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This Mental Health Monday, we’re talking about a really interesting, natural way to combat negative feelings: mood-enhancing spices!
Who knew you had little bottles in your kitchen cabinets that could help you feel better, am I right?! Well, our guest blogger, Sunrita did! Sunrita runs a business called Spice it Upp where she is very used to talking about how mood-enhancing spices improve lives. I was so excited when she contacted me, because eating well is such an important part of feeling good, and we rarely talk about it on Mental Health Monday!
Related: The Food & Mood Connection
In this series, I’m all about creating hope by showing you personal stories from people who have been where you’re at and gotten through it. This is why it’s so fun when someone like Sunrita comes in with such a different perspective! Everyone can find something they can relate to, so everyone can get a little hope and help.
MHM is so helpful for people in their twenties especially because this is the time when a lot of mental illness creeps up to the surface.
I mean, think of all you guys go through! You’re leaving home for the first time, going to college or grad school, working full time for no money at internships and juggling jobs, or maybe starting families. Or maybe all of the above! So, if you’re not the most well-adjusted person in the world, you might struggle with some symptoms of depression, anxiety, or negative coping skills.
So, now that you know what the goal is here, I’m going to pass it over to Sunrita. She’s going to tell you all about how you can incorporate these mood-enhancing spices to your diet. She’ll even give you meal recommendations! I’m so excited to see what you’ll create, and how it’ll make you feel! Happy cooking!
Sometimes, MHM inspires readers to go get the help they need and deserve and sometimes, it triggers something painful. That’s why I partnered with BetterHelp online counseling services. If you find that mood-enhancing spices aren’t boosting your mood enough, or if they get you to a point where you feel motivated to get more help, please click the link, or any banners in this post. You deserve to feel your best!
The Many Causes of Depression
“How many of you reach for a pot of ice cream or a large bar of chocolate when you feel down in the dumps? Movies have romanticized binging on a tub of ice cream as good coping mechanisms for a breakup or stress. But while it’s a great excuse to get some yummy treats in, you are also cramming in calories!
Be good to yourself and treat yourself well without making your body suffer! The good news is that there are many healthy food alternatives right now in your kitchen shelf that not only make you feel good, but also do your body good!
At some point of our lives we all go through a down phase, when we feel low and lonely. Sometimes we can tell because we start to have relationship problems, stress over exams, PMS, etc. There are other underlying causes of depression that sometimes go unnoticed though, like lack of physical exercise and increased mental stress, low self-esteem, anxiety, or lack of social interaction. As long as these symptoms are not too severe, requiring medical attention, you can combat them at home with healthy food alternatives and mood-enhancing spices.
Mood-enhancing spices are a great natural alternative to antidepressant medicine. Many studies conducted by universities and scientists show that specific spices have mood-enhancing benefits since they contain the feel-good chemicals like dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin, and endorphins. Reach into your cupboards and start adding a spoonful of happiness every day.
Top 5 Mood Enhancing Spices
Saffron is a popular Persian spice which has long been used in traditional Persian medicine as a mood-enhancer. It has antidepressant effects similar to those found in Prozac. A study by Shahin Akhondzadeh Ph.D concluded that consuming 30 mg of saffron per day helped relieve depression and mood swings associated with PMS.
Apart from being an antidepressant, saffron is said to have a positive effect in treating sexual dysfunction in men, Alzheimers, menstrual cramps, anxiety, and insomnia among others.
Meal Ideas with Saffron
Saffron is a sweet mood-enhancing spice, often used to make rice and desserts. You can add a few strands to most dairy-based dishes, either sweet or savory. Try making a saffron risotto or paella with added chicken or fish. You can also add a few strands of saffron to normal mayonnaise or cream, and use it as a dip or sauce base for pasta or with baked potato. Add a few strands to warm milk with honey and you have a soothing, warm saffron drink.
Have you noticed how just buying a cinnamon apple scented candle at home lifts your mood?! According to new studies, cinnamon might help maintain dopamine and manganese levels. Cinnamon has an abundance of manganese, which helps to keep depression and anxiety under control. This aids cognitive functions such as sleeping, movement, feelings of anxiousness, attention, and learning. Dopamine also helps remove bacteria from the gut, which is often the cause of irritability.
Meal Ideas with Cinnamon
Add 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon powder to your hot chocolate or coffee
Make a fresh fruit breakfast parfait with cinnamon powder on top or fruit salad with orange juice and cinnamon
Throw in a stick of cinnamon when you make soups, broths, or stews
Add cinnamon powder with other spices when you make a rub or marinade for meat.
Cardamon is a fresh, warming, aromatic spice, with a subtle citrus undertone. It’s extensively used in Indian and Middle Eastern cuisines. As with cinnamon, the aroma of cardamon pods has at therapeutic affect on the mind, which is what makes it one of the mood-enhancing spices. The manganese content in cardamon is the largest, making it a favorable antidepressant spice. It’s one of the best mood-enhancing spices to add to your meals when you feel overwhelmed or just a bit low.
Meal Ideas with Cardamon
Break a few pods or cardamon into boiling milk and make cardamon milk, or cardamon tea when you’re in need of instant energy and a mood lift!
Add cardamon powder to plain vanilla ice cream, top with nuts and fruit and treat yourself to a healthy sundae.
Make rubs with it and other spices.
Add whole cardamons to rice and make an aromatic cardamon rice to go with any curry.
Nutmeg is an aromatic seed covered by an outer layer popularly known as mace flower! It is used in many culinary preparations for a spicy-sweet, sensual flavor. It can be used to make both sweet and savory dishes. It is believed that Nutmeg has anti-depressant quality due to the presence of Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors (MAOI). MAOI stops the breakdown of enzymes like dopamine, serotonin and others. This helps to maintain the level of happy enzymes and improve mood, concentration and positive drive.
Meal Ideas with Nutmeg
Add a pinch of nutmeg to French toast.
A dash of nutmeg to a glass of hot rum, cola or wine gives the drink a very energizing taste
Make banana or any fruit smoothie with a pinch of nutmeg
Add it with other spices such as cumin, cinnamon, cloves and turn it into an instant mood enhancing spice blend for curries and marinades.
Turmeric is the golden spice which gives Indian curries their characteristic yellow colour. It is considered one the most popular and healthiest spices with many medicinal properties primarily due to the curcuminoid content in it. The presence of curcumin reduces depressive symptoms. Curcumin is one of the best anti-inflammatory nutrients in the world which has mood-lifting benefits. Inflammation in the brain can cause high levels of oxidative stress, and stressed nerve signals. The anti-inflammatory properties of Turmeric addresses the root causes of depression hence making it easier for suffers to combat depression related syndromes
Meal Ideas with Turmeric
Turmeric milk is perhaps the most popular, easiest and fastest way to consume turmeric. Add a tsp of turmeric powder to warm milk, add honey and drink it as a soothing before bedtime drink.
Add turmeric to any curries, thick soups for the added colour and benefit.
Make aromatic colourful yellow rice with turmeric, cardamom and cumin seeds.
Add it to scrambled eggs, roast vegetables or even noodles.
What we eat has a direct effect on your mood and health, so before you reach out for other substances that you may think help you cope with stress and depression give spices a try.
Consuming spices reacts with the receptors in the tongue that sends messages to your brain similar to pain signals,causing your brain to trigger the release of the happy endorphins hormones.
Eat Spicy to Stay Happy 😊”