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Posts Tagged ‘seratonin’

Creamy Tahini Noodles

In Nutrition, Recipe on November 18, 2014 at 7:22 am

My BFF, Amy, is so cool.

She was eating kale in the late 90s way before it was en vogue.

creamy tahini noodles

Soba noodles, carrots, and cabbage in creamy tahini sauce.

Back then she gave me the recipe for this tahini-based sauce. It was a revelation to me at the time. These days using nuts and seeds in sauces is quite common; however, if you have yet to try a tahini sauce…well, you must! It’s simple and fast to make a creamy, savory dish with no food processor required.

This speedy meal combines gluten-free soba noodles and high-fiber, high-antioxidant veggies with a rich, creamy, HEALTHY sauce made from tahini (ground sesame seeds). Tahini is a powerhouse of minerals such as copper, calcium, and iron as well as the 2nd highest plant source of tryptophan, a pre-cursor for seratonin (the “feel good” hormone).

Soba noodles are made from buckwheat whose unique flavonoid compounds are critical for vascular health. Buckwheat is unrelated botanically to wheat (it’s a fruit seed) so it’s naturally gluten-free; however, read labels, some brands add wheat flour to their noodles. Of course, feel free to sub in zucchini noodles or kelp noodles (as in this kelp noodle recipe with a spicy, coconut, tahini sauce) or soba noodles, if you so desire.

Ingredients (serves 2):

1 cup carrots – sliced into rounds

1 cup red cabbage – shredded

Soba noodles or kelp noodles or zucchini noodles or whatever

Tahini sauce (makes a lot!):

1/2 cup tahini

1/2 cup hot water

1 lemon – juiced

2 TBSP tamari

3 tsp maple syrup

2 tsp rice vinegar

Nutrition Info (SAUCE ONLY): 1/2 cup (4oz) = 244 kcals + 16g fat + 8g protein + 4g fiber

Directions: Whisk sauce ingredients together and set aside. Toss carrots into boiling water. Bring water and carrots back to a boil and toss in 2 servings of soba noodles (whatever that looks like to you). Cook for 3 mins, then add cabbage. Boil for 1-2 mins more (test for done-ness) and drain. Toss 1 cup (more or less) of sauce with hot noodle mixture and top with green onions. Savory, creamy, delicious…

shiitake mushrooms

Shiitake mushrooms

Try this “meatier” comfort food variation: Sauté 2 cups sliced shiitake mushrooms, 1/2 cup diced red onion, and 2 TBSP fresh grated ginger in a splash of sesame oil and tamari. Toss with sauce and soba noodles and sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds. This version will be higher in fat and lower in fiber but ginger, onion, and shiitake increase the ‘healthy’ factor so dig in!

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Happy Gut, Happy You

In Mindfulness, Nutrition on July 11, 2013 at 12:27 am
gooey chocolate cookie

Gooey, chocolatey, sugar bomb.

Gloomy weather, stressful relationships, lack of sleep, can all affect our sense of well-being and kick sugar cravings into high gear. Mindlessly giving in on just a few occasions only intensifies our cravings and the vicious cycle begins. Why do we turn to sugar when we are feeling anxious and stressed? Perhaps conditioning – for some, sweets are associated with reward or comfort. Or perhaps it’s physiology – adequate amounts of carbohydrates allow for increased seratonin production, aka the “feel-good hormone”.

What does this have to do with your gut? Well, it turns out the GI tract produces 95% of our body’s seratonin! Taking care of our gut allows GI cells to produce all the seratonin we need. In turn, we will be less likely to turn to sugar when we’re sad, lonely, anxious, and stressed.chocolate bars

In a another post, I discussed beneficial foods for our gut – fiber and fermented foods. The question begs: “Are there foods that are harmful to gut health?” Yup, and I’m sure you’ve guessed it…Sugar! Sugar provides fuel for certain gut bacteria to proliferate far beyond what is healthy leading to a bacterial imbalance. So, even if we consume adequate fiber, we won’t have enough beneficial bacteria to fuel our GI cells. They’ve been outcompeted by other, less-helpful bacteria due to sugar-induced overgrowth.

What are the consequences of GI cells not getting the fuel they need? At the very least, you will have gas and bloating or, worse, suffer from anxiety and depression.

packaged veggies

Pre-washed and chopped veggies. High in fiber. The fuel our GI cells need.

Our gut is often referred to as the “second brain” because it has its own complex nervous system and is highly influenced by our thoughts and psychological stress. Most of us know this on an intuitive (and experiential) level and certainly Traditional Chinese Medicine and other healing traditions have recognized this for generations. Finally, western medicine has acknowledged the huge role our gut plays in our immune, endocrine, and nervous systems. Recent research has shown that tweaking the balance between beneficial and disease-causing bacteria in an animal’s gut alters brain chemistry leading it to become more bold or more anxious. Alternately, even mild stress can tip the microbial balance in the gut, making us more vulnerable to infectious disease.

What is sugar? It is a carbohydrate of which there are 2 general categories: indigestible (fiber) and digestible (everything else). Your body does not absorb fiber but your colon uses it for many healthy functions (as discussed here). Digestible carbs are those used by your body for energy – or, if you are taking in more energy than you are expending, they are stored (in your fat cells).

To balance your mood, regulate your blood sugar, and keep your gut bacteria in balance, remember these 3 things when consuming carbs/sugars:

dates

Deglet dates. Often used to sweeten desserts but loaded with vitamins, minerals, and fiber.

Limit added sugars. Most added sugars are refined carbohydrates meaning it has been stripped of other nutrients and comes in a potent package that is a shock to our bodies. Added sugars include the “natural” sugars, too. Remember, “its not the vehicle, its the payload.” Use sweeteners sparingly – even honey and dates.

Eat carbohydrates higher up on the “whole foods” chain.

What does this look like?

Brown rice -> brown rice pasta/bread -> energy bar w/ brown rice syrup

Apples -> applesauce  -> apple juice

Steel cut oats -> rolled oats -> quick oats -> instant oatmeal packet

peppers, goat cheese, bread

Red peppers with goat cheese and honey on toast. Balanced protein, fat, and carbs.

Combine carbs with fat and protein at each meal. Toss sunflower seeds and unsweetened coconut on that fruit salad. Mash avocado on whole-grain toast. Add flax oil and walnuts to your banana-berry oatmeal.

Curb your sugar cravings: easy on the salt and animal products, eat sweet vegetables (tubers and roots), choose sprouted products, eat more sour or spicy flavors, and, finally, fully chew all carbs b/c those grains, legumes, and veggies will become sweeter the longer you chew.