A cooking traditionalist, I’m skeptical of any hint of a “pushing food to be more” approach. Why mess with perfection? But, whether in cooking, in raising our kids, in finding new careers, or in our most intimate relationships, we can invite that new person, relationship, skill, or food to become just a bit “more” by […]
So you put on a pound or five over the holidays… Do you feel a like a sausage squeezed into your clothes? Most of us indulge in the delectable offerings of the season, usually laden with saturated fats, dairy, sugar, and white flour. In excess, these foods create congestion or metabolic waste that leaves us feeling sluggish, heavy, bloated, tired, achy, irritable, and/or depressed. Just as our automobile perks up after a tune-up, we can revitalize with a detox.
Whether you call it cleansing, detox, purification, or fasting, eliminating metabolic waste from the body is an ancient practice. All of the major religions include some form of fasting as a vehicle for well-being and spiritual awakening.
Fasting has a profound effect on all levels: physical, emotional, and spiritual. Increased vitality, mental clarity, and weight loss are typical detox results. Fasters often experience lasting relief from allergies, arthritis, fibromyalgia, headaches, and addictions to sugar, caffeine, and nicotine as well as gaining deeper insight and a sense of joy. Fasting is considered by many to be the single most effective method of healing chronic disease.
Seems obvious: Who doesn’t get at least a little bit excited by a heaping bowl of fresh-cut fruit (especially if someone else has done the cutting for us)? But now science confirms that happiness and mental health rise with the number of servings of fruits and vegetables we eat each day.
Researchers at the University of Warwick and Dartmouth College studied 80,000 people living in the United Kingdom, and compared their fruit and veggie intake with their life satisfaction, mental well-being, presence of mental disorders, self-reported health, happiness, nervousness, and how often they “feel low,” factoring in such variables as the rest of their diets, alcohol, and many demographic, social, and economic factors. In an overwhelming number of cases, people who ate the World Health Organization-recommended five servings per day were happier than those who didn’t, and those who ate seven per day were happiest.
Did you know that your brain is a reflection of the nutrients it receives from the biochemical information (food) you feed it? Your brain needs nourishment and whether you are upbeat or feeling blue is strongly influenced by how your “second brain” (your digestive tract) digests and absorbs the “information” you are eating. Thus, your mood is a mirror not only of what you eat but also how you digest!
Here are five quick nutrition tips to boost your mood and lift your spirit:
1. Nourish your “mood-cell membranes” with healthy fats such as avocado, wild fatty fish (sardines, wild salmon, or black cod), nuts, seeds, olives, coconut, and smart oils like extra-virgin olive oil.
2. “B-happy” by including whole foods such as beans, dark, leafy green vegetables, and whole grains rich in B-vitamins in your diet.
One of the things I love about cooking with whole grains—in addition to amazing nutritional value—is the versatility and the myriad possibilities of creating great new dishes from leftovers. This month I’ve taken one large pot of plain brown rice and turned it into six meals. Here’s how:
First, make an extra-large batch of plain brown rice (short or medium grain). Start with 3 cups of dry rice and 5½ cups of water; you’ll end up with close to 9 cups of cooked rice. Enjoy the brown rice the first night with stir-fried vegetables and a protein of choice (tofu, nuts, organic chicken, or fresh fish)—this is meal number one.
How to plant for a beautiful spring harvest
Just because summer’s coming to a close doesn’t mean that you need to close up your backyard garden. Many homegrown vegetables can survive—and even thrive—over the cold winter months. Kripalu Healthy Living nutritionist John Bagnulo, PhD,MPH,who farms organically at his home in Maine, offers his tips for ensuring a bountiful spring.
Start simple. Beets and carrots are by far the most low-maintenance vegetables you can plant now and enjoy in the spring. My favorite varieties are Chioggia for beets and Mokum for carrots. Simply work a good amount of compost or aged cow manure into the ground (a container works well for small spaces). Manure is my personal favorite fertilizer, as compost means different things today than it did 20 years ago when I started gardening. Now, the demand is so great that producers are cutting corners and many composts are not well developed.You could also try planting some berries. Strawberries planted in the fall can be ready the following spring. So can blueberries, though it generally takes blueberries much longer to truly become productive.
Plant wisely. Plant seeds about 1/2″ deep and water them well. After the weather turns really cold, cover them with a thick layer of straw or chopped straw—not leaves, as those can suffocate the growth below when they get packed down with the first couple of rains or snowfalls. This cover will keep the frost from pushing the ground up and out, which exposes young plants or seeds.
Mom was right: It really is the most important meal of the day.
For 20 years, researchers at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health followed 5,000 men and women, looking specifically at their breakfast habits: what they ate and when. The results, presented recently at the annual meeting of the American Diabetes Association, found that people who ate breakfast every day were significantly less likely to become obese or develop type 2 diabetes than those who ate breakfast three times a week or less. These findings are significant, if not particularly surprising. Haven’t our mothers been telling us to eat our breakfast for years?
“This study affirms everything nutritionists have been talking about,” says John Bagnulo, PhD, MPH, who teaches nutrition in Kripalu’s Healthy Living programs. “When people eat breakfast, and in particular foods that give them less of what I like to call a ‘blood sugar tsunami,’ they make much better food choices throughout the day.” This includes avoiding foods containing sugar, not overdoing it on caffeine, and practicing portion control. “It’s all related to blood sugar,” says John. “If someone misses breakfast, their blood sugar levels come way down. They’re starving by 10:30 or 11:00, and because they haven’t eaten all morning, they crave foods that have a higher glycemic index,” like muffins, breads, candy, or pasta. Then they crash again by 1:00 pm—and look for yet another sugary pick-me-up. Sound familiar?