Sheet Pan Veggies and Tofu with Creamy Miso Dressing

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Dietitian Sarah Kiel from Harmons joined us to share the recipe for sheet pan veggies and tofu and also told us the 6 foods and nutrients that can help fight the winter blues, (below recipe).

Sheet Pan Veggies and Tofu with Creamy Miso Dressing

Adapted from Roasted Broccoli and Tofu with Creamy Miso Dressing by Chris Morocco, Bon Appetit

Ingredients: 

  • ½ pound brussels sprouts
  • 1 ½ teaspoons ground coriander
  • 2 small heads broccoli, cut into large florets, stems thinly sliced
  • 1 block firm tofu, drained well, torn into bite sized pieces
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • Salt
  • 5 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • ½ cup hemp seeds
  • 2 tablespoons miso
  • 2 teaspoons sesame seeds, toasted
  • Crushed toasted almonds and/or parsley leaves (for serving)

Directions: 

  1. Preheat oven to 425°. Cut off stems from brussels sprouts; discard. Place outer leaves on a large rimmed baking sheet. Finely slice inner brussels sprout cores and add to baking sheet. Add broccoli and tofu to baking sheet.
  2. Drizzle with 2 tbsp oil, add coriander and red pepper flakes, toss to combine; season with salt. Roast, tossing once halfway through, until broccoli is browned and tender, 30-35 minutes.
  3. Puree hemp seeds, miso, 2 tbsp sesame seeds, 5 tbsp lemon juice, and 2 tbsp oil, and ¼ cup water in a blender until smooth. Season to taste with salt.
  4. Spread some dressing onto bowls or plates and arrange vegetable tofu mixture on top. Top with sesame seeds, almonds, and parsley.

The food we eat affects most every process in our body; fueling our body with the nutrients it needs will help it run more efficiently, as well as promote feelings of well-being, and (hopefully) help ward off those pesky winter blues.

Note: There is a major difference between the so-called “winter blues” and more serious conditions like seasonal affective disorder and clinical depression which should be treated under the care of a physician.

1. Vitamin D

Some studies suggest that vitamin D supplementation may help reduce symptoms of major depression, and many studies have correlated a deficiency in vitamin d to increased rates of depression. Vitamin D deficiency is also thought to be a contributor to Seasonal Affective Disorder, the mood disruption that generally occurs in January and continues through March, thought to be a biochemical effect of the shorter days of winter. During the winter months, taking a supplement is a good idea since there are few foods that contain meaningful amounts of vitamin D to make up for our lack of sunlight exposure. Studies estimate that we only consume about 25% of the RDA for vitamin D from the foods we eat. 

How much?

Appropriate dosages will vary from person to person, so talk with your doctor about the right amount for you. (Getting your vitamin D levels tested is a good place to start!) Generally, 1000 IU of vitamin D daily is safe for healthy adults.

2. Omega 3s

Omega 3 fatty acids are important essential fatty acids that our bodies can’t produce on their own, and are linked with decreased risk factors for heart disease, and have been shown to decrease inflammation, as well as the risk for developing dementia. In case you need another reason to eat more omega 3s, there is evidence that they may be useful (in conjunction with medication) for the treatment of depression, due to their influence on the brain chemicals dopamine and serotonin.

One more reason to eat your recommended 2 servings of fish per week: The omega 3s present in fish (EPA and DHA) have been shown to be more effective than plant based omega 3s (ALA) in the treatment of depression, however, plant based omega 3s are still beneficial for health and should also be emphasized in a healthy diet.

3. Better for you carbohydrates. 

Carbohydrates are thought to be important in the production of serotonin, one of the feel good chemicals in our brain that can help promote feelings of happiness and well-being. Studies have also demonstrated that carbohydrates are important in preventing anxiety and depression; a study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine showed that participants on a very low carbohydrate diet for one year had higher rates of anxiety, depression, and anger than participants assigned to a low fat, high carbohydrate diet focused on low fat dairy, whole grains, fruit and beans.

The key is in choosing carbohydrate foods which benefit your brain as well as your body, such as fruits and vegetables (even starchy ones, like potatoes), whole grains, and low fat dairy. Eating highly processed grains (think white flour, white rice, etc.) and added sugars can increase your blood sugars, and send you for a ride on the blood sugar roller coaster – which won’t improve anyone’s mood.

4. Water

Even mild dehydration (the loss of 1.5% body water volume) has been shown to cause anger, fatigue and mood swings, and these effects are more pronounced in women. Generally, our thirst sensation doesn’t appear until we are dehydrated to 1-2% of our body water volume, which is when we are already experiencing the mental and emotional effects of dehydration.

How much?

Studies have tried to establish a recommended amount of daily water intake, but factors like age and physical activity will cause water needs to vary. Generally speaking, shoot for 1-2 liters per day, or the amount needed to make your urine clear. Tip: if you’re feeling chilly, try drinking some decaffeinated herbal tea or coffee as a fun, antioxidant rich way to increase your water intake.

5. Fruits and vegetables

Here’s another reason to pack your plate with fruits and veggies: they might help improve your mood. Studies show that people who eat 7-8 servings of fruits and vegetables per day report feeling calmer and happier, on both the day the produce was consumed, and the next day. Fruits and vegetables, especially dark leafy green veggies, contain folate and other B vitamins, which have been shown to positively affect those neurotransmitters that affect your mood. Plus, fruits and vegetables are light and refreshing, help provide hydration and energy, and won’t sit heavily in your stomach – whose mood wouldn’t be improved from those things alone?

How much?

7-8 servings per day have been shown to help improve mood, which can be accomplished by making sure to fill up half of your plate with fruits and vegetables at meals and snacks. (Note: at least 4.5 cups of fruits and vegetables are recommended daily for adults).

6. Prebiotics and Probiotics

Onions, garlic, and barley are all examples of PRE-biotics, meaning they feed the healthy bacteria in our gut. Prebiotics are not to be confused with probiotics (the actual beneficial bacteria in our gut).

Our gut bacteria is important when discussing mood, since up to 95% of our bodies’ serotonin is produced in the gut and scientists are increasingly convinced that not only does our brain impact our gut (aka butterflies in your stomach), but also that our gut impacts our mental state. The microbiota in our digestive systems produce several other compounds that communicate with our brains. Keeping them (and our mental state) balanced means giving them what they need for energy: prebiotics; and consuming more of them: probiotics.

Don’t forget to exercise! Many studies have shown that people who exercise are less likely to become depressed, and that people who are already depressed report mood improvement when they begin to exercise regularly.

Nutrition and Depression

Research has found that people who eat a nutritious diet tend to have lower rates of depression. However, the research isn’t clear on whether depressed people tend to eat more poorly, or whether a lack of nutrients can contribute to depression. However, there is a link between poor nutrition and depression, and certainly if you’re depressed, eating well is not going to make you feel worse.

This story includes sponsored content.

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