Chickpea and Red Pepper Salad With Lemon-Garlic Dressing
1/2 cup silken tofu (a good source of photochemicals and antioxidants)
1/4 cup olive oil
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1 small garlic clove, pressed
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons fresh basil leaves, coarsely chopped (the scent of basil is believed to have mood-lifting qualities)
4 cups mesclun mix
4 cups arugula
1 15-ounce can chickpeas (a good source of Vitamin B6 and Folate)
1 small red pepper, cored and cut into thin strips
1/2 small red onion, very thinly sliced
1/2 cup black olives
1/2 cup almonds (a good source of Amino Acids)
Additional whole basil leaves for garnish
1. To make dressing, combine tofu, olive oil and lemon juice in a blender, and puree until smooth and creamy. Add garlic and puree again for 5 seconds. Add 2 tablespoons of the basil leaves and pulse briefly to combine, leaving some visible pieces of basil. Set aside.
2. In a medium salad bowl, combine mesclun mix, arugula, remaining basil, chickpeas, red pepper, and onion. Add just enough dressing to very lightly coat, and toss to mix. Divide salad among four individual plates and top each with olives and almonds. Garnish with additional basil leaves, if desired, and serve immediately.
nutrition info per serving: 387 calories; 26.1 g fat; 2.9 g saturated fat; 0 mg cholesterol; 11.7 g protein; 30.2 g carbohydrates; 7.8 g fiber; 433.8 mg sodium
What to avoid when you’re battling the blues:
Diet cola. Aspartame, the chemical sweetener used in diet sodas and other sugar-free foods and beverages, is an excitotoxin, says Joel C. Robertson, author of Natural Prozac (HarperOne, 1998). He describes aspartame as a compound that decreases the efficiency of neurotransmitters in the brain, hampering their ability to transmit information.
Coffee. Overdoing it on the java–more than four or five cups a day–can increase symptoms of depression for some people by blocking serotonin, says Robertson. Try cutting back to no more than a cup in the morning, and see if symptoms improve in a couple of weeks.
Sweets. Just like caffeine, sugar has a powerful effect on neurotransmitter production and brain function, says Robertson. Simple sugars and carbs cause a rapid rise and fall in blood sugar levels, creating mood swings, fatigue, and grogginess. Blood sugar imbalances also deplete vitamin B, which can worsen a bad mood. Keep blood sugar steady by eating four or five smaller, protein-based meals throughout the day, and avoid refined sweeteners (including honey and “natural” sweeteners) and simple carbs like bread, pasta, and cereals.
Alcohol. More than two alcoholic beverages a day can worsen symptoms of depression, says Robertson. First, alcohol is a central nervous system depressant, and can slow neurotransmitters. Secondly, alcohol disrupts the REM stage of sleep, which is necessary for serotonin production.
Simply Sad–or Depressed?
We’ve all been blue from time to time, usually in response to stressful or traumatic life situations. A painful divorce, a scary medical diagnosis, or the loss of a job can trigger lack of appetite, insomnia, and a feeling of deep sadness–all symptoms of “minor depression,” a transient and time-limited condition. But if your blues last longer than a few weeks, or if they occur outside the context of a major life change, you may have what’s known as “major depressive disorder,” or MDD. Signs of MDD include sad, anxious, or empty feelings; feelings of hopelessness, guilt, or worthlessness; insomnia; changes in appetite; loss of interest in once-pleasurable activities; and, at the extreme, thoughts of suicide or suicide attempts.
If your sadness seems like more than transient moodiness, or if it’s accompanied by severe changes in sleep, appetite, or behaviors that interfere with your life, contact a health care professional. And if you have any thoughts of suicide, seek immediate medical help. Call the National Suicide Hotlines at 800.784.2433 or 800.273.8255 if you’re in crisis; they can get you the help you need.
Natural Solutions: Vibrant Health, Balanced Living offers its readers the latest news on health conditions, herbs and supplements, natural beauty products, healing foods and conscious living. Click here for a free sample issue.