Are you depressed.. or is it sugar blues? Did you notice the energy spike and then serious dip after that french toast splurge last week? Make no mistake about it, there is an inescapable link between depression and what we put in our temples. Here gourmet, raw, vegan Chef Tina Jo Stephens shares this intimate connection (and a seriously decadent recipe for raw brownies!)
The Healing Connection between Food and Mood
“We are what we eat.” Clearly, this is a fundamental truth. The food we ingest through our mouths becomes our tissues, bones and organs. Our physical body correlates with what we eat. The quality of our diets eventually creates dynamic health or devastating illness. Food can be medicine or poison, the choice is our own.
The same principle holds true for the thoughts we ingest through our minds. Just like our physical bodies, what we allow into our consciousness is either medicine or poison. Your mind, part of your body, should to be nourished and well fed.
Ghandi once said: “Your beliefs become your thoughts, your thoughts become your words, your words become your actions….” If thoughts create action, then we would be well advised to immerse ourselves often in deep mental purification and go to the place deep within our consciousness where stillness and silence permeate; with pureness of mind we are in the place where we seek “to be” rather than “to do.” Research has shown frequent meditation can alter brain patterns in ways that are likely permanent and that slow age-related thinning of the brain’s frontal cortex.
Years ago, while basking in the bubble of a long-needed vacation, I took trips to a serene lake out in the middle of virtually nowhere. It was the only place in the world that I could sit for hours doing nothing: staring at the water, brilliant blue skies, mountains and the moon, never feeling more at peace with myself in my entire life. Every object was brilliantly alive. There were no electronics, no noise, and no people. I got rid of my chatter mind, wrote long overdue letters; created art, books, poetry and lyrical nonsense. For the first time in my life I was truly enlightened. My outlook on life and my mood was never better. Every cell was lit up. I was healed because I was simply “being.” I came to know myself and what truly mattered. After those trips my life was never the same.
Our mental diets must be cleansed periodically. A polluted mental diet brings imbalance – an obstacle to healing. Far too often we are bombarded by mass media. Our beliefs are formed by what we see or hear through the internet, television and radio – all forms of mental junk food. This form of entertainment might bring temporary relief from our anxieties, but, in the long run, it does nothing but bring on disillusionment, internal strife, and greater dissatisfaction with our lives. We attempt to acquire things we don’t need through our endless quest for happiness. All we are doing is programming and poisoning our minds at the subconscious level. This drama, violence, and false reality can agitate and addict us into bad self-talk and, as a result, bad behaviors. With any addiction, it’s important to recognize the symptoms of it – from alcoholism symptoms, to masturbation addiction symptoms, to social media addiction symptoms and, while some may require professional intervention, some addictions can be overcome simply with willpower and a bit of support.
But that’s not to say overcoming addiction is an easy thing to do. If the modern age hasn’t brought on enough stress through technology, we certainly live in an increasingly faster paced, frantic world. We spend so much time spinning here and there like toy tops, out of control. We further aggravate wellbeing by engaging in bad behavior like angry judgmental thoughts, gossip, arguing, and negative self criticism. These behaviors bring on the sympathetic nervous system’s “Fight or Flight” response, which creates the adrenaline needed to meet physical and emotional challenges. But the problem is, as anxiety sets in blood pressure rises, hearts beat faster, muscles tense, glucose levels rise, and digestion slows down. All this wears us down, weakens our immune system and hampers proper digestion and assimilation of our food.
Nature contains great healing powers – as I happily found out years ago. It’s a transformative tonic. If you find yourself in a noisy urban environment, rest in a peaceful little park, or simply take a stroll – really take in the view. It’s a wonderful world out there if you open your mind to it. Miracles can be found in the simplest things: a child’s laughter, a great pair of shoes, a pot roast, even a car that needs repair. You never know what wonderful twists and turns every moment of your life may lead you through.
As we develop better habits with the food we eat – foods that are natural, organic and wholesome – also seek to do the same with foods feeding your mind. Train your brain. When we choose to settle into lifelong healthy eating and living patterns, our thoughts calm down, become clearer, more understandable. Our minds become more tolerant and expansive. Our entire wellbeing is determined by the food we put in our mouths and our brains, and that’s a fact.
Start your new, raw, vegan, living new year off right with these divineCherry Cacao Chip Brownies
Serve them up with almond milk and enjoy!
- 4 cups walnuts, soaked and dehydrated
- 12 whole pitted dates (I like medjool)
- 4 Tbs carob powder
- 8 Tbs cacao powder
- 2 tsp cherry extract
- 1/2 cup dried cherries, pitted, soaked and coarsely chopped
- 6 Tbs cherry water, drained after soaking cherries
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 1/2 cup walnuts, soaked and dehydrated, roughly chopped
- 1/4 cup cacao nibs
1 Place the walnuts into the food processor with the “s” blade and grind them until they look like meal (dried powder).
2 Pull the dates apart into a few smaller pieces and add to the walnut meal. Continue to process until the mixture is well combined.
3 Add the carob powder, cacao powder, cherry extract, cherry water, salt and cinnamon. Process again to combine all ingredients.
4 Remove mixture from processor and place into a mixing bowl. Add the cacao nibs and drained cherries and mix well by hand. Make sure the all the ingredients are well mixed. Pack the mixture into a 9×9 baking dish. Let chill for 2 hours before serving.
5 Drizzle with Cherry Cacao Sauce (see recipe) before serving.
6 Store the brownies in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to one week. They will also freeze beautifully for up to three months.
Servings: 9 Yield:
Cherry Cacao Sauce (to drizzle on top!)
I call this my “died and gone to heaven cherry cacao sauce.” The flavors in this sauce are lip-smacking good! You won’t believe it’s not dairy chocolate! Drizzly it on everything from brownies, cheese cake, your favorite ice cream, or strawberries!
- 1 whole avocado, seeded, peeled and quartered
- 7 Tbs cocoa powder
- 1/4 cup rapadura, raw
- 1 tsp vanilla extract (non-alcoholic)
- 1/8 tsp cinnamon
- 1/2 cup purified water (or to desired thickness)
- 1/2 cup cherries, pitted
- 1/8 tsp Himalayan pink salt
Place all of the ingredients in your blinder and blend until smooth a creamy. Add more or less water as needed for that perfect chocolate consistency! Servings: 12 Yield: 1 cup