So when I finally got round to reading Gabriel Cousen’s book Depression-Free for Life: A Physician’s All-Natural, 5-Step Plan, I gobbled it up almost as quickly as one of my yummy desserts. The link between nutrition and mental health is hugely fascinating.
On a basic level, I know myself just how much my enthusiasm, motivation, patience, creativity and positivity is affected by what I do and don’t eat.
There are many factors that cause depression, and as Cousens says, there is no magic bullet – pharmaceutical or natural – that alleviates all types of depression. But part of his natural, five step plan to cure depression, without the use of drugs, is to ensure that we are eating the right balance of the omega fats.
People often think, like I used to, that fat is not something you want on your plate; that healthy equals low fat. A slim person must be healthy; low-fat food always means healthy food, and all fat is bad and must be avoided at all costs.
There was a time that I would save my fat intake for desserts and junk foods. Although my main meals were pretty healthy and contained whole foods, they were very low in fat, which meant that if I wanted to treat myself to rich dairy ice-cream or refined, sugar-laden cake, then I could do so…
Oh, poor, silly Miss Best! I now know that a) good fats are essential for good physical and mental health, b) processed fats and refined sugar are not good for the body, and c) you can actually have healthy and tasty desserts! Yay!
I know I wasn’t alone in this thinking. One college friend told me one day that she had skipped her lunch-time sandwich and just ate a chocolate bar because she was on a diet! Someone else I observed would eat daily low fat versions of unhealthy snacks laden with salt, refined flour and sugar, just because the label screamed out that it was ‘less than 3% fat’!
But now, every day, I enjoy good healthy fats such as avocado, flax oil, cold pressed olive and coconut oils, nuts and seeds to provide me with the good fats needed for the function of my body and brain. I enjoy these essential fats even more when I can use them in a dessert! Some of the desserts in my eBook ‘Loving Life-Loving Desserts’ are less than 3% fat (the Frozen Desserts, for example), but most are slightly higher in fat. However, the ingredients used in these desserts contain not only goodies such vitamins, protein, fiber and minerals, but also balanced, healthy, and essential fats.
We need Essential Fatty Acids (EFA) in the correct ratio for good mental health, sharp vision, cardiovascular health, and healthy skin and stomach. In fact, all our organs depend in EFAs. You have probably heard about EFAs, and that it’s important to eat foods that contain Omega-3, but what we also need to remember is that we shouldn’t eat a lot of food that is high in Omega-6. Many people consume too much omega-6, which is found in highly processed foods containing hydrogenated fats, and there is a risk that people who eat a low-fat diet of mostly refined foods are creating an imbalance in their bodies and minds due to the skewed ratio of omega-6 to omega-3.
So, to rectify this imbalance, we need to ensure that we avoid highly processed foods, and eat more Life-Loving Foods that contain Omega-3. Sea vegetables such as nori, hijiki and kombu contain a good balance of EFAs, as do the following foods, which also have the the highest levels of omega 3:
* Pumpkin seeds
* Kidney beans
Flaxseeds (linseeds) have a particularly high concentration of omega-3s – a much higher concentration than those found in cold-water fish, for example. They are also one of the richest sources of lignan – a special fiber that is converted to compounds called lignans, in the colon. Lignans are great for the immune system, and are also antiviral, antifungal, and have been associated with reduced rates of prostate, colon and breast cancer. And if this wasn’t a great enough gift from nature, they are also packed with protein, B-vitamins, calcium, magnesium, and other nutrients such as potassium.
So, I think you will agree that these teeny flax seeds are mighty little powerhouses, and should definitely make a feature in our daily lives. But how do we do this?
One or two teaspoons of flax oil, or one tablespoon of ground flax seeds should meet your daily requirement of omega-3s. While flaxseed oil is a convenient way of consuming flax (on salads, and in smoothies, for example), it does not contain the beneficial lignan that the seeds have.
Flaxseeds are inexpensive, which is good news. You can buy them whole or ground: if you have a nut/seed mill or coffee grinder, then I suggest you buy whole ones and grind them yourself, as they quickly lose their healthful properties once milled. Ground seeds should be stored in the fridge.
If you are not used to eating flax seeds, it may be a good idea to gradually introduce them into your diet. If you eat a lot of them straight away, they may …er… have a bit of a FLAXative effect! So start with a teaspoon or two to begin with.
It’s a really great gift to yourself to get into the routine of adding crushed flaxseeds to your breakfast cereal, or on top of your food. I understand, however, that it’s not always very tasty to sprinkle ground flax seed on your dinner, so I have a tasty recipe for you to make sure you have no excuses for not eating your omega-3s
This recipe is inspired by Ani Phyo’s Coconut Breakfast cakes from her book Ani’s Raw Food Kitchen. I have built on her idea by adding pumpkin seeds, which are also a good source of omega-3, as well as being high in zinc, magnesium and iron. Ani’s original recipe uses only flax seeds, but I think the addition of pumpkin seeds makes them tastier, as well as boosting the nutritional value. Also, as I said, if you are not used to eating so much flax seed in one sitting, then this combination will better suit your tummy.
I have also added some yummy and nutritious goodies such as cacao, raisins and goji berries. If you can’t get hold of gojis, then just leave them out. If you don’t have a seed mill, just buy ready ground flax seeds, and process the pumpkin seeds in a food processor.
These are like a raw version of pancakes, and make a fantastic breakfast, brunch or dessert.
Chocolate OMG Cakes
1/2 cup ground flax seed (about 1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons whole seeds, ground)
1/4 cup pumpkin seeds, ground
2 tablespoons dried coconut
2 tablespoons raisins
1 tablespoon gojis (optional)
1 tablespoon coconut oil, melted
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/5 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons agave syrup or maple syrup
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
2 tablespoons water
Mix everything together in a bowl and form into four patties. Place the patties on plates, drizzle with agave syrup or maple syrup, and serve with plenty of fresh fruit. They are also divine with one of my Raw Sauces and/or Frozen Desserts, such as Chocolate Chip Ice Dream.
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