I can find mornings particularly difficult to deal with. First thing my brain often has some cognitive functioning issues and it can take a couple of hours to improve. This is very inconvenient as I have two children who need packed lunches and breakfasts making before going to school. I can do these things on autopilot after a decade of practice, and Hubs is good at helping, but I find any extra stress such as unexpected things like school letters to sign, lost swimming kit or sibling arguments quite hard to deal with. I can get more and more stressed quite fast, until I feel like a volcano about to explode. I am pretty good at not exploding, mainly by gritting my teeth, but it’s not a fun way to exist.
Since I started changing the way I eat I have found that a good breakfast makes a huge improvement. I find if I have something with slow release carbohydrates, fruit and nuts I actually feel more like I can cope with the world in a fairly short space of time. My husband will tell you that the effect on my mood is quite astonishing.
The thing is I find it hard in the mornings to have the coordination and energy to do anything much in the culinary department before I eat and a slice of toast just doesn’t cut it in the same way. Then I discovered Overnight Oats. The benefit of these being that you get slow release energy from the oats and all sorts of other wonderful nutrients but you can make it the night before so just literally get the bowl out of the fridge and eat it. This is blinking wonderful when feeling hungry, low and really busy all at the same time. I feel so much better when I have had this and it has become a very definite part of my before bed routine, whilst I am waiting for the kettle to boil for a last (decaf) cup of tea I just throw these ingredients together in a bowl because even if I am tired I know that it will make a huge difference to me the next day.
Overnight Oats contains oats, which are a great breakfast for mentally productive mornings and contain thiamin which helps boost our mental energy and concentration levels. They also contain magnesium. Studies have shown a link between magnesium deficiency and depression, and during stressful times people can actually use up all their magnesium supplies such making the symptoms worse.
The almonds are a source of protein, giving you some healthy fat. Almonds also contain tryptophan which is needed to produce the neurotransmitter serotonin.
Berry fruits contain high levels of anti-oxidants which can help protect your brain cells from damage by free-radicals.
“There is growing evidence that the synergy and interaction of all of the nutrients and other bioactive components in nuts and berries can have a beneficial effect on the brain and cognition. Regular nut consumption, berry consumption, or both could possibly be used as an adjunctive therapeutic strategy in the treatment and prevention of several neurodegenerative diseases and age-related brain dysfunction. A number of animal and a growing number of human studies show that moderate-duration dietary supplementation with nuts, berry fruit, or both is capable of altering cognitive performance in humans, perhaps forestalling or reversing the effects of neurodegeneration in aging. ” Cognition: the new frontier for nuts and berries by Peter Pribis and Barbara Shukitt-Hale in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
Cinnamon firstly gives the cereal a muffin like taste, it feels like I am eating a pudding that is good for me for breakfast, so there is a naughty, decadent quality to it. Cinnamon has some some anti-inflammatory benefits which may boost overall brain functioning and may unleash some special proteins called neutrotropic factors, which can help the brain generate new neurons and keep old ones healthy (Rebecca Katz with Mat Edelson – The Healthy Mind Cookbook page 13).
The seeds are another source of healthy fats as well as a sauce of Omega 3 which is a polyunsaturated fatty acid which has been thought to play a key role in regulating inflammation which has been linked to depression. I buy an omega seed mix from my local health food store, which includes sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, brown linseed and golden linseed, but you could easily make your own mix.
I use measuring cups to measure, it’s easier for my brain to manage than working out the numbers on the weighing scales and a lot quicker!
Overnight Oats – Serves 1
1 cup porridge oats
1 handful flaked almonds
1 handful sultanas
1 handful of a mix of seeds of your choice
1 handful frozen mixed berries
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon – or to taste
1 cup water
Aluminium foil or clingfilm
Grab your favourite breakfast bowl (mine is pink with white stars on, I live in a household of males so I get my pink where I can!) the night before you want to eat. Put in all the ingredients other than the water. Pour the water on top. Stir it all up. Cover with the foil or cling film. Place in the fridge overnight so that all of your ingredients can make friends!
The next morning, get up and take your oats out of the fridge. Either eat chilled, leave to come up to room temperature, or warm up in the microwave or on the hob depending on your preference. I actually do leave mine covered on the counter overnight rather than putting it in the fridge because I figure there is no dairy in it to go off and I prefer it at room temperature to chilled but I will leave that to your discretion.
Image by Haban Haaijk via Unsplash.