YOU’s GP Dr Clare Bailey has created these exclusive mood-boosting recipes that’ll banish the January blues.
For lots of us, January can be a little bleak. But if you’re feeling the winter blues, it’s possible to boost your mood just by choosing the right food. I don’t mean New Year fad diets or punishing juice cleanses. It’s really as easy as switching to a simple Mediterranean-style diet with lots of fresh vegetables and fruit, wholegrains and pulses, nuts, seeds, fish and olive oil.
So how does what you eat affect your mood? It’s all down to your gut microbiome, those trillions of microorganisms in your large intestine. The ‘good’ bacteria thrive on a fibre-rich Mediterranean diet. And when you feed them the right things – and avoid wiping them out with junk – they produce natural antidepressants. In fact, new research from the Food and Mood Centre in Australia has shown that a Mediterranean-style diet can reduce your risk of anxiety and depression, as well as obesity, diabetes and heart disease.
The nourishing, no-faff recipes here will help your microbiome thrive – and in turn pep up your mood. Here’s to a happy, healthy year.
My four blues-busting rules
1. Quit sugary and highly processed foods and drinks.
2. Increase variety to improve nutrient intake. Aim for 30 different vegetables and fruit a week – include colourful foods.
3. Constrain your eating time – this allows the body and gut to recover and repair; eat within a ten- to 12-hour window; practise intermittent fasting such as the 5:2 and avoid snacking between meals.
4. Include fermented foods and drinks daily, as they introduce friendly bacteria (known as probiotics) to the gut microbiome to help it function better. They also make the food easier to digest, increasing availability of important nutrients such as B and C vitamins as well as proteins.
10 mood-boosting recipes to banish the January blues
My husband Michael Mosley and I are addicted to sauerkraut with its salty, sweet and tangy flavour, and love the hit of good bacteria it gives your gut. Boost your mood and wellbeing by looking after your microbiome. This is one of our favourite breakfasts.
Get to love fibre-packed chickpeas (Ilike to slip them into salads and stews) to help you feel fuller for longer and to be kind to your gut microbes, so they in turn can help your brain. Butternut squash and nuts give this tagine an extra healthy boost. Serve accompanied by green veg such as thin green beans or steamed leaves with brown rice, quinoa or bulgur wheat.
Ugly and knobbly it may be, but this delicious vegetable is one of the best sources of much needed gut-friendly non-soluble and soluble fibre. You don’t even need to peel it because the best nutrients are in the skin.
We love a good curry. Spices are great antioxidants and turmeric’s anti-inflammatory effect is enhanced when served with natural fat and added black pepper. For a vegetarian version of this Kashmiri chicken curry recipe, you can swap the meat for halloumi or paneer cheese, add tofu or nuts such as cashew. Serve with small portions of brown rice and a pile of steamed green veg.
Provided by Professor Jacka from her excellent book Brain Changer, demonstrating how eating good-quality food like this will ‘optimise mental and brain health across your lifespan’. This delicious warm salad with chickpeas, brussels sprouts and wholegrain farro will take you and your microbiome to a better place!
Lentils, like chickpeas, are your best friends when it comes to meeting your daily 30g fibre goal and lifting your mood. Sweet potato adds a juiciness along with a boost of antioxidants, reducing inflammation. And being high in fibre it also feeds a healthy gut microbiome. Michael and I both love dhal. It also makes a perfect side dish for curry.
Get those beans, nuts and chickpeas working on your behalf in these yummy spiced burgers for a healthy microbiome and better mood. This goes well served with the lemon and red cabbage slaw (opposite) or top with mashed avocado, a squeeze of lime and a large salad.
To keep you and your microbiome happy, these delicious chicken goujons are coated with ground almonds, which are packed with healthy nutrients and may also help weight loss. They’re served with a microbiome-friendly fibre-rich slaw and a probiotic live yogurt dressing. Red cabbage boosts your coloured veg intake, providing extra anti-inflammatory phytonutrients.
A fabulously easy and flavourful baked fish combined with fennel to provide that extra gut-friendly soluble fibre for those good microbes to thrive on. The nuts add a bit of crunch and may help reduce cholesterol. Celeriac makes a great mash, full of nutrients and extra fibre. Serve with plenty of freshly cooked green vegetables drizzled with olive oil.
Unlike most highly processed wrapped snacks, this is microbiome-friendly. It’s sweetened with slow-release natural fruit and packed with fibre, which your microbiome will love. Surprisingly, cocoa powder (unsweetened) is around 30 per cent fibre. It’s best eaten after a meal as your gut doesn’t enjoy little extras in between.
Food styling by Clare Lewis. Styling by Sue Radcliffe.