I struggle with depression and anxiety. I know that what I eat plays a huge role in how I feel, and it is that way for everyone! There are certain foods that are high in specific vitamins, phytochemical and antioxidants that will improve your mood, regulate your blood sugar, and produce positive neurotransmitters.
The first recipe in my Foods that Fight Depression series is this simple saute of sweet potatoes, onions, garlic, mushrooms, tomatoes, kale, and turmeric to battle your depressed mood and even you out. It’s also completely vegan and gluten free!
I chose these vegetables specifically because of what they contain and how their nutrient content affects the human brain and the human 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.
The first step is to par-boil your sweet potato, and cut it into cubes. If you don’t par-boil it you’ll need to cook them separately from the other items so they can cook through. I started off with 1 tablespoon of coconut oil and I cooked my garlic and onions until fragrant. Next I added my sweet potatoes, turmeric, kale, tomatoes, and mushrooms. I also seasoned lightly with salt and pepper.
Next I added about 1 tablespoon of water, reduced the heat to low and covered.
This is a very lightly cooked meal – as keeping vegetables to their most raw form is the best way to maintain their nutrient content.
I cooked my mushrooms through, and made sure the kale was a bright green but still had a bite to it. If you don’t like the bite of kale, you can use spinach in it’s place!
Then I put everything into this beautiful Denby pottery bowl and topped with cilantro and green onion. Did you know that cilantro can also stimulate brain activity and make you more productive? This can also improve your mood.