Wake up on the right side of the bed with this mood boosting turmeric smoothie with mango, coconut and ginger! Vegan and no refined sugar.
Hello my friends! It's time for another installment of mood boosting food. In case you missed it, last week I shared the first post of my new series, Good Mood Food, where I'll be discussing foods that nourish the body and mind. Last week, we talked about my favorite fermented food, kimchi, and whipped it up into a cold noodle salad. This week, I'm moving on to my favorite spice, turmeric.
Turmeric is a plant in the ginger family. It is native to India and frequently used in Indian cuisine, where it is a common ingredient in curry. You can buy it fresh, or dried and ground into a powder, the latter being easier to find. It has an earthy, almost gingery flavor.
Although all herbs and spices have some health benefit, turmeric really leads the way! Most of the health benefits stem from curcumin, the compound in turmeric that gives it a bright yellow hue. It's powerfully anti-inflammatory and has been show to reduce risk of heart attack, diabetes, and cancer and may also be beneficial for arthritis pain.
Most interesting to me is the powerful effect turmeric has on the brain. It was first realized when scientists found significantly lower rates of Alzheimer's disease in India and began to hypothesize dietary components that may be responsible. Subsequent studies found the curcumin in tumeric helps block the formation of the plaques found in brains of Alzheimer's victims.
That's impressive enough, but turmeric works on the brain in other ways as well. It's powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effect extends to the brain. It also increases serotonin, the happy hormone, and modulates cortisol, a stress hormone. Another compound in turmeric, turmerone, boosts the regeneration of brain stem cells. It also inhibits monoamine oxidase, a enzyme that is linked to depression if found in high levels.
Although there hasn't been a ton of research looking at depression and turmeric, one impressive study found curcumin was only 2-5% less effective in treating depression than Prozac, without the side effects (i.e. killing your sex drive and keeping you up at night). Now, please do not stop taking an antidepressant and start chugging turmeric supplements! We certainly need more research. But, knowing the safety of turmeric, it's other health benefits along with it's positive effect on the brain, I think it's a smart idea to start incorporating more turmeric into your diet if you're looking to boost your mood.
Of note, because there is little to no regulation of dietary supplements, I recommend cooking with turmeric versus taking supplements (if you do go the supplement route, go for one tested by Consumer Labs). The flavor isn't overpowering, and you'll find you can work it into a lot more things than curry. I mix it into tomato sauce and other creamy pasta sauces, soups, blend fresh turmeric juice, and even hide it in my ultra-creamy, quick vegan yogurt. But if you want to include it on the reg, I suggest whipping it into your morning smoothie.
One last thing - an odd ingredient you'll see on this list is black pepper. Piperine, the substance in pepper that makes it, well, taste like pepper, actually helps you absorb the curcumin in turmeric. It's just a little bit and you hardly taste it, so even if you're a little weirded out, keep in it there!
Turmeric Smoothie with Mango & Coconut
Makes 2 smoothies
If you don't have a chance to freeze the mangos, just throw a few ice cubes in. Adapted from Green Kitchen Stories.
- 2 mangos, peeled and chopped, preferably frozen
- 1 orange, peeled
- 1 raw carrot, chopped or shredded if your blender isn't a fancy-schmancy high speed one
- 1/4 cup cashews, soaked at least an hour or overnight
- 1 1/2 cups coconut water
- 1 teaspoon turmeric
- 1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger
- A couple grinds of freshly cracked black pepper
- Place all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth.
Other turmeric recipes on the blog: