By this time of year, the seemingly endless string of gray days with chilly temperatures can sure bring on the blues, and it’s natural to turn to food to lift your spirits. But while eating, say, a hunk of chocolate cake can make you feel good for the short-term, and is fine now and then, we all know how that strategy can backfire over time. Happily there are delicious, mood-boosting foods that can make you feel better now and beyond the thaw.
Specifically, I’m calling out salmon, dark leafy greens, beans, and whole fruit as foods that can help lift your spirits. Salmon because it is one of the best food sources of vitamin D, which has been shown to help combat seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Dark leafy greens and beans because they are especially rich in folate, a nutrient which at low levels is linked to depression, low energy levels and memory loss. And fruit because it’s a healthy (nutrient and fiber -rich) source of carbohydrates which helps increase the feel-good hormone serotonin. Here are a few recipes to help you get these good mood foods in the tastiest possible way. Enjoy!
Herbed Salmon & Orzo Skillet with Feta
Photo by Quentin Bacon, food styling by Suzanne Lenzer, and prop styling by Maeve Sheridan
I hate to play favorites with my recipes because each one genuinely comes from my heart, but I have a special soft spot for this dish. It is one of my choice ways to eat salmon—a top mood-boosting ingredient. This one skillet meal is both light and filling, with fresh chunks of the fish, plus spinach (another good mood food), and tomatoes, all cooked along with the orzo they are nestled in. It’s lemony and herbaceous and made dreamy topped with a salty sprinkle of feta that melts in the oven. Once you try it you will surely put it into regular rotation.
Chickpea & Spinach Salad with Cumin Dressing
Photo by Christopher Hirsheimer
This salad is an easy and tasty way to get those folate-rich beans and dark greens. In it, chickpeas are tossed in an aromatic lemon and cumin dressing. Fresh herbs punch it up with an unmistakable freshness and spinach provides a tender bed. An orange-infused yogurt topping creates cools creamy contrast. Great as a side salad with grilled meat, it can also work as a vegetarian entrée.
Fig and Ginger Truffles
Photo by Alexandra Grablewski, food styling by Mariana Velasquez, and prop styling by Lynda White
It’s fine to dig into something sweet to lift your spirits, but why not make it a healthy treat if it’s one that hits the spot equally well? These truffles are made with dried figs and ginger — always a winning pair, with ginger adding just the right zing to the earthy sweet fruit. Dipped in dark chocolate they offer a sweet seratonin boost in a healthier way.
Fig and Ginger Truffles OMG! Can't wait to try them!