5 foods to boost your mood (Recipes included!)

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by Maya Nahra, Registered Dietitian / Special to azfamily.com

GMAZ interview by Yetta Gibson

Posted on February 11, 2014 at 12:52 PM

Updated Wednesday, Feb 12 at 3:11 AM

PHOENIX -- The foods we eat affect our brain chemistry and choosing the right ones can have a major impact on how we feel.

A recent study indicated that people who followed a very-low-carbohydrate diet experienced more depression, anxiety and anger than those assigned to a low-fat, high-carb diet that focused on low-fat dairy, whole grains, fruit and beans. Researchers suspect that good carbs promote the production of serotonin, a feel-good brain chemical. In addition, there is a mountain of evidence to show that whole grains help to prevent chronic disease and are an important food for weight management.

Easy meal and snack ideas

  1. Overnight oatmeal in a slow-cooker makes a week's worth of whole grain breakfasts or savory side dishes
  2. Whole grain snack bars are an easy way to get whole grains on the go, plus they contain fiber to keep us feeling full

Coconut Breakfast Quinoa

1 can coconut milk
1 cup water
2 cups rinsed quinoa
unrefined sea salt
 
In a pot over high heat, bring the the coconut milk and water, combined, to a boil. Add the quinoa, return to a boil. Turn the heat to low, cover with a lid, and allow to cook until all the liquid has been soaked up by the quinoa, about 20 minutes. 

Enjoy hot with chopped dates and almonds, cinnamon, and glob almond butter for breakfast!

Eat folate-rich foods to help ward off depression

All fruits and vegetables contain antioxidants, which are associated with a lower risk for depression. Citrus and leafy greens are specifically good fall and winter mood lifters for two reasons: 1. They are seasonal and easy to find in the fall and winter months. 2. They are high in folate, which is needed to produce serotonin, that same feel-good brain chemical.

Easy meal and snack ideas

  1. Green smoothies are easy to make and eat on the run. Plus, smoothies are a great gateway for trying greens you may not have had before
  2. Kale chips are a better alternative to other snacking options and, again, a great gateway to enjoying this healthy green in other ways
  3. Fresh orange and grapefruit are excellent flavor enhancers for salads, both as a salad ingredient and as a foundation for vinaigrettes.


Lemon Orange Mint Water

1 orange sliced
1 lemon sliced
fresh mint leaves

Fill a pitcher with water, add slices of lemons and oranges and top with fresh mint from my herb garden. Let it sit for about an hour in the fridge before serving. Enjoy!

Brazil Nut Pesto Collard Wraps

For the Pesto:
1 cup fresh basil
1/4 cup Brazil nuts
1 small garlic clove
Zest of 1 lemon
Juice of 1/2 lemon
2 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
pinch of unrefined sea salt and pepper
 
For the wraps:
1/2 pound cherry tomatoes
Drizzle olive oil
Pinch of unrefined sea salt and pepper
Whole wheat tortilla wraps OR Large Collard Wraps
4 oz. fresh mozzarella cut into 6 slices
1/4 pound good quality turkey breast
 
For the Pesto:
Blend all ingredients together in food processor until smooth.
 
For the wraps:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Add tomatoes to a small bowl.  Toss with a drizzle of olive oil and a pinch of salt and pepper.  Place tomatoes on a small baking sheet and roast for 10-15 minutes until tender.
 
Spread 1 tablespoon of pesto on wrap or collard leaf.  Top with 3 slices of fresh mozzarella, 1/2 the turkey and top with 1/2 the roasted tomatoes.
 
Roll up wrap bringing sides in to close and slice in half. Serve with a side salad or fresh fruit.

Open a can of fish for heart and mental health

Most people think of omega-3's as promoting heart-health, but they are good for our mental health, too! Omega-3's alter the brain chemicals that are linked with stabilizing mood, particularly dopamine and serotonin. You don't have to filet and grill a whole piece of fish to get your fill of omega-3's. Canned fishes are an easy and cost-efficient way to get the nutrition benefits of fish.

Easy meal and snack ideas

  1. Canned salmon salad sandwich
  2. Canned tuna and whole grain crackers


5-Ingredient Baked Fish

2 pieces white fish (halibut, cod, or tilapia)
1 Tbsp. Olive oil
Sea Salt
Pepper
Fresh Herbs such as dill or rosemary

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Place the fish on a baking sheet or in a piece of foil. Drizzle with olive oil, add salt, pepper, and fresh herbs. Place in oven and bake for 10-15 minutes depending on the thickness of the fish fillet. (Fish should be opaque. Be careful not to overcook, fish does not require long cooking times.)

Baked Salmon with Lemon Cream and herbs

1 cup heavy cream
Juice of 2-3 lemons
4 4-to 6-ounce wild-caught salmon filets
2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
2 tablespoons chopped fresh marjoram
1/4 cup chopped fresh thyme

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Pour fresh, heavy cream over salmon filets. Sprinkle fresh dill, marjoram, and thyme over the lemon cream-drenched salmon and bake in an oven preheated to 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 20 to 30 minutes or until salmon is firm and flakes easily.


Registered dietitian Maya Nahra is known as the leading Behavioral Nutrition Expert who teaches women dieters how to stop obsessive thinking about their food and weight so they can live their Intentful™ life.

"I've been overweight, I've been underweight, and I've been everything in between," she says. "And one thing I know for sure... it's never been about the food."

Nahra is the founder of My Intentful Life, a company whose mission is to help women see their own innate beauty through a shift in the infectious diet mindset.

Once an overweight, yo-yo dieter, binge-eater herself, Nahra struggled with the concepts of a healthy body and beauty. Her story has touched the hearts of her audience for years. Though not without its dark corners, Nahra has taken her story, picked herself up and became self- and school-taught expert in food, nutrition, and mindset.

Her approach is one of real-life application and relatability with a strong emphasis on inspiration.

 

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