With Auckland in COVID-19 alert level 3 lockdown and the rest of the country in level 2, you might find your normal healthy routine has gone out the window this week - which isn't great for either your mental or physical health.
If you're comfort eating your way through lockdown, there's a good chance you've ditched your usual five-plus-a-day fruit and vegetable intake.
There's significant research around how a varied and healthy diet nourishes your gut microbiome, and therefore helps your brain and boosts your serotonin levels.
But if you simply can't face a salad, the team at UK lifestyle site Exante have put together some super easy smoothie recipes that promise to not only taste great but also top-up lost vitamins and give your mood an extra boost. Just add all the ingredients listed into a blender, pulse till smooth, and enjoy!
Coffee and Banana smoothie
Benefits: Energy and mood booster
A tasty espresso shot will not only wake you up, but studies around caffeine have also suggested it elevates levels of the feel-good chemicals serotonin and dopamine in the brain - giving you a boost of positivity as well as energy in the morning.
A staple ingredient in most smoothies, bananas are full of B6, a mood-boosting ingredient to help you combat the lockdown blues.
- 1 frozen banana
- 8g chia seeds
- 125ml coconut water
- 1 tsp ground almonds
- 1 shot of espresso
Berry and Oat Smoothie
Benefits: Vitamin D and happiness booster
Being stuck inside all day means we miss out on vital vitamin D from sunlight. Vitamin D deficiency can cause many health problems, including depression. The milk in this smoothie is packed full of it, helping you top up your lost sunlight.
The beta-glucan in oats is used as a fuel for our gut bacteria, enabling our brain to make happy and calming chemicals.
- 1 banana
- 1 tbsp porridge oats
- 80g of blueberries
- 150ml milk
- 1 tsp honey
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
Banana and Berry smoothie
Benefits: Healthy digestion and stress-releasing booster
The yogurt in this yummy smoothie has lots of friendly gut bacteria. Many of our happy hormones and neurotransmitters are produced by the bacteria in the gut, so keeping these replenished every day gives us the best chance of improving our mood.
Honey contains tryptophan, the building block of serotonin which can also boost your mood. It gives the sweetness of sugar, but without releasing inflammatory free radicals in the same way refined sugar does, and can actually help reduce brain inflammation.
- 2 tbsp of low-fat plain yogurt
- 3 handfuls frozen strawberries
- 2 bananas, chopped
- 300ml cup fat-free milk
- 1 scoop of crushed ice
- 2 tsp of honey
Peanut Butter and Banana Smoothie
Benefits: Anxiety reducer
Nuts and legumes provide energy-boosting proteins with healthy fats and a recent study found that regular consumption of nuts and legumes reduces your risk of suffering from anxiety.
- 2 bananas, broken into chunks
- 400ml milk
- 2tbsp peanut butter
- 1 tbsp honey, or to taste
- 2 scoops of ice cubes
Almond and Berry Smoothie
Benefits: Healthy digestion and mood booster
Berries are rich in antioxidants, which are responsible for protecting our cells, particularly in the brain. They also feed some highly beneficial gut bacteria, essential for creating calming neurotransmitters and managing inflammation in the brain, which is linked with depression and other mood disorders.
- 1 handful of frozen blueberries
- 1 banana
- 200ml of almond milk
- 1 tbsp almond butter
- Add water gradually if too thick
Orange and Turmeric Smoothie
Benefits: Stress-reducing and immune booster
Turmeric contains curcumin which helps with many metabolic diseases and age-related degenerative disorders. Another healthy active ingredient in turmeric is turmerone, which can support cognitive performance due to its neuroprotective properties.
Ginger has been used in various forms of traditional and alternative medicine. Studies suggest it aids digestion, reduces nausea, and helps fight the flu and common cold.
Being poorly hydrated can mimic feelings of panic, so ensuring that you have lots of water-filled foods such as oranges can go a long way to improving mood. Oranges are rich in vitamin B and C, which we burn through at very high rates when stressed, making replenishing those stores very important.
- 2 oranges, quartered and peeled
- 1 large carrot, chopped
- 1 inch piece of ginger, peeled
- 1 teaspoon powdered turmeric
- A pinch of black pepper