There are times when it is best to go back to the basics and explore the reasons behind why something works. I would like to share with you the basics behind the four principles of what makes certain recipes applicable to the “Mood Food” concept. The four basic concepts behind what makes a dish appropriate to consider when talking about brain health are Content, Color, Texture, and Taste.
This has to do with what is actually in the foods we consume that make sense from a brain health perspective. All of the recipes I share will be high in nutritional content for optimal brain health. The B-vitamins in particular are responsible for synthesis of neurotransmitters. Deficiency in neurotransmitters such as serotonin and dopamine are indicated in the presence or absence of mental health disorders such as depression and anxiety. B-vitamins such as folic acid play a vital role in the synthesis of serotonin, and how it is effectively carried across the cell membranes to gain optimal brain health.
We eat with our eyes first, so the inclusion of color is relevant to what makes a dish Mood Food or not. Colors can evoke an emotional response, so if you are looking at something that is bright yellow, that may signal feelings of happiness to you. Green may evoke calm, while red may invite feelings of excitement. Eating a rainbow of colors is not only pleasing to the eye, but boosts your mood as well.
Texture is very influential in the role of a Mood Food dish. We must include elements that are interesting to our ears as well. Foods with great texture are thought to be much more satisfying to eat. We tend to be drawn towards eating foods that are crunchy when we are stressed out, because exercising the jaw muscles relieves stress. Also, when you hear yourself munching on a textural element, you are much more aware of what you are eating, making the whole experience more enjoyable.
The flavors we experience can be helpful in determining whether or not a dish improves our mood. If something does not taste great, it is likely it will not make it into your body! Mood Food dishes should taste as wonderful as they look. There are other factors when discussing flavors as well. Something spicy can help release dopamine, giving a euphoric feeling when eaten. Sweetness of a food can play a powerful role in feelings of calm when it is recognized on the palate.
When all of these elements are combined in a dish, the final product can play a positive role in your mood and in your brain health. Please enjoy this recipe for citrus-pineapple relish, which combines all of these elements into one delicious bowl of good Mood Food.
“ChefNurse” Ellen Minier, MSN, PMHNP-BC
Pineapple, Jicama, and Citrus Mood Booster
Combine the following ingredients and enjoy over a bed of greens, as a topping for grilled chicken or fish, or with tortilla chips.
- 2 cups chopped fresh pineapple
- 5 oranges, peeled and segmented
- ½ cup purple onion diced
- 1 cup red and yellow sweet bell peppers, diced
- 2 Fresno (red) chili peppers, seeded and chopped (leave in the seeds if you like it extra spicy)
- 2 cups jicama, peeled and chopped
- ¼ cup cilantro, chopped
- juice and zest of a lime
- salt and pepper to taste
“I have been fortunate enough to have had 2 careers in my lifetime – psychiatry and culinary arts. I obtained my degree in Culinary Arts from Johnson and Wales University in 1998 and worked as a chef for many years. When I became a mother, I was inspired to go back to school and began my path to become a Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner. Even though I left the professional world of cooking behind, I still absolutely love creating delicious and beautiful meals for my friends and family. I am so excited to share with you how food and mental wellness are connected to one another.” ~ Ellen Minier-“ChefNurse”