The Happiness Foods

Island Epicure

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Chocolate, of course. Who doesn’t love it? Choose cocoa, for a temporary boost to your brains’ seratonin, the happiness chemical. It won’t give you lasting happiness, but it will—for a little while—make you smarter.

A quick cup of hot chocolate made with milk, and a stack of cinnamon toast made with whole grain bread could fire up those brain cells, make balancing your checkbook easier, and even lighten your mood. Make that French toast, and you’ll have a higher protein breakfast, one that stays with you longer.

Tomatoes, whose red color signals the carotenoids that counteract free radicals that destroy fats in the brain—and fat is what brains are mostly made of—assist memory and for thinking straight, as well as being food mood lifters.

Spinach and other leafy greens, and lentils, and beans, all bring you lots of folate, a happiness B vitamin. Your brain uses it to make seratonin, and a couple of other mood-boosting chemicals, dopamine and norepinephrine.

Spinach, cooked only in the water that sticks to the leaves when you wash them, tastes best when cooked just long enough to wilt it. Sprinkle your serving with rice vinegar or balsamic vinegar for a taste treat that proofs you against mosquitoes, not that they’re a problem right now. We mix 1/8 to ¼ teaspoon of vinegar with each of our cats’ their food to ward off fleas.

Fish is a happiness food. It deserves its fine reputation as a brain food. It’s less well known—but should be—for Omega 3 fats EPA and DHA to improve your mood. To keep your spirits up as the darker days of fall and winter close in, try for a serving of salmon, mackerel, or tuna twice a week. Salmon gives you the most Omega 3 fat, and the most protein, plus 400 mg. of Vitamin D, a magical nutrient itself.

A salmon steak needs only gentle braising in butter with a sprinkle of salt and pepper and dill, and a couple of lemon slices on it. Cover and cook 10 minutes, or until the fish flakes easily, and is opaque all the way through.

A much less expensive choice, and a low-fat one, is cod, splendid this Greek way.

Baked Cod in
Tomato Sauce
3 servings
Preheat oven to 350
9 to 12 ounces true cod
½ lemon, optional
3 Tablespoons light olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
½ to 1 green bell pepper, chopped
1 15-ounce can tomato sauce
salt, pepper, and oregano flakes
Butter

Butter a baking dish. Cut the cod in 3-inch pieces, approximately. Sprinkle it with lemon juice, or not. Arrange the cod pieces in the baking dish.

Heat the oil in a frying pan. Stirring occasionally, fry the onion and green pepper. Stir in salt, pepper, and oregano. Strew over the cod pieces. Pour the tomato sauce over all. Bake 25 minutes. Serve with steamed brown rice or millet.