Natural Mood Enhancers, While Stuck Indoors

Natural Mood Enhancers, While Stuck Indoors

The days are shorter and, if you live in the Northeast, the weather is cold. Covid aside, we are naturally spending more time inside. This means our bodies are not getting some of the vital health benefits we would get if we were spending time outdoors, including sunlight.

It is true, there are many reasons why you should protect your skin from overexposure to the sun’s ultraviolet rays. We all know too much of the sun’s rays can cause, at a minimum, sunburn, eye damage, premature wrinkles or, at worse, skin cancer. But moderate amounts of sun does provide us with one of the best sources of vitamin D, or as some know it, the ‘sunshine vitamin.” Vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium and phosphorus while also helping regulate your immune system function. Studies have even shown that it can help your body provide resistance against certain types of diseases.

More than just vitamin D, the sun’s rays can serve as a natural mood enhancer. Research shows that vitamin D plays a role in regulating mood and warding off depression. This might be because the sun’s rays increase the brain’s release of a hormone called serotonin which is associated with calmness and focus. Vitamin D supplements can help enhance one’s intake, but nothing can replace the sun’s ray.

Speaking of natural mood enhancers, I find no better feel-good food than dark chocolate! RICH DARK CHOCOLATE…. just writing these words makes me happy! Dark chocolate is rich in flavonoids (antioxidants that help protect against free radicals), magnesium and polyphenols, just to name a few. At home, I make a batch of dark chocolate cake and I will serve a slice for dessert a few nights throughout the week. I didn’t reinvent the wheel with this recipe as I use one of my favorite flourless box brands (Simple Mills), but I have enhanced it by adding a few other ingredients that help make it lower in fat and richer in dark chocolate components. Let’s start with the foundation. The brand I use is Simple Mills, a better-for-you brand that provides clean-nutrient packed baking mixes and snacks. For our health at home, we have actively decided to avoid refined sugars and flour wherever we can, but I assure you, you will not miss it all with this delicious recipe!

What you need:

  • 1 box of Simple Mills (Almond Flour Baking Mix, Chocolate Muffin & Cake)
  • 1 egg
  • 1/3rd cup of plain yogurt (to substitute for the oil in the recipe)
  • 2/3rd cups of water
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract (the box calls for 1 tablespoon, but the recipe really doesn’t need that much)
  • 2 tablespoons of Cacao powder (I suggest any organic brand, which you can find in any supermarket).
  • 2 tablespoons of Chia seeds
  • 3 tablespoons of dark chocolate bitter-sweet chips (I like Pascha brand because it is made of 85% cacao, but try choosing a bag with a cocoa content of 70% or higher)
Pre-heat oven to 350F. Grease an 8 inch pan (this recipe doubles as a cupcake recipe too). Whisk egg, water, vanilla and yogurt together until well blended. Add the almond flour mix, cacao powder, chia seeds and chocolate chips to the batter. Pour batter into the pan and bake for 32-37 mins (the recipe is pretty precise on time, I find 35 mins works in my oven). Make sure to stick with a toothpick to check for doneness. When you take it out of the oven, place a clean kitchen towel over the cake and let cool (helps seal any moisture that might escape). What I love most about this recipe is that it is rich, moist, not overly sweet but still absolutely indulgent and decadent (you won’t even believe it’s low fat too!). For an added treat, spray a dollop of coconut whipped cream on top ( a nice vegan option).

Just one bite of this cake is enough to take the winter doldrums away, so enjoy!

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