Favorite Podcasts For The New Year

I love a good podcast. I’m going through a phase right now where I just want to learn as much as possible about how to improve my daily life, whether through exercise, mindfulness, life hacks, or any number of “self improvement” type actions. I specifically am attracted to podcasts that are short and sweet. I’ve given up or severely restricted most social media and it has freed up my brain for so much more useful information. Which means I’ve been listening to podcasts like crazy lately! Below are my current five favorites, plus one that I’m excited to start listening to when it premiers later this month.

Last summer I binged on what to this day is one of my most favorite of all podcasts, Happier In Hollywood. It’s hosted by two female television writers who have been writing partners since high school. While some of what they cover is lighthearted and fluffy (like how to find the perfect black purse), they are also full of excellent job, life, fitness, nutrition, and other advice that I find so useful. They have great guests. And it’s just really fun to boot.

Happier in Hollywood is an offshoot of the Happier podcast by Gretchen Rubin. Gretchen is a writer who researches happiness and her books The Happiness Project and Happier at Home, to name a few, might sound familiar. Her podcast is also chock full of advice, all of which is designed to help you maximize your happiness quotient.

I recently discovered The Magic Pill, a podcast hosted by a Harvard Medical School physician and a health journalist. Each snippet (they are all around 8 minutes or so) is full of great information geared to inspire us to make exercise a regular part of our life. We learn the science behind exercise and all the other benefits. This is a 21 day podcast in which each day you receive an email with that day’s episode. It’s fast, it’s fun and it’s full of great info.

NPR’s Life Kit has a similar podcast called Exercise: Learn to Love It (Or At Least Like It) and it’s similarly endearing. The first episode features Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s personal trainer. It’s about 20-ish minutes long, which is the perfect amount of time to go for a brisk walk while listening.

NPR’s Life Kit also has a new podcast called Eat Your Way To A Healthier Life which premiers in mid January. I’m including it here because the promo sounds great and I’m really excited for it. I also really respond to measured, scientifically-backed nutrition advice that isn’t sensationalistic.

And lastly, I will be listening intently to Side Hustle School. For anyone who has a “side hustle” (aka: a second venture beyond your full time job or something else you do on the side even if you don’t have a full time job that provides extra income and can help satisfy your entrepreneur cravings) or anyone who aspires to have a side hustle, this is a great podcast. Most episodes are 10 minutes or less and all are full of great insight and advice.

One more fun tidbit: if you have a podcast you love and want to introduce someone to it, you can use the Gift of Podcast free printable. It’s great for people in your life who don’t know how to use podcasts, as the printable gives step by step instructions. There’s also a spot for you to write the name of the podcast as well as why you recommend it. I put one in my husband and daughter’s stockings this year.

What are your favorite podcasts? Comment in the section below!

Your Immune System

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Flu season is rampant this year, with a strain that isn’t well matched to the vaccine (current estimates place it at about a 10-30% match). While getting the flu vaccine is at the top of my family’s to-do list every fall (here is a good overview on why we believe in the flu vaccine), there are other things we do to support our immune system, like eating healthy foods, getting exercise, and supplementing with Vitamin D. I also take a daily zinc supplement (read here about why zinc is important).

There can be many reasons for why our immune system isn’t functioning at optimal levels, including drinking too much alcohol, having high stress levels, and eating too many refined carbs/sugars. While getting sick from common viruses like colds and enterovirus (aka: stomach flu) is quite normal, if you find yourself getting sick often, it’s worth it to get checked out for underlying causes.

Even though I know all the things to do in order to keep my immune system in good shape, I still get sick a couple of times a year. We can’t always nip our stress in the bud as quickly as we would like, or it’s the holidays and we are partaking in more rich food and alcohol than we normally do (not to mention our exercise routines tend to go out the window in November and December). Keep this handy info page taped to your fridge or mirror to remind yourself of all the ways that you can naturally help your immune system be stronger.  And remember, this information should never take the place of a discussion with your doctor or trusted health professional, and never start a supplement without first talking to your medical professional.

immune system page 1

Immune system page 2

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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Midweek Mashup! A Book Rec, A Favorite Product, and An Insightful Article on Resilience.

MIDWEEK MASHUP

So, how is your summer going? Is it long and lazy and wonderful? Is it busy and hectic and going too fast? Somewhere in between? For me it’s been the latter, and I’m none too happy about it. So, I’ve cleared my calendar for a few days and the plan is to simply relax and enjoy some rest.

First up on my non-agenda is to read the book The Art Of Being Ill: Or How To Be A Better Patient. I won’t bore you with details but the past two months have been an immunological roller coaster. My doctor finally gave me orders to rest, something I have a very hard time doing. I am looking forward to reading this book on the art of self care. Apparently before we entered the age of busy-ness, during the “Days of Yore”, people did a really wonderful job of convalescing. Laying around in bed and resting up was an art form. I’ll write an update soon and let you know what I thought of the book.

Secondly, I want to tell you about a fantastic product that I discovered my friend KC at Word Savvy using. I went to her house to pick her up one morning and her essential oil diffuser was on in her kitchen. I didn’t notice any clutter, or any dirty dishes or anything else because the diffuser made the entire room seem peaceful and calm. I immediately got online and bought one for myself. Depending on my mood and malady, I use different essential oils. I’m still learning about mixing essential oils but when I really need some calm I always just go for lavender. It doubles as a small humidifier so during the winter, next to my bed, it’s a very inexpensive luxury.

And lastly, I highly recommend reading this article from the “Well” section of the New York Times on boosting resilience in your adult years. There’s a lot out there about how we can help kids be resilient, but adults are also capable of building resilience, even in their older years. If you’re going through a traumatic experience such as a layoff, a scary diagnosis, or a family crisis, it is important to realize that you can navigate through it without succumbing to the fear and stress. “There is a biology to this,” said Dr. Charney. “Your stress hormone systems will become less responsive to stress so you can handle stress better. Live your life in a way that you get the skills that enable you to handle stress.”

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Midweek Mashup

Midweek Mashup

Vitamin D, The “Sunshine” Vitamin

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This time of year, when the weather starts to hint at warming up in colder climates, you might think that you don’t need to supplement with vitamin D anymore. Or maybe you’ve never supplemented and think that because you live in a more temperate place like San Francisco or Kansas City that you get enough from the sun. But the truth is, if you draw a line from Atlanta across the U.S. and your city falls above it, you won’t get any meaningful vitamin D from the sun most of the year. Additionally, many people aren’t good “converters” of vitamin D, meaning they might get a lot of unprotected sun and still not have adequate levels of vitamin D.

It’s for all those reasons that supplementing with vitamin D is a good idea. And because so many of us wear sunscreen religiously throughout the summer, I don’t even stop taking my supplements in the warmer months (although I do cut back from about 3,000 IUs a day to 1,000 IUs). Read and print this informative page for more important vitamin D information.

***I am not a doctor and I am not qualified to prescribe any therapy or medication. Please always check with your practitioner before you start taking any new supplements. Vitamin D

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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Fats, Carbs and Protein For The Win

I have always struggled with my blood sugar. I am infamous in my family for getting, shall we say, cranky if my blood sugar dips. I regularly get a little lightheaded upon standing if it’s been too long since I last ate, and there have been times when I have gotten sweaty, shaky, and nauseated from waiting too long to eat.

I always just thought that this was how I was built. I couldn’t understand it when people told me they regularly skipped meals. I couldn’t fathom how that was even possible. In my recent studies to become a Nutrition Consultant, I’ve been learning a lot about blood sugar irregularities, also knows as dysglycemia. Because of regular blood tests, I know that everything else is functioning normally, and so far my low blood sugar issues haven’t caused any damage. BUT, left unchecked, high or low blood sugar can lead to all kinds of problems. We all know diabetes is a huge problem in our country, and chronically high blood sugar can (and probably will) lead to a Type 2 Diabetes diagnosis somewhere down the line unless you get it under control.

The good news is there is a lot we can do with our nutrition to help stabilize our blood sugar. Last week I started a concerted effort to make sure every single snack and meal contained a healthy fat (think nuts, avocado, fish, whole fat yogurt, olives, olive oil), a healthy carb (like those found in sweet potatoes, sprouted grain toast, or an apple), and high quality protein (again, nuts and fish and yogurt, but also chicken, legumes, a hard boiled egg, or hummus). Plus for each meal, lots of non-starchy veggies. I also have been giving myself a snack a couple hours after breakfast. I used to try to just hold out until lunch, but would find myself literally counting the minutes until 11:00 a.m. Ever since I’ve made these changes, It has made a HUGE difference in my hunger levels. It used to be that every afternoon between about 2 pm and dinner time, I would be ravenous. Normally that’s when I would inhale too many crackers because my blood sugar was low and simple carbs were what my body was begging for. But for the last week my blood sugar feels quite stable. I can wait until 12:00 or 1:00 for lunch now that I’m having a snack. And that period between lunch and dinner is no longer excruciating (because I’m nourishing my body with what it needs earlier in the day). I’ve been on vacation with family and have been so much more flexible in when we eat our meals because I’m not feeling like I might pass out if I don’t eat rightthisverysecond.

I don’t know if my weight will change, and quite frankly I don’t care. I like the fact that I feel healthier, more flexible about my eating schedule, and less cranky. I’m sure my family will enjoy those benefits as well.

So, if you feel like maintaining an equilibrium with your blood sugar is an issue, try this method. It takes a bit of planning, but it is worth it. And please check back in with me and let me know if it works for you!

For healthy snacking ideas, click here.

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Healthy Breakfast Recipe: Pumpkin Waffles

The third healthy breakfast recipe I want to feature this week is one you can make ahead of time and keep in the freezer until you are ready. We regularly make extra batches of waffles and pancakes on the weekend to pull out on busy weekday mornings. These waffles are gluten-free and paleo friendly (even though we are neither in our household). To add a bit of extra protein to your breakfast, I would suggest a serving of chicken breakfast sausage. I really like Applegate. Their chicken apple link sausage only contain Chicken, Dried Apples, Water, Honey, Salt, Spices and Parsley. 3 links are 120 calories and will add 9 grams of protein to your meal.  They are pricey, but because I eat mostly vegetarian and my husband does his own thing for breakfast, we use them sparingly.

If you don’t have a waffle iron, you can use this as pancake batter instead.  Enjoy!

pumpkin-waffles

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Healthy Snacks

Healthy Breakfast Recipe — Tuna Stuffed Avocado

I recently created an educational handout for healthy breakfast recipes with lots of protein. Because here’s the deal: if you notice yourself craving carbs and sugar throughout the day, many times it’s because you aren’t getting enough protein at breakfast. A bowl of cereal with lots of refined flour or grains is satisfying at first, but really it doesn’t sustain you for long.  You ideally should be having high quality protein, healthy fats, and quality carbs (this can be in the form of vegetables or fruits) at breakfast. So, an avocado filled with tuna has healthy fats (tuna, avocado), high quality protein (tuna), and healthy carbs (avocado,which is also high in fiber, and red bell pepper).

If you have a problem controlling yourself around sugar, don’t blame your lack of “willpower”. When your caveman brain is telling you it needs sugar, it’s very hard to resist. But you can help to quiet that voice by setting yourself up to avoid those cravings in the first place. A savory breakfast can help. If you have a sugar problem, but you start your morning eating something really sweet, even if it’s a healthy smoothie, you’re just feeding into it. If you start with a savory breakfast that has fat/protein/healthy carbs, you might find yourself slowly craving sugar less and less.  Just a note: fruits and smoothies aren’t “bad”. But if you are having trouble with sugar, it’s best for a few days to skip the sweet breakfast.

I’ll post one breakfast recipe each day for the next three days. Just give them a try for the next few days and let me know if you notice any difference! This first one couldn’t be any easier, and will take just a couple minutes more than pouring a bowl of cereal.

Enjoy!

 

tuna-stuffed-avocado

Let’s Talk About Stress

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Several of my friends and acquaintances have recently talked to me about how stressful and busy their January has been so far. And I agree with them. I’ve taken on a lot of new responsibilities, but also still have all the usual ones. It’s been a flurry of activity. The coziness and fun of the holidays is long gone, and here in the frozen north, we are now left with a lot of winter still to enjoy endure.

So, how do we not just cope, but thrive? That’s the key, isn’t it? We don’t want to just slog our way through our days.

If we are constantly stressed out, we will have too much cortisol, the “stress hormone”, pumping through our systems. This can lead to disruptions in sleep, metabolism, energy levels, blood sugar regulation and serotonin levels (which help keep our mood stable), amongst other maladies. However, cortisol isn’t the enemy. In fact, it’s a necessary hormone for a lot of reasons. It will give us a quick burst of energy in the event of an emergency (like running away from an attacker). It helps up our immunity and resistance to pain in acute situations. But it’s when we have constantly high levels of cortisol that our bodies do not function properly.

So how do we keep our stress levels in check? Here are some things I recommend:

  • Turn off the news. Now more than ever, it’s important to periodically turn off the 24 hour/day news channels full of constantly “Breaking News”. This goes for Twitter and other social media. Turn off your phone. Turn off talk radio. Turn off the t.v. It’s called a news fast, and I think it’s vital to our mental well being.
  • Exercise. This doesn’t necessarily mean running full steam on the treadmill or doing extreme cardio classes. If your stress levels are really high, high-intensity exercise probably isn’t your best bet. Activities like yoga, barre, hiking outside and swimming might be better for the time being.
  • Rest. Give yourself some time off. Read a book, have a cup of tea, take a nap. Get 8 hours of sleep a night. Seriously.
  • Get plenty of sunshine. Even in the dead of winter, getting outside and seeing the sun is important. Even on my most anxious of days, if I walk the dog in the fresh air and sunshine, I always feel better. Check out my post about the importance of getting outside here.
  • Magnesium. You can read the post on magnesium I wrote last year. (Never take a supplement or over the counter medication without approval from your practitioner). I take 200 mg of magnesium citrate each night before bed. It helps relax my muscles and my nervous system. Start small on dosing, as it can cause, ahem, loose stools.
  • Cut back on alcohol. I know. But it works.
  • Eat regularly. Skipped meals can cause blood sugar irregularities and contribute to excess cortisol. Make sure you keep your blood sugar in check by eating regularly.
  • Meditate. Check out my post on meditation here. I swear by it.
  • Give yourself a break. It sounds so superficial, but you *must* take time for yourself if you hope to have the energy to take care of everyone else in your life.  Whatever helps you feel calm and centered, do it on a regular basis.

We live in a culture where being constantly busy and stressed is valued. Why is that? It’s silly. We’ll all wake up in our 80’s or 90’s (God willing) and wonder what the heck happened.

I’m constantly struggling with maintaining some sort of homeostasis, just like everyone else. Just because I have all these tools doesn’t mean I’ve mastered any of it. But it has helped me to identify where I can make some tweaks and changes. Maybe this post will help you too!

Is there something that works for you that I haven’t listed? Please leave a comment! And as always, please share this post if you liked it. You can also sign up to receive all my posts in your email inbox. How great is that?! Just click where it says “Follow Blog Via Email”.