Eat your way to a more positive state of mind

Article taken from Psychologies Magazine (November 2019)

Leading expert in women’s wellbeing Henrietta Norton tells us how to nourish ourselves for improved mental health and emotional balance.

Three and a half million people in the UK take antidepressants and the potential side effects range from gut problems, drowsiness, insomnia and painful menstruation to hives, tremors, confusion, anxiety and impotence. An increased risk of suicidal behaviour in children and adolescents has also been documented. Nutritional medicine has made developments in exploring the link between mental and physical health and research shows depression is more common in those with compromised immune function.

Take back a level of control

Evidence indicates that our sensitivity to stress, anxiety and depression is programmed in infancy, sensitising us to a certain level of adversity. Hypersensitivity to stress and depression may occur due to changes in our stress-response network. Of great clinical interest is that the group of inflammation-sensitive depressives tend not to respond well to antidepressants.

The B vitamins are essential for functioning of the nervous system, and vitamin B5 in particular for production of hormones such as cortisol. Sources include whole grains, eggs, beans and lentils, veggies, fish and meat. A vitamin B complex can be supportive and one that includes vitamin C, magnesium and ashwagandha will help regulate cortisol. Magnesium, rapidly used up when we’re stressed, is essential for the production of neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin. The best sources are nuts and seeds (especially pumpkin and hemp), buckwheat groats or flour (buckwheat is a seed and not related to wheat), greens such as spinach and kale and seafood. If sleep is an issue, try an extra 80mg of food-grown magnesium at night.

Foods for happiness

Following is a guide to feeding ourselves to best support our hormones, brain chemicals and, ultimately, moods.

  • Eggs. Rich in zinc and tryptophan, eggs can boost serotonin levels. Dip steamed asparagus into boiled eggs as a morning mood enhancer.
  • Wild Salmon. This fish is full of healthy fatty acids to support our hormones and libido. Mix with horseradish and plain yogurt to make a salmon pate for a quick mood-supporting snack.
  • Avocado. These are rich in healthy omega-3 fatty acids which have an array of health benefits. The acids DHA and EPA may help to improve brain function, regulate vision and contribute to normal heart function. These acids are also used as ‘taxis’ to ferry hormones around the body, including libido-charging testosterone in men and women. For a boost of healthy fats, slice chunks of avocado into your salad or onto your morning toast, drizzle over extra virgin olive oil and add flakes of wild salmon.
  • Quinoa. This whole grain is rich in protein, magnesium and B vitamins, which are needed to produce anti-anxiety brain chemicals, including GABA. Use as an alternative to rice or wheat pasta for managing anxiety and stress.
  • Lean proteins (fish, chicken and lamb). These proteins provide a complete mix of the amino acids required for the building blocks of neurotransmitters, such as serotonin and dopamine.

Recipe Books – Quick & Easy

Book ideas from Psychologies Magazine (Spring 2021)

Be inspired by these cookbooks for simple, nutritious meals.

  1. Clodagh’s Weeknight Kitchen by Clodagh McKenna.
  2. Keeping It Simple by Yasmin Fahr
  3. Speedy MOB: 12-minute meals for 4 people by Ben Lebus
  4. The 5 Minute, 5 Ingredient Lunchbox by Alexander Hart.

Waste-free meals

  • The Complete Book of Vegan Compleating by Ellen Tout
    • Eco Living Editor Ellen Tout shares sustainable, creative cooking tips.
    • Used coffee grounds are packed with nitrogen and are a brilliant addition to the soil. Dig them into your garden to give plants extra nutrients while reducing waste. Spent grounds can also be added to cookie recipes or coffee cream, or mix them with coconut oil and sugar for a natural body scrub.

Ideas with Ryvita

Recipe ideas from advert by Ryvita in Psychologies Magazine (Spring 2021)

Chicken & Avocado

A classic combo, but who knew avos were so high in fibre? Combine 80g of fibre from half an avo with 2 Multigrain Crunchy Rye Breads and you have a filling snack with 6.3g of fibre. For added protein, top with chicken.

Ingredients :
2 Ryvita Multigrain Crunchy Rye Breads
1/2 avocado
Cracked black pepper
Cooked Chicken

  • Cut the avocado in half and mash the flesh. Reserve the other half.
  • Spread the mashed avocado on 2 Ryvita Multigrain Crunchy Rye Breads, add the chicken and season to taste with black pepper.

Hummus & Cherry Tomatoes

Hummus and rye breads make for easy high-fibre meals. Add roasted on fresh cherry tomatoes to get 9.4g of fibre over 4 slices.

Ingredients :
4 Ryvita Red Quinoa & Sesame Protein Crunch Rye Breads
100g cherry tomatoes
1 tsp olive oil
2 tbsp hummus

  • Preheat the oven to 200 C / Gas Mark 6.
  • Toss the tomatoes in the olive oil, season and bake for 15-20 minutes until the tomatoes start to burst.
  • Spread the hummus on the rye breads and top with the tomatoes.

Peanut Butter & Banana

Nuts are a great source of fibre and the average banana gives you 1.7g of fibre per 80g serving. Combine these with crunchy rye breads and you have a delicious snack with a whopping 6.6g of fibre – in less than 5 minutes!

Ingredients :
2 Ryvita Multigrain Crunchy Rye Breads
1 tblsp peanut butter
1/2 banana
1 tsp toasted, chopped peanuts

  • Top the crunchy rye breads with the peanut butter.
  • Slice the banana and place on top.
  • Sprinkle on the peanuts.

Fruitful breakfast

Recipe courtesy of Psychologies Magazine (Spring 2021)

This refreshing, original acai bowl from ‘Plant Over Processed‘ by Andrea Hannemann is a great substitute for hot porridge as the days get warmer.

Serves : 2

Ingredients :
2 cups frozen blueberries
3 frozen ripe bananas
2 acai superfruit packs of 1 scoop acai powder
1 cup frozen mango chunks
1/2 cup plant milk

For the toppings
Sliced banana, granola, shredded coconut, goji berries or blueberries

  • Place all the ingredients except the toppings in a high-powdered blender.
  • Blend, starting on medium speed and gradually making your way up to high, for 1-2 minutes, stopping every 20 seconds to mix the ingredients and push them down with a smoothie stick.
  • Once you see the ‘swirl’, you will know it’s done. Pour your smoothie into your favourite bowl and add your choice of toppings.

The Benefits of Ferments

Article courtesy of Psychologies Magazine (Spring 2021) and taken from Happy Gut, Happy Mind: How to Feel Good From Within by Eve Kalinik.

As research into fermented foods gains traction, Eve Kalinik explains how to easily include them in our diet and reap the healthful rewards.

Some might say the benefits of fermented foods are anecdotal, but they have been eaten for millennia for their health-giving properties. You could look at them as a demonstration of a long-standing give-and-take relationship with our microbial world. We feed microbes their preferred food, depending on the ferment, and they reciprocate by producing positive substances. These include compounds such as organic acids that can help us by supporting energy, detoxification and the production of neurotransmitter chemicals that benefit both gut and brain.

Fermented foods are also higher in both concentration and absorption of certain vitamins and minerals, including vitamin B12, biotin, folic acid, calcium, magnesium, potassium and zinc. The fermentation process also means that proteins are, to varying degrees, ‘pre-digested’, including casein in milk and gluten in bread, which can make them easier to digest and absorb. This is why fermented dairy in cheese and yoghurt can often be better tolerated if someone has issues with straight-up milk, and why sourdough can be easier on the gut than non-fermented bread. Fermented foods also contain prebiotics, which has a positive feeding effect on our existing gut microbiota.

Probiotics a la carte

The other, more obvious benefit of eating fermented foods is the ingestion of a high source of gut-boosting microbes. Think of them as probiotics in food form. In addition, fermentation increases lactic acid production, which makes it tricky for many other microbes to thrive, therefore the beneficial acid-loving bugs win out, which is a quid pro quo for our resident gut microbiota.

Last, but by no means least, there is a depth of flavour in fermented foods, derived from their natural umami. Once you foray into fermentation, you’ll wonder why you didn’t start sooner, and how the simple addition of a spoonful of sauerkraut or kimchi can elevate the simplest of sarnies.

Sourdough depends on a live culture starter. Baking destroys most of these, but transforms the bread into a prebiotic, feeding microbes in our gut.

Kim-cheese toastie

Turn lunch into a main event with this easy recipe taken from the book ‘Happy Gut’ by Eve Kalinik.

Ingredients :
2 slices sourdough bread
Organic butter, to spread
Few slices hard cheese, such as Cheddar or Manchego (try to get unpasteurised if you can); 2 tblsp kimchi

  • Toast the bread on both sides. Spread with butter.
  • Lay the cheese on one slice (don’t melt it), top with kimchi and the second slice of toast. Cut into quarters and crunch into the goodness.

Aubergine Parmigiana

Recipe courtesy of Psychologies Magazine (Spring 2021) and taken from The Shortcut Cook by Rosie Reynolds.

This easy recipe uses a combination of oil and butter, along with a Parmesan and breadcrumb topping for a quick and delicious meal. Serve with a green salad.

Serves : 4

Ingredients :

4 medium aubergines
Olive oil, for brushing and cooking
Large knob of butter, softened
2 x 400g tins chopped tomatoes
2 garlic cloves, grated
1 tsp dried oregano
2 x 125g balls mozzarella, cubed
30g Parmesan, finely grated
Large handful fresh breadcrumbs
Handful basil leaves
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

  • Preheat the oven to 200 C / 180 C fan / gas mark 6. Make deep slits, 1 cm apart, across the aubergines. Don’t cut all the way through. Use a pastry brush to coat the inside of the cuts with oil. Dot the butter over each of the aubergines and season inside and out.
  • Mix together the tomatoes, garlic, oregano and some seasoning – this can be done in the tomato tins. Pour the mixture into a 20 x 30 cm baking dish and sit the aubergines on top. Cover with foil and cook in the oven for 50 minutes, or until the aubergines start to get soft.
  • Remove the dish from the oven and remove the foil. Use the back of a spoon to open up the aubergine cuts and stuff with cubes of mozzarella and some of the tomato sauce.
  • Sprinkle over the Parmesan and breadcrumbs, then return the dish to the oven and cook, uncovered, for a final 10 minutes, or until the breadcrumbs are golden. Leave to stand for 5 minutes, then scatter with basil leaves before serving.

Make ahead : Prepare the whole dish in advance and reheat in a hot oven until piping hot.

The shortcut : This meal has all the textural expectations of parmigiana, with none of the factory line-style crumbing – no salting, no dipping in egg, no frying in oil. This is one-pan, no-hassle cooking.

Sweet Potato Ravioli with Sage and Brown Butter

Recipe courtesy of Psychologies Magazine (Spring 2021) and taken from The Shortcut Cook by Rosie Reynolds.

This is a great shortcut for making your own pasta. Boiled lasagne sheets form ravioli with a rich sweet potato filling.

Serves : 2

Ingredients :

1-2 sweet potatoes, about 500g, cut into 1 cm cubes
50g Parmesan, finely grated
Fresh nutmeg, for grating
Pinch of ground cinnamon
6 dried pre-cooked lasagne sheets
Olive oil, for cooking and drizzling
4 tblsp butter
24 sage leaves
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

  • Put the sweet potato into a bowl with 1 tablespoon of water, cover with cling film and cook in the microwave on high for 3-5 minutes until tender. Drain and mash.
  • Add two thirds of the Parmesan to the bowl, along with a generous grating of nutmeg and cinnamon. Season to taste.
  • Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil. Add the pasta and a drizzle of oil to stop the sheets sticking. Cook for 12 minutes, or for 2 minutes longer than the packet instructions. Drain and separate the sheets, then allow to cool.
  • Cut each lasagne sheet in half with kitchen scissors, so you have 12 square. Dollop 1 tablespoon of the potato mix into the middle of each square and top with a sage leaf. Fold the pasta over the filling to form a triangle and press to seal the edges. Leave to cool on a lightly oiled tray.
  • Dry the pan and return it to a high heat, adding the butter and a splash of oil. Add the remaining sage and cook until crisp. Remove and set aside.
  • Add the cooled ravioli to the pan and cook for 2 minutes on each side until golden. Divide between 2 plates and serve with the Parmesan, sage leaves and a drizzle of olive oil.

Make ahead : The filling can be made 2 days in advance and chilled. The assembled ravioli will sit happily in the fridge on a lightly oiled tray for 2 days.

The shortcut : These ravioli can be whipped up speedily in advance, while the filling is made in minutes in the microwave.

Minestrone Soup

Recipe published in Psychologies Magazine (Spring 2021) and taken from The Shortcut Cook by Rosie Reynolds.

An Italian-inspired soup full of comforting goodness that can be made with whichever pasta you fancy. Broken-up spaghetti works a treat, with a generous glug of olive oil, Parmesan and garlic-rubbed toasts.

Serves : 4

Ingredients :

1 tblsp extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
100g smoked bacon, lardons or pancetta cubes
2 carrots
1 onion, peeled
1 celery stalk
2 garlic cloves, peeled
2 fresh or dried bay leaves
1/2 tsp dried oregano
400g tin good-quality chopped tomatoes
1 tblsp red or white wine vinegar or cider vinegar
100g kale, chopped
75g orzo pasta or small soup pasta
75g Parmesan or Cheddar, finely grated
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

  • Heat the olive oil and the bacon or lardons together in a large saucepan over a medium heat.
  • Holding a box grater over the top of the pan, use the coarse side to grate in the carrots, onion and celery, then turn the grater and finely grate in the garlic. Increase the heat to high and cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring frequently until the vegetables are soft.
  • Throw in the bay leaves, oregano and tinned tomatoes. Use the tomato tin to measure out 2 1/2 tinfuls of water and add to the soup, along with the vinegar. Stir in the kale and orzo, pushing them down with a spatula to submerge them in the liquid.
  • Bring to a simmer, then partially cover and cook for 10 minutes, stirring from time to time.
  • Remove the pan from the heat, add a quarter of the grated Parmesan and stir in until melted – the soup should turn a creamy red colour and thicken slightly.
  • Season well with salt and pepper and leave to stand for a few minutes. Ladle into bowls and serve drizzled with olive oil and plenty of the remaining Parmesan.

Make ahead : You can cook this up to the point of stirring in the cheese and keep in the fridge for 2-3 days, or freeze for up to 3 months.

The shortcut : Grating instead of dicing will save you time. Stirring in the Parmesan thickens, and adds a slow-cooked taste and feel without the time deficit.

Lemon Posset Tart

Recipe courtesy of Psychologies Magazine (May 2020) and taken from Life Kitchen by Ryan Riley.

Creating a dessert with real impact, the Life Kitchen way, requires a high ratio of tang to sweetness. Pomegranate has been added in this recipe to increase tartness, with lemons adding an intense lift. For individual possets, pour the filling into glasses or ramekins.

Lemon posset tartServes : 6-8

Ingredients :
500ml double cream
200g golden caster sugar
2 limes, zest and juice
2 lemons, zest and juice
Small handful of raspberries
Small handful of pomegranate seeds
1 shop-bought 23cm pastry case
Pomegranate molasses or Raspberry & Rose Syrup (see recipe), to serve (optional)

Method:

  1. Place a large saucepan on a medium heat and add the cream sugar and zest and juice of both citrus fruits.

  2. Stir gently for about 2-3 minutes, until the sugar dissolves. Then, bring the mixture to a gentle boil for 3-5 minutes, until thickened. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool slightly.

  3. Sprinkle most of the raspberries and pomegranate seeds evenly across the tart base and pour over the citrus cream mixture.

  4. Put the tart in the fridge to set for 3-4 hours. When set, sprinkle over the remaining pomegranate seeds and raspberries, then drizzle over some pomegranate molasses or Raspberry & Rose Syrup, if you like.

For the Raspberry & Rose Syrup

Ingredients (Makes 200ml) :
200g raspberries
1/2 – 1 tsp rose water, to taste
2 tblsp maple syrup
1/2 lemon, zest and juice

Method :

  1. Place a saucepan on a medium heat and add all the ingredients. Bring the liquid to a simmer and cook for about 5 minutes, until the raspberries break down slightly.

  2. Remove the pan from the heat and allow the mixture to cool. If you like your syrup smooth, strain the mixture through a sieve into a sterilised jar – but if you prefer it chunky, just store it as it is.

Roasted Broccoli with Chilli Yogurt and Orange

Recipe Courtesy of Psychologies Magazine (May 2020) and taken from Life Kitchen by Ryan Riley.

Broccoli pairs deliciously with aromatic orange, which provides an uplifting aroma and acidity to balance out the other flavours. Ideal for a quick lunch.

Roasted broccoliServes : 2

Ingredients :
230g long-stem broccoli
Olive oil
1 tsp capers
Small handful of flaked almonds
3 tblsp full-fat Greek yogurt
1 tsp Chilli Oil (see recipe)
1 orange, zested and halved
Sprinkling of sumac
Chilli flakes, to serve (optional)

Method :

  1. Heat the oven to 180oC. Place the broccoli on a baking tray and drizzle with olive oil. Spoon the capers over and bake for 15 minutes. Sprinkle the almonds over and bake for 5 minutes more, until the broccoli is tender and the almonds golden.

  2. While the broccoli is baking, combine the yogurt and Chilli Oil in a bowl. Peel and segment one orange half. As soon as the broccoli is ready, squeeze the juice from the remaining orange half over the top, sprinkle with a good dusting of sumac and orange zest and serve with a dollop of the chilli yogurt (sprinkled with chilli flakes, if you like) and the orange segments on the side.

Chilli Oil:

Ingredients (Makes 200ml) :
200ml rapeseed oil
40g dried chipotle chilli flakes
20g red chilli flakes

Method :

  1. Place a saucepan on a medium heat and add the oil. Bring it to a simmer – be very careful as the oil will be extremely hot. After a few moments, drop in a chilli flake: if the oil is hot enough, the flake will sizzle slightly.

  2. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in both types of chilli flakes. Set aside and allow to cool completely.

  3. Pour the cooled Chilli Oil into a sterilised jar and seal with a lid.