Alter your diet, boost your mood

17 Feb 2014 by Sarah Leembruggen.

Winter is in full force. For many of us, it’s dark and cold when we leave the house for work in the morning. When we head out of the office for the journey home in the evening, not a lot has changed! Even the best of us can get a little down. The “winter blues” are characterised by lack of motivation, mild depression and low energy. Luckily, there’s a lot you can do to both prevent the blues from coming on and get yourself back to normal if they’re already here. Often it’s just a case of making one or two small changes to your lifestyle. One sure-fire way to beat the winter blues is to revamp your eating habits.

What and when you eat has a great effect on your mood and energy. Refined and processed foods like white breads, rice, and sugar are not only devoid of the nutrients your body craves, but they zap your energy levels and can affect your mood—causing depression, lack of concentration, and mood swings.

So why not try to incorporate more whole wheat breads, brown rice, veggies and fruit into your diet? (And make sure you get your daily 8 cups of water.) These healthy foods provide your body and mind with nutrients as well as stabilising your blood sugar and your energy levels.

To get you on the right track, how about tackling this Crunchy Mushroom Pilaf, a veritable powerhouse of a recipe? It’s packed with nutrient-dense ingredients that are sure to lift your spirits on a cold winter’s evening.

The recipe uses brown rice which will keep blood sugar levels stable as it releases its sugars slowly and in a sustained fashion. Likewise, the high fibre content of red lentils prevents blood sugar levels from rising rapidly after a meal. The nuts and seeds add a super healthy injection of vitamins, minerals, protein, fat and fibre. Bursting with minerals and vitamins, watercress is one of our natural superfoods. As for mushrooms, they are truly amazing! Fat-free and low-calorie with a very low Glycaemic Index, they are a great option for healthy eating. Mushrooms contain dietary fibre and are a good source of potassium, which plays an important role in controlling blood pressure. They are a natural source of Vitamin B5, which helps reduce tiredness and fatigue. Mushrooms are one of the highest antioxidant foods in the world. Antioxidants can reduce the signs of aging and help prevent skin damage, and have been implicated in the prevention of diseases such as cancer, heart disease and Alzheimer’s.

What’s not to love? Enough said! Let’s get cooking!


Preparation time: 10mins
Cooking time: 30-35mins
Serves: 4

15ml/1tbsp oil
1 (250g) pack chestnut mushrooms, halved
1 chopped onion
5ml/1tsp ground cumin
5ml/1tsp ground paprika
2 crushed cloves garlic
100g/4oz split red lentils
225g/8oz brown rice
100g/4oz quartered dried apricots
50g/2oz raisins
900ml/11/2pts vegetable stock
1 (100g) bag watercress, roughly chopped
1 green chilli, deseeded and chopped
50g/2oz mixed nuts, roughly chopped
salt and ground black pepper

1. Heat 2tsp of the oil in a large pan, add the mushrooms and sauté
over a high heat for 4-5mins or until nicely browned. Transfer to a bowl and set aside. Add the onion to the pan and sauté for 5mins.

2. Stir in the cumin, paprika and garlic, lentils, rice, apricots and raisins and cook, stirring for a minute. Pour in the stock and bring to the boil. Cover and simmer for 20-25mins or until the rice is tender. Add a little more water if the rice begins to stick.

3. Whilst this cooks, heat the remaining oil in a small pan then add the nuts and chilli and cook, stirring until the nuts are golden brown. Set to one side.

4. Add the mushrooms and watercress to the rice, stir well then cover and cook for a further 2mins until the watercress has wilted. Season to taste. Stir in the nut mixture and serve straight away.

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