July 2016: food and mood


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What we consume, not only affects our health: it also greatly influences our mood.
What we eat determines how we feel and, on the other hand, how we feel can also determine what we eat. Let’s take a look at this. It is a huge subject, so I can only touch on the basics here.

* To be alert, we must have enough protein [1]. Wholegrains like bread; cheese, yoghurt, fish, meat, eggs, legumes are all good. As long as we don’t eat too much, for this will diminish our performance, regardless of carbohydrate or protein content.

* To feel safe, content and pleasantly filled, we need to boost our serotonin production [2]. Serotonin also helps us control our impulses. For best results, combine carbs and proteins to make it more available.
To achieve this:
1) healthy fats are vitally important. They are in fatty fish, walnuts, flax seeds. Too much of the wrong kind of fat, on the other hand, makes us sluggish [3].
2) vitamins B12 and D, calcium, magnesium and folate help us use serotonin [4].
A deficiency in serotonin causes, to name just a few: migraines, insomnia, panic attacks, anorexia/bulimia, depression, alcoholism, and over-eating, particularly of carbohydrates.

* To calm our brain and relax, we should eat a meal high in proteins, carbs, and calories: for instance poultry, seafood, dairy, nuts and seeds.
Carbohydrates have long been demonized, but we need them to produce serotonin, see above. However, only complex carbs, that is, food in its natural state, have a positive effect on mood. Such as: whole foods (brown bread, wholemeal pasta etc), unprocessed veg and fruit, and whole, ideally unpasteurized milk.
Refined carbs cause blood sugar to spike and then drop quickly, which leads to mood swings and fatigue [5].
If you particularly suffer from anxiety, see [6].

* We must eat something every 4-5 hours, to prevent our blood sugar from plummeting. Breakfast is particularly important, especially for children: they perform better and get into less trouble in school. Eating breakfast leads to improved mood, calm, better memory, more energy throughout the day.
And what makes a good breakfast? Lots of fiber and nutrients, protein, good fats, and whole-grain carbohydrates.

* Both skipping meals and overeating are bad. They will only cause cravings, especially if the food you did have was, what Michael Pollan calls, an ‘edible food-like substance’ [7].
1) If you think you just need more impulse control, go for the serotonin, see above.
2) If you want to find out what is behind the craving, you might like to look at the June 2012 Thought for Food: “cravings” [8], or for a different approach, see http://www.everydayhealth.com/pictures/real-reason-youre-craving-these-foods.

* Are you tired or depressed, or do you have a short attention span? You may be getting too little iron. Iron-rich foods include red meat, egg yolks, dried fruit, beans and liver.

* Depression can also be caused by low thyroid function. Oily fish, dairy, eggs, oats, nuts, whole grains, sesame seeds, bananas, avocados, and almonds all help. So do fresh fruit and veg, but if you suffer from hypothyroidism, limit the brassicas [9] unless very well cooked [10].
For depression, see also the Thought of February 2014 [11].

* You can also lift your mood by adding foods that are rich sources of tryptophan to your diet, like turkey, chicken, beef, brown rice, nuts, fish, milk, eggs, cheese, fruit, and vegetables – again. 

* Hyperactivity, caused by too much sugar or certain additives, is a well-known issue, especially in children. Here are some good websites: [12].

* Trans fats also affect our mood: inflammatory responses interfere with mood-boosting neurotransmitters like serotonin. Avoid packaged pastries and crackers and fast food.

* And, without eating or foregoing anything at all, you can increase your general sense of well-being by laughing! Laughing triggers the release of natural painkillers. It also lowers blood pressure, reduces stress hormones and boosts immune function. [13]

See also https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yQJdOTl0rmM.

PS It’s important to know that certain kinds of foods interact badly with some psychiatric medications [14].

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Veg: beet, broad beans, carrots, chinese leaves, globe artichokes, kohlrabi, cauli, cabbage, (sugar) peas, beans, lettuce, sweetcorn, turnips, courgettes, broccoli, spring onions, squash, radish, tomatoes, samphire, spinach (beet), chard, endive.
Fish: mackerel is at its best in July, cheap and an invaluable source of omega 3. Otherwise: dab, black bream, crab, mackerel, clam, dover sole, megrim sole, grey mullet, flounder and American signal crayfish.
Meat: lamb, rabbit, wood pigeon.

Chinese/spring cabbage, calabrese, carrots, chicory, coriander, endive, florence fennel, kohlrabi, salad onions, (mangetout/sugar snap) peas, mooli, pak choi, turnips, black and white radish (mooli), perpetual spinach, chard, parsley, beetroot, french beans, mini cauliflower, lettuce*.
End of the month: corn salad, black radish, endive, kohlrabi. Sowing kohlrabi late in July should supply them well into the winter. They will stand in the soil until needed.
*Remember: only crisp lettuce (little gem, cos, webb) germinates well when soil temperature goes above 25C.
Plant: kale, sprouts, leeks, winter cabbages, broccoli, calabrese, cauliflower.


If cooked indifferently, kohlrabi tastes, well, indifferent. However when you mash it, or make it into soup, it tastes delicious and unlike anything else.
Another simple way to make it special is the following:
2 tblsp butter, 3-4 kohlrabi, 2 minced cloves garlic, 240ml stock or to cover, 1 tblsp lemon juice.
Slice kohlrabi into thin strips. Sauté kohlrabi in butter with garlic for 2-3 mins. Add stock and lemon juice. Cover, simmer for 20 mins, or tender. Season.

1 large shredded lettuce, (about 225g; it’s ok if starting to bolt), chopped onion, 1 diced potato, 25g butter, 100ml milk, 1l water/stock, mint, (tarragon), salt, pepper.
Fry lettuce, onion and potato gently for 5 mins without browning. Add milk and stock. Bring to boil, stir, cover and simmer for about 10 mins. Add chopped mint, (tarragon,) cook for a few more mins. Liquidise or sieve, heat through.

300g fresh broad beans (=1.1k unshelled),  2.5cm grated ginger, 2 crushed cloves garlic, lemon, cream, black pepper.
Place beans in a pan with enough cold water to cover generously. Bring to the boil. Cook until tender, ab. 2 mins. Blend. Add ginger, garlic, some lemon juice and cream. Season, gently reheat.

BRAISED PEAS with LETTUCE and ONIONS, serves 2-3 as a side.
240ml shelled peas, handful of shredded lettuce leaves, 1 onion, generous knob of butter, 1tsp olive oil, 60ml liquid, sea salt, white pepper, a bit of lemon juice, dill or mint.
Melt butter with oil, add sliced onion and cook till soft before adding the peas. Stir to combine, about 1-2 min. Add lettuce, stir. Then add liquid and seasoning, bring to a simmer, cover and cook for 2-3 min. Uncover, let simmer to reduce for just a while, before removing from heat. Add dill or mint and lemon juice.

320ml cooked beans, 320ml cooked sliced carrots, small chopped onion, 3/4 tbsp flour, salt, pepper, 240ml milk, 320ml grated cheese, 80ml bread crumbs, 2+2 tbsp butter.
Sauté onion in butter; add flour and seasoning, stir. Gradually add milk, cook over low heat, stirring constantly until thick. Add cheese and veg. Pour into a casserole. Cover with crumbs, dot with butter. Bake at 180°C for 30 mins.

4 courgettes, lemon juice, zest, 30g butter, 1 tblsp olive oil, salt, pepper.
Slice courgettes ab. 1 cm thick. Gently melt butter, sauté courgettes until golden. You may need to do this in batches, keeping cooked batches warm as you sauté the next. Return all the courgettes to pan and add lemon juice and zest. You may want to add the juice of up to a whole lemon, but don’t make it too sour. Mix and gently reheat.

BLOTE BILLETJES in het GRAS: Dutch traditional fare.
1k floury potatoes, 500g runner beans, 4 shallots, 1 clove garlic, some finely cut rosemary, 1/2 lemon, 1 tin of white beans,  200g tomatoes, 2 tblsp olive oil.
Cook potatoes and runner beans in salted water for 10 mins till nearly done. Chop shallots, Drain white beans and catch the liquid. Chop tomatoes. Saute shalots with rosemary, add chopped garlic. Grate  (untreated!) lemon rind and squeeze out the juice. Add grated rind and and a bit of juice to the shalot mix. Add white beans with tomato pieces and warm through well. Drain potatoes with beans and mash. Add white bean mix while stirring. If necessary add some cooking liquid.
With sausage or chunks of nice mature cheese.

450g runner beans, 1 sliced red onion, 240ml crumbs, 6 good quality anchovy fillets, extra-virgin olive oil.
Prepare and precook runner beans for 3-5 mins. Mash up anchovy fillets and saute till they dissolve, add onion, stir for a few mins. Add beans and pepper, cook till practically done. Add breadcrumbs, stir to coat. Cook for one more min, done.

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[1] Protein-rich foods increase tyrosine, dopamine, and norepinephrine, which help to increase alertness.
[2] Serotonin is a brain chemical that has a calming effect. Perhaps that’s why people often crave carbohydrate-rich foods when they are under stress. See also http://www.naturalnews.com/026332_serotonin_natural_fat.html.
[3] Processed fats, which result form high-heat commercial processing, (trans fats for example) are always bad. Also refined and partially hydrogenated oils and commercially deep-fried foods. See http://www.drbriffa.com/2014/03/21/yet-another-major-review-finds-no-reason-at-all-to-limit-saturated-fat-in-the-diet/ and http://www.savorylotus.com/top-5-healthy-fats/.
[4] To see where you can find these nutrients, see Thought for Food March and April 2013 at http://ThoughtforFood-aw.blogspot.com under the current year or the year before, in the column on the right hand side of the page.
[5] Enriched, bleached, or processed whole wheat does not count as a complex carbohydrate because, during the processing, all the nutrients have usually been stripped. The flour becomes ‘enriched’ when those nutrients that are considered important are added back in. However, not all the nutrients are put back, and for this reason the body doesn’t process enriched foods the same way as it does unprocessed foods (http://www.wisegeek.org/what-are-complex-carbohydrates.htm).
[6] http://www.antianxietyfoodsolution.com/quotes/ and https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/comfort-cravings/201401/5-foods-healthier-calmer-you.
[7] http://michaelpollan.com/books/in-defense-of-food/
[8] see Thought for Food June 2013 at http://ThoughtforFood-aw.blogspot.com under the current year or the year before, in the column on the right hand side of the page.
[9] cabbage, cauli, cress, brussels’ sprouts, kale, swede, turnip, radish etc.
[10] http://www.motherearthliving.com/cooking-methods/smart-foods-for-hypothyroidism.aspx and http://www.everydayhealth.com/hs/thyroid-pictures/foods-to-eat/#01.
[11] see Thought for Food February 2014 at http://ThoughtforFood-aw.blogspot.com under the current year or the year before, in the column on the right hand side of the page.
[12] http://www.netmums.com/family-food/healthy-eating/food-activists/from-hyper-to-calm-in-4-food-steps and http://www.foodforthebrain.org/nutrition-solutions/adhd-and-hyperactivity/about-adhdhyperactivity.aspx.
[13] http://holistic-online.com/Humor_Therapy/humor_therapy.htm
[14] http://bit.ly/1XCcrAq

Next month: number one.


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