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If you’ve ever sat down with a full tub of ice cream, and planning to eat the whole lot you’ll know that eating yourself happy can be a tricky undertaking. Sure it tastes nice, but you ultimately end up feeling gross and cranky, and hating yourself for even doing it in the first place. That’s because eating a tub of ice cream (or a slab of chocolate) doesn’t actually make you happy: all it does is trick your body into releasing endorphins (which work kind of like opioids), followed by a sugar crash.
Actual happiness happens inside your brain via a complex cocktail of chemical and physical processes which all – when working well, and in concert – will leave you better able to deal with anxiety or stress, and exhibiting less depressive symptoms.
Actually, let’s pause for a second. For the sake of this post, happiness means what you think it means. The debate has raged for millenia, since well before Aristotle wrote about hedonia and eudaimonia. We’re not going to settle the “What is happiness?” debate here, so we’ve decided to just side-step it.
It stands to reason that this chemical cocktail needs ingredients to work at its best, so we’ve concocted a breakfast (recipe below) which gives your brain many of the ingredients it needs to get your chemical cocktail going each day. It breaks down as follows:
Brazil nuts are the best plant-based source of selenium, an essential trace mineral which plays a number of important roles in your body. Selenium deficiency has been linked with depression and anxiety, but be careful to not overdo it. Too much selenium can also be bad for you, so stick to two or three Brazil nuts per day. Selenium can also be found in spinach, mushrooms, brown rice, and a number of other foods so don’t be too worried if it’s been a while since you last ate a Brazil nut.
Pumpkin seeds, for breakfast? Yes, they taste pretty good and are a great source of Zinc – another trace mineral which is used in a host of important internal bodily functions related to mood and anxiety, but also related to immune system functioning. Keep pumpkin seeds around, they work great as an any time snack too.
Fresh (or Dried) Figs
Figs are a good source of magnesium, another micronutrient (the lack of) which has also been linked with mood disorders. To meet your recommended daily intake of magnesium only using figs you would need to eat about four cups of dried ones, so don’t rely on this breakfast to meet your target! Luckily it’s also found in plenty of other foods you may already be eating, like baby spinach, kale, or quinoa.
Little black nutrient bombs, we just added these because they taste great. They can be hard to find though, so really add any kind of berry – the nutrient profile of most berries are quite similar, rich in antioxidants, vitamin C, and other essential nutrients.
Soy milk is a pretty good source of tryptophan, an amino acid your body uses to build serotonin. You may have heard of serotonin, it’s basically your very own mood stabilizer. The most common form of antidepressants today (SSRIs, like Prozac and Zoloft) are designed to increase the amount of serotonin in your body.
Luckily a normal diet usually gets more than enough tryptophan, as it’s commonly found in high protein foods. A 100g of tofu, for example, will easily meet your recommended daily intake of tryptophan.
Steel Cut Oats
Besides tasting great, steel cut oats are high in fiber and complex carbohydrates, which will help you feel fuller for longer, and allow your body a good amount of slow release energy to keep you going for longer too. Complex carbohydrates also elevate your insulin levels (a good thing, if you’re normally healthy) which will let your body effectively absorb the tryptophan mentioned above.
It’s not just about eating though…
Food on its own cannot make you happy though. You’re more complex than that. We are all different, and we all respond to different things in different ways but – when it comes to happiness – there are a few common denominators you really should take seriously, if you’re not already.
People who eat breakfast every day show significantly less symptoms of depression and anxiety. Every day. The positive effect of breakfast on mood does not show for those who “sometimes” eat breakfast.
You probably know this one already, as the science has been settled and well-understood for quite a long time. Exercise acts as a mood stabilizer and antidepressant. The key here is to not be a hero. For the sake of mood, regularity is more important than intensity. In other words, a daily brisk walk would do more to improve your mood than a weekly session of brutal exercise.
The effect of sunshine on mood is quite well-known too. If you are able (and if it doesn’t break any quarantine rules), try combine sunshine and exercise and go for a brisk 30 minute walk when the sun is out! Remember to apply sunscreen before you head out.
The link isn’t fully understood yet, but there is clear evidence suggesting a link between good gut bacteria and mood. While scientists figure it all out all we can do is try optimize our gut health by eating plenty of fiber, possibly supplementing with a probiotic, or regularly eating fermented foods like sauerkraut, kimchi, and miso.
Everyone is different. The suggestions above (and the recipe below) probably won’t lead to you skipping joyously through the house if you weren’t skipping around already. What they do aim to do is give your body its best chance of behaving optimally on its own.
And that may not be enough. These are trying times for us all, so remember to be kind to yourself – it’s ok to be anxious and down, just try not to stay there for too long. And check in on your friends from time to time, especially the quiet ones!
Mood Lifting Overnight Oats
Mood Lifting Overnight Oats
Servings: 2 people
- 1 cup steel cut oats
- 2 cups unsweetened plant milk
- 1 tablespoon chia seeds
- 1 tablespoon pure maple syrup
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 pinch salt
- fresh or dried figs chopped
- brazil nuts chopped
- berries chopped
- pumpkin seeds chopped
Place all ingredients (excluding figs, nuts and berries) into a large container. Mix well and cover.
Place in the fridge overnight.
Eat chilled topped with figs, berries, and brazil nuts.
Wishing you a happy week ahead despite the uncertainty. May it be filled with meals that make your mood sing!
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Oh boy. So much has been written about soy online that it can be difficult to sift through the information and misinformation to get to the plain truth. So we decided to collect it, collate it, and compile it here for your quick and easy consumption.
Before you get started, please keep in mind this article should be considered general advice only, and should absolutely not replace the advice or instructions of your doctor. All bodies are different, and your doctor knows your body, and your medical history, much better than we do! All citations have been collected below the article if you feel like some soothing bedtime reading.
Are soy beans genetically modified?
Yes, usually. Buy organic, or certified organic.
About 80% of all soy bean crops planted globally are genetically modified, so it’s safe to assume a product contains GM-soy unless it explicitly states otherwise.
Genetically modified soy beans are most commonly altered to improve their resistance to weedkillers and pesticides, which means GM-soy can be sprayed with larger quantities of more toxic spray without dying. Not suprising then that these chemical sprays may find their way onto your plate, with studies finding high residues of glyphosate and AMPA in genetically modified soy bean products. Studies have also shown that organic soy beans show the healthiest nutritional profile, containing more total protein, zinc, and sugars than conventional (non-GM, non-organic) and GM-soy beans.
While many countries, like the US and Australia, do not allow the use of GMOs in certified organic products, this rule does not apply everywhere. Depending on where you live you may need to look for “non-GMO” or equivalent on product labels.
Are soy crops bad for the planet?
Yes, primarily because of their use as animal feed.
Soy is the second largest agricultural driver of deforestation worldwide, with only a small percentage worldwide sustainably grown. The cultivation of soy is responsible for a number of ugly things, including habitat loss, biodiversity loss, and severe erosion.
The solution, ironically enough, is to eat MORE soy. Globally, 75% of all soy beans grown are used as animal feed, directly contributing to the largest agricultural driver of deforestation: the beef industry. Eat less meat (or none at all), and buy sustainably grown soy where possible.
Is there a link between soy products and breast cancer?
Probably not, but it’s complicated.
There is no clear scientific evidence that eating a moderate amount (one or two serves per day) of soy increases your risk of breast cancer, though there is evidence to suggest that a long-term diet rich in soy foods may actually reduce the risk. This reduction is unfortunately most pronounced for those who start eating it at a young age.
That said, science has found a possible link between soy (isoflavone) supplements – commonly prescribed to alleviate menopausal symptoms – and an increased risk of breast cancer, especially in women who have a family or personal history of breast cancer, or thyroid problems.
In summary: Soy foods are fine (one or two serves per day), but soy/isoflavone supplements are – generally speaking – not a good idea.
Is soy safe for boys to eat? For men?
One or two serves of soy per day is perfectly healthy and will not affect your boy’s testosterone production. It won’t affect a man’s testosterone either.
Does soy affect gut health?
Maybe. Listen to your body.
There is some evidence to suggest a diet high in soy can negatively alter the balance of the gut microbiome, though other evidence suggests these changes could be good for your health! In a situation where there is no clear evidence either way, it is important to listen to your body. If you feel that soy is negatively affecting your digestion, limit yourself to one or two serves of organic soybeans per day and consider supplementing with a probiotic.
Does soy cause thyroid problems?
No, but be careful if you already have thyroid problems.
Soy won’t cause thyroid problems if you’re getting enough iodine in your diet (iodized salt, sushi seaweed, etc). If you are on medication for hypothyroidism you should talk to your doctor about eating soy – consensus view is to wait at least four hours after taking your medication before consuming soy. This is because the isoflavones in soy can interfere with the proper absorption of thyroid medication, so it’s best to give your body some time to absorb the medication, after which soy won’t be able to interfere.
Will soy cause kidney stones?
No, but may exacerbate if you’re prone to kidney stones.
If you have a history of kidney stones you should be careful to not overdo your soy consumption. Soy contains oxalate (a component ingredient of kidney stones) and phytates (an inhibitor of kidney stone formation). In small amounts these may be beneficial to kidney stone patients or those at high risk of kidney stones, while in larger amounts they may actually worsen your susceptibility if you have a history of kidney stones. As mentioned before, stick to one or two serves of whole soy per day and you should be fine, but consider chatting with your doctor if you are concerned.
Is soy nutritious?
Yes, but it’s not a super food.
Soy is packed with nutrients: protein, iron, calcium, magnesium, potassium, dietary fiber, and more. It is one of the few “complete” plant-based protein sources, meaning it contains all the essential amino acids necessary for human nutrition. It can help lower your “bad” cholesterol (LDL).
A great many scientific studies have been published detailing tentative links between soy consumption and health benefits or health risks. We suggest paying attention to these studies once the science has settled a bit – until then we’ll stick with what we know for sure.
The evidence is clear: soy is nutritious and perfectly safe to eat if you are a normally healthy human being, no matter your age or gender. Don’t go mad on quantity: stick to one or two servings per day. Buy “whole” soy – try to avoid if the ingredients list mentions “soy protein isolate”. Buy organic if possible, and support sustainably farmed brands if you can.
- ISAAA: Pocket K No. 16: Biotech Crop Highlights in 2018
- PubMed: Compositional differences in soybeans on the market: glyphosate accumulates in Roundup Ready GM soybeans.
- USDA Organic 101: Can GMOs Be Used in Organic Products?
- Choice: Are you eating genetically modified food?
- WWF: The story of soy.
- WWF: Soy: The Biggest Food Crop We Never Talk About.
- Mayo Clinic: Will eating soy increase my risk of breast cancer?
- ScienceDirect: Isoflavones
- Harvard Health Letter: By the way, doctor: Children and soy milk
- ISSM: Does consuming soy affect a man’s testosterone levels?
- FASEB: The Impact of Dietary Soy on Gut Microbiome
- PubMed: Soy and Gut Microbiota: Interaction and Implication for Human Health.
- PubMed: Effects of soy protein and soybean isoflavones on thyroid function in healthy adults and hypothyroid patients: a review of the relevant literature.
- Mayo Clinic: Is it true that people who have hypothyroidism should avoid soy?
- PubMed: Oxalate and phytate of soy foods.
- Science Daily: Too Much Soy Could Lead To Kidney Stones
- PubMed: Soy: a complete source of protein.
The Best Dang Baked Tofu
The Best Dang Baked Tofu
- 1 block extra firm tofu pressed well and sliced into 10-15 slices depending on how you like it
- 1/4 cup coconut aminos
- 1/4 cup brown rice vinegar
- 1 tablespoon vegan worcestershire sauce
- 1 tablespoon minced ginger
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
Press the water out of the tofu for 15 minutes.
While the tofu is pressing, combine all the remaining ingredients together.
Place the pressed tofu slices into a large baking dish. Pour over the marinade and turn the tofu over gently with your hands so that it covers all the tofu.
While the tofu marinates, preheat your own to 375F/190C. Turn it over once or twice while waiting to make sure all sides of the tofu are covered.
When the oven is ready, bake the tofu for 25 minutes, turning the pieces over gently around the half-way point.
Allow the tofu to cool in the dish before serving.
Wishing you a yummy week ahead. May it be filled with delicious, organic soy ingredients.
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There’s a lot of money to be made upsetting you.
It’s true. Your outrage and surprise are what keeps a lot of businesses afloat and is why terms like “clickbait” and “fake news” were invented. We have all been upset about news stories, then shared and retweeted them only to find out a day or two later the story was based on a lie or half-truth.
So many businesses these days rely on the concept of “going viral” that they’re bending the rules of responsible journalism to create stories and articles which “sell”.
For the record, this isn’t a new concept; there’s a reasonably famous old Mark Twain quote which says, “A lie travels halfway across the world while the truth is putting its boots on.”
Funny thing is that quote is also a lie, invented in 1919 and propagated for more than a hundred years. Mark Twain never actually said or wrote it, though in his capacity as a journalist it’s almost certain he would have agreed with the sentiment. The origin of the quote is much older and comes from Jonathan Swift – the author of Gulliver’s Travels – who wrote in 1710: “Falsehood flies, and the truth comes limping after it”.
So, it’s been well understood for more than 300 years that “fake news” sells.
The major difference between Jonathan Swift’s day and ours is the completely ludicrous speed with which fake news stories can propagate. These days a lie can travel ten times around the world while the truth is deciding which shoes best match its outfit, and that velocity is due to people like you and me sharing and retweeting stories which are false.
We (waves hand) need to be better. We need to get better at identifying online falsehood, and we need to get better at sharing it around. Or not, you know what I mean.
At its essence, it is easy to spot (most) fake news:
1. Read the whole article.
Don’t trust the headline, and check to see whether the lede is buried.
2. Quality check.
Check the 5 Ws and form an opinion. Is this article suspicious, trustworthy, or bullshit?
3. Dig a bit.
Confirm your suspicion by cross-checking some of the information in the article.
4. Act accordingly.
Don’t be part of the problem: only share trustworthy articles.
It’s as simple as that, but there’s (obviously) (a lot) more to it than that. Please keep reading …
Read the whole article
Don’t share, retweet or like an article until you’ve read the whole thing.
Clickbait is such a well-known term nowadays that my six-year-old is able to explain the concept much more confidently than he would be able to tie his own shoelaces. Pretty extraordinary then considering the word wasn’t even invented until 2006 (by Jay Geiger, in a blog post). Though it was originally understood to apply more to articles where the headline is sensationalist or “bends” the truth, these days it’s not terribly uncommon for headlines to actually straight up lie about the content of an article to try and entice you to click through to read it. It’s no accident that many large “news” organisations are registered as entertainment organisations for legal purposes – so they don’t have to uphold journalistic standards, and to protect them from being sued!
Reading the whole article will also give you a clear(er) picture of whether an article is satire, something which can be quite difficult to determine based purely on a headline.
By suggesting you read the entire article, please note we’re not telling you to read every single article that comes across your timeline, that would be impossible. The simple point we’re making here is that you aren’t able to determine whether an article is “fake news” or not until you have read the whole thing. And if something is worth sharing then it must be worth reading first, right?
Once you’ve read the article, you’ll need to make a quick assessment of its quality to form a preliminary opinion on whether it’s rubbish, suspicious, or trustworthy. This is, again, a massively complex topic – there are literally university degrees you can obtain about “quality journalism”, but we’ll keep it brief here for the sake of your time and sanity. In the context of this blog post the “quality” we’re verifying here is a simple low/medium/high assessment of the “truthiness” of an article. Whether it smells like bullshit or roses.
The 5 Ws is one of the basic and most fundamental concepts in information gathering and, as such, is a cornerstone of journalism, research, and police investigations. In almost all cases you can consider a news article incomplete unless it clearly and directly answers the 5 Ws: Who, What, When, Where, and Why.
If an article is poorly written or being intentionally misleading it will try to sneak at least one or two of the Ws past you without an answer, usually by being intentionally vague. An article cannot be considered complete or trustworthy unless it has answered all 5.
Let’s consider – as an example – an imaginary article that talks about the release of a new report on climate change, and run it through the 5 Ws:
Who exactly is the article about? Who compiled the climate change report? Does the article name names? Be very suspicious of articles which are vague about the “who”, containing sentences like “A group of leading scientists” without going on to tell you exactly which scientists.
What is the title of the report? What exactly did the report say? Does the article contain actual quotes from the report, or does it simply give you its opinion on what the report contained? Does the article link to the actual (original) report itself, allowing you to read it in its entirety?
When exactly was the report released? How long did it take to write? Temporal information is important too. Some unethical sites will even report on a twenty-year-old stock market crash as if it happened yesterday.
Vagueness is, again, the enemy. Where exactly was the report released? At a press conference? Which city, in which country?
The “why” can sometimes be difficult to pin down, but it is important as it can help paint a fuller picture. Was our climate change report, for example, paid for by an oil company by any chance?
Specific detail is the lifeblood of good journalism, and vagueness is the enemy.
Bear in mind there may be good reasons a news article is unable to establish a direct and clear answer to all of the Ws mentioned above, but it should always tell you when that is the case. If, for example, an article on a recent murder indicates the “Why” is not known it should say that it is not known: “The motive is not yet known”, or something to that effect.
Once you’ve formed an opinion on the quality of an article you should be able to determine whether you think it’s low quality rubbish, whether it appears trustworthy, or whether it’s somewhere in between (to be treated with caution). Accurately categorizing an article in this way is a skill that does take some practice, so be patient while you hone it.
If you believe the article to be rubbish then close it and forget about it, otherwise progress to the next and final step.
Dig a bit
Now that you have an initial opinion on the trustworthiness of an article you should dig a bit deeper, to test whether your opinion is correct or not.
Check the source
First, check the website address. If you don’t know the site, have a quick look at its “About” page to see whether they list a physical address and “real” e-mail addresses. A site with a PO Box and a contact us listing only a gmail address can be considered very suspicious. The “About” page may also tell you more about the site itself – for legal reasons they may feel compelled to mention they’re a “fantasy news service” (yup, those exist!) or satire site.
If the about page looks legitimate, have a quick look at other news stories the website has published. If it has run with “Lady Diana eloped with Bigfoot” and “Obama is the Antichrist” you may have a problem.
If you do know (and trust) the site, double-check the domain name to ensure it’s correct – certain seedy operators have been buying up common typos of popular websites, for example.
Check the author
The by-line of an article can give you easily verifiable information to see whether an article can be trusted or not. Journalists are usually quite good at spreading themselves around online, so should be easy to find on LinkedIn or Twitter, and their qualifications and awards are usually quick and easy to double-check. If the article was written by John Doe who has won the Pulitzer 29 times just close the page and move on.
Stop, corroborate and listen
As the saying goes, “To trust is good, to verify is better.” The final step in the dig is to spot check a few verifiable facts mentioned in the article itself. The less trustworthy you consider an article – based on your quality check above – the more spot checking is advisable. Try to independently verify at least 3 data points in an article if it is from an unknown source and author. There shouldn’t be much thinking required at this point – just do a quick check to see whether what the article says is corroborated by other (preferably primary) sources.
An effective first check is to follow links to see if they go where the article says they would. In our example above, does a link to the climate change report open a climate change report which has the title we would expect? Fake news articles will often brazenly link to incorrect pages, relying on you to not click through.
Another effective check is to drop quotations from the article into your favourite search engine. When searching online, wrap your search in quotation marks to only return exact matches.
Do some snooping on specific people mentioned in the article. Can you find them on twitter? Does their LinkedIn profile match the title given to them by the article?
When corroborating or cross-checking an article, be cynical. Act as if you have been lied to, and as if it’s only a matter of time until the lie is uncovered. If your article fails at the corroboration point it is possible that you’ve found an innocent mistake, but even if that is the case consider treating the entire piece as a lie – life’s too short to have to sift through truths and half-truths, if the article itself is based on reality it will show up on your timeline again, perhaps with the mistakes corrected this time.
At this stage you should have a clear opinion whether the article in question is accurate or not. If it’s not accurate, then be brutal – just ignore it and move on, don’t share or retweet fake news even if it is with a “this is nonsense” description. Fake news needs oxygen to survive, don’t give it any.
Ok, that takes care of the rubbish – but what about the articles that look alright? The ones which appear believable and trustworthy? Before you decide to share or retweet, there are a few things to consider.
Check your bias
Before you share a news story take a moment to check your bias. Did you follow all the steps above carefully, or did you perhaps skim over a few because you like what the article has to say?
As humans we tend to favour information that strengthens our previously held beliefs. Conversely, we tend to discount or even ignore information that weakens our previously held beliefs. This “confirmation bias” can lead to us fact checking the hell out of stories we disagree with, and only vaguely checking stories we do agree with. Don’t fall into this trap!
It might still be fake
The checks above will catch a fair amount of fake news red-handed, but there’s still a chance the news you’ve read is untrue. Before you share it with your friends or followers, consider the impact if it does end up being false?
Being able to identify fake news online is a great first step, but there is more that can be done. Friends don’t let friends share fake news – if you have friends or contacts online who tend to regularly share fake news please consider helping them towards the light by sharing this article with them.
And if they continue to regularly share fake news with you once you’ve shown them the light, consider showing them the door instead. Seriously. Don’t be afraid to unfriend or unfollow someone who regularly shares fake news: they are wasting your time and wasting your attention.
Sticky Date Loaf
Sticky Date Loaf
- 250 grams pitted dates
- 1 cup boiling water
- 1 teaspoon bicarb soda
- 1/3 cup plant-based milk
- 1/3 cup pure maple syrup
- 1/4 cup brown rice flour
- 1 3/4 cup almond meal
- 1 teaspoon allspice
- macadamia cream to serve
Place pitted dates, boiling water and bicarb soda together in a bowl and let sit for 20 to 30 minutes. Meanwhile, line a loaf tin with baking paper. Pre-heat the oven to 180C/355F.
In another bowl whisk together the flour, almond meal and allspice to remove any lumps.
Once the dates have been soaking for at least 20 minutes, finely chop and add them plus the soaking water into the loaf mixture and mix together gently.
Add the plant-based milk. Gently stir in.
When all combined, transfer to your prepared loaf tin and bake for 50-60 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean from the centre. Top with macadamia cream and sprinkle with chopped macadamia nuts. Serve immediately.
Here’s to a fact filled week ahead. May it be filled with helpful and credible news.