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Posts Tagged ‘Nutrition’

I wrote about a healthy breakfast that I like a few weeks ago. Whether you believe low-carb, Mediterranean, paleo, whatever is the “best” way of eating, one thing is certain: whole organic real food is what matters the most. No added this or that; no chemicals. Here’s a dinner I like. Baked Sockeye Salmon with pepper and ginger, pappardelle pasta with nutritional yeast, mixed veggies with turmeric sauerkraut. So yummy!

2018-07-30 18.28.58

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A version of this post first appeared here at Attorney at Work.

light nature sky sunset

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

In life, especially in some careers and homes, so much of what we must handle can be conflict-ridden, time-sensitive and serious. Add to that our political environment of hatred and our regular news cycle of death and destruction. Is it any wonder that so many of us suffer from depression and anxiety?

One way to combat anxiety and feelings of depression is to increase the levels of serotonin in the brain. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter, a kind of chemical messenger that helps the brain function. More specifically, serotonin is a “feel good” neurotransmitter and a mood stabilizer that boosts feelings of wellness and balance. When serotonin levels are optimal, you are able to think more clearly, act rather than react, and address stressful situations with calm and clarity. If you have low serotonin levels, you may suffer from anxiety, sleeplessness, depression, agitation or lack of focus.

There’s medication called SSRIs that increase levels of serotonin in the bram, and many of us take it. I took an SSRI for four years. Now that my circumstances are very different than when I started that medication, I wanted to try life without it. Note that I was always functioning and never had thoughts of harming myself, so this was a reasonable pursuit for me. If you are taking SSRIs or any other medication for anxiety or depression, do not stop your medication without discussing it with your doctor. Medication can be necessary for some people and some circumstances. 

I stopped by SSRI about a two months ago. The journey has not been easy. Fortunately, there are ways to naturally increase the serotonin levels in the brain to reduce the negative effects of low serotonin levels. By focusing on these, my life without an SSRI is working. Here are five ways to naturally increase serotonin levels.

1. A Healthy Diet

A healthy, balanced diet is important for optimal serotonin levels. In particular, fish, eggs, nuts and seeds, pineapples and complex carbohydrates (like fresh fruits and vegetables and whole grains) increase serotonin levels. It is also important to limit added sugars because sugar disrupts normal chemical reactions in the brain, which can inhibit serotonin processing and production. Supplement your healthy diet with B vitamins, fish oil, holy basil, rodiola and L-tyrosine, all of which help the brain produce more serotonin.

2. Exercise and Body Work

Exercise is medicine — not just for your body, but for your brain. The most effective way to increase serotonin levels is with exercise. There are no side effects, and it always works. As little as 30 minutes of brisk walking three times each week will help.

In addition, body work methods including massage, acupuncture, acupressure and reflexology relieve stress and boost serotonin levels.

3. Grabbing Sunlight

Many people suffer from seasonal affective disorder (SAD) in the winter months when there is much less sunlight. This is because the brain has less serotonin when there is less sunlight. Spend at least 15 minutes each day in the sun. Go for a walk before work or after lunch, or sit by a sunny window on the commuter train. You can also purchase a light box for your office or home.

4. Using Your Mind

Thinking about past happy experiences, or looking at photos of those experiences, can boost serotonin levels. The same is true for keeping a gratitude journal and daydreaming about happy times. Spending time with loved ones and doing talk therapy with a trusted therapist are also great ways to get out of your own head and allow serotonin in. And a regular meditation practice (as little as five minutes a day) gives the brain space to relax and produce serotonin.

5. Taking Two for Well-Being

Ideally, you’ll work the above tips into your daily and weekly life to increase and sustain your serotonin levels. But as a gift to yourself, try to take one day each month for a mental health day. As my friend Vanessa Price advised in “A Matter of Time,” take two days if you can. Use the first day to catch up on stuff. Don’t let your colleagues or clients

know you are working so that you have time to handle existing tasks without new tasks being added. Then use the second day as a true day off to boost your serotonin levels by finding some peace and mental clarity.

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Calling a food “healthy” is loaded. Everyone has a different opinion about what is healthy. Low carb. Low fat. Vegetarian. Standard American. Mediterranean. But one thing is true, no matter the source: whole, real food.

An example is breakfast this morning.

1. Three farm fresh eggs from humanely raised chickens from my friend’s local farm. (The chickens live in what she calls “the chicken mansion” and they eat the best fruit!)

2. Cooked in extra virgin olive oil.

3. Sprinkled with turmeric, which is savory and reduces inflammation (which is the root cause of many diseases and problems).

4. Sungold tomatoes, organically grown in my back yard.

5. Plus 2 leaves of basil and some pinches of sorel, both grown on my deck in pots.

Delicious. Nutritious. Simple. Enjoy!

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I am teaching a class at New Milford Adult Education in March. Come join me!
TEN PRINCIPLES OF A HEALTHY DIET
Resolve to be healthy in the New Year! Good nutrition is vital to a healthy life. With so much conflicting information, it is easy to feel overwhelmed. Taught by a Certified Health Coach, this program simplifies eating healthfully. It is ideal for anyone who is tired of dieting and wants to establish a new and healthier relationship with food. Keep your New Year’s resolutions by learning how to feel better, have more energy, and even save money by getting and staying healthy in 2013.
5 Mondays: 3/4, 3/11, 3/18, 3/25, 4/1 7:00 – 8:30 p.m. (4/1 class 7:00 – 8:00 p.m.) $90
Find more info and register here.

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I thought this article was helpful and contained some great tips on nutrition to help ward off cold & flu this season. It’s at Scholastic magazine and lists superfoods, including (my favorite) sweet potato, salmon, broccoli, milk, oatmeal, and more.

sweet potato

Photo by Mark Lund at http://www.Scholastic.com

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I really like the Eating Well blogs; I always find helpful information there and I almost always agree with the advice. Today is no exception. Brierley Wright has a great article on chronic inflammation, what it is and how to avoid it. All the tips are simple changes to your diet and guidance for an exercise regime. Her ten ways to beat inflammation are:

  1. Increase Omega-3 fatty acids and reduce Omega-6 (i.e. add salmon and olive oil to your diet)
  2. Practice yoga.
  3. Consume soy.
  4. Get a massage.
  5. Limit trans-fats and saturated fats.
  6. Eat green leafy vegetables.
  7. Keep stress at bay.
  8. Sleep at least 6 hours each night.
  9. Exercise often.
  10. Drink green tea.

Read the entire post here.

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Two weeks ago I posted on how to determine the right kind of food for you. I hope that you were able to keep your food diary and experiment and that you learned about what kinds of foods work best for you. Whether you learned that you need lots of protein or a lesser amount, here’s helpful information about why protein is important, how much to eat, and from which sources to get it.

Photo of food groupsWhy Protein is Important

Protein is made up of amino acids, which are the basic building blocks of the human body.  These “building blocks” repair the body and largely control how you feel – both mentally and physically – on a daily basis.

For example, protein increases focus and energy by causing the body to produce dopamine and norepinephrine, two substances that make you feel more alert and full of energy.

Protein also causes the release of the hormone glucagon to regulate glucose (blood sugar) levels for proper brain function, which also regulates hunger and energy levels.

And because protein is more difficult to digest than carbohydrates and fats, its lasts longer in the body, suppressing hunger and satiating the appetite so you feel full after you eat and maintain that feeling for longer.

Understanding the importance of protein helps us to begin to understand how consuming inappropriate amounts of protein might lead to symptoms and problems that negatively affect us on a daily basis.

Symptoms and Problems Associated with Inappropriate Levels of Protein

The most common problems associated with a diet that is too low in protein are low energy, cravings for sweets and fats, constant hunger, and even emotional instability and depression.

Fatigue and emotional instability can be caused by inadequate consumption of protein because the muscles weaken and the immune system functions less effectively.  This weakened state causes the body to work harder to perform basic bodily functions.  This inefficiency leads to always being tired, feeling out of balance and unstable, and getting sick more easily.  This state of low energy and general unhealthiness can lead to depression.

Cravings are another tell-tale sign of inadequate protein in the diet.  For example, cravings for sweets plus fats can mean too little protein.  Similarly, feeling hungry less than 2 hours after a meal is also a symptom of eating too little protein.  Without adequate protein, your body is unable to maintain blood sugar levels, causing you to feel hungry no matter how much you eat.

It is clear that eating too little protein can cause serious problems, but too much of a good thing is not any better.  To the contrary, eating too much protein can cause constipation and sugar cravings (as opposed to sugar plus fat cravings).

Consumption of too much meat, a primary source of protein, can cause sugar cravings because meat is high in protein and fats but has no carbohydrates.  Sugar is the exact opposite: it is only carbohydrates.  The craving for sugar is the body’s attempt to balance.  But consuming lots of animal protein and sugar, neither of which contains water, can lead to constipation.

It should be clear to us now that eating the correct amount of protein is critical to our everyday health and success.  But how do we know what is the proper amount of protein?

The Proper Amount of Protein on a Daily Basis

There appears to be disagreement in the health community regarding what is the proper amount of protein on a daily basis.

The USDA recommends only 50 grams of protein per day.  Dr. Barry Sears, author of A Week in the Zone and the popular Zone Diet, disagrees and instead recommends a minimum of 75 grams per day for women and 100 grams per day for men, which should be part of a diet with a proportion of carbohydrates to fat to protein of 40%-30%-30%, respectively.  Yet, the accepted nutritional standard ratio of carbohydrates to fats to protein is 65%-15%-20%, respectively.

It would be easy to throw our hands up in frustration at this point, stating, “well, I might as well eat whatever I want since everyone disagrees as to what is a healthy diet.”  But if we look closely, we see that there is common ground: the correct daily amount of protein lies somewhere between 50-100 grams and 15-30% of our daily calories.

A range such as this is exactly as it should be.  As Dr. Frank Lipman states in his book Total Renewal, everyone has a distinct genetic make-up called “biochemical individuality,” which means variations in our metabolism and biochemistry differentiate us.  Because each person is different, no one diet or amount of protein is right for everyone.

In order to determine the proper amount of protein for your “biochemical individuality,” experiment with protein by increasing and decreasing the amount you consume for a week or two.  Pay attention to the impact on your body, energy, mental state, hunger, and sustainability.  Observe how your body responds to the food you eat and how you feel after you eat certain amounts of protein.  Again, keep your food diary, making sure to track your protein even if you aren’t recording the other foods that you eat.

The Proper Portion of Protein per Meal is Approximately the Same for Everyone

While the proper amount of protein on a daily basis may vary widely, the “per portion” amount is approximately the same for everyone: 4 ounces of meat/6 ounces of fish for men, and 3 ounces of meat/4.5 ounces of fish for women, per meal.  The body cannot utilize more protein than this at one time, unless you are very active (e.g. a serious athlete).

The easiest tool for determining the proper portion size is with you at all times: your hand.  Dr. Barry Sears recommends eating a piece of lean animal protein no bigger and no thicker than the palm of your hand to constitute the proper portion size of protein.

Sources of Protein

Now that you know how much protein you should eat at each meal, let’s discuss the great variety of protein sources and the approximate number of grams of protein in each of those sources so you can begin experimenting and ultimately determine the daily amount of protein right for you.

There are two sources of protein: animals and plants, and each has its benefits and disadvantages.

Animal-Sourced Protein

In The Zone Diet, Dr. Barry Sears advocates lean protein in the form of skinless chicken, turkey, lean cuts of beef, fish, eggs and egg whites, and low-fat dairy (unless you have a diary intolerance).  Joshua Rosenthal of the Institute for Integrative Nutrition and author of Integrative Nutrition, adds that all such sources should be organic and recommends that you “vary your protein routine.”  So, if you are going to consume animal protein, branch out and try duck, pheasant, buffalo, and lamb.

While animal-sourced food is high in protein, it has its disadvantages.  For example, meat is often full of saturated fat which can increase cholesterol, cause heart disease, obesity, and high blood pressure.  Because animal protein has no fiber or water in it, it is difficult to digest and spends a long time in the digestive system, which can lead to cancers of the intestines and colon.  Meat can also be problematic because, unless it is organic, it likely contains hormones and antibiotics, which are toxic to the human body.

Plant-Sourced Protein

Many people completely forget that plants are a source of protein.  Beans and nuts are legitimate sources of protein.  Soybeans and soy products also provide a hearty source of protein.  Even whole grains and vegetables contain some protein.

All legumes are very high in protein on the plant-food scale.  Legumes include all beans and peanuts.  (Peanuts are not nuts; they are legumes.)  While beans are a great source of protein, many people have a hard time digesting them.  You can help remedy this problem by soaking the dry uncooked beans overnight in water, draining them, and cooking them longer than the recommended cooking time.  This process starts breaking down the beans.  When you eat beans, be sure to chew very well, another process in the break down that is digestion.

Of all legumes, the soybean is the highest in protein and is sometimes referred to as the “vegetable cow” because its proportion of amino acids is close to that of animal products and is thus considered to be a “complete protein” like meat.  Unfortunately, soy is the second most common food allergen behind wheat, and can be difficult to digest, except for edamame.  (Edamame is the young whole soybean and is relatively easy for the body to digest and assimilate.)  Try soy for yourself and see if it is a good choice for your body.

Because the protein found in plants is less “useable” by the body, it is beneficial to consume “complementary proteins.”  AnneMarie Colbin explains in her book Food and Healing that complementary proteins provide a higher amount of useable protein than merely eating the two sources of protein separately.  For example, wheat with 30 grams of protein and beans with 70 grams of protein, when combined, makes 133 grams of useable protein, not the 100 grams if eaten separately.  Common examples of complementary proteins are rice-and-beans, lentil-and-barley, cous-cous-and-chick-peas, and fava-beans-and-millet.  The traditional proportion is one part beans to two parts grain.  These are great sources of protein if you are vegetarian or are trying to cut back on your consumption of animal protein.

Nuts are also a good plant-source of protein.  Nuts, including walnuts, almonds, cashews, and pistachios, contain good fats in addition to protein, but because they are rather high in fat, they are also high in calories, so you may want to limit your consumption of nuts if you are watching your weight.

Another easy source of protein is isolated protein powder.  It is primarily available as soy and whey.  Either is good (unless you have an allergy to milk products; if so, you should avoid whey).  They both have a long shelf life and can be added to many foods that would not otherwise contain much protein.  For example, shakes and smoothies, soups, oatmeal, stew, flour to make pancakes, muffins and cookies, and cake mixes.

Protein Calculator

In order to calculate how much protein you are eating each day, follow this guideline:

– 4 oz. meat or 6 oz. fish (again, use the palm of your hand to determine this portion size) = approximately 30 g protein

– 3 oz. meat or 4.5 oz. fish = approximately 20 g protein

– 3.5 oz. hard cheese = 21-26 g protein

– 3.5 oz. cooked red beans = 7-8 g protein

– 3.5 oz. milk = 3.5 g protein

– 3.5 oz. cooked brown rice = 2.5 g protein

So start experimenting with your protein.  Vary the amount of protein.  Vary the kind of protein.  Analyze your diet, and make changes if needed.  It just might change your life!

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Resources:

Atkins, Robert C., M.D., Dr. Atkins’ New Diet Revolution: The Amazing No Hunger Weight-Loss Plan That Has Helped Millions Lose Weight and Keep It Off; Avon Books, 1992.

Colbin, AnneMarie, Food and Healing: How what you eat determines your health, your well-being, and the quality of your life, Ballantine Books, 1986.

Lipman, Frank, M.D., Total Renewal: 7 Steps to Resilience, Vitality, & Long-Term Health; Penguin, 2003.

Rosenthal, Joshua, Integrative Nutrition: Feed Your Hunger for Health & Happiness; Integrative Nutrition Publishing, 2008.

Sears, Barry, Ph. D., A Week in the Zone; Harper Torch, 2000.

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