There’s no doubt eating certain foods affects how we feel on a physical level. From the bloating of bread to a face-freshening glow bowl, our gut is highly sensitive to different ingredients and either loves us or loathes us for what we feed it.
But what about our minds?
Chocolate and coffee are obvious examples of how our mood can dramatically change thanks to what we consume. Equally we associate certain foods, such as a chunky stew or stodgy shepherd’s pie, with their comforting properties. Other foods are known to boost brainpower such as blueberries! whilst others bring us sugar-crashing down. And what about the traditional British tonic for…well, anything of a mildly unsettling nature?… Cuppa, anyone? Famed for its restorative properties. Tea of course includes caffeine, a natural stimulant, but it is more it’s the ritual and comfort that many seek in times of stress or drama.
It’s clear, to me at least, that it’s not just our physical health that’s impacted by our diet. With wellbeing very much on our minds, this year in particular, if we know foods have this kind of power over our mental state too, we can definitely use them to our advantage.
As we endure our second lockdown of 2020, at a time of the year when the days are growing shorter, the dark comes quicker and we’d normally be getting all those pre-Christmas social events in, here are some #moodfood recipe ideas from Jellybean studio to suit/improve your mood:
To suit (for comfort):
Nothing says autumn comfort quite like a soup. A rich, creamy curried soup in particular warms the cockles.
Rosie’s Leftover Curried Lamb & Butternut Squash Soup
Whack on some tunes (whatever toasts your bread) and dig out your hand blender – this recipe utilises leftovers and is especially great for if you live alone.
Lamb curry leftovers (enough for one person)
Curry spices of your choice (i.e., cardamon, cloves, turmeric etc)
2 cloves of garlic
1 small handful of fresh coriander (if you must – not my fave)
3 glugs of olive oil
250ml Single Cream (or an alternative)
Boursin or Garlic & Herb Philadelphia to serve
1. Preheat oven to 180c (fan assisted).
2. While that’s heating up, chop up the garlic. Skin and slice up the butternut squash, before tossing it around in a bowl of olive oil with the chopped garlic.
3. In a small bowl, make up a mix of curry spices to taste.
4. Lay out the coated squash on a baking tray and sprinkle liberally with the curry spice mix, salt and pepper and put into the oven (when at temperature) and roast for 30-40 mins, or until the squash is golden and soft.
5. With about ten minutes to go, gently heat up the lamb curry leftovers in a saucepan on the stove, on a low heat.
6. Move the roasted squash pieces into the saucepan with the curry and grab your hand blender. Add the (very optional) coriander and blend until fairly smooth, or to taste.
7. Take off the heat.
8. Once the soup has cooled a little, slowly blend in some cream. Taste it – add anything you think it might still need – and then plate up.
9. To serve, swirl in a little more cream, or a dollop of Boursin or Philadelphia.
10. Garnish with a sprig of coriander. (I suppose)
Soups are just such a brilliant way to make use of leftovers and/or needing-to-be-used-veg. See my Chicken Soup Recipe in Jess’s Homemade by Jellybean (a blog from the previous lockdown) here.
To improve (for a pick-me-up):
Steve’s Blueberry & Spinach Smoothie
Looking for a lift? This is a brilliant pick-me-up for when it’s drizzly and dour outside and all you want to do is eat thirty-two chocolate biscuits and a doughnut. By all means do… or try this instead:
1 handful of spinach
1 handful of blueberries
Small cup of orange juice
1. Put all the ingredients into a smoothie-maker or Nutribullet, top up with water and blitz.
The thickness brings those comforting, pudding-ish vibes while the vitamins & minerals boost energy – all without the post-binge low.
And if you are really missing that je ne c’est quoi, even a chocolate-based smoothie is better for you than a pig-out on bars and biscuits. Experiment with dark chocolate (at least 70%), raw cacao and plant milks for feel-good indulgences.
Andy’s Essence of Flavour
This mind-blowing mouthful will knock the socks off your low mood and likely change your whole mindset with one bite (quite a claim I know!). Such is the power of this flavour-packed morsel!
1 cube of feta
1 garlic crouton
A little crushed, dried oregano
1 cherry tomato
1 cocktail stick
1. Sprinkle oregano onto the feta and slide onto the cocktail stick, pushing it down to the end. Add the garlic crouton and the cherry tomato. That’s it.
This cracking snack is perfect for a personal twist – just don’t lose the essence!
And a few more tips to see you right:
Lifted senses –
I personally find that a fizzy drink will change my mindset completely, especially if I’m a) at a screen and b) feeling sluggish. To avoid the unhealthy side-effects of canned sodas and still get that refreshing fizz, just add a slice of lime (and ice if you’re feeling it!) to sparkling water.
I believe that most of the effectiveness of this tip is to do with a sudden change in sensation – in the above case, the fizz. Hot foods & drinks, particularly cold foods/drinks, citrusy and spicy foods all seem to invite a change in mood and mental state.
If you struggle with anxiety, some foods can help to reduce symptoms: dark chocolate, fatty fish such as salmon and live yoghurt (those amazing probiotics again) are all great for feeling more balanced and less stressed. It could be a good idea to steer clear of alcohol, processed sugars and coffee – though a herbal hot drink is usually a good idea.
Often our bodies actually crave what we need (for me it’s usually tomatoes, or salt!) and we get that feeling. If it’s generally healthy and you want it, go for it. You’ll be happy you did, and that alone will likely raise your mood.
These are just a few suggestions to try the next time you find yourself in a lockdown low – by all means, explore and see what fits you. Having a #moodfood main or snack stash could be just the thing that gets you back on track!