KITCHEN DIVA: Look at foods to feed body, brain

Learn about a balanced diet that helps the body and brain including fish, legumes, nuts, seeds, greens and vegetables

The unrelenting barrage of bad news and stress can have a negative impact on both your body and your mind. Need a boost? According to recent research, some foods have the same effect on your body as taking a prescription mood-enhancing drug.

Do you reach for food or caffeine during the day in an attempt to feel calm, or find a jolt of energy or a moment of bliss? But above all else, do you just really crave a better mood?

While good habits such as eating breakfast every morning and regular meals and snacks throughout the day form the cornerstone of an energized outlook, science has increasingly revealed the vital ways in which our food impacts our mood. And it may surprise you that some of the best weapons to help cure crankiness and boost energy can be found in your local grocery store.

The following foods will help your mood in two ways. First, they deliver several key nutrients that play a vital role in supporting brain chemistry to reduce the risk of depression and improve the quality of your sleep. And they do something equally important as well: Powerful combinations of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants help you build up your energy and capacity to manage life from your body’s deepest levels (your cells’ metabolic and energy pathways). This is what we should all aim for, rather than a quick burst of stimulation from a sugar or caffeine fix that ultimately leaves you feeling cranky or tired.

Try my Good Mood Salad recipe, and make these feel-good foods a part of a delicious new happiness and health routine.

Dark Chocolate: Not only delicious, dark chocolate is high in magnesium, a mineral that calms your muscles and reduces anxiety. It also contains tryptophan, which helps reduce symptoms of depression.

Salmon and Walnuts: Both are packed with omega-3s, which help fight off depression and mood swings. Bonus: They also can help improve your memory and focus.

Spinach: This leafy green is stocked with folic acid, a B-vitamin that has been found to boost your mood. It’s also an antioxidant that works to protect your brain cells from free radicals, which can lead to low energy and mood swings.

Chicken: The white meat contains B12, a vitamin that helps to keep you calm. Low B12 levels can make you moody and tired.

Tofu: Tofu helps your muscles relax, causing a calming effect on your body.

Avocado: Contains serotonin, a feel-good neurotransmitter. It’s also really good for your skin, hair and nails.

Greek Yogurt: Not only is it a wonder food, the probiotics in Greek yogurt help boost your mood and immune system.

Green Tea: It’s full of theanine, an antioxidant that acts as a calming agent.

Berries: Blueberries, strawberries and raspberries contain anthocyanidins and anthocyanins — nutrients that help reduce stress and depression.

Chia and Flax Seeds: Chia and flax have about the same amount of protein per ounce, at 4.4 grams and 5.1 grams, respectively. However, chia is one of only a few plant sources that is a complete protein, meaning that it contains all of the needed protein-forming amino acids.

Both of these seeds are a great way to get more fiber in your diet. Chia is one of the richest sources of soluble fiber, which takes longer to get through your digestive tract, adding bulk to stool and slowing glucose absorption. Flax is mostly soluble fiber, which is tied to lower LDL (bad) cholesterol.

GOOD MOOD SALAD

Serve this mood-enhancing salad along with a tall glass of green tea and 2 ounces of dark chocolate as a sweet finish to uplift your mood and nourish your body and your mind!

8 ounces smoked salmon, roughly chopped, or 8 ounces of cooked chicken breast, roughly chopped

1 avocado, peeled, pitted and diced

4 cups baby spinach

1/2 cup fresh blueberries

1/4 cup light feta or blue cheese crumbles

1/4 cup toasted, chopped walnuts

1/2 medium red onion, thinly sliced

Greek Yogurt Dressing

1/2 cup Greek yogurt

4 ounces of soft, silken tofu

2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

1 tablespoon chia or flax seeds

1 tablespoon honey

2 teaspoons stone-ground or grainy mustard

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon black pepper

To make dressing: Using a blender or a whisk, stir together all ingredients until combined and emulsified. This dressing will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 7 days.

To make salad: Toss all ingredients together until combined. Drizzle or toss with Greek Yogurt Dressing. Makes 2 servings.

Angela Shelf Medearis is an award-winning children’s author, culinary historian and the author of seven cookbooks. Her website is www.divapro.com. © 2020 King Features Synd., Inc.

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