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Dark Chocolate

Healthy Mind

Anti-Anxiety Herby Salmon + Avocado Recipes

July 21, 2015


Anxiety (aNGˈzīədē/) (n): an apprehension of the future, especially about an upcoming challenging task. Perfectly acceptable EXCEPT when the reaction is significiantly blown out of proportion.

I’ve always been a bit of an anxious person. Every time I think I’ve got a handle on my nerves, something happens that sets them off again. And it isn’t always the result of something drastic. Sometimes, it’s simply the to-do list in my brain firing off all of the things I haven’t done yet, and all of the dreams I have yet to accomplish.

My good friend and fellow over-achiever approached me the other day to tell me that her anxiety, unknowingly, had gotten so out of hand that it manifested in a physical reaction. She went to the doctor and was given, to my surprise, strict instruction to alter her diet temporarily to help her symptoms subside.

I love that this advice came from a traditional physician. I wish it were the solution more often instead of prescription drugs.

As much as I rely on food and nutrition to help me in every other area of my life, I had honestly never thought to use food to ease my stress and anxiety (wine doesn’t count). It makes perfect sense, however, that food can affect our mood. Everything you ingest has an affect on your body chemistry –whether negative or positive. So I did a little digging to see what foods could hit the calm-my-nerves-button. And this is what I found. I think you'll like what you see:


What it’s got: Folate
What it does: Helps your body produce serotonin (the-feel good hormone) and dopamine (chemical critical to coordination, memory function, and your mood).



What it’s got: Tryptophan
What it does: It’s the Amino acid that your body converts into serotonin (the-feel good hormone).


What it’s got: Probiotics
What it does: I've talked about the benefits of Fermented Foods plenty of times before. But here is yet another reason. The probiotics in fermented food nourishes your gut flora to support a positive mood.


What they got: The animal-based omega-3 fats EPA and DHA
What it does: This one is a little more complicated, but, in my opinion, one of the most important. So I'm going to attempt to explain it with the help of Dr. Barry Sears

The brain is incredibly sensitive to inflammation. And when it is inflamed, it causes a breakdown in signaling between cells (which affects mood and anxiety). This cellular inflammation is caused by an increase in Omega-6 fatty acids (which is abundant in processed foods). In fact, many of the drugs that people with anxiety are put on are anti-inflammatory drugs for this very reason (aspirin, non-steroid anti-inflammatories, COX-2 inhibitions and corticosteroids). These drugs, however, cannot cross the blood-brain barrier. SO when it's inflamed, the brain's only protection is Omega-3. Unfortunately, most people aren't getting nearly enough of this in their diet (wild caught fish is expensive!). Studies have shown that high levels of Omega-3 can reduce anxiety (2). Which means, the more Omega-3 we get in our diet, the more seamlessly our brain can function, and the more we can relax. Salmon, sardines and anchovies have them in spades.  


What it’s got: Anthocyanins – the pigments that give berries like blueberries and blackberries their deep color
What it does: These antioxidants aid your brain in the production of dopamine (chemical critical to coordination, memory function, and your mood).


What it’s got: Flavonols, a subclass of flavonoids, which are natural chemicals found in plants, fruits and vegetables.
What it does: Reduces cortisol – the stress hormone that causes anxiety symptoms. It also contains other chemicals that prolong the "feel-good" aspects of anandamide. One study in the Journal of Psychopharmacology also revealed that drinking an antioxidant-rich chocolate drink equal to about 1.5 ounces of dark chocolate daily felt calmer than those who did not.

KEY thing to remember here is that NOT ALL DARK CHOCOLATE IS THE SAME. The total antioxidant content of chocolate products are directly associated with the amount of raw cocoa it contains. So if you're going to eat it for the health benefits, the darker, the better. The Endangered Species Dark Chocolate with 88% Cacao is my absolute favorite. It is so smooth and indulgent with its high cacao content, but with a very small amount of sugar (5 grams/serving). 

Fun fact: Anandamide is a derivative of the Sanskrit word “Bliss”


WATER (genius, I know)

What it's got: Hydration
What it does: Dehydration affects as many as 25% of those with persistent stress or more. Dehydration is also known to cause more anxiety.


What it's got: Monosaturated fats
What it does: Regulates blood sugar levels. This combination of satiety and blood-sugar regulation can help keep your mood steady and even in times of stress.

Great. So what to do you do now? I guess you make a big green leafy salad with turkey, sardines, saurkraut, avocado and blueberries, wash it down with a BIG glass of water, and finish the meal with a nice piece of 88% cacao dark chocolate. Easy peasy. You'll be one relaxed, even-keeled cat. OR you can start small with a couple awesome go-to recipes of mine…



I was so glad to see avocados on this list, as they are one of my all-time favorites. And with their decadent texture and comforting qualities, I’m not surprised. I very rarely go a day without one – whether in my morning smoothie or chopped up in my afternoon salad. But this recipe is perfect for fast and immediate comfort and satisfaction.


  • 1 Avocado
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice (fresh squeezed or bottled)
  • 1 teaspoon nutritional yeast (if you’re dairy-free) OR 1 teaspoon shredded parmesan
  • Sprinkle of cayenne pepper


  1. Mash up together in a bowl with a fork (really get in there and smash it up to get out all that anxiety)
  2. If you choose…put it back in the avocado shell for smile-inducing presentation
  3. Eat with a spoon!



Omega-3 in Salmon


  • 3 oz. Grass-fed butter, ghee or coconut oil
  • 1 t. Course Himalayan salt
  • Zest of 1 Lemon
  • 2 T. fresh herbs of choice (I used rosemary and thyme from my balcony garden)
  • 1 Garlic clove, minced
  • Dash of White Pepper
  • 4 Salmon Fillets, about 4-5 oz. each


  1. Preheat the oven to broil (or grill it if you've got one!)
  2. Chop up your herbs and your garlic.
  3. Toss them in a bowl, along with salt and white pepper and melt together for approximately 30 seconds. Stir until combined.
  4. Place the salmon fillets on a broiling pan lined with aluminum foil that has been oiled so it doesn't stick.
  5. Coat the salmon with half of the lemon herb butter, evenly spreading it over the tops of each fillet.
  6. Place pan on about 6 inches away from the heat source. Timing here is key and very delicate. Becasue you're broiling, it's going to go fast. Let it go for about 3 minutes. Take it out. Turn over each filet. Brush eash side with the remaining herby mix. And put it back in for another 3 minutes. I'm 99% sure you won't need more than that. It should be nice and flaky.


1. Kessler RC, Chiu WT, Demler O, Merikangas KR, and Walters EE. "Prevalence, severity, and comorbidity of 12-month DSM-IV disorders in the National Comorbidity Survey Replication". Arch Gen Psychiatry 62:617-627 (2005)

2. Buydens-Branchey L, Branchey M, and Hibbeln JR. "Associations between increases in plasma n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids following supplementation and decreases in anger and anxiety in substance abusers." Prog Neuropsychopharmacol Biol Psychiatry 32:568-575 (2008)

Like what you read today? Think somebody else could benefit from a few anxiety-reducing foods? See those cute little gray shapes underneath this post? They're for sharing! Click one to post to Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, or comment right here on the blog. I would love to hear from you.

Much Love,

Have You Ever Craved a Kale Chip? + Choco-Cado Mousse Recipe

February 10, 2015

I know that first thing in the morning, I NEED something warm and comforting.

I know that early-afternoon, I absolutely HAVE TO HAVE something crunchy.

And I know that when I've had a really tough day, I CANNOT DO WITHOUT something cool, creamy and soothing.

You get where I'm going here people??


I love them. It's like your bodies way of telling you it needs to scratch an itch. And when you do, it feels sooo good.

Although we often associate cravings with something unhealthy, I decided that doesn't have to be the case at all. If we get inventive, there are certain tastes and textures that can be accomplished with healthy, unprocessed (and gluten-free) food, and still knock it out of the park in the cravings department. 

Here are a few of my favorite Healthy craving-CRUSHERS:


NUTS – I have a slight addiction to nuts. Crunchy, creamy, toasty, satisfying nuts. A complete nutritional source, they contain everything that their parent tree needed to grow – fats, carbohydrates, protein and natural antioxidants like Vitamin E. AND THEY'RE CRUNCHY. (And who doesn't love things that crunch?)

Please note: With all that said, there is such a thing as TOO MANY NUTS (1). Because of their high Omega 6 content, they can be pro-inflammatory just like those shitty processed oils. Good news. There are a few with pretty low omega 6 content. They are: cashews (2.6 g), macadamia nuts (.5 g) and hazelnuts (2.7 g) which is A-Okay with me (Macadamia nuts are like crunchy creamy heaven, in my opinion). 

FLAX CRACKERS – Crackers are the only things I really missed when I switched over to a gluten-free diet. When I come home from work, and I'm hungry and need something crunchy, nothing is as satisfying as a cracker. Mary's Gone Crackers are my go-to brand. They are organic and gluten-free, and made with whole grain brown rice, quinoa, flax seeds and sesame seeds. All good protein-filled nutrients that will fill you up much faster than any cracker could.

TIP: You can get a big box at Costco for much cheaper than the grocery store.

KALE CHIPS – Although I've had my doubts about Trader Joe's snacks, they still have a few gems that don't use processed vegetable oils. One of those gems are their Kale Chips. Their ingredients are good and simple: Kale, Cashews, Tahini, Carrot Powder, Onion Powder, Cane Sugar, Lemon Juice Concentrate, Mustard Powder, Salt, Garlic Powder. Of course, never rule out making your own. Homemade will always be better and kale chips don't take long to whip up. If you're interested, Oh She Glows wrote a post on how to make the perfect kale chip.

HOMEMADE PLANTAIN CHIPS – I've said it all in this blog post. Plantain chips are the bomb. They are a rich source of antioxidants, vitamin B-6 and minerals, and their soluble fiber content may help ward off intestinal problems. And they're so additively tasty. Yes, Trader Joe's makes some pretty great ones. But the sunflower oil that they use to make them – not so great. I beg you, at least once, to try making them yourself (recipe is in the blog post above). WORTH IT.


FROBANA – Who needs ice cream when you have frobana in your life? Seriously. I've crossed over. I no longer crave ice cream. I crave FROZEN BANANA MIXED WITH ANYTHING MY HEART DESIRES. Check out my Cherry Garcia Frobana, my Pumpkin Frobana, or my Instagram Page for recipes. I've started to get real creative with my frobanas by adding healthy boosters (like Ginger for digestion or Goji Berries for antioxidants). 

CHOCO-CADO MOUSSE – A few months back, I had the pleasure of eating at a new-ish restaurant in Chicago that actually is based off of a Paleo Diet called mEAT. I think the waiter thought I was crazy because I was SO EXCITED about everything on the menu. Anyways, long story short, the pièce de résistance was the chocolate avocado mouse that came at the end. It might have been the most decadent dessert I've ever had in my life – but it was GOOD FOR ME. I had to figure out how to make it myself. And although it's still not quite as good as mEAT's. It's pretty darn close. Check it out below!

SMOOTHIES The health benefits are undeniable in smoothies. Greens, fruits, proteins, antioxidants and more – pulverized into a tall cold delicious drink. Again, check out my Instagram Page for more smoothie ideas. I'll keep em coming because I can't get enough of them.

SWEET POTATO PORRIDGE – Looking for something warm and creamy? THIS IS THE STUFF. I wrote to my friend Leslie about alternative gluten-free breakfast ideas and created this baby on accident. It has been my best friend on cold Chicago Winter nights. And of course, everything in it is meant for a nourishing meal. Sweet potatoes contain high amounts of fiber, potassium, vitamins (particularly vitamin A and beta carotene), and minerals, and low amounts of sodium. Add a boost of protein with almond butter, healthy fat with coconut oil, and anti-inflammatory spices like cinnamon, and you're golden. I'll follow up with a more detailed recipe, but the basics are this – throw roasted sweet potatoes, half a banana, a teaspoon or 2 of almond butter, coconut oil, cinnamon, and pumpkin spice in a bowl and mash it up.

[See cool & creamy]

TEA & HONEY – Sometimes, when I have the slightest craving for something sweet, instead of reaching for chocolate or candy, I simply make a cup of tea and add some really great honey to it. Honey is so good for you. Among other things, it has energy boosting benefits and can reduce allergy and cold symptoms (2). Please keep in mind, though, the type of honey that you use MATTERS. I hate to break it to you but that honey bear honey in the grocery store contains some seriously processed version of the real thing – completely defeating the health benefits of the good stuff. I picked up some INCREDIBLE honey from the farmer's market in San Francisco from this brand. But you can't go wrong with Trader Joe's raw honey. Combine it with a good quality Chai tea, splash in some whole milk or coconut milk and a dash of cinnamon, and you've got this healthy powerhouse in a cup that warms your bones. 

GINGER CANDY – If ever I had to fess up to an addiction, it would have to be ginger candy. I literally don't think I've gone one weekday in the last 5 years without a piece of ginger candy. It's my go-to treat after lunch at my desk. If I run out of them, I freak out. Ginger has been shown to reduce inflammation (like digestion), stimulate circulation, reduce gas and bloating and prevent stomach ulcers (3). I feel like they freshen my breath too. And just like everything else in this post, IT'S TASTY – especially if you like spicy things. I love the Chewy Ginger Candy from the Ginger People. They're widely available and not overly sweet.

DARK CHOCOLATE – I couldn't write a craving's post without a shout out to my favorite craving of all – DARK CHOCOLATE. The dessert that keeps on giving. It's rich, it's decadent, and it's oh-so-good for you. It KILLS it in the polyphenol and antioxidant department – MUCH higher than super fruits like acai, pomegranate, cranberry and blueberry (YA, that's awesome).  And it has been shown to improve blood pressure and blood flow. But just like the honey, the quality of dark chocolate is key. The higher the cacao content, the bigger the benefits (I try to stick to 70% or higher). I keep a bag of Dark Chocolate Chips in my freezer at all times (I like this brand), and sometimes toss it with a handful of dried cranberries for a great after-dinner treat. But if I'm in the mood for something a little more serious, I take my butt to Whole Foods and drool at all of the decadent options (I'm a BIG fan of Chocolove XOXO and for a less expensive option, Trader Joe's Organic 72% Dark Chocolate bars).


Gluten-free, Paleo-friendly


  • 1 Avocado
  • 3-4 TPSP. Cacao Powder
  • Handful of dark chocolate chips
  • 1 teaspoon coconut oil
  • 1-2 TBSP. of coconut milk (if you have it on hand, the canned kind is thicker and creamier than the carton)
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • A dash of honey (per your tastes)
  • A dash of sea salt (I used Hawaiian black lava sea salt)
  • Garnish ideas: Strawberry, raspberry, mint, basil, coconut shreds, pistachios, cashews


  • Toss all of your ingredients in a food processor/blender
  • Taste test even before it's blended all the way through
  • Too avocado-y? Add more chocolate chips or honey per your tastes
  • Put in a pretty bowl and add a pretty topping (or just eat it straight out of the blender)

Alrighty. Here's the part where I embarrass myself and ask a question to you all and nobody answers! What are you all craving? Have you invented any foods in the heat of the moment that totally hit the spot? I'd love to hear about them! COMMENT BELOW!