A Better Resolution

 

It’s the end of January when resolution-fatigue often sets in. Wine has reappeared on Monday nights; sweet treats have replaced apples as the afternoon snack; and the 10 day extreme detox didn’t get past day 3 when fatigue and a relentless headache set in.

Some well-intentioned resolutions are just too tough to stick to for the long haul. Ideally, resolutions should be specific, realistic, achievable and, I would add, worth it. They should add some value or benefit to your life.

January is a banger month for detoxes or cleanse programs. But be aware that any program that severely limits caloric intake for a prolonged period of time could end up backfiring. Your body will react by putting the breaks on your metabolism in an effort to conserve energy.

Eliminating entire food groups could also lead to gaping holes in your nutritional intake. In particular, restricting protein while simultaneously reducing calories can lead to the loss of lean muscle, not fat. Reducing muscle mass will further suppress your waning metabolism and when normal eating resumes, fat, not lean tissue, will be gained.

I understand the desire to clean up one’s eating after the excesses of the holidays; however, extreme measures are unnecessary. Reducing sugars, alcohol, refined flours and processed foods while increasing your consumption of whole, fibre-rich vegetables is a realistic and achievable way to start.

It turns out we need to heed this advice as only 40 per cent of Canadians are eating at least five daily servings of fruits and vegetables, which falls well short of Canada’s Food Guide recommendation of 7-10 servings.

Soup’s the Solution

An easy way to increase your consumption of these super-foods is to get your soup on! Soup is not a trend. It has never been out of food fashion and there are plenty of reasons why. Research has shown that regular soup eaters consume more vegetables, fibre, protein and a variety of vitamins and minerals than those who don’t eat soup.

It’s not just the nutrients in soup that makes it a great go-to choice for those with health-focussed resolutions. Studies show that soup-eaters weigh less, have smaller waists and consume fewer daily calories compared to those who avoid this wonderful, warm meal. Soup induces fullness more quickly than solid food and can help reduce hunger throughout the day.

What I personally like about soup is that it forces you to slow down, sit down and enjoy your meal mindfully. You can’t eat soup on the run, or if you do, you may only do so once. Ouch.

Homemade or Close-To-Home-Made

Not all soups are created equal. Most canned soups are loaded with sodium so it is always better to make your own. Alternatively, choose high-quality, fresh products with a short list of ingredients all of which you would find in your own refrigerator.

Adding wholesome vegetable and fibre-rich soup to your daily diet is a resolution that ticks all the boxes: it’s specific, realistic, utterly achievable and is, most definitely, worth it.

 

ROASTED CARROT & PARSNIP SOUP

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 pound carrots, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch rounds
  • ½ pound parsnips, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch rounds
  • 1 yellow onion, quartered
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 3-4 cups vegetable stock
  • Optional: cilantro

 

DIRECTIONS

  1. Preheat oven to 400° F.
  2. In a large roasting pan, combine the carrots, parsnips, onion, 3 tablespoons of the oil, salt and pepper. Spread the vegetables in an even layer and roast, stirring occasionally, until tender and golden brown, about 45 minutes.
  3. Transfer the vegetables to a blender and purée with 3 cups of vegetable stock.       Blend. Add more stock as needed to achieve the right consistency. Reheat in a pot over medium-low heat.
  4. Serve with a drizzle of good quality olive oil and sprinkle of cilantro

 

Resources:

Clegg ME1, Ranawana V, Shafat A, Henry CJ. Soups increase satiety through delayed gastric emptying yet increased glycaemic response. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2013 Jan;67(1):8-11. doi: 10.1038/ejcn.2012.152. Epub 2012 Oct 24.

Flood JE, Rolls BJ. Soup preloads in a variety of forms reduce meal energy intake. Appetite. 2007 Nov;49(3):626-34. Epub 2007 Apr 14.

Statistics Canada. Canadian Consumer Health Survey. Fruit and Vegetable Consumption. 2012. http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/82-625-x/2013001/article/11837-eng.htm

Zhu Y, Hollis JH. Soup consumption is associated with a reduced risk of overweight and obesity but not metabolic syndrome in US adults: NHANES 2003-2006. PLoS One. 2013 Sep 30;8(9):e75630. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0075630. eCollection 2013.

Zhu Y, Hollis JH. Soup consumption is associated with a lower dietary energy density and a better diet quality in US adults. Br J Nutr. 2014 Apr 28;111(8):1474-80. doi: 10.1017/S0007114513003954. Epub 2014 Jan 2.

 

 

 

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Good Foods For Your Mood

According to mainstream media the third Monday of January is the most depressing day of the year. It even has it’s own name: Blue Monday. In fact January is thought to be the most depressing month of the year. Whether it be unscientific bunk or hold a shred of truth, you can ready yourself to endure these cold, dark days by filling your fridge, and stomach, with good foods for your mood.

Beets For The Brain & The BodyIMG_7854

Beets, along with arugula, celery, kale and watercress are a rich source of dietary nitrates. These natural nitrates improve blood flow throughout the body and, importantly, to the pre-frontal cortex of the brain which is involved with cognition and executive function. Studies have shown improved cognitive performance after consumption of these brain-boosting foods. As an added bonus, the nitrates help dilate blood vessels which reduces blood pressure and increases blood flow to muscles resulting in improved physical stamina and endurance.

Omega 3 Rich Foods: Sardines, Salmon, Walnuts & Chia SeedsIMG_7858

Low levels of these essential fatty acids have been associated with an increased risk of depression. A 2015 review of 26 studies found that omega 3 fatty acids had a beneficial effect on symptoms of depression compared to a placebo.

Omega 3s are highly concentrated in the brain and help keep the brain cell membranes fluid. Cell membrane fluidity is crucial for enhancing swift communication between neurons.

Sardines, salmon and walnuts are also a good source of zinc which is involved in sleep regulation. Sufficient sleep is imperative in warding off the blues. Low levels of zinc have also been associated with increased risk of depression and mood disorders.

Quercetin & Anti-inflammatory Foods

It is important to consider one’s overall diet in relation to reducing the risk of any disease including mood disorders. Adding isolated foods or nutrients to a mediocre diet is unlikely to yield positive results. However, improving one’s long-term eating pattern can reduce the risk of developing lifestyle diseases and depression.

A 2013 study revealed that women who regularly ate inflammatory foods were 41% more likely to suffer from depression. Inflammatory foods include:

  • Refined sugars; (pop, desserts, candy, cookies)
  • Processed and refined grains (white bread, pasta, crackers, and more);
  • Animal fats; red meat
  • Food Allergens (hidden food allergies cause body and brain inflammation)

Quercetin is a phytochemical that acts as a natural anti-depressant as it down-regulates inflammatory pathways. Apples, kale, berries, grapes, onion, and green tea are all great sources of quercetin.

Other foods rich in anti-inflammatory nutrients include olive oil, turmeric, ginger, cruciferous veggies (broccoli, Brussels sprouts) and plant protein like edamame, chickpeas and lentils.

Reducing the amount of pop, sugar, flour, and processed meats in your diet and eating an abundance of fresh, unprocessed vegetables, fruits, nuts and legumes is a great way to improve both physical and mental health. Try the recipe below for generous helping of anti-inflammatory nutrients including omega 3 fatty acids.

 

Merry Mood Sardines

MAKES 2 SERVINGS

  • 1 lemon, freshly squeezed juice
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil (separated into single teaspoons)
  • Pinch of sea salt & freshly ground pepper
  • 2 green onions, finely chopped
  • 
1 tablespoon finely diced cornichon
  • 1 sprig of celery, diced
  • Sprinkle of freshly chopped parsley
  • 

1 can sardines, drained
  • Bunch of kale, washed, dried & shredded (or use baby kale leaves)

Mix 4 teaspoons of lemon juice, the zest, mustard, 1 tsp of olive oil salt, pepper, green onion, cornichon, celery and parsley together in a bowl. Add the sardines and flake them into chunky pieces with a fork. Stir gently to combine. Place shredded kale in a bowl and drizzle with 1 tsp of olive oil. Massage oil into kale with hands. Place sardines on top and toss all together. Add a squeeze of lemon juice to finish, if desired.

Resources:

Kapil V1, Milsom AB, Okorie M, Maleki-Toyserkani S, Akram F, Rehman F, Arghandawi S, Pearl V, Benjamin N, Loukogeorgakis S, Macallister R, Hobbs AJ Inorganic nitrate supplementation lowers blood pressure in humans: role for nitrite-derived NO. Hypertension. 2010 Aug;56(2):274-81. doi: 10.1161/HYPERTENSIONAHA.110.153536. Epub 2010 Jun 28.

Wightman EL1, Haskell-Ramsay CF1, Thompson KG2, Blackwell JR3, Winyard PG4, Forster J1, Jones AM3, Kennedy DO5 Dietary nitrate modulates cerebral blood flow parameters and cognitive performance in humans: A double-blind, placebo-controlled, crossover investigation. Physiol Behav. 2015 Oct 1;149:149-58. doi: 10.1016/j.physbeh.2015.05.035. Epub 2015 May 31.

Clifford T1, Howatson G2,3, West DJ4, Stevenson EJ5.The potential benefits of red beetroot supplementation in health and disease. Nutrients. 2015 Apr 14;7(4):2801-22. doi: 10.3390/nu7042801.

Appleton KM1, Sallis HM, Perry R, Ness AR, Churchill R. Omega-3 fatty acids for depression in adults. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2015 Nov 5;11:CD004692. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD004692.pub4.

Riemer S1, Maes M, Christophe A, Rief W. Lowered omega-3 PUFAs are related to major depression, but not to somatization syndrome. J Affect Disord. 2010 Jun;123(1-3):173-80. doi: 10.1016/j.jad.2009.08.004. Epub 2009 Aug 31.

Ranjbar E, Kasaei MS, Mohammad-Shirazi M, et al. Effects of Zinc Supplementation in Patients with Major Depression: A Randomized Clinical Trial.Iranian Journal of Psychiatry. 2013;8(2):73-79.

Lucas M, Chocano-Bedoya P, et al. Inflammatory dietary pattern and risk of depression among women. Am J Prev Med. 2005 Jan;28(1):1-8.

Chirumbolo S1. The role of quercetin, flavonols and flavones in modulating inflammatory cell function. Inflamm Allergy Drug Targets. 2010 Sep;9(4):263-85.

 

 

 

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