Your Immune System — Carrot Ginger Turmeric Soup

We’re in it, people. It’s cold and flu season and everywhere you go someone has a cough, the sniffles, a sore throat, or worse. How do we keep ourselves healthy and energetic all season long? One approach is through our food choices. Excess sugar, processed carbs and too much alcohol will suppress our body’s ability to fight off infection (which is a shame because aren’t the holidays MOSTLY ABOUT SUGAR, CARBS AND COCKTAILS?!?!). I’m not advocating giving up your favorite holiday treats, because part of what keeps us healthy is not being stressed out. Also spending time enjoying ourselves with people we love is pretty high up on the list for immune-boosting activities, and if we are hyper focused on every little thing we put in our mouths, we will ruin it for ourselves and those around us.

However, what I would like to encourage is making the majority of your food choices healthy ones. So, when you are cooking/eating at home, which should be most of the time, make those meals impactful. Start every day with a healthy breakfast because it helps keep the rest of the day on track (click here, here, here or here for great breakfast choices). For lunch, choose something like a big salad with good quality proteins like chicken and chickpeas, and choose olive oil and vinegar dressing. Or, make a huge batch of soup on Sunday and eat it all week long. I love the hearty lentil soup I make all winter.

You want high quality protein, you want good sources of fiber and fat (the good kind, like olive oil, those found in nuts, coconut oil, and organic and grass fed meats). And pile on the vegetables and fruits. The more antioxidants you eat the better. They will reduce inflammation which will help fight off cold and flu bugs. They also contain natural antiviral and antibacterial agents.

Check out this recipe for Carrot Ginger Turmeric soup. Carrots are very high in vitamin A which is essential for a healthy immune system. Ginger and turmeric contain powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant compounds. It’s warming and soothing for the coldest days and will keep you nourished.

Stay tuned for more immune boosting recipes and information!

*If you don’t like coconut oil or are allergic, feel free to sub with olive oil.

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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.

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That’s A Wrap for the May Bee (And Why Drinking Coffee Cuts Your Risk of Dying!)

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I came into the May Bee challenge feeling energized and excited about the opportunity to blog every day most days in May. I had felt like I had been slacking on my posts, letting other things edge out my time spent at the computer writing. So I really relished the idea of doing this challenge. And I’m so glad I did! Not only did I learn a lot about the topics I’m interested in, but I also got to share that love with you. So, thanks for coming along on the ride. Maybe I’ll do it again next year.

For my last May Bee post, I want to talk about one of my favorite things in the world — a cup of coffee. If you know me at all you know I relish my coffee with gusto. So I was excited to read this article in The New York Times about how drinking coffee seems to reduce your overall risk of dying. Yay for no dying! As the article states “Coffee drinking was linked to a reduced risk of death from heart disease, stroke, diabetes, neurological diseases and suicide, although not from cancer.” I don’t need any health reasons to drink my two to three cups of coffee a day, but I’m glad to know I don’t have to feel guilty about my habit.

And with that, I bid a fond farewell to May 2017 as I welcome what I hope to be a really fabulous summer for me, and for you. Maybe it’ll be the best one yet.

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Maybe It’s Monday (Again) And We Need An Easy Dinner Idea: Fettuccine With Asparagus

This crazy family of mine. They want dinner. Every. Single. Day. Like I mentioned last week, we usually do #MeatlessMonday as a way to eat a little healthier and do something nice for the Earth.

Maybe today I’ll just post this super easy but elegant looking Fettucine With Asparagus recipe I found this weekend. This is what I plan on making tonight for my hungry family.

Maybe you’ll make it too, and come back to tell me how it was?

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Maybe Some Rice Noodle Salad For Dinner Tonight?

Maybe allergies are kicking my butt. I woke up yesterday with my ears completely clogged and everything sounded like I was underwater. I generally just didn’t feel great. So after I got home from picking up the 12 year old from school and it was time to make dinner, I was thankful I had planned on making this simple Rice Noodle Salad With Cucumber, Peanuts, and Basil. It took about 20 minutes from start to finish and there was absolutely no cooking involved. If you’re lucky, you have a kid that likes to cook and will make the dressing for you while you sit comfortably. This would make for a perfect summertime supper when it’s just too hot to turn on the stove. The recipe also fits with our Meatless Monday plans, which I would say we adhere to about 90% of the time. Going meatless once a week can reduce your risk of preventable diseases like cancer, heart disease, diabetes and obesity. It can also help reduce our carbon footprint. Plus, it’s generally cheaper to make a meatless meal. Win/win!

Asian Noodle Salad Meatless Monday

The original recipe came from Redbook Magazine but I made some changes to the recipe and adapted it, so here’s my version:

Rice Noodle Salad With Cucumber, Peanuts, and Basil

THE SALAD:

6 oz pad thai rice noodles

1/4 medium purple cabbage

1/2 sliced english cucumber

1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced

4 scallions, white and green parts sliced

1/2-1 cup fresh basil and cilantro, chopped

1 cup chopped peanuts, cashews or almonds

Sesame seeds

THE DRESSING:

1/4 cup lime juice (I love buying Santa Cruz organic bottled lime juice. It’s just so much easier)

3 Tbsp toasted sesame oil

2 tsp soy sauce

2 tsp honey

1/2 tsp garlic powder

HOW TO:

Pour hot water over noodles to cover and let sit for about 5 minutes, until softened. Drain and set aside. Meanwhile, cut all the veggies up into thin slices, place the nuts in a baggie and whack them with a rolling pin to “chop”, and whisk together the dressing ingredients. Assemble the salads, drizzle dressing over the top, and sprinkle with sesame seeds. ENJOY!

NOTE: If you want more protein in your salad, it would be very easy to add rotisserie chicken, tofu, shrimp or any leftover meat you have. Maybe it’ll become a new family favorite.

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Mocktails — Green Tea Mojitos

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My 12 year old daughter is having a sleepover tonight and instead of the usual soda, I think I will make this Green Tea Mojito recipe for them to try (obviously as a mocktail).  I want to test it out for an upcoming dinner party we are attending. The dinner party is on St. Patrick’s Day and I have a 5k the next morning that I’ve been actually training for these last couple of months. And I want to do well. Generally if you want to do your best in a 5k you do all the right things the night before, which includes getting enough sleep, eating nutritiously  and abstaining from alcohol. Totally boring, I know. But I’m committed this time!  My usual M.O. is to sign up for a 5k with plans to “really train this time”.  And then a week before the race I realize that I methodically have trained 3x week using a calendar that I’ve printed out and taped up on the wall failed to do any training whatsoever. So I suck it up and do the 5k and want to die by 1/4 mile in because I’m not at all prepared. But something clicked for me this past fall and I’ve been as committed to my exercise as I have been to my other healthy habits. Hence the “dry” St. Patrick’s Day.

I thought this recipe with green mint looked fun for St. Patty’s day . I love mint and I love green tea. Did you know green tea has lots of antioxidants and cancer-fighting polyphenols? Studies have also shown that people who drink green tea regularly have less belly fat, lower cholesterol, and better blood sugar control.  The original calls for white rum, and I figure I can bring a carafe of the mix without the alcohol and people can add it if they want.

Beannachtaí na Féile Pádraig oraibh!

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