Category: Detoxifying (Page 1 of 4)

Simple Vegetable & Chickpea Soup

Nothing hits the spot on a cold winter day like a warm and cozy bowl of soup. This recipe has quickly become one of our favorites and is one we’ll be making again soon.

About five years ago, I was trying to get to the bottom of years of acid reflux, frequent colds and congestion and seasonal bronchitis, so I removed certain foods from my diet for about 10 days. It was during that time and in the months that followed, that I discovered dairy products to be the #1 trigger of my sinus and respiratory issues. Once I removed dairy, my health issues practically disappeared.

It was amazing.

I had been learning about the health benefits of food for years at that point. But I never realized how connected my diet was to why I got sick so often and wasn’t feeling my best.

Since that time, I’ve continued to “clean up” my diet with the goal of feeling as good as possible as often as possible. I take supplements and probiotics to repair and restore my health after taking years of antibiotics and acid reducers. In addition, I’ve found that foods containing gluten trigger me as well, so I steer clear of them.

For the past few weeks, I’ve been taking my body through an experiment. It’s kind of like an investigation to better understand why I’ve been feeling a little “off” for the past few months. Because I wanted to get to the root of what my body is trying to tell me, I’ve been following the protocol in the book The Elimination Diet. It’s written by renowned nutritionist, Tom Malterre, and his wife, Ali Segersten, who also authored the Nourishing Meals cookbook.

One of the recipes I tried was for a simple vegetable soup. I used the concept behind the soup as my guide and created my own version of it, which I’m sharing with you today.

It’s full of nourishing, calming, anti-inflammatory ingredients that promote healing and a sense of warmth and comfort. It makes enough to feed 8-10 people, so we like to make it at the beginning of the week to take care of 4-5 meals for both of us. You can enjoy it for breakfast, lunch or dinner, and serving it with a few hunks of avocado on top is especially delicious!

Veggie Lover Chickpea Soup

Ingredients

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups celery, chopped
2 cups carrots, chopped
2 cups cremini mushrooms, chopped
2 cups sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped
2 (15-ounce) cans garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
1 tablespoon fresh thyme OR 1 tsp dried thyme
8 cups sodium-free vegetable broth (check out my super EASY recipe here)
3 cups kale, destemmed and chopped
1/2 cup parsley, chopped
2 teaspoons Herbamare OR 1 tsp sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Directions

  1. Heat the oil in a 4 to 6-quart pot over medium heat. Add the onion and saute for about 5 minutes.
  2. Add the remaining chopped vegetables, beans, thyme (if you have it) and vegetable stock. Cover and simmer for 20-25 minutes or until vegetables are tender.
  3. Add kale, parsley, salt and pepper, and simmer for 5 more minutes.

This soup serves about 8-10 people.

We store it in glass mason jars. If you are going to freeze it, leave about 2 inches of room at the top of the jar to allow for expansion in the freezer.

The Easiest Kale Salad Ever

I’ve been making this salad recipe for OVER FIVE YEARS and can’t believe I’ve never shared this recipe with all of you before!

It’s the simplest recipe and the first way I ever tried eating kale.

If you’ve ever been turned off to eating kale because it tasted bitter or was difficult to chew, give this recipe a try. I bet it will change your mind!

Most of us don’t crave salads this time of year because the weather has gotten colder for many of us. As a result, we tend to be drawn to more warming, grounding foods like soups, stews and chilis. Because I tend to eat seasonally, I’m more apt to saute or steam green veggies or throw them into soups, stews, or frittatas instead of having cold salads everyday.

When I do want a salad, I opt for heartier greens like kale, Swiss chard, or peppery arugula in my salads instead of lighter, more watery greens like romaine or Bibb lettuce.

Another benefit to eating a salad like this in the winter is that it is packed with immune-boosting ingredients. Since 70% of our immune system is located in and around our digestive system, what we eat really does matter!

  • Kale is a cruciferous vegetable, which have antiviral and antibacterial effects. Their pungent, bitter flavors are health-promoting and detoxifying.
  • Lemons have antiviral and antimicrobial activity
  • Garlic may help the immune system function better during times of need such as in cancer
  • Chickpeas are packed with protein and fiber that keep us feeling full and our blood sugar balanced, which helps keep inflammation at bay

Not only is this salad loaded with ingredients to keep your immune system strong, but it will stay fresh in the fridge for at least two days! Check out the recipe below, and feel free to change it up by adding your favorite toppings.

Easiest Kale Salad Ever

Ingredients

1 bunch curly kale, stems removed and leaves torn into pieces
Juice from 1 lemon
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
A few pinches of coarse sea salt
Fresh black pepper, to taste
1 clove garlic, minced

Optional add-ins
2-3 tablespoons nutritional yeast
1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1/4 cup sunflower seeds

Directions

  1. In a large bowl, massage lemon juice, olive oil, salt, pepper and garlic into kale leaves with your hands until they start to turn dark green and shrink by about 1/3 in size. If you’re using nutritional yeast, toss it in with the greens. Store salad in fridge for about 30 minutes to allow lemon juice to break down bitterness in greens.
  2. Add chickpeas and sunflower seeds and enjoy!

Simply Sautéed Mushrooms {& Cauliflower Mash}

Jenna, one of the participants from a recent cooking class I taught about healing foods, had this to say about today’s recipe:

Everyone in my family thought the cauliflower mash was potatoes!!!! They were super creamy.”

Jenna is in high school but is going to be doing big things in the healing foods space in the coming years, as she pursues studies in nutrition in college. Keep your eye out for her!

rachel-jennaI’ve shared the base of this recipe before in this post for Roasted Garlic Cauliflower Mash but put a new spin on it by topping it with mushrooms, a food often used as a stand-in for meat because of their chewy texture.

Mushrooms are immune-boosting, cancer-fighting powerhouses and don’t get nearly enough love in our kitchens and on our plates.

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I hated mushrooms for most of my life because I was too grossed out by what they looked like to even be open to trying them. Now, I’m a big fan, whether they are chopped up in a soup or stew, roasted, or served sautéed like they are in this dish.

You can serve this up as a Thanksgiving side dish. It’s a great way to upgrade your plate without sacrificing flavor. With a whole head of roasted garlic and a tablespoon of fresh thyme in the potatoes along with a generous sprinkling of oregano on the mushrooms, no one will complain that this dish lacks flavor.

Next step? Come up with a sauce to top it off 🙂

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Simply Sautéed Mushrooms 

Ingredients

1 (8-ounce) package cremini (baby Portobello) mushrooms, wiped clean and sliced
2 tablespoons avocado oil, coconut oil, or extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp sea salt
Black pepper, to taste
1⁄2 tsp dried oregano

Directions

  1. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium high heat until oil shimmers.
  2. Add mushrooms to pan, evenly coating them with oil. Spread into a single layer and let cook for 5-6 minutes.
  3. Add salt and pepper, stir and cook 5-6 minute more, until mushrooms begin to brown and soften. Toss with oregano and serve.

Serve as a side dish or on top of some roasted garlic cauliflower mash.

Shredded Brussels Sprouts Salad with Walnuts

Isn’t fall food the best?

What’s not to like?

Soups, stews, chilis, squash, apples, Thanksgiving, and

Brussels sprouts!brussels-salad-closeup

I’ve always liked certain vegetables that other kids didn’t like, including Brussels sprouts, but I think the Parmesan cheese shower I coated them with as a kid helped hide the taste. I think I liked the taste of the cheese…not so much the bitter taste of the overcooked Brussels sprouts.

Brussels sprouts get a bad rap because most of us have only ever eaten them steamed or boiled to death, which releases all of the not so pleasant smells most of us associate with Brussels sprouts.

BUT it doesn’t have to be that way? Brussels sprouts don’t have to be awful.

They can be incredibly delicious, especially when roasted, sautéed, or prepared raw, which is what we’re doing for today’s recipe. I first served this dish at a Healing Foods cooking class I taught in Baltimore recently, and it was a hit.

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It gave me an excuse to use the food processor, which I demo’d on a Facebook live video. Using a food processor is SO MUCH FASTER and more efficient than chopping things like Brussels sprouts by hand.

The brand I recommend and have had the most success with is Cuisinart. I have an 11-cup style and a 14-cup style, and the 11-cup is sufficient for most things I do on a daily basis. You can find the best deals on their food processors on Amazon.

Brussels sprouts are in the cruciferous veggie family, which includes all-stars like broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, arugula, collard greens and kale.

The compounds in Brussels sprouts help activate cancer-fighting enzyme systems in your body and support detoxification (cleaning out the gunk). Upping your intake of these mini cabbages can also help reduce inflammation and your risk of chronic diseases like heart disease and cancer.

If you’ve always been a Brussels sprouts hater or skeptic, I encourage you to give this recipe a try. Serve it up to family and friends – I bet they’ll never know they’re eating Brussels sprouts!

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Shredded Brussels Sprouts Salad with Walnuts

Ingredients

1 pound Brussels sprouts, ends trimmed
1/4 cup lemon juice (about 1.5 lemons)
Zest from 1/2 lemon
1/2 tsp coarse sea salt
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp 100% pure maple syrup
1 clove garlic, peeled and grated or finely minced
1 shallot, finely chopped
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/3 cup walnuts, lightly toasted and chopped
1/4 cup naturally sweetened cranberries (optional)

Directions
1. Working in small batches, place brussels sprouts in feed tube of processor fitted with shredding blade. Pour shredded Brussels sprouts into large bowl.

2. Whisk dressing ingredients (lemon juice through black pepper) together starting with the lemon juice, streaming in the olive oil last. Toss with brussels sprouts to coat evenly. Add more dressing if needed. To soften Brussels sprouts, refrigerate salad at least 30 minutes.

3. Top with walnuts and dried cranberries.

This salad will hold up well for a few days in the fridge 🙂

Do you have any favorite Brussels sprouts recipes? Feel free to share them below!

Tropical Mango Lime Coconut Balls {Vegan, Paleo}

Of all the recipes I create, this kale salad, this sweet potato and egg casserole and these no-bake bites and balls are the most popular.

I love the no-bake bites because they’re packed with an energy-boosting combination of protein, fiber and healthy fats, and the possibilities for flavor combinations are endless! I’ve made about a dozen different versions of these little bites, but I wanted to try something different with this recipe.

mango-bite-ingredients

Because of the warm weather, I’d been enjoying this Caribbean Island Breeze smoothie with frozen mango and was inspired to make a no-bake bite using some of the same ingredients.

I’ve taste-tested these little gems with over a dozen people, and they’ve been a hit each time! With sweet mango, tart lime, creamy coconut, and a zing of ginger, these bites are full of flavor and fun to eat.

You’re going to love them 🙂 

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Tropical Mango Lime Coconut Balls

Yield: 32-36 balls

Ingredients

1 cup raw cashews
2 cups + 1/4 cup shredded coconut
1/3 cup hemp seeds
1/4 tsp + pinch fine grain sea salt
1/2 tsp grated ginger root
1/2 cup dried mango, softened slightly in warm water for about 10 minutes, patted dry with a paper towel, then coarsely chopped
1/2 cup Medjool dates, pitted and coarsely chopped
zest of 1 lime

Directions

  1. Put cashews, 2 cups shredded coconut, hemp seeds and sea salt in the food processor and process (about 30 seconds) until it reaches a coarse meal.
  2. Add remaining ingredients to food processor and process until evenly combined. You may need to scrape down the sides a few times.
  3. Roll into 1-inch balls and roll in shredded coconut. Freeze or refrigerate in a glass container.

Basil Pesto Hummus {Vegan}

Summer is full of vibrant colors and bold flavors. I just love this time of year! Today’s recipe highlights one of my favorite summer herbs that is in season right now and seems to be in everything.

Basil.

basil

I had some basil leftover from making this Basil Walnut Pesto and wanted to try something new and simple, so I decided to add it in to a basic hummus recipe.

We served it to our friends Lisa and Brody, and their son Beckett, at a recent dinner at our house…and everyone loved it! Bill brought it to school this week for a back-to-school potluck, and it went over well there, too.

The recipe starts with the basic hummus ingredients – chickpeas, garlic, tahini, lemon juice and olive oil – and upgrades it by adding in an underrated but super potent herb packed with health-promoting benefits.

Just a few of the body-boosting properties of basil are listed below:

  • Its flavonoids protect our cells from damage and help protect our DNA
  • The oils in basil leaves have strong antibacterial properties, naturally reducing the likelihood of contracting a food-borne illness
  • Contains anti-inflammatory compounds that can provide relief for anyone with inflammatory conditions like arthritis or inflammatory bowel conditions
  • Rich in Vitamins K and A, which act as powerful antioxidants that protect our heart

basil-hummus-aerial basil-hummus-closeup

Basil Pesto Hummus

Ingredients

2 cloves garlic, minced
1 15-ounce can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
3 tablespoons tahini
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons water
3/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, packed
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Directions

  1. Put garlic, chickpeas, tahini, lemon juice, water, and sea salt in the food processor and process until evenly combined. You may need to scrape down the sides. Add basil leaves and process again.
  2. Stream in olive oil through hole at the top of the food processor and run for about 60 seconds until smooth. It may seem a little loose, but if you put it in the fridge to set, it will thicken. If needed, add water, 1 tablespoon at a time, to thin it out.
  3. Store in the fridge in a glass container and serve with raw veggies or chips.

Simple Beauty-Boosting Salad with Pesto Dressing

One of my favorite parts of my job is spending time with employees and showing them how delicious and doable it is to eat well. I love the look of surprise on their faces and the comments they make when they try something they assumed wouldn’t taste good.

(Like this chocolate avocado mousse!)

For a recent cooking demonstration with a client in DC, we focused on beauty-boosting foods – food packed with colors, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and other anti-aging nutrients and benefits.

We started with this Tropical Breeze Smoothie and then made the salad below for our main course, followed by my 5-minute chocolate avocado mousse topped with blackberries for dessert. Everyone had a great time and raved about the recipes.

To be totally honest, I came up with this salad the day before the class when I was in DC and eating my lunch from Chop’t, a salad place at the train station. I was admiring their seasonal Greenmarket Grain Bowl made with radishes, cucumbers, a mix of lettuces and a lemon basil vinaigrette.

Since the focus of the demo I was teaching the next day was about anti-aging, beauty-boosting foods, I knew that was the inspiration I needed to come up with this recipe. The good news is that you don’t HAVE to use these exact ingredients – just use a variety of vegetables that are in season and serve them with a yummy dressing, like the pesto one we made.

Here are the health benefits of some of the ingredients we used according to nutritionist, Kimberly Snyder, in her book, The Beauty Detox Foods.

salad-ingredients

Cucumbers: This is one of the top beauty-boosting foods we can eat. Cukes are packed with enzyme-charged water, B-vitamins and electrolytes to help us flush out the kidneys, reduce bloating and build radiant skin from within.

Radishes: Help cut and dissolve mucus in the digestive tract, so nutrients can flow freely throughout the body. They are in the mustard family and act as cleansers and detoxifiers in our body.

Scallions: Onions contain compounds that stimulate the production of the most important antioxidants the liver uses for detoxification (glutathione). They also contain quercetin, an antioxidant that counters the effects of premature aging.

Zucchini: Rich in antioxidants and other anti-inflammatory compound, vitamins and minerals, this summer squash is not only good for our bodies but it’s also fun to prepare when you use a spiralizer.

To make things a little more exciting than usual, we spiralized the zucchini and diced and sliced everything else. (This is the spiralizer I have). We topped it off with a pesto sauce that I usually serve with pasta or as a topping for cucumber slices as an appetizer. You can thin it out a bit by adding a little more oil or water and use it as a dressing. We just took it straight from the food processor and mixed it in.

The finishing touch was a sprinkling of Tomato Basil Chickpeatos (my FAVE roasted chickpeas). The bag was gone in a matter of minutes. I use them instead of croutons, and the rest of the crew is on board with that idea now, too, which is awesome to see!

salad-covr

Ingredients

1/2 pound mixed greens
2 zucchini, spiralized (or cut into thin strips)
1 bunch scallions, chopped
2 cucumbers, chopped
1 bunch radishes, thinly sliced
1 package of sprouted beans (we used lentil sprouts from MOMs)
1 cup Tomato Basil Chickpeatos
1/2 cup basil walnut pesto

Directions

  1. Mix all salad ingredients in a bowl.
  2. Add dressing and toss to combine.
  3. Top with Chickpeatos and enjoy!

Raw Blueberry Cashew Gelato & Sesame Tahini Cookies

Did you know that the same foods that support our heart and help it heal can also boost our mood? Foods that help one part of the body tend to be good for others as well.

During a recent Heart Healthy Happy Hour hosted by the Institute for Integrative Health in Baltimore, I had the privilege of hearing Dr. Michael Miller, preventive cardiologist, speak about the importance of taking care of our heart, so we can feel good, be well and live longer. For a recap of the top three tips he shared (and a video that will make you laugh until you cry), check out the last blog post here.

To enhance the presentation and bring it to life, his wife, Dr. Lisa Miller, a podiatrist and chief recipe creator, showed everyone how to make the two recipes I’m sharing with you in today’s post. They are perfect for summer, refreshing, colorful and delicious!

millers-tiih

During his presentation, Dr. Miller highlighted some of the top 50 heart-healing, mood-boosting foods, and the recipes prepared highlighted nearly a dozen of those ingredients. For the health benefits of these ingredients, check out my last blog post.

As with all of the recipes on my blog, both of these recipes are dairy-free and gluten-free. The first is raw and both are vegan. Enjoy 🙂

Raw Blueberry Cashew Gelato

blueberry-gelato

Ingredients
1/4 cup raw cashews (preferably soaked overnight in salted water)
1 cup frozen blueberries
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1/2 tsp maca powder (optional)

Directions

  1. Drain cashews (if soaked) and discard soaking liquid.
  2. Place all ingredients in blender as listed and blend until smooth and uniform resembling gelato/ice cream. A high-powered blender works best for this. Add a tablespoon spoon or so of almond milk if it isn’t blending easily enough but keep it minimal so the dessert stays thick.
  3. Pour into pretty cups and serve immediately.
  4. Top with your favorite granola or a sesame tahini cookie, if desired.

Sesame Tahini Cookies

sesame-cookies-miller

Ingredients
1 1/4 cup almond flour
1/4 tsp sea salt
1 tsp baking soda
1/3 cup maple syrup
1/3 cup tahini
1 tsp almond extract
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup sesame seeds

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350F.
  2. In a large bowl, combine almond flour, salt, baking soda.
  3. In a small bowl, blend tahini, maple syrup, almond extract and oil.
  4. Blend dry and wet ingredients together.
  5. Add in sesame seeds.
  6. Form dough into 1” balls and flatten slightly.
  7. Bake at 350F for about 8-10 minutes until lightly brown.

Once cool, you can can dip 1/2 of the cookie in melted dark chocolate and place in the fridge to harden. Otherwise, serve them as a side to the raw blueberry cashew ice cream!

Sweet Potato, Edamame & Quinoa Bowl

What if meal prep and planning could be easier? Cheaper? Tastier? More nourishing?

During the typical work week when I have lots of presentations and meetings and spend a good amount of time in my car, one of the best ways to make sure I stay energized is to have nourishing meals readily available.

I was preparing to teach a cooking demo about Meal Planning Made Easy to a client in DC and shared how to make overnight oats and mason jar salads. I knew I wanted to add one more recipe into the mix. I thought about the types of meals Bill and I typically prepare during the week without following recipes and was inspired to create this recipe.

sweet-potato-bowl-closeup

We tend to use recipe templates instead of always following a recipe line by line. In addition to the versatile overnight oats and mason jar salad recipes, grain bowls are another template we roughly follow when coming up with meals.

They’re easy to assemble. We toss together whatever veggies, grains and proteins we have and mix everything up with a homemade dressing (or whatever we have in our fridge!). We top everything off with chopped nuts or seeds to add some crunch.

In this Sweet Potato, Edamame & Quinoa Bowl, I combined a gluten-free grain (quinoa) with a fiber-filled roasted veg (sweet potatoes) and protein (edamame), a pop of color and greenery (scallions), and some crunch and healthy fat (cashews). I topped everything off with my favorite salad dressing of all time plus one of my favorite anti-inflammatory, digestion-loving, heart healthy ingredients – fresh ginger root.

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My husband, Bill, and I love this dish so much that we’ve made it twice in the past few weeks. It can be served warm or chilled, and it’s lasted us for multiple dinners and lunches each time, which has saved us time and money.

We decided to repurpose the dressing from our favorite kale salad for this recipe and added minced ginger to boost the flavor even more.

sweet-potato-bowl

Print

Sweet Potato, Edamame & Quinoa Bowl

This dish has every texture and flavor you could want in a dish and is ALWAYS a crowd-pleaser!

Course Main Course
Cuisine Asian
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Total Time 55 minutes
Servings 10
Author Rachel Druckenmiller

Ingredients

Salad

  • 1 pound sweet potatoes chopped
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil or avocado oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • black pepper to taste
  • 1 cup quinoa uncooked
  • 2 cups shelled edamame
  • 1/2 cup raw cashews lightly toasted and chopped
  • 1/3 cup scallions chopped

Creamy Ginger Tahini Dressing

  • 3 tablespoons tahini (sesame paste)
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon 100% pure maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoone tamari (gluten-free soy sauce)
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 2 small cloves garlic minced
  • 1 inch ginger root peeled and minced
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil extra virgin

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400F. Toss sweet potatoes with olive oil, salt and pepper. Roasted for 20-25 minutes until pierced easily with a fork.

  2. Cook quinoa according to package directions. Spread quinoa on a parchment-lined baking sheet to cool and prevent it from clumping together. This last step is optional but really helps.

  3. While quinoa is cooking, cook edamame according to package directions and then set aside.

  4. Whisk dressing ingredients together in a small jar. Set aside.

  5. Put cooled quinoa in a large bowl and add sweet potatoes, edamame, scallions, and cashews. Pour dressing over salad and toss to combine evenly. Add more sea salt and pepper to taste.

5 Ways to Boost Your Mood…with Food!

I’ve had the privilege of teaching a two-part series about Eating Empowerment and creating a judgment-free, joyful relationship with food at the Institute for Integrative Health in Baltimore.

In the first session, we talked about reframing eating. We started with this funny video clip from one of my favorite comedians, Jim Gaffigan. He’s spot on and had everyone laughing!

We spent the rest of our time connecting with why we eat, how it makes us feel, and the impact it has beyond our plate.

We talked about and experienced the power of slowing down enough to be aware of how we eat, so we can be more present and take time to truly taste and savor our food. We want to move away from guilt, shame, and judgment and toward freedom, joy, and enjoyment. I’ll be writing future blog posts to recap our discussion on each of those areas in more detail, so if you missed the workshop, stay tuned!

In the second workshop of the series, Dr. Chris D’Adamo and I highlighted the best ways to nourish ourselves, to eat in a way that makes us feel empowered instead of overwhelmed and powerless.

If you want to start feeling better, think more clearly, boost your mood, reduce anxiety, and get sick less often, then you’ll want to upgrade your eating by adding in more of these foods.

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#1: Probiotic-Rich Foods

Since two of the most important mood-boosting neurotransmitters – serotonin and dopamine – are produced with the help of our digestive system (the “gut”), it’s important that we give our body what it needs to make that happen.

SerotoninThink of serotonin as the neurotransmitter that helps us maintain mood balance, reduce anxiety and keep calm. Patients with depression often take medication that affects their serotonin levels. Low dopamine production is associated with apathy and a lack of motivation. It’s often called the “motivation molecule” because it provides the drive and focus we need to be productive. It’s also in charge of our brain’s pleasure-reward system. We want to help our body produce enough serotonin and dopamine to help us feel calm, focused, and happy.

What we eat and drink can affect our serotonin and dopamine levels. Specifically, consuming probiotic-rich foods is one way to promote digestive health the production of these mood-balancing neurotransmitters. Many of us, including me, have taken lots of antibiotics, which wipe out all of the bacteria in our gut, so it’s important that we replenish the good guys and keep the bad guys in balance. Think probiotic = pro-life; antibiotic = against life.

So, what are some food-based sources of probiotics?

Sauerkraut, miso, plain and fermented yogurt from grass-fed cows (if you can tolerate some dairy), tempeh (recipes here!), pickles, kimchi, and kefir, just to name a few.Probiotic Rich Foods

Some of my favorite kinds of fermented foods are:

  • Hex Ferments sauerkraut, kimchi, and kombucha (Baltimore-based. You can find them at Whole Foods, MOMs, Graul’s, and Eddies as well as at the farmer’s markets)
  • Bubbies pickles and sauerkraut (Click here for where to buy near you)
  • Tempeh (This is the brand we like)

#2: Focus on Folate-Rich, Antioxidant-Rich Foods

Folate is a naturally occurring B vitamin that is found in plant foods, including lentils, chickpeas, spinach, asparagus, pinto beans, beets, romaine lettuce, bok choy, cauliflower, broccoli, and broccoli. It comes from a Latin word that refers to foliage or leaves, so that should help you remember where to find it 🙂folate-rich-foodsFolate is important for a number of reasons, but one of its most important roles related to mood is helping our body convert amino acids (the building blocks of protein) into neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine. Neurotransmitters are the brain chemicals that communicate information throughout our brain and body. They send signals between nerve cells (AKA neurons).

Not only that, but folate-rich foods also tend to be packed with fiber and antioxidants. Think of antioxidants as the rust-busters – they help protect our body from damage from the inside out and reduce inflammation, which is linked to a wide range of health issues, including mood disorders. Fiber, which is only found in plant foods, protects our heart and it’s safe to say that food that is good for our heart is also good for our brain.

To experience how delicious folate-rich, antioxidant-packed foods can be, we enjoyed my Taste the Rainbow Kale Salad, which is always a hit!Kale aerial

#3: Power Up with Protein

Despite all of the fuss about protein these days, the good news is that very few of us are deficient in it. But that doesn’t mean we’re off the hook. Most of us aren’t consuming high quality versions of protein. Protein and the quality of protein we eat is important because of the role of protein’s building blocks – amino acids – in the production of our neurotransmitters, hormones, enzymes, and tissues.

Protein, specifically animal sources of protein, are packed with B-vitamins, which are crucial for energy and mood balance.

For years, I was not breaking down protein properly because all of the acid blockers I was taking were shutting off my stomach’s production of stomach acid, which helps the body break down proteins into amino acids. My energy was affected and my hormones were out of whack as a result, so I’ve experienced firsthand how important it is to make sure we are taking in quality forms of protein and that our body can break them down.

Protein is found in plants and animals. Here are a few sources of protein to consider: oysters; cold-water fish like wild caught salmon, sardines and mackerel; halibut; lamb; turkey; tuna; grass-fed beef; pastured chicken; cage-free/pastured eggs; beans, lentils, peas; nuts like walnuts, almonds, pecans, etc.; hemp seeds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds; nut butters, peanut butter.protein-rich-foodsWhat I mean when I say “quality” is to aim for grass-fed, pastured meats or poultry; wild caught seafood; and cage-free eggs from chickens that were allowed to roam freely on pastures like chickens are supposed to do.

During the session, we munched on one of my favorite protein and fiber-packed snacks – rosemary Chickpeatos! They’re roasted chickpeas tossed with sea salt and rosemary, and I love them as a snack or as a substitute for croutons on a salad. They are SO GOOD!chickpeatos-bag

#4: Feel Good about Fat

60% of our brain is made up of fat, so we want to make sure we’re nourishing ourselves with high quality fat that our brain and body can use, so we can feel good. When it comes to fat, quality matters, so we want to opt for anti-inflammatory fats found in foods like avocado, walnuts, flax seeds, chia seeds, hemp seeds, almonds, pumpkin seeds, and wild caught salmon.

feel-good-fats

Deficiencies in omega-3 fatty acids has been linked to mood disorders, as clinical, integrative nutritionist Jason Bosley-Smith shared in this blog post. He suggested consuming cold water fatty fish such as salmon, tuna, and sardines, as well as walnuts to up our omega-3 levels.

Another higher fat food that has other mood-boosting benefits (enhancing serotonin and dopamine production) is CHOCOLATE. So, we enjoyed some of my super food trail mix that is full of nuts, seeds, shredded coconut, berries, and cacao nibs!

trail mix

#5: Herb & Spice It Up!

Herbs are spices are often overlooked as tools in our food. Back in the fall, I had the pleasure of meeting and spending the morning with Rebecca Katz, a culinary nutrition expert and author who is incredibly passionate about using herbs and spices.

Mint is a powerhouse and boosts alertness and memory. Rosemary has been linked with better brain functioning and at keeping depression at bay. It helps us improve concentration and focus. Thyme contains brain-boosting vitamins A and C and contains some iron which is important for brain health as well. Other potent brain-boosting herbs include oregano, basil, and sage.

Spices like turmeric, ginger, cinnamon, clove, cardamom, and cumin also have brain and mood-boosting properties, so we want to include more of them in our diet. When it comes to cooking, Rebecca Katz shares a helpful tip:

And here’s what you need to get about cooking with herbs and spices: Spices go in at the BEGINNING of your cooking and herbs go in at the END.  

Another way to add in more herbs and spices is by having tea each day. We shared in some Chamomile Lemon Tea from Numi. Here are a few of my other favorites:

  • Traditional Medicinals – Chamomile Lavendar (so calming!)
  • Organic India – Lemon Ginger (stress-relieving and reviving) or Masala Chai (energizing)
  • Pukka – Three Mint and Three Cinnamon (invigorating)
  • Truebroc Green Tea (calmness, relaxation)

We closed by talking about the importance of having your nutrient levels checked to ensure you’re not deficient in any of these crucial mood-boosting nutrients. I recommend seeing a functional medicine practitioner for further guidance on that topic.

So, there you have it! A look at some of the best mood and brain-boosting foods. You’ll notice that many of the recipes on my blog use a lot of those foods. I want to make it easier for you to eat in the most energizing, nourishing, delicious way possible!

 

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