Everything in This Chocolate Peanut Butter Smoothie Is Good For Your Brain

Photo: Getty Images/Lilechka75
When psychiatrist Drew Ramsey, MD, works with patients who have depression or anxiety, he of course asks many thoughtful questions related to what's going on in their life. But he also asks a question that's a little more unexpected: "What do you eat?"

Science has repeatedly shown that what you eat has a direct effect on how you feel emotionally, and it's because of this connection that Dr. Ramsey works with patients to create depression- and anxiety-busting meals. While it's still important to work through other root causes, this certainly is an important piece of the puzzle. It's so important, in fact, that Dr. Ramsey created an e-course open to anyone who wants to learn how to use food to feel happier.

Experts In This Article
  • Drew Ramsey, MD, psychiatrist and assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at Columbia University

He's written a new book about this too: Eat to Beat Depression and Anxiety: Nourish Your Way to Better Mental Health in Six Weeks ($23). In it, he explains exactly what nutrients are linked to benefitting the brain—and what foods to find them in. The book is also full of recipes using these foods in delicious ways.

Here's the cool thing about eating to beat depression and anxiety: When you fill your diet with brain-nourishing foods, it's not only beneficial for your mood, but it also benefits the brain as a whole, working to prevent brain fog (in the short term) and cognitive decline (in the long term). Brain-boosting meals are multitasking in this way.

On days when depression is truly getting the best of you, it can be hard to get out of bed—let alone cook anything. Fortunately, creating a mood-elevating meal or snack doesn't have to be tedious. In fact, one recipe in the book is as easy as it is delicious: a chocolate peanut butter smoothie.

Blending the perfect brain-boosting smoothie

Dr. Ramsey says that every single ingredient in this smoothie benefits the brain. First is the cacao powder. "Cacao has magnesium, iron, and antioxidants, all of which benefit the brain. Eating it regularly has been linked to helping with depression," Dr. Ramsey says. Plus, low levels of magnesium are linked to feeling depressed, which is one reason why it's important to get enough—it's also important for memory and brain function.

This smoothie recipe also calls for peanut butter, as well as Brazil nuts, which Dr. Ramsey says benefit the brain because they're both good sources of healthy fats. "Brazil nuts are also one of the best sources of selenium," Dr. Ramsey says, name-checking the antioxidant linked to helping with both improved cognitive function and lowering anxiety.

You might have already heard that a healthy gut is directly linked to feeling happier. The mind-gut connection is powerful (understatement). And this is why kefir is a core ingredient in this drink. "Kefir has three times the amount of probiotics of yogurt," Dr. Ramsey says. Plus, it isn't as thick, which makes the smoothie easier to sip. Not to mention, kefir is a good source of protein, and between it, the peanut butter, and the Brazil nuts, this smoothie packs enough of the macronutrient that you don't need to add any extra by way of protein powder.

The last two key ingredients in this brain-boosting smoothie are spinach and banana. Like the kefir, they're good for the gut since they're full of fiber. The potassium in the banana also supports the nervous system, helping brain cells communicate with each other.

Besides packing all these brain-boosting nutrients, Dr. Ramsey says there's another reason why this smoothie can help lower depression: It tastes good, and delicious-tasting food makes us happy! But tasting is believing, so don't take his word for it. Keep reading to get the recipe and make it for yourself at home.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Smoothie

Yields 1 serving

3/4 cup plain, full-fat kefir
1/4 cup water
1 cup packed fresh spinach
1 banana, cut into 1-inch pieces and frozen
2 Tbsp cacao powder 
2 Tbsp peanut butter
2 Brazil nuts
1/4 tsp almond extract
1 tsp cacao nibs, for garnish

1. In the following order, but the kefir, water, spinach, banana, cacao powder, peanut butter, Brazil nuts, and almond extract into a high-powered blender.

2. Blend for 30 to 45 seconds, until all the ingredients are incorporated.

3. Pour into a glass, top with the cacao nibs, and serve immediately.

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