This week is mental health awareness week. I have struggled with my mental health since I was around 16, I suffer with depression and anxiety and although I'm not cured (I don't believe I ever completely will be) I'm definitely a lot better now than I was 2 years ago. One of the many things that have helped me in my healing process has been becoming vegan and improving my diet. If you load yourself full of sugar and processed crap that's the fuel your brain is getting too. To be clear I don't think diet is a cure all, deep seated mental illnesses often need a range of treatments, including medication and therapy, but improving your diet is only going to improve things that little bit further!
I decide to create a recipe in honour of of mental health awareness week which is super healthy, super delicious and contains a range of depression defiant foods. This dish is also raw so you are getting the nutritional value of all the foods involved.
Tabbouleh is a eastern Mediterranean dish traditionally made from bulgar wheat but if you really want to up the nutritional anti stick with me kids and swap your wheat for hemp seeds!
Hemp Seeds are the seeds of the Cannabis Sativa plant, (Yes guys that is the cannabis plant, hemp is merely a male plant) and they are incredibly nutritious. They are 33% protein, contain all 9 essential amino acids, are high in dietary fibre and rich in trace minerals. But coming top in the depression fighting stakes is the fact that they are 35% essential fatty acids, including Omega-3. In fact they have 6.2 x more Omega-3 than raw tuna. A large Norwegian study of nearly 22,000 participants revealed that those who regularly took cod liver oil, which is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, were about 30% less likely to have symptoms of depression than those who did not. The longer the participants took cod liver oil, the less likely they were to have high levels of depression. So Omega-3 is good, but don't get it from dead fish (mostly because it has a life to live in the sea), because fish doesn't provide the right balance of omega-3 to omega-6, most have a profile of around seven time the omega-3 oil as omega-6 oils. Hemp seeds actually contain the optimal 1:4 ratio of omega-3 to 6 required for body consumption and use.
You could use any dark green leafy vegetable here (think kale, cavalo nero ect.) but I went for spinach. Dark greens are high in omega-3 too and spinach contains tryptophan and folate. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that floats around the brain and helps you feel happy. The tryptophan found in spinach helps increase the levels of serotonin in the brain. Spinach is also high in folate, another nutrient that helps increase levels of serotonin in the brain.
Pine nuts contain healthy amounts of essential minerals like manganese, potassium, calcium, iron, magnesium, zinc and selenium. Selenium, magnesium and zinc deficiencies have all been linked to depression. Adequate selenium levels particularly are crucial for the prevention of depression and anxiety. Consuming the recommended amount of selenium has been demonstrated to relieve depression and anxiety caused by major life stressors. Nuts are a great source of selenium.
1 large red onion
150g baby plum or cherry tomatoes
1/2 a cucumber
1 1/2 cup shelled hemp seeds (I used these)
1/4 cup pine nuts
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons black peper
1 tablespoon olive oil
the juice of 1/2 a lemon
1) Thinly dice all the vegetables and herbs
2) Combine all the ingredients in a large bowl and serve