In our recent online Nutrition and Fitness class, we touched on the effects of stress eating. If you missed the class, in short, chronic stress can lead to all kinds of issues around digestion, lowered immunity, disturbed sleep cycle, weight gain and depression. Enter cortisol to get us through.
We actually need cortisol to survive. This hormone gets us through quick, tough situations like being late for a meeting, or having to do a nerve-wracking presentation. Prolonged stressful situations, like being isolated and quarantined during the Covid-19 pandemic, is where cortisol remains high and begins to suppress other hormones in the body that are responsible for metabolism, blood sugar regulation, sleep-wake cycles and mood. In particular, serotonin and dopamine, our happy, feel-good, gratification hormones.
We cannot get serotonin from food, but we can get an essential amino acid, tryptophan, from food. Tryptophan triggers the production of our happiness hormone, and it is found in foods like poultry, salmon, cashews, chia seeds, spinach, and oats. Dopamine is manufactured in the body by vitamin D and another amino acid called Tyrosine, which we also find in poultry, eggs, soy, spirulina and dairy products . Our body can also magically make Tyrosine from another essential amino acid, phenylalanine. So, you can see how eating a balanced diet is important to get in all the components that help trigger hormones, and neurotransmitters that keep us feeling good.
Since eating cookies makes us feel good, and so do these particular amino acids, why not combine them into a healthy snack? That is exactly what I did here with these “Feel Good Cookies” to give that serotonin and dopamine a little kickstart.
1 C raw, unsalted cashews
1/2 C rolled oats
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 C almond butter
1/4 tsp sea salt
2 Tbsp honey
1 egg or flax egg for a vegan option
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla
1 Tbsp coconut oil, melted
1 Tbsp chia seeds
1/4 C dark chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 350F. Spread cashews on to a baking sheet and toast for 5 minutes. Allow to cool, then coarsley grind them in a food processor or blender. Add these to a bowl, along with all other ingredients except chia seeds and chocolate chips. Once all ingredients are combined, then add the chia and chocolate chips. Form 15 cookies onto the baking sheet and bake for 9 minutes or until edges begin to brown. Let cool before serving. Cookies keep in the fridge for 3-5 days or freeze for up to 3 months.