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

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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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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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Midweek Mashup: Taco seasoning recipe, a cell phone contract for teens, and 13 easy yoga poses for stress.

MIDWEEK MASHUP

School is back in session and that means we could all use some tips on how to make things easier and more streamlined. Even if you don’t have kids in school, these tips are sure to be useful!

Why buy taco seasoning at the store which contains fillers and other weird ingredients when it’s cheaper and almost just as easy to make your own? Yesterday was Taco Tuesday at our house and I whipped together this easy recipe, with some left over for next time. Make a huge batch and seal it up and use it for several months! TACO SEASONING.

Does your twee/teen have a cell phone? Are you struggling with setting limits and enforcing them? If so, here’s one option: a cell phone contract. I like this particular one, and plan on having my almost 13 year old read and sign it today. Many parents (myself included) might even benefit from some of the points in the contract, such as etiquette and mandated times to turn off the phone.

If back to school or the changing season is causing some stress, here are 13 simple yoga poses everyone in the family can try. I’m going to break these out when my tween gets overwhelmed by homework and responsibilities.

Have a great week!

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New Year’s in September?

back-to-school-1622789_1920

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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Refrigerator Pickles

I am back in the kitchen this week and it feels great. I usually cook less in summer because our schedules are so weird and unstructured. Also because it’s Minnesota Minnesnowta and when the weather is warm we tend to want to be outside all. The. Time. I’d much rather be drinking a rosé and watching my daughter splash around at the pool with friends than be home in the kitchen. You know?

But this week I felt a pull to the kitchen, and so I went. Luckily we had one day that experienced torrential downpours so I had nothing but inside time to spare. My generous and kind friend Shawn gave me her CSA box when she went out of town and her loss was definitely my gain. It was full of tomatoes that were so sweet we couldn’t help but eat the entire amount in a day. Aren’t these beautiful?

tomatoes 2

The box also contained two heads of kale, which I added to that night’s pasta primavera.

Then there were many cucumbers. So many cucumbers. And dill. So obviously I made refrigerator pickles. Super easy and totally delicious, anyone could make these including a child just learning to cook. Here’s the recipe:

INGREDIENTS:

 

INSTRUCTIONS

Stir the water, vinegar, sugar, and sea salt together in a saucepan over high heat. Bring to a boil. Remove pan from heat and cool completely.

Combine cucumber slices, smashed garlic cloves, and fresh dill in a large glass or plastic container. Pour the cooled vinegar mixture over cucumbers. Seal container and refrigerate for at least 3 days. 

Look at this!

pickles

I’m going to experiment with spicy squash pickles next, because of course the CSA box came with squash. And I really don’t like squash, but I love pickles, so maybe this just might work.

Enjoy!

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Weekend Cocktails: Watermelon Frosé

weekend-cocktails

Watermelon is in season right now, so I think it makes sense to try a cold, icy, refreshing cocktail made out of summer’s most famous fruit. Add the “wine of summer” (I literally just coined this term so I should probably TM it or something) and you have yourself a cocktail that will please just about everyone. Recently, on vacation with extended family, we made this recipe. It was really refreshing and perfect after a long day on the beach.

If you want some health reasons to drink this, just remember that watermelon is full of lycopene, a powerful antioxidant. It also has a very high water content so it will help rehydrate you (just remember alcohol is dehydrating and toxic in large quantities so please don’t think you can go drinking a gallon of this or anything). Moderate wine drinkers (no more than two glasses a day) have a 34 percent lower mortality rate than beer or spirits drinkers according to this article. It also tells us we have lower risk of Type 2 diabetes, colon cancer, heart disease, stroke, and brain decline. So, you know, enjoy this drink! I love that this recipe has no added sugar. Watermelon is sweet enough. And wine, while labels aren’t required to list added sugar , almost always has at least a little.

watermelon

+

rose wine

=

fireworks

The thing about using wine in a cocktail recipe is that you can use a less expensive bottle and no one will be the wiser. So grab that $7 bottle of rosé from Trader Joe’s and let’s get started.

INGREDIENTS: (makes 2 cocktails)

4 cups frozen watermelon cubes

10 oz rosé

Juice of one lime

INSTRUCTIONS:

Cube the watermelon (or if you’re feeling really luxurious, buy it already cubed).

Spread the watermelon evenly on a jelly roll pan. Place in freezer for an hour or more, until solidly frozen.

Place the watermelon, rosé and lime juice in a blender. Blend until smooth. Serve with lime wedges and sprigs of mint.

ENJOY!

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