Ginger Turkey Stir Fry — A New Recipe For Depression Support

I received a lot of feedback and traffic to the blog when I posted the High Protein Smoothie recipe for depression nutrition support. The post seemed to strike a nerve, and it’s no wonder. Depression and anxiety are on the rise. Kids, especially, are suffering at ever increasing rates. According to a New York Times article today: “In 1985, the Higher Education Research Institute at U.C.L.A. began asking incoming college freshmen if they “felt overwhelmed by all I had to do” during the previous year. In 1985, 18 percent said they did. By 2010, that number had increased to 29 percent. Last year, it surged to 41 percent.”

In 32 years, the rate of U.C.L.A. freshman who feel overwhelmed rose by over 200%. This is startling.

I can’t begin to address the issue of depression and anxiety in depth like mental health professionals can. It’s an intricate problem with many factors, and I primarily focus on the nutrition aspect. But, I can say that we as a civilization seem to be moving further away from spending time together in person. People feel isolated and alone. This is one reason why I proposed Crappy Dinner nights, which have taken off like gangbusters and are now a weekly occurrence amongst my friends. Another factor that has been studied is our lack of time in nature. Children are given less time to play outside during school and adults spend most of their days indoors as well (I wrote a post about this, you can read it here).

One thing I know for sure is that our diets, what we eat and drink, is negatively affecting our mental health. Inflammation plays a role in our mental well-being, just as it does with cardiovascular, metabolic, and brain health. When we eat mostly pro-inflammatory foods like highly processed flours and sugars, our brains aren’t being fed what they need to be happy and healthy. Our gut health, which is a key factor in the health of our other bodily systems, is worse for the wear when we eat these pro-inflammatory foods. If our gut microbiota is out of whack, so is the rest of us. You can read about it in the paper titled “The Gut-Brain Axis: The Missing Link in Depression” in Clinical Psychopharmacology and Neuroscience. In the conclusion, the authors write: “Poor diet is a risk factor for depression; thus, a healthy diet may prevent depression. Regulation of the gut microbiota using diet, probiotics and FMT may have important benefits for preventing and treating depression”.  For those wondering what FMT means, it’s fecal microbiota transplantation, which is a process used for certain gastrointestinal diseases like Crohn’s and Ulcerative Colitis.

To be clear: I do not believe people who are depressed or anxious can magically cure themselves with diet. If it were that easy, no one would be suffering. But I do believe diet can play a role in mental health and wellness, just as it can when we are battling cancer, heart disease, or diabetes. It’s a piece of the puzzle.

So, my advice to anyone with depression or anxiety is to, little by little if that’s what’s feasible, add in some anti-inflammatory foods to your diet. Try to crowd out the cookies and crackers with whole foods like high quality proteins, fats and complex carbohydrates. These foods will nourish your brain and help reduce inflammation. Use lots of herbs and spices a.k.a. “booster foods”. And please, don’t ever go off any medications or treatments without the express consent from your doctor. 

See below for an easy and delicious Ginger Turkey Stir Fry recipe. If it were me, I’d make the brown rice using frozen pre-cooked rice from the grocery store. It saves a lot of time and leaves you one less pot to wash. If you feel like having chicken or beef, use that instead. Opt for high-quality, grass fed meat as much as possible. They are higher in Omega-3 fatty acids. 

**I am not a doctor nor am I qualified to give medical advice. Please see a licensed medical professional for any medical concerns you might have.

 

 

RECIPES FOR ANXIETY_DEPRESSION

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One Pot Garlic Parmesan Pasta

Yesterday when I was trying to figure out what to make for dinner, I typed in “garlic parmesan pasta” because those were the ingredients I definitely had on hand. I wanted something very simple but still tasty. Everyone likes pasta. Plus it’s wonderful comfort food for a cool fall Monday.

The recipe that I found is a “one pot” pasta recipe which means literally everything goes in the pot, including not just the liquid and the pasta but all the seasonings. You wouldn’t think this would work but I swear on my life it works — and beautifully at that. But you must trust the process.

The one thing I added to this One Pot Garlic Parmesan Pasta recipe is frozen meatballs into the bubbling mixture because I felt like the meal needed some protein, and my 12 year old and my husband love meatballs. So do I, but since I try to stick to a lower animal protein diet, I added some vegan meatballs to mine.

Speaking of changes, I also opted to put the parmesan at the table instead of into the recipe — my daughter doesn’t love a cheesy mess (unless it’s pizza? Sometimes she’s weird) and letting people determine the amount of cheese means less cheese usually gets used. So it’s a win for the pocketbook as well as the overall calorie count of the meal.

So, try this recipe next time you need something super quick, simple and easy to clean up  after.

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The Importance of Zinc

Zinc is a trace mineral which acts as an antioxidant in our bodies. It plays a role in cell division, cell growth, wound healing, and the breakdown of carbohydrates. Since our bodies don’t make zinc, we need to get it through our diet or supplementation.

Why is zinc important? Because it’s an antioxidant there are many benefits to getting enough zinc. I’ve outlined some of them in the handy infographic below.

My doctor recommended taking no more than 50 mg of elemental zinc to boost my immune system. You would be hard pressed to get that much zinc from diet alone. 

What happens when you don’t get enough zinc? Lots of stuff can occur, such as low fertility, low immune system, depression/anxiety, and decreased wound healing, for starters. 

Read and print out this handy guide on zinc for more information.

***I am not a doctor, nor do I play one on t.v. Please ask your doctor or qualified medical professional before starting any supplements!

Zinc 1 page

New Recipe: High Protein Smoothie (And A Bit On Nutrition for Anxiety and Depression)

If you’ve ever been depressed or suffered from anxiety, or have seen someone you care about suffer, you know that treating it can be difficult. There are so many components that go into the treatment of neurological disorders such as depression and anxiety. It’s not like a sprained ankle, where the cause is clear and the treatment is pretty straightforward. There can be many causes of anxiety and depression such as genetic predisposition, prior head injury, metal toxicity, nutritional deficiencies, hypothyroidism, blood sugar imbalances, chronic stress,  and there is even some evidence that having cholesterol levels that are *too low* can contribute to anxiety and depression.

It is important to work with a doctor or trusted medical practitioner to find a plan that works for you, but alongside that you can support your efforts with good nutrition. For instance, when a person’s blood sugar is imbalanced, they will oftentimes experience anxiety (this happens to me). An anxious or depressed person needs optimal levels of good quality protein (organic meat, eggs, fermented dairy like yogurt) and high quality fats (extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, and fatty fish) to help their brains function well. Many times we see a correlation between low B vitamins and depression and anxiety. So make sure to get plenty of whole grains in the form of brown rice, oats, and other non-glutenous grains. You can also get B vitamins in beans/legumes as well as dark leafy greens.  And, what might be most important in the nutrition discussion is our gut flora and how it affects our mental health. More and more research indicates that there is a very strong connection between how healthy our gut is and how healthy our brains are. It’s called the Gut/Brain Axis, and I think it has a lot of merit.  In an article in the Annals of Gastroenterology in 2015, we are told that:

“Both clinical and experimental evidence suggest that enteric microbiota has an important impact on GBA (Gut Brain Axis), interacting not only locally with intestinal cells and ENS (Enteric Nervous System), but also directly with CNS (Central Nervous System) through neuroendocrine and metabolic pathways.”

Basically, our gut is a very important center of activity for our nervous system, and directly communicates with the rest of our bodies, including our neurological system. A healthy gut microbiota can have a very beneficial effect on our mental health.

I’m not trying to insinuate that all of our mental and emotional problems stem from the Standard American Diet (SAD). That would be simplistic at best and dangerous at worst. BUT, I will say that research has proven that diet does have an effect on our mental well being. So, alongside any other remedies you might be trying such as medication, yoga, exercise, counseling, and supplements, it would be a really good idea to work on your nutrition. I understand that when you are in the thick of anxiety or depression, adding one more thing to your to-do list might well be too overwhelming. My advice is to make small changes as you are able.

Start with ditching your highly processed cereal for this high-protein smoothie. It’s got yogurt, which is good for your gut. It’s got a lot of high quality protein in the form of yogurt and whey. It has spinach and blueberries, both of which are high in antioxidants and really great for reducing inflammation. Add some coconut oil and you’ve got a good start to your day.

I plan on writing more about anxiety and depression because I think it’s such an important topic and so many people are struggling. And there is so much that can be done nutritionally, so stay tuned.

***I am not a doctor, nor am I prescribing any one treatment. My advice is never intended to take the place of the medical care you might already be receiving.

High Protein Smoothie png format

 

Weekend Cocktails: The Ginger Margarita

weekend-cocktails

I have done a pretty mediocre to poor job of posting actual health and wellness information recently, thanks to a busy summer and back to school madness. That’s ok, though. Hopefully the joy of trying new cocktails will blur this failure until I can get back on track.

Yesterday I was chatting with a fellow cocktail-lover who happens to be one of my favorite golf and paddle partners (Hi Ellen!) and I asked her what her favorite cocktail ingredients were. She answered “tequila and ginger”. Wow! What a fun combination. Tequila, with its smooth taste, and ginger with its spiciness.  I guarantee you she isn’t messing around with subpar tequila, either. Only 100% agave tequila is the way to go for exceptional cocktails.

I couldn’t really remember a time I ever had a cocktail that included tequila and ginger. So, I told Ellen I would do some research and come up with a cocktail that she might like. In searching I found the Ginger Margarita, served up, which seems perfect. Just the other day I introduced Ellen to my favorite cocktail in the history of cocktails, the Aviation. I love it because it’s bright and smooth and slightly sweet, and because it’s served up (I sometimes get frustrated with rocks cocktails because I like to sip my drinks, and the ice tends to dilute the flavors too quickly for me). Ellen really enjoyed it which doesn’t surprise me because she has excellent taste.

The good news is that ginger is highly anti-inflammatory as well as excellent for the digestive system. And tequila has been thought to be better than other liquor for you because it’s lower in simple sugars. As always, moderation with alcohol is the key, regardless of what you are drinking!

So Ellen, this Ginger Margarita is for you. I think the baker in you will really enjoy making your own ginger simple syrup. Cheers!

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New Year’s in September?

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School starts tomorrow! The beginning of a new school year always feels a little like January 1st to me. It’s a time for me to set new goals, decide how I want the year to go, change old habits that don’t serve me, and think of new ways to approach the daily grind. It’s very exciting.

I started to get really excited about this just yesterday, when I was cooking a whole chicken in the crock pot for chicken noodle soup while simultaneously making my family’s favorite Pasta Caprese for dinner. This summer was a perfect storm of a very busy activities calendar for my 12 year old, a giant volunteer project for me that required hundreds of hours of work, and some weird virus I fought from May through August that left me feeling totally depleted. Cooking for me is a joy when I feel like doing it. Otherwise it just feels like another obligation. So, cooking (truly cooking, not just assembling quesadillas and sandwiches) was one of the first things I ditched when I felt overwhelmed. I have to be honest, it was fantastic for a while. But, now I am feeling better and so I got the itch to cook again yesterday, and it felt good to be back.

As I do every year at this time, I’ve been considering what is important to me this year, and what I can ditch. Cooking is definitely at the top of my “important” list. Getting back to the gym is up there as well. I put my nutrition school on hold because I found I couldn’t balance my volunteer gig and my lethargy with studying. I can’t wait to get back to that. And I have decided this year I am committed to doing small projects around the house that will keep it in better order. Closet clean outs, painting touch ups, and decluttering on the regular are all on the list. Bonus: getting to listen to my favorite podcasts while doing projects will hopefully motivate me! (Pod Save America, Song Exploder, West Wing Weekly, S-Town, and Radio Lab are all on my fave list).

What to ditch? Procrastinating. Saying “yes” to requests when I really want to say “no” (hello PTA). Guilt trips.

Have I missed anything? What’s on your list this fall? Please leave a comment below so I can steal your ideas!

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Crappy Dinner Party (It’s A Good Thing!)

I am #blessed to have the most fabulous neighbors. When we moved in almost seven years ago, my immediate next door and kitty-corner neighbors welcomed us with enthusiasm. Since then our families have played together, eaten together, traveled together and spent Christmas Eve together.

However, we are a busy bunch, and it can be difficult to find time when we can all come together. Between high stress jobs, kids’ activities, and family commitments, weeks and sometimes a month or two can go by before we can see one another. For a couple of years we’ve been talking about the concept of the Crappy Dinner Party, wherein everyone pitches in whatever they have in their fridge (no shopping allowed!) and the host family does no cleaning, no fussing and no elaborate anything. The point is to allow us to spend time with one another without stress. I’m happy to say that this Sunday my family hosted the Inaugural Crappy Dinner Party. I made some vegetarian tostadas from a meal kit service that I was planning on making anyway. Catherine brought turkey taco fixings that she was making for her family that night regardless and some drinks for the kids. Tom brought gin (because, COCKTAILS) and grapes and veggies. I threw some buttered noodles in there for the kids. We cut up a watermelon. I didn’t even wipe up the crumbs from the dinner table from the previous night BECAUSE CRAPPY DINNER PARTY RULES ARE NOT TO BE BROKEN. We used paper plates (that we composted, please don’t yell!) and it was probably the most relaxed dinner party I’ve ever had in my life. And this was with 6 kids and 5 adults!

Some integral people in my friend zone were missing, as I threw the dinner idea together somewhat last minute. Deanna had to work (so she sent her husband and kids), Shawn and family had plans, and Erika (a new friend to me but a dear friend to my friends so obviously she’s on the list!) couldn’t come, but here’s the thing: now that we’ve started this it’s going to happen more frequently. Once you release the pressure of cleaning and putting together an elaborate spread, it becomes a joy and not a burden. Catherine has already planned the next one at her house.

How do you host your own Crappy Dinner Party? Let me summarize the rules for you:

  1. DON’T CLEAN YOUR HOUSE. Move some piles if they get in the way of eating but otherwise hands off.
  2. NO GROCERY SHOPPING. Make what you have, even if it’s beans and rice.
  3. EVERYONE BRINGS SOMETHING THEY CAN CONTRIBUTE. Even especially if it’s gin.
  4. ENJOY YOURSELVES.
  5. REPEAT again and again because it’s fun and you realize your friends just want to see each other, even if the house is messy.

Do you have your own Crappy Dinner Party rules? Let me hear them!

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