By Catherine L. Kaufman
Let’s kick off 2011 with some powerful foods that will lift your spirits, nix the post-holiday fatigue, and keep the hibernation pounds off you as we all snuggle into the cocooning winter months.
Certain foods trigger the body to produce mood-elevating chemicals. High levels of endorphins in the brain give a euphoric bliss while staving off the aging process – another reason why they’ll make you so peppy.
Chilies or hot peppers contain capsicin that give the veggie its heat, which also stimulates the nervous wiring in the mouth, sending the signal to the brain to release endorphins that produce a temporary high.
This in turn reenergizes the muscles and might even kick you out of your comfy couch for a brisk walk or a spinning class at the gym. Hey, this could be why chips and salsa are so addictive!
Chocolate, the most beloved endorphin producing food, considered by the ancient Greeks as “food of the gods,” contains 300 substances including anandamide that mocks marijuana’s mellow effect on the noggin, making you happy and buzzed.
Bittersweet is best, especially with cocoa content over 70 percent, while the flavonoids also give an antioxidant boon.
This tropical treat is loaded with potassium and magnesium to energize the brain and brawn. Legumes and wheat germ are also good magnesium sources, along with walnuts — the Brazilian variety also provide the trace mineral selenium to the body, boosting bone and muscle strength.
Comfort Foods Go on a Diet
When you chow down on nostalgic childhood faves like mac and cheese, meatloaf doing the backstroke in brown gravy with bazillion-caloried mashed potatoes, and pecan pie, these release both endorphins and serotonins into the nervous system giving you a feel-good feeling.
But these high fatty, sugary comfort foods can be revamped to be healthful and just as comforting, but less prone to pack on the pounds. Loaded with lean protein for energy and calcium for bone strength, the lighter versions will keep you just as sated without being logy.
Whip up a chicken meatloaf with ground breast meat topped with a fresh tomato sauce, roasted garlic and pureed celery root mashed potatoes with olive oil replacing the butter and cream, whole grain macaroni with skim mozzarella cheese, and you’ll go nuts over pecan and apple pie with whole grain flour and sweetened with a drop of brown sugar, honey or fruit juice.
Cup of Uppers
A steamy infusion of herbal tea always seems to warm the cockles of your heart, while energizing your soul – peppermint, rosehips and hibiscus teas are peppy-uppers, while black and green tea brews will inject you with a caffeine lift.
Hot chocolate made with high cocoa content bittersweet chocolate gives a double dose of zip-a-dee-doo-dah and desire – verve along with a side order of libido-boosting amore.
Potatoes seem to make people happy, along with a carbo-loading boost of zing for the muscles, but choose boiled, roasted (doused with a mixture of olive oil and dried herbs), and baked (with a light-handed dollop of butter and sour cream, if you must) rather than French-fried or potato chips.
Other giggly foods that rev up your motor include chocolate-covered strawberries, pudding, pizza, pasta and bread, along with anything chewy, cheesy, crunchy, cinnamony, bubbly, buttery, wiggly, jiggly, frothy, frosted or frozen (choose frozen yogurt, ice cream knock-offs made of rice or almond milks, and sorbet instead of high fat ice creams).
One of my family’s favorite comfort foods for this time of year is the down-home meatloaf recipe below. Happy hibernating!
Home-style Chicken Meatloaf with Pepper, Onion and Tomato Glaze
2 pounds of ground chicken (lean)
2 eggs, beaten
1 onion, grated
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 red pepper, diced
1 tablespoon of spicy mustard
1/2 teaspoon each of dried oregano, basil and cumin
1/2 cup of good quality jarred marinara sauce
3 tablespoons of olive oil
Coarse salt and cayenne pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 350-degrees. Heat one tablespoon of oil in a skillet and sauté the garlic, onion and peppers until tender. Transfer half the veggies to a large mixing bowl and combine with the meat, eggs, mustard, remaining oil and seasoning. Sprinkle with breadcrumbs until the meat is firm enough to shape.
Mold into a greased loaf pan, and top with the remaining vegetables and marinara sauce. Bake for about one hour or until cooked thoroughly. Serve with garlic and celery root mashed potatoes.
to tell me what foods energize you. Also check out the Kitchen Shrink and company’s healthy eating blog at