Most of you out there know I have struggled with depression and anxiety and other mental health issues over the year. My growing emotional and physical awareness has made it clear that what I eat plays a huge role in how I feel, and it's that way for everyone!
There are certain foods that are high in specific vitamins, phytochemicals and antioxidants that will improve your mood, regulate your blood sugar, and produce positive neurotransmitters. AKA - all good things that lead to a healthier, happier you.
This simple saute of sweet potatoes, onions, garlic, mushrooms, tomatoes, kale, and turmeric is packed full of nutrients that will help you cope ahead. If your nutrition is in line, your body will be healthier and your brain will be functioning more optimally which means you will likely respond with less intensity when it comes to the onset of negative emotion. This recipe also happens to be vegan and gluten free.
I obviously chose these vegetables because of what they contain and how their nutrient content affects the two B's - the brain and the body.
Kale is a leafy green, and leafy greens are some of the most nutrient dense vegetables out there. Leafy greens such as kale, collard greens and spinach are high in Antioxidants which help repair cells – yes even brain cells which can improve cognitive health. They contain fiber which helps with digestion and can also help regulate blood sugar which will improve your overall mood, and they’re high in Vitamins Folate and B6. Folate is necessary to repair neurotransmitters – the things that send signals in your brain, and B6 helps turn tryptophan into serotonin – which is the neurotransmitter responsible for maintaining mood balance.
Tomatoes are packed with something called lycopene. Lycopene is an antioxidant that helps reduce stress, and also repairs damaged brain cells. For people like me who are also overcoming alcohol abuse, we need all the help we can get in repairing our brain cells so we can return our frontal cortex back to it’s highest state. Some studies show that eating a tomato a day can reduce effects of depression by up to 52%.
Turmeric contains a phytochemical known as curcumin. Curcumin is known to act against inflammatory responses linked to depression. It increases the growth and survival of nerve cells as well.
Garlic is high in antioxidants which help to repair nerve and cell damage in the body. They fight against free radicals – which are thought to cause cancer and are often linked to the formation of other diseases. Garlic is also high in allicin which has anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties.
Onions also contain allicin which can help fight cancer in the gut. A healthy digestive tract can also alleviate negative moods due to the anti-inflammatory flavonoid antioxidants they contain.
Sweet potatoes are extremely high in Vitamin B6. A detriment of this Vitamin has been linked to symptoms of depression in many studies. These are also a low-carb alternative to regular potatoes. Sticking to healthier carbs can also increase your mood and lower your chance of cancer, weight gain and feeling bloated – which can also contribute to a depressed mood in many people.
Mushrooms help to regulate your blood insulin which helps lower your blood sugar and can even out your mood. Mushrooms also have probiotic affects and promote healthy bacteria in your digestive tract. The nerve cells in our gut actually produce about 80 to 90% of the serotonin in our body. Again, serotonin is the critical neurotransmitter that helps to regulate our moods. Focusing on our intestinal health is a major component in combatting depression and anxiety.
Sweet Potatoes + Leafy Greens for Mental Health
- 1 small sweet potato - par boiled and diced
- 1/2 small yellow onion - diced
- 2 cloves garlic - minced
- 2 cups of kale - chopped
- 1 roma tomato - diced
- 2 tablespoons ground Turmeric
- 5 mushrooms - sliced
- 1 Tablespoon coconut oil - for cooking
- Green onions and Cilantro for garnish
- Salt and Pepper to taste
1. Start by par boiling your sweet potatoes and dicing them.
2. Heat a nonstick skillet to medium and grease with your coconut oil.
3. Add in your onions and garlic and cook until the onions are translucent and your garlic is fragrant. About 1 minute.
4. Add in your sweet potatoes, tomatoes, kale and mushrooms and season to taste with turmeric, salt and pepper.
5. Place 1 tablespoon of water in the pan, turn heat to low and cover.
6. Cook for about 5 minutes or until the mushrooms are cooked and the kale is bright green.
7. Garnish with green onions and cilantro and enjoy!
(optional: crack an egg on top for extra protein and healthy fat, sprinkle with red chili flakes or hot sauce, and add half an avocado! YUM)