Foods to Fight the Winter Blues

IMG_7933  Seasonal Cooking with Rita Calvert~The Local Cook

With daylight savings time comes shorter days, colder temperatures, and darker mornings. Winter can be a challenging time for many people, especially in the snow belt and even more so when a Polar Vortex descends! What to do when the heat bills soar and the seed catalogs are your only source of green and growing?

 I say get cooking!  Make it colorful, appeal to all of the senses and give your body a whopping big nutritional boost. After my scrumptious recipes you’ll find a list of the kinds of foods which will boost your immunity and give optimal health. This list is by Kelley Herring, who is the founder and editor of Healing Gourmet – the leading provider of organic, sustainable recipes and meal plans for health and weight loss. 

 PS Don’t forget to also keep moving!

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  Vegetable Curry Soup

Serves 6

 A silky soup with a fiery finish that’s packed with antioxidants believed to be effective against heart disease and cancer.Thai red curry paste provides the spicy base for this soup. Take the liberty to substitute whatever vegetables you have on hand for the cauliflower or zucchini.

  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 12 ounces cauliflower, cut into 1-inch florets (3 cups)
  • 1 sweet onion, diced
  • 4 large green onions, thinly sliced, white and green parts separated
  • 2 tablespoon Thai red curry paste, such as Thai Kitchen
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 15-oz. can fire-roasted diced tomatoes in juice
  • 3/4 cup light coconut milk
  • 1 tablespoon fresh grated ginger
  • 1 small zucchini, diced (1½ cups)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice

 Heat oil in large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add cauliflower and white parts of green onions; sauté 5 minutes, or until vegetables begin to brown. Add curry paste, and sauté 1 minute more.

Add broth and tomatoes with their juice. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer 10 minutes. Add coconut milk, grated ginger and zucchini, and simmer 5 minutes, or until vegetables are tender.

Stir in lime juice and remaining green onions. Season with salt and pepper. 

 Fish Veracruz-Style

Serves 4

This ubiquitous Veracruz sauce, most often served with huachinango, or red snapper, features olives, jalapeños, and, on special occasions, capers.

  •  2  1-pound red snapper filets or sea bass steaks
  • Kosher salt
  • 2 fresh limes
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 white onions, peeled and chopped
  • 6 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
  • 4 large tomatoes, blanched, chopped (or  28-oz. can whole tomatoes)
  • 20 large green olives, pitted
  • 2 tablespoons capers, rinsed
  • 2 pickled jalapeño peppers, chopped and 3 tablespoons of jalapeño juice (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Corn tortillas, warmed

 Sprinkle filets with salt and place in a nonreactive shallow pan. Cut limes in half and squeeze juice all over filets. Place lime halves in pan, cover, and marinate in refrigerator for 1 hour.

 Heat oil in a large sauté pan over medium-low heat. Add onions and cook until golden, about 15 minutes. Stir in garlic, and cook for 1 minute.

Add tomatoes (break up if canned); cook for 10 minutes. Add olives, capers, jalapeños and juice, oregano, and bay leaves. Season with salt and pepper; cook over low heat for 20 minutes.

Add filets and marinade, cover, and cook, turning once, for 4 minutes per side. Discard bay leaves and limes. Serve immediately with tortillas. 

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Mother Nature’s Mood Boosters

Mother Nature’s pantry provides all of the essential ingredients your brain needs to function optimally and lift your spirits naturally. And best of all, feasting on these delicious foods can help you feel better… fast!

Here are some of the top natural mood-boosters and how they work:

Omega-3 Fats: While you probably know that fish is a “brain food”, you might not realize that it’s a “mood food” too. The essential fatty acids found in cold water fish – called omega-3s – are critical to brain health and mood, yet up to 80 percent of us don’t get enough. Not only do omega-3s help build connections between neurons in the brain, they also create the receptor sites for neurotransmitters. The higher the level of omega-3s in your blood, the more serotonin you make and the more responsive you become to the effects of this “feel good” brain chemical. Optimize your omega-3s by enjoying wild, sustainable seafood (like salmon and sardines) and by taking a high quality fish oil supplement.

 Vitamin D: The “sunshine vitamin” does a lot to help brighten your mood. But up to 90 percent of us are deficient at least part of the year, and as many as 50 percent of us are critically deficient. To combat the doldrums, optimize your vitamin D levels with 20-30 minutes of sunlight at least 3-5 days a week. If you live in a climate where this is not possible, consider “light therapy” which is generally accepted as the most effective treatment for SAD. You may also wish to supplement your diet with vitamin-D rich cod-liver oil or take a supplement with 2,000-5,000 IUs of vitamin D3 daily.

B Vitamins: Vitamins B6, B12 and folate also help to produce mood boosting serotonin. Be sure to include lots of foods rich in these nutrients in your diet, including leafy greens, avocados, asparagus, broccoli, bell peppers, chicken, salmon, sardines, shrimp, lamb, beef, liver and non-fortified brewer’s yeast.

 Selenium: You learned in my last article that selenium is critical for immune health and staying healthy through the holidays. Here’s another good reason to top off your supply: Low levels of selenium are also associated with an increased risk of depression. Consider supplementing with Superior Trace Minerals and enjoying Brazil Nuts (just one provides 150 percent of the RDA of mood-enhancing selenium).

 Antioxidants: Fighting free radicals means protecting cells – including brain cells, which are most susceptible to oxidative damage. Clinical studies have found that people with depression have low levels of antioxidants in their blood. So power up your diet with high antioxidant Paleo foods including organic blueberries, cranberries, blackberries and raspberries, organic dark cocoa, and supercharged antioxidant spices, including cinnamon, turmeric and cloves.

 Animal Protein: If you’re a vegetarian, you may be lacking an important depression-fighting amino acid – tryptophan, an important precursor to serotonin. Protein-rich foods such as grass-fed beef, free range poultry, wild seafood and pastured eggs are the best sources of tryptophan.

Probiotics: Depression is not all in your head. It could be in your gut too. Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) has been found to contribute to depression by promoting inflammation and oxidative stress as well as reducing the absorption of mood-boosting nutrients. Get your gut health in check by enjoying non-heat processed lacto-fermented foods (like sauerkraut, kimchi and kombucha), raw, grass-fed cultured dairy products (like kefir and yogurt) and taking a high quality probiotic. 

 Low Glycemic Carbs: In my previous article, you learned that refined carbs (like white bread, pasta, rice, sugar and processed foods) cause a sugar buzz or “high” and subsequent crash. And while that’s bad news for energy and insulin levels, there’s more to the story. Sugar also burns up your mood-enhancing B-vitamins and diverts the supply of chromium – a mineral that helps keep blood sugar stable and positively affects the release of feel-good norepinephrine and serotonin. Be sure to opt for low-glycemic foods, and replace your typical sugary holiday treats with just-as-delicious all-natural, low sugar desserts.

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