Food & Mood

People living in my corner of the world have been blasted with some of the coldest weather and heaviest snow in more than 50 years. Cabin fever has set in as the snow and cold increases and the amount of sun decreases. For many, this has also brought on Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD. The good news is that spring is coming and there is an end in sight for all of us. In the meantime there are some foods and nutrients that may help relieve the grayness of a harsh winter.

sad

http://www.layoutsparks.com/pictures/sad-8

Research supports the finding that lack of sunlight and vitamin D have been linked to the onset of SAD. While our body is able to make vitamin D when we are exposed to regular sunlight, it is limited even then by the sunscreen we apply to prevent overexposure to sun. Since we are lacking safe access to sunshine, many of us are vitamin D deficient. It is now recommended that we take a vitamin D supplement to assure we are getting enough. Vitamin D is considered one of the most important vitamins for preventing and reducing symptoms related to depression. There are several food sources of this important vitamin we can consider to include in our diet.

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http://www.ehow.com/how_5154650_grow-maitake.html

Foods rich in vitamin D include: many types of mushrooms such as Maitake 131% DV, Portabello 64% DV, Chanterelle 19% DV, Morel 23% Dv, and Oyster 4% DV. Other good food sources of vitamin D include Salmon, eggs, tofu and other soy products, almond milk, dairy, cod liver oil, beef liver, fortified cereals and orange juice. The RDA for Vitamin D is 600 IU (international units) for people age 15-60.

Other “mood” boosting vitamins and minerals that may help chase away the winter blues include Calcium, Chromium, Folate, Iron, Magnesium, Vitamin B6, B12, Zinc and Omega-3 fatty acids.

Calcium is important in maintaining healthy bones and blood vessels. Some studies show that low levels of calcium in women (could not find similar studies for men) may increase symptoms related to PMS and depression. The RDA for calcium is 1000mg per adult. Good food sources for calcium include: Broccoli, collard greens, kale, edamame, bok choy, figs, oranges, sardines, salmon, white beans, tofu, dairy, almonds and okra.

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http://fightosteoporosis.ca/calcium-and-vitramin-d-for-bones

Chromium is a trace mineral needed to help the body metabolize food and regulate insulin. Chromium also plays an important role in increasing the levels of serotonin, norepinephrine, and melatonin in the brain which are all critical to regulating mood and emotions. The RDA is 25 mcg for women and 35 mcg for men. Food sources include: Broccoli, grapes, whole wheat products, potatoes and turkey.

Folate, or B9 supports the health and creation of cells in the body and regulates serotonin. Serotonin is the brain’s messenger, passing messages between nerve cells and assisting the brain in regulating mood among other things. Folate and B12 are often paired to treat depression. The recommended daily amount is 400 mcg (micrograms) per adult. Foods rich in Folate include: leafy greens, avocado, black eyed peas, brussel sprouts and asparagus.

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http://nutrition4health-iliana.blogspot.com/

Iron transports oxygen through the bloodstream, supports muscle health and energy. Low levels of iron leave us feeling tired and depressed. Iron deficiencies are more common in women. RDA 18 mg for women and 8 mg for men. Foods rich in Iron include: Soybeans, lentils, turkey (dark meat) beef or pork liver, clams, mussels, oysters, nuts, leafy greens and fresh ginger.

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Magnesium is responsible for more than 300 biochemical reactions in the body. It helps to break down glucose and transform it into energy. Make sure to take in enough magnesium daily. The RDA is 300mg women 350 mg men – grab a handful of edamame, cashews, almonds or hazelnuts for snacks; add more whole grains such as millet, quinoa and brown rice and eat fish (halibut in particular).

B6 promotes the health of our neurotransmitters. A deficiency of B6 can lead to a weakened immune system, depression, confusion and short term anemia. B6 is known to relieve mood related symptoms of PMS. RDA is 1.3 mg daily for adults. Foods containing healthy amounts of B6 include: Chickpeas, tuna, Atlantic salmon, chicken or turkey (white meat), sunflower seeds, pistachios, bananas, lean pork, dried prunes, avocado, spinach and lean beef.

Omega-3 fatty acid is not naturally produced by the body but it is critical to mood health. Deficiencies in omega-3 can contribute to mood swings, fatigue, depression or decline in memory. Salmon, sardines, tuna and rainbow trout contain omega-3s. Chia seeds are also a good source. Vegetarians relying on plant based sources may consider supplements as plant and animal omega-3 differ.

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B12 is critical to good brain health. Our mood depends largely on the signals from our brain making B12 one of the most important nutrients. B12 synthesizes a group of nutrients that are critical for neurological function. Low levels of B12 can contribute to increased fatigue, depression, lack of concentration, mania and paranoia. RDA for B12 is 2.4 mcg. (micrograms)B12 is found naturally in animal proteins such as eggs, beef, fatty fish and pork. It is also added to enriched cereals and breads. Taking a supplement is wise as the body can store what it does not use for a later time.

Zinc protects our digestive system as well as promoting a healthy immune system. Research has shown that healthy levels of zinc in the body reduce the risk of depression. Zinc has been known to enhance the effectiveness of antidepressants in some studies. RDA is 11mg men and 8 mg women. Foods rich in zinc include: pumpkin seeds, cashews, Swiss cheese, crab and pork loin.

Tea – In a study conducted by The Journal of Nutrition researchers linked theanine, an amino acid found in most teas, increased alertness and reduced depression. They believe that the theanine acts with caffeine to boost attention and focus and suggest drinking 4-6 cups daily as a trial.

It is really fascinating to learn the many sources and combinations of good food we can include in our diets to reduce our risk for depression and improve our overall health. It takes thought and planning to assure we are eating well but it is truly worth doing!

Here is a favorite recipe that includes many of the foods listed in the blog post.

Vegetarian Quinoa Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms

 Quinoa:

  • ½ cup red quinoa
  • 1 cup hot vegetable broth
  • 1 tsp dried rosemary

Mushrooms:

  • 8 portabella mushrooms
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • Pinch sea salt
  • 1 cup white beans, rinsed and soaked 6 hours
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 Tbsp. lemon juice
  • ½ tsp black pepper
  • 2 cups packed baby spinach
  • 4 ounces feta cheese

Place while beans in saucepan with ½ strip kombu and enough water to cover by 1 inch. Bring to boil, reduce heat to low and simmer for approximately 45 minutes until beans are soft. Check often to make sure the water has not cooked out.

Combine quinoa, broth and rosemary in saucepan. Bring to boil, reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand for at least 5 minutes until all liquid is absorbed.

While quinoa is cooking, preheat oven 375. Prepare mushrooms by removing stems and rubbing with olive oil. Place cap side up on baking tray covered with parchment paper and sprinkle with sea salt. Roast mushrooms for 5 minutes, then flip them over.

Place cooked white beans in bowl and mash with potato masher of fork. Add garlic, lemon juice, pinch sea salt and pepper. Cut spinach into strips and add to bean mixture along with the feta. Stir filling until well blended.

Divide the quinoa mixture among the caps. Return to oven and bake for 15 minutes until the filling is lightly browned. Serve immediately.

Eat Well and Be Well

Leanne Yinger, M.Ed. @ Kira’s Kitchen

Board Certified Holistic Health & Nutrition Coach

blog: http://kirasgoodeatskitchen.com

website: http://leanne-yinger.healthcoach.integrativenutrition.com

 

Summer’s Bounty

It is the first day of summer which means that our gardens will start to swell with yummy fresh vegetables soon. I love tending gardens even when they get away from me and start growing plants that were not invited. I tend to be one of those gardeners that likes the organic nature of how things grow so neat rows really don’t matter to me. Some of my neighbors might wish I was less of a cottage type gardener but they are kind and marvel at how much produce I can pull out of my tiny little patch of ground.

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 My garden looks more like this one…

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Than it does like this,,, though I truly appreciate all forms of gardening and love browsing catalogs and online to see what creative ideas are out there. I value each individual plant and try to understand it’s purpose even if it is considered a weed. Prior to cultivation many of these so called weeds were staple foods in tribal peoples diets so I think it wise to consider and honor them. This honoring of “weeds” is not an excuse for not keeping my garden weed free…I gave up on that many years ago and still have great fresh vegetables each year.

So the snow peas in my wild little garden are setting flowers now and the baby kale is so tender you can eat it right off the plant…no preparation. I will try to plant my second harvest of snow peas again today since the resident chipmunks decided they liked the pea seeds this year and neatly removed all of them promptly after I planted them.

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I’ll also get the zucchini plants under my form of control (move them off the grass I plan to mow) and then mow the wild lawn before getting into the canoe for a leisurely paddle on the lake with friends. There will soon be more zucchini than can be eaten so hello friends and neighbors welcome to zucchini harvest!

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I guess what I’m trying to say here is that gardens are not meant to be perfect or orderly. Life is not, so why try to create that order in our gardens. Seek the beauty in each plant no matter how seemingly unimportant it appears to be. This coming from someone who knows. Get outside and play on this first day of summer!

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“This grand show is eternal. It is always sunrise somewhere: the dew is never all dried at once: a shower is forever falling, vapor is ever rising. Eternal sunrise, eternal sunset, eternal dawn and gloaming, on sea and continents and islands, each in its turn, as the round Earth rolls.”         John Muir

Blessed Be

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http://leanne-yinger.healthcoach.integrativenutrition.com/events

 

 

 

From Farmer’s Market to Cancer Crusaders

I had a wonderfully busy day yesterday, starting with the Downtown Pittsfield Farmer’s Market Health Fair. This is the second year for the market. It has become such a cool Saturday morning destination and yesterday was no exception. It is incredible to watch the parking lot transform from asphalt to a bustling open air market in a matter of minutes…it’s kind of magical.

ImageEarly morning at the market.

At one point while setting up my booth I had this realization that there are literally thousands of these farmers markets in towns and cities across the US springing up and truly taking hold…it was a very good thought to have! I was there to offer information about my health coaching programs @ Kira’s Kitchen, http://leanne-yinger.healthcoach.integrativenutrition.com/ and offer some tasty sweets that are actually healthy.

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I was so pleased to see that the wonderful organizers of the market are connecting health care and good food by joining farmers and growers with various adjunctive health and main stream health care organizations including Berkshire Medical Center’s mobile PET (Positron Emission Tomography) scanner. I was between Berkshire Nautilus Health Club, http://www.berkshirenautilus.com/ and New Life Chiropractic, http://www.dr-schagen.com/ which made perfect sense to me. After all, people need good quality nutrition to partake in what Berkshire Nautilus offers and they can certainly benefit from someone guiding them through an anti inflammation diet when faced with pain that a chiropractor is helping them manage.

I left the Farmer’s market at 1pm and drove north to Bennington Vermont to join friends at the Southwestern Vermont Cancer Center Community Crusaders event to raise money for the cancer center in Bennington. 

Imagehttp://www.benningtonbanner.com/localnews/ci_25861487/saturday-cancer-event-dedicated-gail-harwood

I was struck by the celebratory feel of this event as I wandered around looking for my friends booth. There were people dancing and music playing. Children were running around having a great time. I have lost several people I love dearly to cancer so my mindset driving to Bennington was not that I was going to a party. By the time I found my friends booth my mindset had shifted to a more relaxed state and the sun had broke through the clouds as if to say “it’s all good.” We set out the healthy sweets I’d brought next to the beautiful cupcakes that were part of the fund raising for the event.

The conversations that took place surrounding both the cupcakes and the treats I brought were very enlightening for me. I met a mom whose child has a brain tumor. She was seeking healthier snack options for him so he doesn’t feel left out of the fun. He sampled each of the treats I brought and we talked about how hard it is for parents to find the time to make healthy snacks. I offered her some recipes and made a mental note about reaching out to parents of children who have cancer.

At the end of the event there was a lovely candle light vigil and honoring of the survivors and those lost to cancer. I took a moment to remember the people I love who are living with cancer, and to honor those who were not able to survive it. I found myself feeling a bit indignant as I got in my car to drive home. How is it that the rates of cancer continue to rise even with the amazing health care system available to us in the United States.

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I think this topic will be continued next blog as it requires additional research and the sun is out today calling me to mow my lawn. Remember to eat healthy, take time to relax and let go of stress and spend time with the people you love. It truly matters in your overall good health!

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First you need only look:

Notice and honor the radiance of everything about you…

Play in this universe.

Tend all these shinning things around you:

The smallest plant, the creatures and objects in your care.

Be gentle and nurture. Listen…

As we experience and accept all that we really are…

We grow in care.                      Anne Hillman

Blessed Be

 

Leanne Yinger, M.Ed.

Board Certified Holistic Health Coach

413-464-1462

Kiraskitchen5@gmail.com

Website: http://leanne_yinger.healthcoach.integrativenutrition.com

Blog:      www.kirasgoodeatskitchen.com

 

Now you can follow me on Twitter: kiraskitchen5 or Facebook as well.

 

 

 

Big Ideas or Big Trees?

I have always been a person who does things the hard way without asking for much help from those I love. I’m not sure why that is my reality but I have become a pretty fearless person living this way. I have learned to take great comfort in nature because it is authentic no matter it’s state. Nature provides an abundance of beauty, life sustaining foods and peace when the business of life overwhelms us.

Let’s consider the mighty Sequoia tree. This gigantic tree comes from a relatively small cone which must be exposed to extreme heat in order to open and germinate.

ImageThis small tightly packaged cone if exposed to the proper conditions will grow into one of the largest and most majestic trees in our world. So large, it is hard to capture it’s size on a camera without falling over backward from looking up into the sky so high!

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Perhaps a photo with my daughters standing at the base of this mighty beauty will give some perspective.

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So what is my point here? Well I liken the process of this tree germinating and growing to maturation to the process of starting something new. We must find our resources and expose them to the best circumstances in order to achieve what we desire.

I am in the process of launching a new business on health and wellness through nutrition. I am studying with people who are leading authorities in the relatively new science of nutrition. The Kushi Institute, The Institute of Integrative Nutrition and tons of personal research are providing me with so much great information to share. I will also launch my website soon explaining in greater detail what I will be offering. I am taking the proverbial “leap of faith” that this adventure will provide support to those hoping to improve their health, while providing me an outlet for my passion for helping others. So far all indications are that this will be true as people at farmer’s markets, health food stores and in my cooking classes are also becoming passionate about how to eat well to gain or maintain their health. There seems to be a shift toward coming together to eat well and in some cases demanding that the foods we have available to us are the grown in the most healthful ways possible. It is a truly exciting time in the field of nutrition!

So the Sequoia trees are representative to me launching and growing my health and wellness practice. They stand together as I hope to with others looking for positive change in their health. It is my desire to provide the coaching people need to become mighty in their own way!

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I close with a dandy fall soup recipe that I think you will enjoy and guess what…it is oh so good for you!

Roasted Kabocha Squash Soup

1 medium kabocha squash

1 yam

1 sweet onion

4 cloves garlic

2-3 carrots

salt/pepper to taste

cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger (optional)

6 cups water

Cut the squash into quarters and scoop out seeds. Place on roasting dish and bake at 400 for 45 minutes or until tender. Prepare yam to be roasted at same time making sure to poke holes in it before placing in over.

While the squash and yam are roasting chop onion and carrots into small pieces and add to stock pot with minced garlic and some olive oil to saute 3-5 minutes. Add water and simmer for 30 minutes covered.

Once the yam and squash are roasted remove skin from squash and yam and cut into small bite size pieces. Add to stock pot and bring to boil, then reduce to simmer and cook for 45 minutes covered.

Allow to cool or take great care placing hot mixture in blender. Blend to smooth consistency. I add cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger to taste this time of the year…simply delightful!

Happy cooking and remember:

“No one who cooks, cooks alone. Even at her most solitary, a cook in the kitchen is surrounded by generations of cooks past, the advice and menus of cooks present, the wisdom of cookbook writers.”
Laurie Colwin

Be Well!

Fall Food and Beauty

The trees are beginning to change from the vibrant green of summer to the golds and reds of the fall in New England. I’ve come to find these visual changes in nature bring about a time of introspection for me. Maybe it has to do with the weather cooling, the crisp air or beautiful blue sky or maybe it is just the reminder that another year has come and is now going. Not sure but it is familiar and in some ways comforting…kind of like that wonderful soft afghan you wrap yourself in on a chilly night. What ever it is I am welcoming the change.

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I woke up this morning thinking about cooking a nice fall meal and I remembered that I picked about 2 pounds of green beans yesterday. So I’ll share a favorite green bean recipe with you.

Green Beans with Toasted Almonds

1 lb green beans

¼ cup slivered almonds

1 tblsp olive oil

¼ tsp oregano

¼ tsp thyme

¼ tsp sage

1 clove garlic crushed

1 pinch sea salt to taste

Wash and trim green beans, then steam for about 3-5 minutes. Toast almonds in a dry skillet until fragrant and golden stirring constantly so they don’t burn. Add the herbs and oil to the skillet and toss well. Then add your green beans to mix.

Green beans contain vitamin A, B-complex vitamins and calcium and potassium. And garlic is antibacterial, anti-carcinogenic and anti-fungal. It is good for respiratory problems and ear aches as well as acting to reduce blood pressure and cholesterol.

Along with the green beans I plan to make a brown rice and red wheat berries and adzuki beans with squash since I have some beautiful winter squash to use. The last time I prepared the brown rice and wheat berries my daughter came home with photos of our resident eagle. He had landed along the shore of the lake and was watching her as she photographed him.

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Here are the recipes for the other dishes I mentioned in this blog.

Brown Rice and Wheat Berries

 2 cups short grain brown rice, rinsed and soaked 6-8 hours

½ cup wheat berries, rinsed and soaked 6-8 hours (red winter variety)

3-3 ½ cups water

Pinch of sea salt per cup of grain

Place washed/soaked rice in pressure cooker, mix in the wheat berries.
Add the water and cook over low flame for 15-20 minutes
Add salt and cover pressure cooker.
Bring up to pressure, then lower flame to medium-low and cook for 50 minutes.
Remove from flame, and release steam from pressure cooker or allow it to release on its own.
Open cooker and let rice sit for 4-5 minutes before serving.

Brown rice is high in vitamin B which helps to reduce depressive symptoms. It is also a good source of minerals and healthy fat. Great for we New England residents who will begin to see less sun as fall brings in winter. Whole wheat berries contain 12 B vitamins, vitamin E, protein, essential fatty acids and important trace minerals such as zinc, iron, copper, manganese, magnesium and phosphorus. If you are sensitive to wheat make the rice it stands alone.

Azuki Beans and Squash – Changing Seasons Macrobiotic Cookbook

1 cup Azuki Beans, washed and soaked at least 6-8 hours

1 cup good quality organic Butternut, Buttercup squash or Hokkaido pumpkin, washed with seeds removed cubed with skin left on.

¼ sea salt

1-2 inch piece kombu

Water

Soak kombu in ¼ cup water until pliable (5-10 minutes)
Cube squash and set aside.
Place soaked kombu in bottom of heavy pot.
Add soaked beans with soaking water on top of kombu carefully so kombu remains on bottom of pot.
Make sure there is enough water to just cover the beans.
Bring to boil then reduce heat and simmer for approximately 30 minutes.
Add the cubed squash on top of beans making sure the water is covering just the beans to set up steamer effect for squash.
Continue to cook over low heat for 45 minutes checking often to assure the beans are no burning on bottom of pot.
Once the squash and beans are soft remove from heat and serve.

Adzuki beans are an excellent source of soluble fiber, which helps to keep cholesterol levels in a healthy range. They also contain folate, potassium, and magnesium, all of which are essential for a healthy heart. Adzuki beans are a good way to get B vitamins, including B6, B2, B1, B3, and folic acid.
Squash is naturally sweet and is a good source of beta-carotene and complex carbohydrates. Squash contains vitamins A and C, potassium and magnesium. It has anti-carcinogenic properties due to containing high amounts of pre-vitamin A and carotenoids.

So what are we waiting for…let’s get cooking!

Quote for this glorious day by Nancy Wood

Hold on to what is good even if it is a handful of Earth.

Hold on to what you believe even if it is a tree which stands by itself.

Hold on to what you must do even if it is a long way from here.

Hold on to life even if it is easier letting go.

Hold on to my hand even when I have gone far away from you…

AND as my great nephew Cooper says….Peace Out!