We are fast and furiously approaching the festive season. Did someone say we had less than a month ’til the Big Day?! The reality for many , is a period of serious fun and hair letting down, but also one of added stress, a multitude of lists and spreadsheets to co-ordinate presents for and from various family members and the mountains of food for banquets, feasts, snacks and nibbles that will be dished out over the next few weeks.
In our family, we have the addition of a child’s birthday – so even more to organise and get this… a house move! AAAGH! So if this is our family, I can only imagine, your family will have it’s own additional layer of stress to cover the bubbling anxiety and last minute panic attacks.
So how do you keep calm? How can you lower anxiety levels? How can you keep cool while the pressure is heating up? There are the obvious things – lists and plans as well as finding time for a Mindful Minute or two… (if you need a reminder, click here: Mindful Minute or click here for the guided video version:Mindful Minute ) But did you know, what you eat can also have a profound impact on your state of mind, of happiness and calm?
Read on, if you want to understand how a happy belly can create a happy mind this Christmas…
It is a hot topic in the world of health at the moment – understanding the microbiome and the brain-gut axis. Simply put, our microbiome are a colony of bugs in our intestines that look after our digestion and our immunity, but more importantly transmit signals our brain about the health and mood of our gut. If our gut is working well and happy, then our brain takes that message on; if our gut is sluggish, anxious or unhappy, then that is what our mind understands we are.
So, if you are feeling low, unhappy, and anxious, have a look at what you are feeding your microbiome. They thrive on a diet full of whole foods, full of colour and fibre by ‘eating the rainbow’, good fats rich in EFA omega 3 and 6, fermented foods as probiotics and at least a 10-12 hour window to rest and recover. They start to to become unhappy, sluggish and even die when you treat them to a diet of highly refined foods (sweets, biscuits, processed meat, some breads, cakes and crisps), chemicals found in pesticides and additives.
So in the lead up to Christmas, remember the mood of your microbiome will be reflected in your mood. To make yours a happy tummy and to keep your head, while all those around you are losing theirs by hoovering up the processed food, why don’t you polish your angelic halo by eating fresh, whole and clean. Here are a few ideas of what you can do to help keep your microbiome bugs happy:
Breakfast for happy mornings:
Overnight oats soaked in almond milk, with Kefir and topped berries and seeds.
Soaking oats is better at feeding the microbiome, helps level blood sugar and rich in dietary fibre to lower cholesterol. Kefir is a fermented food and probiotic to promote digestion and happy microbiome. Colourful berries are low GI, low in sugar and high in colour, polyphenols and antioxidents to support immunity. Pumpkin & sunflower seeds are wonderful sources of minerals and vitamins and good fats for optimal brain function!
For a festive spin – top with clementine segments, walnuts, a little raw honey and a sprinkle of cinnamon instead of the berries and seeds.
Lunching for calm
Kale, egg & avocado salad with ACV and olive oil dressing
Kale is a superfood rich in fibre, protein, vitamins and iron. It is also brilliant for packed lunches as a salad as it doesn’t go soggy. Apple cider vinegar is a fermented food and helps keep good bacteria strong, but also kills off any bad bugs in the digestive colony. Mix with 2 parts of Olive oil for good fats to support good brain function and massage into the kale leaves. Top with either a poached egg or a boiled egg for a low cost protein option but high in good fats (along with the avocado) and protein to help keep you full and your mind away from feeling hungry. Add your choice of salad veggies to include colour – peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers, olives, grated beetroot – for maximum polyphenol fix.
For a more festive flavour, change the protein to be leftover turkey roast (cooked from fresh, not processed slices!) and you could even grate in some sprouts or half and roast them in a little drizzle of olive oil.
Wild salmon, herby quinoa and Roasted Mediterranean Veggies
The Mediterranean diet has been proven to assist with alleviating mild depression and anxiety; this is the perfect dish with oily fish, olive oils, colourful veggies and whole grains. By eating slowly and mindfully, our brain can communicate with our gut to prepare itself for optimal digestive processing; if we have a happily processing gut, it will return the same message back to our minds.
See below for recipe – Raw cacao is a natural mood elevator and anti depressant. It contains magnesium for healthy hearts and brains, packed full of anti oxidents (40x more than blueberries) and loads of iron. So snack on one of these without the guilt and with all the pleasure than a slice of yule log!
4 tablespoons coconut oil
4 tablespoons maple syrup
90g raw organic cacao powder plus a little extra for coating
120 almond butter
Pinch of sea salt
(optional for a festive chocolate orange taste – I use doterra oils)
1-2 drops essential orange oil
Put the oil, syrup, cacao powder, nut butter and salt in a pan and gently heat until everything is melted and stir until smooth. If using the orange oil, add in off the heat and stir in.
Pour the mixture into a shallow baking tray and put in the freezer for 20 minutes (no more or it will go too hard). It should be set but not solid, then use a spoon to to scoop up a small amount of mixture and then with clean, dry hands, roll into a small bonbon size ball. Roll them in some cacao powder (or desiccated coconut or crushed hazelnuts or pistachio) and place on another baking tray until the mixture is all gone. Put back in the freezer for 10 minutes or so – until they are a bit harder. Then pop them into another dish or jar and keep in the fridge for up to a week.