What if you could achieve mental calmness through food? Uma Naidoo, M.D., a professional chef and nutritional psychiatrist with training from Harvard, says that you absolutely can! She even published a whole book on the subject, appropriately titled Calm Your Mind With Food.
In a recent episode of the mindbodygreen podcast, Naidoo also discusses how to eat for your mental health and which foods specifically cause anxiety. She even shares her go-to morning meals, which we’ve picked out especially for you, below. These are her favourite mood-boosting breakfast recipes:
1. Chia pudding
First up is chia pudding, which Naidoo claims is one of the healthiest and quickest recipes to prepare. It also has a lot of protein and fibre. Chia seeds are a fantastic plant-based source of omega-3 fatty acids, which studies have indicated are critical for maintaining our resilience and emotional equilibrium.
Just whisk together 2 tablespoons chia seeds and ½ cup milk, then set aside until the mixture takes on the consistency of gel. “You can add in hemp milk, or you can add in the nut milk of your choice, topped with some blueberries and some nuts or seeds,” she continues. To have the dish packed and ready to travel whenever you need it, you can even prepare it in advance.
2. A veggie omelet
The next dish is a traditional but nutrient-dense vegetable omelette made with eggs from pastures. “Maybe even add some herbs and spices for an added boost,” she suggests. Choline, which is abundant in eggs, has been connected to a decrease in anxiety2. In fact, one study3 discovered a negative correlation between dietary choline and symptoms of depression.
Here are some ideas to help you with your next omelette:
veggies: potatoes, broccoli, tomatoes, bell peppers, mushrooms, and spinach
Herbs: parsley, cilantro, sage, rosemary, dill, and basil
Spices: black pepper, red pepper flakes, paprika, garlic powder, and cayenne
Consider making a frittata for those who prepare meals in advance; it’s a hybrid of an omelette and a crustless quiche. Eggs high in choline will help you without requiring you to preheat the stove every morning.
Naidoo prepares the small frittatas in advance in a cupcake pan, freezing the remaining portions for quick reheating on hectic mornings. Don’t forget to include veggies for additional fibre (and taste, of course).
4. A tofu scramble
Another fantastic choice that’s packed with plant-based protein is a tofu scramble, which is perfect if you’re looking for a different way to liven up your regular egg breakfast or you follow a vegan diet.
Naidoo uses a food processor to chop a block of tofu into small pieces, which she then adds to a pan along with spinach, onions, peppers, and a variety of spices. Turmeric, which adds a yellow hue akin to eggs to tofu scrambles, is often called for because of its neurotrophic properties, which have been linked to enhancements in memory, attention, and general cognitive function.
Why are these breakfasts A+ for mental health?
While Naidoo lists her top brain-supporting meals, she suggests adding more plants to your morning meal at the end (or beginning?) of the day. “If we take a step back and think about a nutritional psychiatry plate, I want people to be plant-forward, irrespective of what your protein choices are,” Naidoo stated.
In addition to providing fibre, fruits and vegetables are rich in polyphenols, which have been demonstrated to reduce inflammation overall and improve brain function and cognition4.
The most crucial thing to remember, according to Naidoo, is that experimenting with different recipes will help you figure out which foods ease tension and get your mind ready for the day. You will get more knowledgeable about the requirements and desires of your own body through personal experimentation. Since each body (and brain) is different, pay attention to what yours is telling you and adjust as necessary.