Food for healthy minds

For Mental Health Awareness Week, plant-based chef Lauren Lovatt explores what food benefits the mind and shares her recipe for ‘sizzling courgettes’.

Our brain not only impacts how we feel every day but how we sleep, work, move and thrive. It is important to care for it now, as the choices we make every day affect much more than we often realise and can be carried into our old age.

The reality is that most of us dont get what we need from our day-to-day diet. Eating the right foods can help change everything, and as diet is ever more widely researched it has been proven repeatedly to support and resolve a wide variety of issues.

The ‘Mind Food’ menu takes inspiration from my own food experiences to brighten up your plate with foods that are plant-rich, filled with fibre and whole grains, prioritising nutrient-dense foods with vibrant colours, mixed with good-quality proteins, healthy fats and omega-3s. Mind Food is rich in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory ingredients and embraces the power of tonic herbs and medicinal plants to relieve stress and support brain function.

Mental health is defined by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as a state of wellbeing in which every individual realises their own potential, can cope with the normal stress of life, can be productive and contribute to the community.

Mind Food is not just about the ingredients we serve, but about the act of coming together around food, using food and cooking as a form of connection and self-expression to take our mind to a different place away from immediate concerns. It is about everyday rituals, useful ideas, ingredient knowledge and easy practices that can help us all to make this way of living more accessible.

Our mental health is also affected by lifestyle factors other than food, such as sleep, connection to others, exercise, mindfulness, hydration and how and where we spend our days.

The most crucial steps we can take to change mental health globally are to raise awareness of what a Mind Food lifestyle is, better understand and implement the lifestyle factors that affect our mental health, talk more openly about the potential symptoms of poor mental health, share the wide variety of more personalised therapies and create more concepts, ideas and resources for people of all ages to learn from and understand. This will help us all to better support ourselves in making prevention rather than cure the priority.

Sizzling courgettes with tzatziki

Mind food

As someone who enjoys lighter lunches, this dish really hits the spot and is packed full of ingredients that bring energy to any spring day.

Serves: 2

Time taken: 30 minutes

1 large courgette

2 tbsp olive oil

Pinch of salt

For the tzatziki

200g plant-based yoghurt

200g cucumber, grated (about half a cucumber)

1 garlic clove

10g parsley, finely chopped 1⁄4 tsp salt

To serve

4 tbsp Kombucha Chimichurri

Handful of your favourite seeds

Small bunch of fresh pea shoots or watercress

Tzatziki

Make the tzatziki by mixing together all of the ingredients in a small bowl. Set to one side until needed.

Courgettes

The key thing for this recipe is to cut the courgette into perfect fillets. To do this, cut the courgette into three 5cm (2in) pieces. Cut each piece into three, lengthwise, moving around the seeds. We are looking for even fillets here. Cross-hatch each fillet evenly.

Heat a frying pan with the olive oil until hot and add the courgette fillets, skin-side-up. Cook over a medium heat until beautifully golden, then flip onto the skin side until the fillets are cooked through.

To serve, place the tzatziki in three or five dots on the plate. Lay each fillet on the dots, then sprinkle a few candied seeds on each courgette, drizzle with chimichurri and garnish with leaves.

For more resources:

CALM (Campaign Against Living Miserably) www.thecalmzone.net

www.mind.org.uk

www.headstogether.org.uk

www.beateatingdisorders.org.uk

Lauren Lovatt is a plant-based chef and food writer. She founded vegan restaurant, Asparagasm in Gloucestershire, and has hosted plant-based pop-up nights for several years. She is an ambassador for Good Hemp and mental health charity Calm, and founder of culinary school Plant Academy in London and leads the plant-based programme at Leiths Cookery School. Her latest book, Mind Food, is out now. 

Mind Food: Plant-based recipes for positive mental health by Lauren Lovatt (£20, Leaping Hare Press) is out now.

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