Seasonal changes and your mood
Seasonal changes have a distinct effect on your moods, your physical activity and what you eat. If you live in more northern latitudes, which includes most of the US, you probably experience some sort of changes in your body with the changes of the seasons.
Most people don't pay attention to these changes or understand that they are happening. For example, do you feel tired or just want to stay home and "nest" in the winter? Do you dream of sitting on the beach just to soak up the sun's rays? Do you crave warm foods such as casseroles, stews or soups; or even sweets or chocolates during the winter months?
Fighting depression in the winter is extremely common, even for people who would never classify themselves as depressed. Our body clocks are geared with the rise and fall of the sun and the position of the sun in the sky. If you live anywhere above 35 degrees north latitude you most likely aren't getting enough sun or vitamin D in the winter. This has a measured effect on one's mood and overall health.
Many people turn to pharmaceuticals and specifically anti-depressants to fix the problem. The anti-depressants don't always work, and can have extreme side effects. Foods affect your mood, some positively, some negatively. Some foods that should be included in the winter months are the seasonal foods which are most prevalent.
- Dark Leafy Vegetables - pack with nutrients including Folic Acid, and B vitamins. They are known to help eliminate depression.
- Winter squash - high in carotenes, as well as a good source of Vitamin C, B1, folic acid, potassium and dietary fiber.
- Cold water fish or fish oil - contains Omega-3 fatty acids. Essential fatty acids (EFA) are called essential for a reason; our body doesn't produce them so we must get them from food sources.
- Whole grains - High in B Vitamins which positively affect mood and are digested slower than refined grains.
Some things to avoid:
Pharmaceutical drugs - Many classes of pharmaceutical drugs cause depression, including anti-depressants.
Sugars and simple carbohydrates - When craving sugar, first drink water; your body may be signaling that it is thirsty. Substitute dark chocolate for whatever sugary foods you crave, not the whole chocolate bar, just a few bites. Simple carbohydrates raise blood sugar levels so the body is ready to expel a good quantity of energy. When not used, the body crashes and often leaves us feeling low and depressed. Substitute whole grains for refined grains; the closer the grain is to its original form when plucked from nature the better it is for you. Refined grains have had the nutrition stripped away.
Soft drinks (including "diet" soft drinks, juice-waters and fortified waters) - Drink real water. We don't need to improve on the perfect fluid nature gave us for our bodies. All of these have some from of sugar or chemical based sugar substitute; all of which can lead to long term disease. Instead of juice drinks; eat the real fruit. The fiber in fruit helps to slowly metabolize the natural sugars in the fruit.
Our bodies crave water and when the months are colder sometimes we forget or feel we don't need to consume water regularly. Experiment a little; write down what you crave and the mood attached to that craving and see how that changes with the seasons. You may be surprised at what you've recorded and that can be a basis for changing what you eat/drink to satisfy those cravings. Good luck!
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Recipe of the Month: Thai-spiced Winter Squash Soup
Yield: 4-6 servings
- 2 lbs. (1 kg) Winter squash - acorn, butternut, hubbard, turban, small pumpkins
- 3 tablespoons butter or olive oil
- 1 14-ounce can coconut milk
- 1 teaspoon (or more) red Thai curry paste water
- 2 teaspoons fine grain sea salt (or to taste)
- Water or vegetable stock to thin soup to desired consistency
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and place the oven racks in the middle.
Carefully cut each squash/pumpkin into quarters. Scoop out seeds and fibrous material. Brush each piece of squash with butter or olive oil, sprinkle with salt, place skin sides down on a baking sheet, and put in the oven. Roast for an hour or until the squash is tender throughout.
When the squash are cool enough to handle, scoop it into a large pot over medium heat. Add the coconut milk and curry paste and bring to a simmer. Remove from the heat and puree with a hand blender, you should have a very thick base at this point. Now add water or vegetable stock one cup at a time pureeing between additions until the soup is desired consistency. Bring to a simmer again and add the salt and more curry paste if needed.
Note: Regarding the curry paste; add a little at a time then taste. Curry pastes have differing strengths. Start with a teaspoon and add from there until the soup has a level of spiciness and flavor that works for you.
"You must take personal responsibility. You cannot change the circumstances, the seasons, or the wind, but you can change yourself. That is something you have charge of." - Jim Rohn
Food Focus: Coconut Milk
Coconut milk can be bought ready-made or made from scratch. It is used as a staple in many tropical climates, where, according to local people, it is similar to mother's milk and is considered a complete protein.
Coconut products are especially beneficial to thyroid patients. Edward Bauman, Ph.D. is founder and director of the Institute for Educational Therapy in Cotati, California. In a recent interview with Dr. Bauman, Mary Shomon writes: "Dr. Bauman believes that coconut is a particularly important food for thyroid patient. Coconut contains monolauric acid, which has strong antiviral property and is soothing fuel for the glandular system. Dr. Bauman suggests thyroid patients incorporate natural coconut into the diet, or buy unsweetened desiccated coconut, or unsweetened coconut milk (such as used in Thai cooking)."
She further writes that noted author and alternative medicine expert, Dr. Ray Peat, has stated: "Coconut oil has several thyroid-promoting effects. It contains butyric acid which helps thyroid hormone move into the brain [liothyronine (T3 ) uptake into glial cells]. It opposes anti-thyroid unsaturated oils. It contains short and medium chain fatty acids which help modulate blood sugar, is anti-allergic, and protects mitochondria against stress injuries."
The 3-Season Diet by John Douillard
The Metabolic Detective: A Look at Nutrition for Your Thyroid - Interview with Dr. Edward Bauman
Food Focus: Winter Squash
As members of the Curcurbitaceae family, winter squash come in a multitude of sizes and colors. With hard shells, some have a shelf life of up to 6 months under proper storage conditions.
Some of the more common varieties are:
- Acorn squash - distinct ribs run the length of its hard, blackish-green or golden-yellow skin, pale orange flesh that is sweet and slightly fibrous.
- Butternut squash - beige color, shaped like a large bell or pear, deep orange flesh similar in flavor to sweet potato, sweet and slightly nutty flavor.
- Delicata squash - also called peanut squash, creamy pulp that tastes a bit like corn and sweet potatoes.
- Hubbard squash - extra-hard skins make them one of the best keeping winter squashes. Very large with blue-grey skin and dense flesh.
- Kabocha squash - Kabocha is the generic Japanese word for squash, but refers most commonly to a squash of the buttercup type. This squash has a green, bluish-gray or a deep orange skin. The flesh is deep yellow.
- Pumpkins - the smaller sugar variety are used for cooking, sweet orange flesh.
- Spaghetti squash - A small, watermelon-shaped variety, golden-yellow oval rind. When cooked, the flesh separates in strands that resemble spaghetti pasta, mild nut-like flavor.
- Turban squash - Named for its shape. Colors vary from bright orange, to green or white. It has golden-yellow flesh and its taste is reminiscent to hazelnut. Has a bulblike cap swelling from its blossom end.
Winter squash are a rich source of carotenes as well as an excellent source of vitamins C, folic acid and B1, potassium and dietary fiber. When selecting winter squash, look for ones that feel heavy for their size and have dull hard rinds. Due to their hard nature, winter squash are best baked.
The Encyclopedia of Healing Foods, Michael Murray N.D.
Recipe: Coconut Milk
Coconut milk is not the liquid inside the coconut. It is the liquid that is extracted from the flesh of the coconut. It can be made at home from fresh, dry or creamed coconut. In this recipe, we will use half a fresh coconut.
- Grate the flesh of half a fresh coconut into a bowl.
- Cover it with 10 ounces of boiling water and let it cool.
- Extract as much liquid as possible by using a sieve (or by squeezing it).
- Repeat the process as desired. Please note that each time the liquid being extracted will bet thinner.
Coconut milk will separate if allowed to stand. If it does, simply stir it. Use it quickly because it does not keep well.
Note: the same process can be followed when using desiccated coconut.
Nutrition Facts: Coconut Milk
- Green Coconut - Summer
- Ripe Coconut - Winter
Coconut milk contains very little sodium, yet it is packed with the following minerals: