by Jolie Root, LPN, LNC
As the days get shorter and the nights get longer, sometimes we find ourselves feeling out of sorts or a little "blue." I've heard it described as the long, dark night of the soul. It isn't just outlook that may be affected. We may even find a change in our energy level or sleeping pattern.
If you can relate, you're not alone. Millions of us struggle during the darker months. This mood and energy change has an organic explanation, and there are foods, supplements, and habits that can bring you back to the light.
Winter blues are caused by lack of adequate exposure to sunlight. It might be dark when you leave for work or school and dark again when you head home. The good news is, we northern hemisphere dwellers are nearing the winter solstice. And once we get passed it, each day will be a little longer heading toward spring.
In the meantime, you can invest in a full spectrum light for your desk to make up for the lack of sunlight in winter. Our pineal gland, located deep in our brain, needs light to stimulate melatonin production, which controls our circadian rhythm. This allows us to get the sleep we need, so we can feel more energized during the day. Melatonin supports better levels of serotonin - the good hormone our brain needs for mood health. I take a Carlson Melatonin gummy at bedtime to give my brain a boost and to drift off to sleep (no matter how busy my mind is).
Getting outdoors midday can help too. A brisk walk at lunch time can help boost your metabolism, and physical activity also has a positive effect on our mood. Aside from exercise, if the sun's out you can get some extra vitamin D3. Vitamin D3 itself is a mood boosting supplement. For some, taking a dose of 4,000 to 6,000 IU of vitamin D3 daily during the winter months is more effective for our mood than sitting in bright light.
Certain foods can help too, especially protein at each meal. The building blocks of protein are important for all of the hormones in our brain that support a brighter mood and a sense of peace. Tryptophan, famously abundant in turkey, is a building block of serotonin. We can get it through certain foods or a supplement like 5HTP. 5HTP is a highly bioavailable form of tryptophan. And here's a secret: vitamin D3 and the omega-3s EPA and DHA help the brain turn tryptophan into serotonin.
Another one of my favorite mood supplements is Carlson Mellow Mood. The name says it all. Mellow Mood has nutrient cofactors for balanced brain chemistry. (You can even use Mellow Mood together with 5HTP.) GABA, a Mellow Mood component, is a brain hormone, or neurotransmitter, that bestows a sense of calm. Carlson Pharma GABA is a fast-acting supplement that promotes calmness.
Another great food is salmon (or tuna or mackerel) because of their high omega-3 content. The omega-3s are food for the brain. EPA, the most important omega-3 for mood is abundant in cold-water fish and fish oil supplements. DHA is especially important for expecting moms. If you opt for omega-3s in supplement form, be sure it has been tested for potency and purity. Look for an IFOS logo on the label, and be sure they are tested and free from harmful levels of heavy metals or other toxic elements. IFOS is the gold standard for fish oil testing.
Don’t fall prey to the winter blues. Use these tips to stay merry and bright all winter long.
by Jolie Root, LPN, LNC
I noticed an article in the December AARP Magazine. While I usually enjoy the advice the magazine shares with its millions of readers, I find I must comment on one message in their article on memory. Here is the advice:
“There’s no evidence yet that downing supplements helps your memory over the long term, especially when it comes to two popular ones: vitamin E and omega-3s (in fish oil). A review paper published in April concluded that vitamin E neither prevents Alzheimer’s nor improves the minds of people who have it. It’s worth checking with your doctor to be sure you’re getting the nutrients you need for overall health. But if your body’s stocked up on everything, your brain probably doesn’t need extra vitamins.”
I would really hate to think that older people stopped taking either their omega-3s or their vitamin E after reading this article. Even if vitamin E doesn’t prevent Alzheimer’s disease, it does make important contributions to our health. Specifically, vitamin E supports nerve health; plays a role in healthy cell signaling, which is needed for cognitive function; and supports healthy blood vessels, promoting healthy circulation. To point out the obvious, our brain needs the rich supply of oxygen and nutrients delivered by our blood for optimal function.
As for the omega-3s in fish oil, there simply is no debate that the most beneficial omega-3s EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and especially DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) support optimal brain function. The brain is largely comprised of fat, and one of the fats in greatest supply in the membranes of our brain cells is DHA. DHA supports robust cell signaling in the neurons and across the synapses and this signaling is critically important for cognitive health. A 2015 review considered studies that examined cognitive health, and some studies did not find benefits; however, when the study participants took 750 mg of DHA or more, the studies consistently found benefits.
And there are plenty of studies to examine. In December of 2015 the number of published studies on the omega-3s EPA and DHA crossed a threshold of 30,000, with 80% of them finding benefit. No supplement food or drug even comes close to having that body of evidence supporting its use.
Make no mistake your brain needs omega-3s to support its function, at any age, but especially as you get older.
by Karen Roth, MSNC
The holidays are upon us, and there’s a good chance we’ll be attending a holiday party, or even throwing one ourselves. Let’s face it – we’re busy, which often results in pre-made appetizers off the store shelf. You know the old standbys... the colorful vegetable platter or chips and guacamole. This year, surprise your friends, family, or coworkers with some creative, delicious – and best of all easy to prepare – 10-minute party dishes.
4 medium cooked beets (in produce section)
½ cup of tahini
¼ cup of lemon juice
½ tsp. of grated garlic
½ cup of Olive Your Heart® Lemon Flavor
Salt and Pepper to taste
Place beets, tahini, lemon juice, and garlic in a food processor, and pulse for 1 minute. While pulsing slowly, add the olive oil until very smooth (approximately 2 minutes). Add salt and pepper to taste. Transfer the hummus to a bowl, and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Serve with pita crackers.
STEAMED BRUSSELS SPROUTS
1 lb. of Brussels sprouts sliced in half
½ of a red onion, sliced
1 medium garlic clove
2 tsp. of lemon juice
3 tbsp. of Olive Your Heart® Basil Flavor
Salt and pepper to taste
Fill the bottom of the steamer with 2 inches water, insert basket, lay the sliced onions first, add the sliced Brussels sprouts, and cover. Steam for 5 minutes. Transfer the onions and Brussels sprouts to a bowl, and immediately toss with lemon juice, Olive Your Heart® Basil Flavor, garlic, and salt and pepper to taste. This dish may be served warm or cold.
SPINACH CAPRESE SALAD
1 bag of spinach
1 container of cherry tomatoes, sliced
1 large ball of mozzarella, sliced into bite-size pieces
2 tbsp. of Olive Your Heart® Basil Flavor
2 tbsp. of balsamic vinegar
Combine the first three ingredients in a large bowl, and toss. Pour Olive Your Heart® Basil Flavor and balsamic vinegar over, and toss well. Add salt and pepper to taste. You may want to double this recipe if you have a larger crowd in attendance.
GARLIC DIPPING OIL
1 garlic clove, peeled and grated
½ cup of Olive Your Heart® Garlic Flavor
1 tsp. of dried oregano
1 tsp. of dried basil
¼ tsp. of of sea salt
¼ tsp. of fresh ground pepper
Combine all ingredients in a bowl, and stir to mix. Serve with sliced crusty bread.
These recipes are also great to have on hand during food emergencies. When your turkey or ham is taking longer than expected, when the sautéed greens just won’t cook down, or when you forgot to put the dinner rolls in the oven… you now have quick, healthy recipes to save the day.
by Laurel Sterling, MA, RD, CDN
Planes, trains, and automobiles – oh my! Whether you’re traveling for work or vacation, you’ll likely agree that while traveling is fun, it can be incredibly stressful. Travel throws off our schedule, eating habits, and sleeping patterns, which can wreak havoc on our immune system. Here are some tips to help keep you healthy whether you’re pounding the pavement, traveling the roadways, or flying the blue skies.
Eat as healthy as possible. Not eating well can lead to digestive distress, which is no fun while traveling. As a general rule, try to maintain your typical diet, and focus on eating healthy proteins, vegetables, fats, fruits, and vitamin C-rich foods.
Maintain your exercise regime. Many hotels have fitness centers available at no additional charge. Exercise can decrease stress, improve immune function, and raise serotonin levels. As we get older, it becomes increasingly important to get up, move around, and stretch, since our tendons and ligaments tend to shorten and become less pliable.
Get enough sleep. Sleep helps keep our immune system healthy and is the time when our body can rest, detoxify, and repair itself.
Keep stress levels in check. One of best things you can do is deep breathing techniques, which help with relaxation and calming. Deep breathing can be done while driving, waiting in line at a store, or walking in between appointments. Breathing at a pace of 4-7-8 is a relaxation program Dr. Andrew Weil created. Inhale for 4 seconds, hold your breath for 7 seconds, and exhale for 8 seconds. This can be done two to three times in a row, two to three times per day.
Remember to relax as much as possible and to stick to your daily supplement routine. A multivitamin and mineral formula, omega-3, and probiotic are important. Vitamins A, D, C and zinc will also support immune health while traveling. Although your stress level may be elevated and you may feel a bit “off,” try to maintain consistency with food, sleep, and exercise, so you can feel your best while enjoying your travels.
The Daily Dose blog features health and wellness articles from Senior Nutritionist & Educator Jolie Root, LPN,LNC; Nutritionist & Educator Laurel Sterling, MA, RDN, CDN; and Featured Guest Blogger Karen Roth, MSNC. Other guest bloggers will also join us.
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