Chocolate: A (healthy) anxiety cure for COVID-19 stress

Jesus Figueroa

In this virulent climate of self-isolation and serious immune system compromises, author/chef, Mee McCormick is mindful of how a rise in anxiety can find us craving snacks. 

Instead of a quick fix, she goes straight to her kitchen with the intent to shift her gut bacteria - important for keeping our immune systems strong - as addressed in her new book, “My Pinewood Kitchen: A Southern Culinary Cure.”

An expert whose personal experience healing her Crohn's disease, gut issues and immune system challenges makes her well equipped to share the whole food recipes doctors couldn't prescribe to help her.

Enter one of our favorite snacking foods, chocolate. 
McCormick said, "Cocoa is a pre-biotic plant food - this means it feeds the good probiotic bacteria or, as I like to call them, The Good Gut Homies. These Gut Homies live in our intestines.”
McCormick said the consumption of dark chocolate has been found to lower the risk of diabetes and heart disease, protect our DNA and improve gut bacteria.

She points to research at the Netherlands Organization for Applied Scientific Research where they designed a study to test whether eating chocolate could mitigate the stress-related effects on the microbiome.

Dividing participants into two groups - high anxiety and low anxiety and testing their urine and blood for stress markers - each participant ate one chocolate bar (containing 74% cocoa) a day for 2 weeks.

The study found cortisol and adrenaline decreased as well as their p-cresol and Hippurate; metabolites created from the Good Gut Homies.

High anxiety group levels dropped down to the levels of the low anxiety group - all within a 2-week period, thus the importance of cooking with cocoa.

Take, for instance, how combining cocoa with black beans takes our gut health to another level as they also have a profound influence on our microbiome by feeding the probiotic bacteria that support the mucosal lining of the intestines.

Bean eaters have been found to have an 81% decrease in the harmful gut bacteria that break down the protective mucosal lining.

Supporting our intestinal lining is key in preventing leaky gut.

Mee McCormick has a Chocolate and Black Bean Hummus that will surprise you with its nutritiously delicious taste and texture.

Shown below is an example of another chocolate -centered dish, a super easy recipe to whip up during COVID cabin fever. 

This chocolate recipe is mixed with avocado in a delicious mousse (found on page 277 of Mee's book, My Pinewood Kitchen):
Chocolate-Avocado Mousse (Makes 4 servings)
In the bowl of a food processor:
  • blend 4 ripe avocados until smooth.
  • Add 1/3 cup local honey or coconut nectar*
  • 1 ripe banana
  • 1/2 cup raw cacao powder
  • 2 tbsp. organic coconut milk
  • 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • a pinch of sea salt
Blend until the mixture is uniform.

Pour into a dish and chill for 2 hours in a refrigerator or 30 minutes in a freezer. 

* If watching sugar, use an equivalent amount of stevia; however, coconut nectar is low glycemic.

Mee McCormick is a real food maven, community food advocate, a restaurateur, a rancher, a mother, and the author of “My Kitchen Cure: How I Cooked My Way Out of Chronic Autoimmune Disease with Whole Foods and Healing Recipes.”

When McCormick isn't running her restaurant or working on her biodynamic farm, she is touring the country as a speaker and community kitchen organizer.

McCormick has appeared on national and local TV, on radio and in print nationwide. She is a regular on-air contributor to Today In Nashville and a vital part of the Nashville restaurant scene. 


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