A headline that could only appear in the Daily Mail: “Women who are anxious, jealous and moody are ‘twice as likely to suffer from Alzheimer’s in old age’” – as if the daily anxieties and strains of midlife aren’t enough to worry about!
But the science behind the headline is interesting, and at Kale and Cocoa we’re always switched on to new research which identifies those most at risk from age-related conditions.
Researchers at the University of Gothenberg followed a group of 800 women for 38 years to assess the association between mid-life neurosis and later on-set Alzheimers. They found that the women who felt anxious, guilty, jealous and moody were more like to develop dementia in later life. There’s a good precis on the British Psychological Society website here:
But you know what, I’m going to try not to worry about it too much. If the report does anything, it reminds us not to worry too much about what is going on around us. Most people we know are anxious – the pressure of work, finances, caring for children AND elderly parents is enough to make the most Zen of the middle-aged feel stressed out. But there is plenty we can do nutritionally to help reduce stress.
We need to up our levels of serotonin. Serotonin is the ‘happy hormone’ – a decreased level of this neurotransmitter can lead to low moods, anxiety and more serious issues like depression and insomnia. Irriatingly, men have 52% higher serotonin levels than women, which is so unfair! The best food source for serotonin? –Walnuts. Our pumpkin and pomegranate hummus is packed with walnuts and anti-oxidants. Bananas, tomatoes, plums, kiwis and mushrooms are all good sources too.
There’s also an amino acid found in some foods – tryptophan – which converts to serotonin in the body, but it needs help – in the form of co-factors – to make this conversion. Tryptophan needs carbohydrates to help it cross the brain barrier, and uptake is also enhanced by Vitamin C, Vitamin B6 and zinc. Tryptophan-rich foods include fish and seafood, turkey (see the recipe below), dairy products, beans, oats, eggs and seeds. So you could try the delicious granola from last week’s post with yoghurt and berries for a calming start to the day. And our porridge pancakes include oats, eggs and yoghurt so they are packed with tryptophan too. Also check out our leek and black bean soup, farro watercress and mushroom salad and sweet paprika salmon – all great mood boosters.
I love turkey – it’s not just for Christmas, you know – and get good quality turkey mince from the butcher whenever I can. This recipe below is a Chinese-style ‘spag bog’ with turkey to boost tryptophan and noodles to provide the carbs. Add a Vitamin C rich veg on the side like broccoli and you’ll be as happy as can be!
RECIPE: CHINESE-STYLE ‘SPAG BOG’
500g minced turkey
6 spring onions, chopped
1 tbs coconut oil (or other cooking oil)
1 carrot, peeled and grated
2 tbs black bean sauce
1 tbs oyster sauce
1 tbs low salt soy sauce
125ml + 1tbs water
1 level tbs cornflour
1tsp minced ginger
300g rice noodles, cooked according to the packet instructions
1 tbs sesame oil
1 tbs toasted sesame seeds
Cabbage or broccoli, steamed, to serve
Mix the three sauces, ginger and 125ml of water in a small bowl. Heat the oil in a wok or frying pan, stir fry half of the spring onions for a few seconds, then add the turkey. Cook until it starts to brown – a few minutes – then add the carrot and mixed sauces. Cook for five minutes more – the water will evaporate and the mixture will start to look glossy. Mix the cornflour and remaining tablespoon of water then add to the meat. Cook for a minute or two more, stirring as you go.
Mix the turkey through the cooked noodles, top with remaining spring onions, a drizzle of sesame oil and toasted seeds and serve immediately with a portion of green veg.