Start the New Year with food that makes you happy
Numerous studies done around the world associate a healthier, balanced diet with a better mood — especially when that balanced diet also satisfies hunger.
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This time of year is full of listicles and slide shows pointing out “superfoods” that people should be eating for a happier new year. A quick Google search for “foods that make you happy” yielded 13.5 million results ranging from raw nuts to kale and spinach to chocolate.
The foods listed are usually chosen for being high in a vitamin, mineral or amino acid that’s vital for the body to function, though whether food alone can boost a person’s mood hasn’t been definitively proven in clinical studies.
Heck, if kale alone could boost our moods we would all be chugging kale juice after the disastrous events of 2016.
“Food is complex and that’s often forgotten,” says Timothy Caulfield, professor and research director at the University of Alberta’s Health Law Institute. “Food is made up of a ton of chemicals and that makes it tough to make definitive statements about foods producing a particular mood that’s good or bad.”
Still, Caulfield points out numerous studies done around the world that associate a healthier, balanced diet with a better mood — especially when that balanced diet also satisfies hunger (We all know from personal experience the idea of “hangry,” a portmanteau of hungry and angry).
Here are three recipes to help you eat well — and feel well — in 2017.
Hotpot For One
Makes one serving
“If you are hungry you may have less concentration and get more angry easily,” writes professor at U of T’s department of Nutritional Sciences and Medicine David Jenkins in an email.
So how do you keep yourself full and focused?
Health Canada recommends filling half of your plate with veggies at dinnertime as a good guideline to ensure a balanced meal rich in nutrients and fibre, which keeps the stomach feeling satiated and your digestive system happy.
This warming bowl of veggies, tofu and buckwheat noodles in a spiced vegetable broth should help keep your stomach — and mind — happy.
• 2 cups (500 mL) vegetable broth, plus more to boil vegetables
• 1/4 tsp (1 mL) soy sauce, or to taste
• 1/4 cup (60 mL) thinly sliced carrot
• 1 handful watercress
• 2 button mushrooms, thinly sliced
• 5 oz (140 g) extra firm tofu cut into small cubes
• 3-1/4 oz (90 g) soba noodles or your soup noodle of choice
1. In a medium saucepan, bring vegetable broth to a boil. Add soy sauce. Add carrots, watercress, mushrooms and tofu. Add more broth if necessary to cover ingredients. Cook until vegetables are tender. Add noodles and continue to boil until just al dente.
2. Transfer to serving bowl and serve immediately.
Sunshine Chopped Salad
Makes one serving
If you’ve overloaded on salty turkey and ham over the holidays, your taste buds might crave something more acidic and bright such as zesty citrus fruits. Early explorers went through the same thing, although their situation was a little more extreme: their bodies were deprived of vitamin C after sustaining on nothing but dried meats, and they were suffering from scurvy.
Though scurvy is rare these days, a brightly coloured salad — with lots of texture, healthy fats, lean protein and tart acids — may help you feel more balanced. It also helps that we like to eat with our eyes and are drawn to colourful plates rather than a bowl of grey mush.
This take on the classic cob adds chunks of oranges and subs in a lighter-tasting grilled chicken for bacon.
• 4 oz (115 g) boneless, skinless chicken breast diced into 1-cm cubes
• Salt and pepper, to taste
• 2 cups (500 mL) chopped green leaf lettuce or lettuce of your choice
• 1 hard-boiled egg, chopped
• 1/2 avocado, seeded, peeled and diced
• 1/2 cup (125 mL) peeled and diced beet
• 1/2 orange, cut into segments with seeds, skin, pith and membranes removed
• Olive oil, to taste
• Balsamic vinegar, to taste
1. In an unoiled skillet over medium high heat, sauté chicken until fully cooked and browned. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.
2. In a salad bowl, sprinkle chopped lettuce on bottom to form an even bed. Top with lines of chopped egg, avocado, beet, orange and cooked chicken. Drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar to taste. Serve immediately.
Hot Chocolate Coffee
Makes one serving
The placebo effect of comfort food comes down to one thing: nostalgia. Caulfield says we associate certain food with memories — think chocolate with childhood birthday cake — and that’s one reason why a square of the dark stuff can put a smile on your face, as it reminds us of all the good times experienced when chocolate was around.
The same logic applies to other comfort foods such as pizza, mac and cheese, cake — foods that people are more likely to have when they were children or during celebrations.
A dash of cocoa powder in your morning coffee might just hearken you back to snow days on your morning commute.
• 1-1/2 cups (375 mL) freshly brewed hot coffee
• 1 tbsp (45 mL) unsweetened cocoa powder
• 1 tbsp (45 mL) granulated sugar
• 1 tbsp (45 mL) milk or cream
1. Fill a large mug or pot with coffee and stir in cocoa powder, sugar and milk. If coffee isn’t hot enough to completely dissolve cocoa powder, whisk everything together in a small saucepan over low heat.
2. Serve immediately.
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