Feeling Anxious? Improving Your Nutrition May Help

An Apple a Day - and a Nutritious Diet - Keep the Blues Away

An Apple a Day – and a Nutritious Diet – Keep the Blues Away

I recently attended an eye-opening talk by Dr. James Greenblatt, Adult and Pediatric Psychiatrist, as well as Founder and Medical Director of Comprehensive Psychiatric Resources in Waltham, Massachusetts. As a dietitian, I know how important the food we eat is for our health and well-being. What was new to me is how much nutrition plays a role in the treatment of depression, anxiety and mood disorders. Also new to me is the fact that depression is the second leading cause of disability worldwide and it is predicted to be the number one cause of disability by 2020. This is something that needs our attention and if food and nutrition can be part of the solution, it’s worth investigating.

Increasingly, the medical community has turned to medications as the sole treatment for mental illness. As someone who has spent 13 years working in clinical drug research, I understand how life-saving these medications can be. However, they do not work for everyone and can come with some unwanted side effects. In fact, these drugs often are only about 50% effective, basically the flip of a coin. This is due to something called the placebo-effect, where the placebo, or inactive pill, is sometimes found to be just as effective as the active drug. This could just be due to the fact that everyone in the study is getting more attention from caregivers, so even the patients on the placebo improve. This placebo-effect makes it hard for drug companies to prove the efficacy of their compound and as a result, very few new drugs for depression and anxiety make it to final approval by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration).

Dr. Greenblat asserts that it is worthwhile checking the nutritional status of his patients, since deficiencies in vital nutrients can contribute to their condition. He pointed out that the brain is 60% fat and needs cholesterol in order to function. He has found that patients on statin medication to lower cholesterol can show signs of depression if the total cholesterol drops below 130. Sometimes children with autism are found to be genetically low in cholesterol and benefit from a cholesterol supplement. He also discussed a study showing links to prenatal vitamin D deficiency and schizophrenia. Other important nutrient deficiencies linked to fatigue, anxiety, depression and mood disorders are: folate, vitamin B12, iron, magnesium and zinc. Basically, a junk food and refined sugar diet is not going to help your body or your mood. Dr. Greenblat points out that improving nutritional status is just “good” medicine that can be used alone, or combined with drug therapy, to help improve outcomes in the treatment of mental illness.

Dr. Greenblatt is also an author, and fortunately for us, he has written a number of books on this fascinating topic. Here are the titles and the links on Amazon.com.

The Breakthrough Depression Solution: A Personalized, 9-Step Method for Beating the Physical Causes of Your Depression

Answers to Appetite Control: New Hope for Binge Eating and Weight Management

Answers to Anorexia: A Breakthrough Nutritional Treatment that is Saving Lives

To learn more about Dr. Greenblatt, click on this link to his website: www.integrativepsychmd.com

Do you find a link between your diet and your mood? Click on the title of this post and then scroll down to leave a comment. I’d love to hear from you!

As always, the information in this blog is general nutrition information and is not intended to be medical advice.


Slow Cooker Vegetarian Tomato Sauce with Eggplant

Chunky Eggplant Tomato Sauce

Chunky Eggplant Tomato Sauce

Spring has finally arrived and I just want to be outside to enjoy it. Whether it’s gardening, walking the dog or just sitting and knitting on the porch, the last thing I want to do is spend a lot of time indoors cooking. That’s where the crock pot comes in handy – it’s not just for hearty, winter-time fare. This eggplant tomato sauce is as warm and delicious as any cold-weather comfort food, but it’s also light and healthy, brimming with vegetables. This is an easy vegetarian dish, perfect for meatless Monday, or any day of the week when you want to let the slow cooker do the work while you are outdoors enjoying a lovely spring day. Enjoy!

What are your favorite eggplant recipes? Click on the title of this post and scroll down to leave a comment.

Eggplant Tomato Sauce

Ingredients:

1 medium eggplant, sliced into 1/2-inch slices
1 can (14 1/2 oz.) petite diced tomatos, undrained
1 medium onion, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1/2 cup mild or medium salsa
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 Tbspn. balsamic vinegar
3 cloves garlic sliced thin
1 tspn. oregano
1/4 tspn. salt, plus extra for preparing the eggplant
2 cups jar tomato sauce

Prepare the eggplant by sprinkling salt on both sides of each slice and placing it in a colander for 1/2 hour to 1 hour. Set the colander over a plate to catch the liquid. When the time is up, use paper towels to wipe off the salt and absorb any excess moisture from the eggplant slices. Use a knife to cut away the peel from the outer edge of each slice. Then chop the slices into 1/2-inch pieces.

Mix the chopped eggplant, tomatoes with juice, onion, pepper, salsa, olive oil, vinegar, garlic, oregano and salt in the slow cooker. Cover and cook for 7 – 8 hours on low, until vegetables are soft. Do not lift the lid or stir while cooking.

At the end of the cooking time, add your favorite tomato sauce and stir. Replace lid and allow to cook another 5 – 10 minutes until sauce is hot and ready to serve.

Enjoy over cous cous, rice or pasta.


Easter Recipes: Italian Sprinkle Cookies – Taralli

Delicious and Colorful Taralli Cookies

Delicious and Colorful Taralli Cookies

It’s almost time for the Easter bunny to pay a visit and that means it is time to do some Easter baking. Forget about the ham, it’s all about making taralli cookies. I always post this recipe at Easter and Christmas time, that is when our family typically makes these very special cookies. They are so yummy with a hot cup of tea or coffee, or an ice cold glass of milk. Be sure to leave a plate of them out for the Easter bunny, along with some carrots of course!

Click on the Recipe Rescue tab to view this recipe. Have you ever had Taralli’s before? Sometimes they are made with anise or lemon extract instead of vanilla, either added to the cookie or the glaze. Let me know what flavor is your favorite by clicking on the title of this post (above) and then scrolling down to leave a comment. Happy Easter!


Easter Recipes: Spinach Ricotta Pie

Spinach Pie for Easter Brunch

Spinach Pie for Easter Brunch

The Spanish Onions and Cheddar Cheese Add to the Flavor of the Pie

The Red Onion and Cheddar Cheese Add to the Flavor of the Pie

Easter is almost here and that usually means Easter brunch. This spinach quiche, or pie as I like to call it, is perfect for any meal or snack, even without a holiday. Since only one egg is used, it really is less like a quiche and more like a pie. The crust is an easy “pat-in-pan” recipe that is no-fuss and foolproof. If you prefer, Pillsbury makes refrigerated pie crusts as well. The savory filling has chopped spinach, chopped onion, part-skim ricotta and just a hint of cheddar cheese; the aroma in the kitchen is wonderful while the pie is baking.

What are some of your favorite Easter recipes and traditions? Please click on the title of this post and scroll down to leave a comment.

Happy Easter and click on the Dinner 911 tab for this recipe – Enjoy!


Chicken Lettuce Wraps for Chinese New Year

Lettuce Wraps - Some Assembly Required

Lettuce Wraps – Some Assembly Required

The Chinese New Year is approaching on January 31st and what better time to try a new Asian-inspired recipe? There is a Chinese food restaurant that is a bit of a drive from our house, so it’s a real treat to go there. We always order the chicken lettuce wraps – hot and tasty and wrapped-up nice and neat in cool, crisp, iceberg lettuce. My teenage daughter loves them, so I decided to try and make them at home. I was very excited to find an envelope in the grocery store to help get me started. I did not follow the instructions on the envelope exactly (I rarely do), but using it really gives the meal an authentic Chinese food flavor. I consider this a labor-intensive meal, due to all of the chopping of the chicken and veggies. However, once all the prep work is done, the meal can be cooked in under 20 minutes. Fried rice recipe to follow soon in a separate post (see envelope below).

Envelopes Provide Authentic Flavor

Envelopes Provide Authentic Flavor

To learns more about Sun-Bird seasonings, click here: www.sunbirdseasonings.com

Click on the Recipe Rescue tab (top right) for this recipe – enjoy! Are you celebrating Chinese New Year? **Note: This recipe has been removed to make room for another Recipe Rescue.**
Click on the title of this post and scroll down to comment.


Stuffed Peppers with Couscous and Broccoli

A Healthy and Light Lunch or Dinner

A Healthy and Light Lunch or Dinner


This recipe makes for a satisfying and healthy lunch or dinner. It is written for two people, but can be doubled as needed. This is an easy-to-prepare recipe, especially if you happen to have leftover broccoli and couscous in your refridgerator already. The most time-consuming part is preparing the peppers, but it is worth the effort. The roasted peppers are full of flavor and make the perfect “bowl” for the stuffing. If you are vegan, just omit the cheddar cheese. If not, I have to say that the savory flavor of the cheese marries beautifully with the smokiness of the peppers and broccoli. These stuffed peppers are a perfect healthy lunch or dinner, especially if you are following the Mediterranean Diet or looking for a Meatless Monday recipe that will please the whole family.

Click on the Dinner 911 tab (on the top right) for the recipe and be sure to leave a comment at the end of this post to let us know what you think. Just click on the title of this post and scroll down to comment. **Note: This recipe has been removed to make room for another delicious recipe.

For more information on Near East cous cous, click here.

Enjoy and Happy Meatless Monday!


Just in Time for Christmas: Italian Sprinkle Cookies

Delicious and Colorful Taralli Cookies

Delicious and Colorful Taralli Cookies

This year, when we first put the tree up, half of the lights did not work. After hours of careful inspection, we managed to change most of the burnt-out bulbs. And I mean the royal “we” here as my husband did most of the work and has no fingernails left to prove it. The tree looks much better and the kids and I are happy to decorate it now – it’s no fun decorating a “dark” tree.

Along with tree lights, another thing that really makes it feel like Christmas for us are Grandma Rita’s Taralli cookies. The best part for the kids is decorating them with the colorful sprinkles. They wait patiently as I dip each one in the glaze and place it on the cookie rack. Then they take turns letting the tiny, ball-like sprinkles bounce all over the cookies (and the table, and the floor). Clean-up is even fun as we all use our fingers to taste the sweet glaze that has dripped from the cookies onto the table. The vacuum has to come out too, but no one seems to mind cleaning-up when we have such a tasty finished product.

I hope you all have a warm and wonderful holiday season. Enjoy this recipe on the “Recipe Rescue” page – Merry Christmas! Note: this recipe has been removed to make room for another delicious recipe.


Masking Tape and a Sharpie – Best Kitchen Tools Ever!

Masking Tape and a Sharpie are Important  Kitchen Tools

Masking Tape and a Sharpie are Important Kitchen Tools

When the masking tape in my kitchen junk drawer starts to get low, I get anxious.  I use it everyday, along with a Sharpie, to label foods before I store them in my fridge or freezer.  It’s important, because I can never remember how old anything is in there unless it has a label on it.  It’s also useful to note when I have opened foods like cream cheese or hummus, because they have a limited shelf life once opened.  I may have been given the nickname “Charlene the food safety queen” by some of my friends that know me well.  Better to have a goofy nickname than to have an upset stomach, or worse.

What do you do to keep track of the food that you prepare/open and store?  Let us know by clicking on the title of this post and then scroll down to the bottom to leave a comment.


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