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Posts Tagged ‘stress’

Moroccan Carrot & Garbanzo Bean Salad

In Nutrition, Recipe on May 7, 2015 at 10:03 pm

“Life is a long preparation for something that never happens.” ~William Butler Yeats

peeled carrots

Carrots ready for the mandolin

Scientific inquiry has finally figured out why we consume sugar in response to stress. Apparently sugar reduces levels of cortisol, the stress hormone. For the general public, this big reveal was kind of a “so what?” or “duh!” moment. Any super stressed-out human being has known that they feel soothed after eating sugar. However, scientists and nutritionists are excited because perhaps understanding metabolic pathways sensitive to sugar will lead to answers for treating stress-related conditions.

moroccan salad

Carrots, mint, dried fruit.

It seems the human condition is forever chasing the solution to reducing stress levels because, well, stress will kill you (recommended reading: Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers). And, unfortunately, so will our most easily abused response to stress, sugar. When you are listening to Pink Floyd on a gloomy May Gray day (as I will admit to now), the inclination is to reach for something comforting. I recommend backing away from the dessert items (even if it is Chia Pudding) and embracing soothing sugars in the form of complex carbohydrates and fiber such as a salad of beans, root veggies, and dried fruit.

Yes, I am being serious. This approach is just as effective without the dreaded sugar hangover along with guilt. Luckily, this comfort food salad gets better with time so make a batch, store in the fridge and break it out for emergencies. All the sweet carbs – garbanzo beans, dried apricots & plums, and carrots – break down getting all mushy and marinated in the cumin, oil, lemon juice, and honey – yum!

Serve tossed with arugula and chopped almonds as a salad or layer it on a romaine leaf (a ala Salmonberry Spread) with avocado and more cayenne. Drink hot mint tea while consuming. Perfection. Here it is…

Dressing: 1 TBSP cumin seeds

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

2 TBSP fresh lemon juice

1 tablespoon honey

1/2 tsp sea salt

1/8 tsp cayenne pepper

cumin and oil

Toasted and ground cumin seeds with olive oil.

Salad: 2 cups carrots, sliced whisper thin on a mandolin (shredded works too)

2 cups cooked garbanzo beans (or one 15- ounce can, drained and rinsed)

1/3 cup dried plums, chopped

1/3 cup dried apricots, chopped

1/3 cup fresh mint, torn or chopped

To make the dressing, first toast the cumin seeds in a dry skillet until fragrant and lightly browned, a minute or two. Let cool, and grind to a powder with a mortar and pestle. Yes, this is more work but totally worth it.

In a bowl or jar, whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice, honey, ground cumin, salt, and cayenne pepper. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, combine the carrots, garbanzo beans, dried fruit, mint. Gently toss with dressing until everything is evenly coated and refrigerate. Store for up to 3 days in the fridge.

moroccan carrot salad

Serve on a romaine leaf topped with avocado and cayenne.

Happy Gut, Happy You

In Mindfulness, Nutrition on July 11, 2013 at 12:27 am
gooey chocolate cookie

Gooey, chocolatey, sugar bomb.

Gloomy weather, stressful relationships, lack of sleep, can all affect our sense of well-being and kick sugar cravings into high gear. Mindlessly giving in on just a few occasions only intensifies our cravings and the vicious cycle begins. Why do we turn to sugar when we are feeling anxious and stressed? Perhaps conditioning – for some, sweets are associated with reward or comfort. Or perhaps it’s physiology – adequate amounts of carbohydrates allow for increased seratonin production, aka the “feel-good hormone”.

What does this have to do with your gut? Well, it turns out the GI tract produces 95% of our body’s seratonin! Taking care of our gut allows GI cells to produce all the seratonin we need. In turn, we will be less likely to turn to sugar when we’re sad, lonely, anxious, and stressed.chocolate bars

In a another post, I discussed beneficial foods for our gut – fiber and fermented foods. The question begs: “Are there foods that are harmful to gut health?” Yup, and I’m sure you’ve guessed it…Sugar! Sugar provides fuel for certain gut bacteria to proliferate far beyond what is healthy leading to a bacterial imbalance. So, even if we consume adequate fiber, we won’t have enough beneficial bacteria to fuel our GI cells. They’ve been outcompeted by other, less-helpful bacteria due to sugar-induced overgrowth.

What are the consequences of GI cells not getting the fuel they need? At the very least, you will have gas and bloating or, worse, suffer from anxiety and depression.

packaged veggies

Pre-washed and chopped veggies. High in fiber. The fuel our GI cells need.

Our gut is often referred to as the “second brain” because it has its own complex nervous system and is highly influenced by our thoughts and psychological stress. Most of us know this on an intuitive (and experiential) level and certainly Traditional Chinese Medicine and other healing traditions have recognized this for generations. Finally, western medicine has acknowledged the huge role our gut plays in our immune, endocrine, and nervous systems. Recent research has shown that tweaking the balance between beneficial and disease-causing bacteria in an animal’s gut alters brain chemistry leading it to become more bold or more anxious. Alternately, even mild stress can tip the microbial balance in the gut, making us more vulnerable to infectious disease.

What is sugar? It is a carbohydrate of which there are 2 general categories: indigestible (fiber) and digestible (everything else). Your body does not absorb fiber but your colon uses it for many healthy functions (as discussed here). Digestible carbs are those used by your body for energy – or, if you are taking in more energy than you are expending, they are stored (in your fat cells).

To balance your mood, regulate your blood sugar, and keep your gut bacteria in balance, remember these 3 things when consuming carbs/sugars:

dates

Deglet dates. Often used to sweeten desserts but loaded with vitamins, minerals, and fiber.

Limit added sugars. Most added sugars are refined carbohydrates meaning it has been stripped of other nutrients and comes in a potent package that is a shock to our bodies. Added sugars include the “natural” sugars, too. Remember, “its not the vehicle, its the payload.” Use sweeteners sparingly – even honey and dates.

Eat carbohydrates higher up on the “whole foods” chain.

What does this look like?

Brown rice -> brown rice pasta/bread -> energy bar w/ brown rice syrup

Apples -> applesauce  -> apple juice

Steel cut oats -> rolled oats -> quick oats -> instant oatmeal packet

peppers, goat cheese, bread

Red peppers with goat cheese and honey on toast. Balanced protein, fat, and carbs.

Combine carbs with fat and protein at each meal. Toss sunflower seeds and unsweetened coconut on that fruit salad. Mash avocado on whole-grain toast. Add flax oil and walnuts to your banana-berry oatmeal.

Curb your sugar cravings: easy on the salt and animal products, eat sweet vegetables (tubers and roots), choose sprouted products, eat more sour or spicy flavors, and, finally, fully chew all carbs b/c those grains, legumes, and veggies will become sweeter the longer you chew.

Plant-Strong Diets = Bean-Strong Meals

In Nutrition on April 1, 2013 at 2:47 am

Do you feel vulnerable when you eat beans? Plant-strong diets include plenty of beans but please don’t avoid them for fear of digestive consequences! It’s possible to prepare and consume beans in such a way that you can eliminate digestive protestation. Beans are nutrient-dense, low-calorie, high-fiber powerhouses providing protein, carbs, iron, folic acid, phosphorous, potassium, and magnesium to your diet. A diet staple since long before biblical times in India, China, Southeast Asia, the Middle East, Africa, and the Americas…millions of ancestors can’t be wrong!

Canned beans are a easy way to get beans into your diet and I definitely use them from time to time. But dried beans are a staple in my house. Dried beans are healthier (lower in salt) and more affordable than canned beans and they turn out delicious after simmering in a crock pot all day. Yes, it’s springtime, and I’m definitely incorporating more raw plant foods into my diet as they become available, but there’s still a cold, damp, wind off the ocean that makes me want to warm myself from the inside out with cooked foods.bean and avo

 If you struggle with digesting beans, eat lentils, adzuki, peas, and mung beans more often and pinto, kidney, garbanzo, and black beans less often. Soybeans are the most difficult to digest; however, soy products (tofu, tempeh) are a bit easier. Also, if your digestion is weak (i.e. gas, bloating), eat beans only with greens or other non-starchy veggies. If your digestion is heartier, feel free to combine with grains (rice, quinoa). Consider using a digestive enzyme like bromelain or papain which are extracted from pineapple or papaya, respectively, to aid in digestion. Lastly, digestion is hormonally-controlled so it will be influenced by moods, stress, and menstrual cycle. Make note and don’t have the same expectations of your body on a daily or weekly basis.