It’s old news that the food we eat effects our health – eating crap makes you feel crap, both physically and mentally. As I’ve previously said, it is no coincidence that while sugar-intake is at an all time high, depression and anxiety are steadily on the rise. However, the connection between mood and food may be even more direct that we think.
Although eating sugary and salty foods makes us feel better when we’re down, in the long run, they are actually going to make you feel worse. What you actually need is food high in tryptophan, the precursor to serotonin. Serotonin, is a neurotransmitter involved in regulating mood, sleep, and digestion. A deficiency has been implicated in low mood, depression, anxiety and even sleep disorders. Although some doctors may argue that serotonin activity is wholly determined by your genes, many researchers have good reason to believe that the types of food you eat can alter serotonin levels. In fact, 95% of serotonin is absorbed through the gut, so it is unsurprising that eating specific foods can quickly improve our mood.
In fact, a restaurant has about to open in Australia called ‘the Serotonin Kitchen’ – each dish designed to increase serotonin conversion and thereby boost your mood! Aside from making you come away happier (and too make you tip more), this restaurant is designed to promote the high-serotonin diet that is thought to help combat depression and other mood disorders.
High-serotonin foods include most green vegetables, beans, nuts, chicken, fish, eggs and bananas. Additionally, spices can boost serotonin and lead to clear thinking and sharp focus. Some spices, such as tumeric, actually act like anti-depressants by blocking the monoamine oxidase enzymes that naturally breaks down these serotonin.
So next time you’re in tescos, clad in pajamas and deciding between the cookie dough and phish food, think of that yoga-loving, clean eating friend you have who is always annoyingly happy – it isn’t unachievable, just add high-serotonin foods to your diet.
Below is a recipe for high-serotonin pad thai so it’ll actually make you happier!
1 cup beansprouts
2 carrots – peeled into ribbons
Rice noodles (use courgette spaghetti to be extra healthy)
1 pak choi
2 garlic gloves
1 egg per person
Handful chopped peanuts
3 tablespoons peanut butter or almond butter
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons honey
2 teaspoons grated ginger
1. Roughly chop onion and garlic and heat in a wok until soft
2. Add all of the veg until soft, stirring often.
3. Add rice noodles (or courgette noodles) and cook for another 5 mins.
4. Meanwhile, poach an egg in salty water and set aside. This can be done using a poacher or by cracking an egg into boiling water while swirling so that the white covers the yolk. Set aside to serve with pad thai.
5. For the sauce: Whisk together all of the sauce ingredients until the sauce is smooth and creamy. Season with salt and pepper. Add chilli flakes if you want it really spicy.
6. Add sauce to the wok and serve in a bowl. Top the pad thai with the egg and some chopped nuts to garnish.