A new cookbook tailors your diet to improve your emotional health.
The juicy pomegranate on the cover of Food & Life is studded with garnet-colored seeds as well as acupuncture needles, which illustrates this new cookbook’s goal: To heal the mind and body with foods chosen for their drug-like effects—and downright deliciousness.
Meant as an antidote to fad or starvation diets that can wreck our health and our mood, “this book celebrates everyday fruits, vegetables, beans, grains, meats and fish, plus their effects on our physical and mental well-being,” says Nadia Volf, MD, PhD, and Food & Life co-author with chef Joel Robuchon. He’s the French chef whose restaurants have garnered 25 Michelin stars over the years, and she’s his neuropharmacologist. The two claim that his culinary artistry combined with her scientific knowledge will yield meals that improve your health, energy, mood, and maybe even your love life.
While most of us are aware of the calming benefits of turkey due to its high levels of tryptophan (a precursor to the “happy” neurotransmitter serotonin) and the joy of chocolate (loaded with neurotransmitters that release endorphins in the brain), who knew that trout can fight anxiety and that clams can reduce anger? Or that almonds can help you breathe better, and pumpkin seeds help you battle obsessions?
The book makes the point, based on traditional Chinese medicine, that you should eat certain foods at different times, depending on the way you feel, says Volf. Toward that end, she lists five flavors that help manage the five main emotions: Spicy (to reduce and control anger); Salty (to decrease anxiety); Bitter (to ease pain and sadness); Sweet (to reduce fear); and Sour (to help the body accept change).
Whether you subscribe to this “therapy by diet” theory or not, this wire-bound book (to make recipe-following easy in the kitchen) is an inspiration, and an excuse to eat healthfully and well. Rubochon’s Green Asparagus with Parmesan is suggested to help after traumatic events, but would be delicious even on a good day. One of Volf’s favorites this winter is Mushroom Broth with Scallops and Ginger, what she calls “drugs on a plate.” “The mushrooms strengthen the kidneys and the immune defenses during flu season, while the scallops contain threonine and tryptophan to promote relaxation after a long day at the office,” she says. “In addition, this broth is easy to digest, and great for a good restful sleep!” One of the best drugs of all.