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Fermented food

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,

Healthy Body

Happy Stomach Series Part II: Fermented Foods

July 13, 2014

I think I can safely say that almost all of us have hopped on the Greek yogurt train some time over the last five years or so. Why wouldn’t we? Somebody handed us a creamy treat that apparently will make us lose weight and digest our food because it has this thing called “Probiotics.”

Next thing we know, Jaime Lee Curtis is touting the benefits of Activia and John Stamos is making Oikos look sexy. Probiotics start showing up in our frozen yogurt and people start taking pills with thousands of IUs of bacteria in them. I’m not going to lie. I was right there with everybody. I dutifully bought my Chobani and started taking my PB8 every morning.

But one of the things about writing Healthy Stacey is that it has made me a bit of a skeptic. I no longer take Self Magazine’s nutrition advice to heart. Nor do I blindly accept the latest health finding on the news for truth.

So I went on a personal journey to really understand how, why and IF probiotics work. Long story short (too late, I know): Yes, Yes, and YES.

What is a probiotic?

Probiotics are bacteria. Contrary to popular belief, these bacteria are actually good for us. The digestive system already houses somewhere between 300 and 1000 types of bacteria 1. Their purpose is to keep the intestines healthy and assist in the digestion process.

Okay, that’s awesome. Now why do we need more if we already have it?

Unfortunately, the balance of good bacteria can easily be disturbed. The most common way for this to happen is by taking antibiotics (I think the name itself is self explanatory).

But it can also occur as the result of:

  • Too much sugar
  • Processed foods
  • Alcohol
  • Drugs
  • Stress
  • Toxins in our environment

As you can see, these are all things that are pretty common in most people's lifestyles. Which explains why so many people have bad digestive issues. 

So what happens to them?

Bad Bacteria starts to kick Good Bacteria’s ass, which means BAD NEWS BEARS. When the bacteria balance is out of whack, those infamous body warning indicators show up again: Gas, bloating and constipation.  But it can get much worse than that.

Other possibilities of bacteria imbalance include:

  • Crohn’s Disease
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
  • Ulcerative Colitis
  • Colon Cancer
  • Candida infection
  • Weight gain
  • Dairy allergies and intolerances
  • Even Asthma and Arthritis (crazy, right?)

Alright. So now I am going to stop being morbid and get to the part where we can fix it. Yay!

We do actually have the ability to add that good bacteria back into the stomach to start balancing things out again. Those good-bacteria-touting probiotics I mentioned earlier don’t just come in pill form. They exist in food too. Fermented food, to be exact.

Why the hell would I want to eat fermented food?

We have all been taught to be deathly afraid of bacteria. God forbid you expose yourself to dirt and germs! You will obviously get sick and probably die. But the thing is, not all bacteria is bad; some of it is really, really good.

When you leave food out for a long time, you expose that food to bacteria. But not the kind that makes you sick. The kind that eats up the carbohydrates in the food and converts them into something essential to the digestive process…

Lactic acid!

Lactic acid is what our bodies already produce to assist in the digestion process. We’ve all heard of people who are lactose intolerant. This just means that these people’s small intestines are lacking lactic acid to digest the lactose in food. 

What I am telling you is that by fermenting your food, you are actually producing the acid your stomach needs before it even enters your body. And when it does…well, it’s a beautiful thing.


  • Produce the acid your stomach needs ahead of time, assisting you in the digestive process before it even gets to your saliva and stomach lining
  • Not only improve the digestibility of the fermented food, but any cooked food you eat along with it (awesome)
  • Multiply the amount of nutrients that your body absorbs from the food
  • Slow or reverse some of those diseases I mentioned earlier
  • Improve immunity (fully functioning digestive systems are well-equipped to fight off sickness)

This stuff sounds awesome! How do I get it?


The first time I ran out to try my first batch of sauerkraut, I made the rookie mistake of going straight to the condiment aisle in the middle of the grocery store.

Epic fail!

The sauerkraut and pickles you find on the shelf are preserved in vinegar. They have not been fermented; they have been pasteurized. Essentially, the good bacteria and other organisms have been destroyed so they could have a long shelf life.

To get the numerous nutritional benefits I listed above, the food must be RAW AND UNPASTEURIZED (i.e. fermented as the result of naturally occurring bacteria).

You will never find raw fermented foods on the shelf. If they are available in your grocery store, they will be in the refrigerated section.

Fermented foods can come in the form of:

  • Sauerkraut
  • Kimchi
  • Pickles
  • Miso
  • Kefir
  • Cheese
  • Milk
  • Yogurt (full fat, Greek-style)
  • Kombucha (My favorite!)

Whole Foods has the widest selection of fermented foods I have seen (I like this kraut the best and this Kombucha the best). Mariano’s usually has one type of raw sauerkraut available, as well as a good selection of kombucha. And more recently, Trader Joe’s has hopped on the bandwagon and produced their own raw sauerkraut with persian cucumbers for much less than both Whole Foods and Mariano’s (they are so good at that!).


  • I add sauerkraut to my salads, Kimchi to my sandwiches, or just eat either of them by the spoonful as a snack (warning: they have quite a bite to them, but for a spicy-tooth like me, I kind of love the burn).
  • As you already know, I love my Kombucha. I pick one up whenever I go to Whole Foods and continue to be in awe of the immediate boost I get right after I drink it. Next step, make my own! (much cheaper and available whenever I want it)
  • I enjoy Greek Yogurt a few times a week. But because it's been marketed to death, there are a lot of brands that have gotten a hold of it, pasteurized it, added tons of sugar, and slapped a health claim on it. So before you blindly pick it up and assume it's healthy, please read the nutrition label. Watch out for high sugar levels and low-fat and non-fat options that use tons of fake sugar to make it taste better. To be sure that it does have probiotics, it needs to have a label that says "live and active cultures." As I mentioned on my Healthy Resources page, Siggi's is one of my favorite for its low sugar content and low list of ingredients. More recently, now that I am happily enjoying fat instead of avoiding it, I have found whole milk yogurt to be my best option. So much more fulfilling and better for you. 
  • I have yet to explore the raw milk and cheese. Years of veganism and fear of the downfalls of dairy keeps me from really diving into these foods. However, if I can enjoy the decadence of a good stinky cheese and feel good about it, I am totally on board. Open to suggestions if you have them!

Any dedicated health nut will tell you that the best way you can get fermented foods is by making them at home. However, I have little to speak on this topic because I have not attempted this yet. (It’s on my to-do list). I can tell you that, from what I’ve heard, it’s super easy and much less expensive than buying it at the store. We’ll save that for a future post.


Fermented foods were never even part of my vocabulary before I discovered their benefits. But now, I can’t imagine my life without them. Ever since incorporating them into my daily routine, I have noticed immediate differences in my digestion. Personally, I found much stronger results from eating fermented foods than from taking probiotic pills. Although I think they all have their place, to me, nothing beats getting your nutrients from real food.

I highly recommend giving them a try. My stomach, my mind and my entire body are so much happier since I have brought them into my diet. I would much prefer that you see the results for yourself and post your awesome comments below than for me to keep using cheesy lines like that. 

Next up on our Happy Stomach Series…

PROCESSED FOODS WITH SUGAR ON TOP – Eating fake food is bad for your shit