourite to make is Kale chips. Empty the washed kale into an ovenproof dish, sprinkle with salt and bake for 15 minutes. Even the most amateur of chefs should be able to pull this one out of the bag (I’m sure of it). After 15 minutes you’ll have moreish Kale chips. For an added flavour sensation, experiment with seasoning and spices. The chips will be gone by the evening, but you won’t have to feel guilty about eating the lot.
Sauerkraut is a fantastic source of Vitamin C and K. Fermented foods such as Sauerkraut and Kimchi, which produce live bacteria, are incredible for your gut health. I had to call up my Polish friend and ask her for her sauerkraut recipe. Now, I know you’re thinking; why not just buy a jar from my local supermarket? Well, shop versions are usually pasteurised so you don’t get the same health benefits. Instead, it’s far more beneficial and rewarding to make your own.
Ingredients: cabbage, salt, bay leaf and peppercorns. Ensure that you have a sterilised pot or jar to layer the cabbage in while it ferments.
First, grate or slice the cabbage (you can use either red or white cabbage). Then layer the cabbage into the pot or jar, making sure to salt each layer to help extract water from the cabbage. At the top of the jar, place the bay leaf and peppercorns and wait at least a week for the cabbage to ferment. It’s best to wait as long as possible because it’s during the fermentation process that probiotics are produced, giving sauerkraut most of its health benefits.
What is so great about them? Well for starters cashew nuts are super high in tryptophan, helping increase levels of that happiness-inducing neurotransmitter, serotonin. A handful of these a day can help fight depression. Make sure you get your daily dose, and if you want a more exotic way to eat them, then see my Indian inspired cashew curry recipe below!
Indian Green Bean (and Cauliflower) Cashew Nut Curry Recipe
I have gone back to my roots with this amazing Indian cashew curry. It’s an all-round crowd-pleaser – vegan or not!
- Top and tail 200gms of green beans, and then cut them into thirds (approximately 1 inch long pieces). You can also choose to add cauliflower. To prepare, chop approximately 200 gms into little florets, approximately 1 inch in size.
- In a heavy bottom pan, heat a tablespoon of vegetable, sunflower or coconut oil, before adding a tablespoonful of ginger garlic paste, a finely chopped large onion, and 2 whole green chillies, simply slit lengthwise down the middle, for flavour. Sauté this mixture until the onion turns translucent.
- Add 1 teaspoon of turmeric, a half teaspoon each of coriander and cumin powder, and a 1/4 teaspoon of garam masala powder.
- Stir the spices through with the ingredients in the pan before adding 1 fresh large chopped tomato, along with the green beans and cauliflower florets (if using).
- Add half a cup of water to the pan, to bring the spices and vegetables together. Then, add half a teaspoon of tamarind paste, before putting in a whole can of (preferably light) coconut milk, 150 grams of cashew nuts, and salt and pepper to season.
- Stir and leave to simmer for approximately 10 minutes until the vegetables are cooked and the sauce thickens to a thick curry consistency.
- Serve hot with rice or chapatis.
I have gone back to my roots with this amazing Indian cashew curry that I think is a crowd pleaser and not only for vegans to enjoy!
STAY POSITIVE – HEALTHY MIND = HEALTHY HEART
As well as eating healthier, it’s important to remember that the key thing is to have a POSITIVE ATTITUDE.
I’m sure that, like many of us in lockdown, there are a lot of ups and downs. But having a positive attitude, seeing things positivity and always looking out for good outcomes does have a profound effect on your approach to life.
I hope you’ve been inspired by these recipes! Please share your ideas with the BGL team on healthy foods that you think we should all know about.
Written by David James D’Souza
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