The fire season may be coming to an end, but with the upcoming flu season it is more important than ever to protect your lungs – not to mention, we are still in the middle of a world-wide pandemic that primarily affects the respiratory system. Since October is Health Lung Month, it is timely to turn our attention to some ways to protect our pulmonary health.
We hear frequently that prevention is the first line of protection. This is true with respiratory infections as well. Protecting yourself from a cold, flu or other that can weaken your respiratory system can leave the lungs unable to protect themselves. Start with washing your hands! Make sure to wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and water. Avoiding crowds and handshaking will also prevent the spread of germs. Does this sound familiar? We have been doing this for the last several months in addition to wearing facemasks in public to help stop the spread of COVID-19.
Other things that can weaken your respiratory system are air pollutants – these are indoor and outdoor. Indoor pollutants like secondhand smoke and chemicals can harm the lining of your lungs. Consider switching to all natural cleaning ingredients like those from The Honest Company, steer clear of households that allow smoking inside, and you can even contact a local inspection company to check your home for naturally occurring gasses like radon that can be harmful to your health.
Something else to consider for your respiratory health and to get those lungs healthy is to quit smoking or vaping if you are currently using these substances. Smoking is the major cause of lung cancer, COPD, and chronic inflammation. The CDC has many resources online to help your smoking cessation journey, or you can contact your primary physician. This will be the most important step you can take in your health journey!
This month is also a time where the nights are long, and the days are short. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is real and affects many people. Did you know that you can boost your mood just by altering your diet? Although not all symptoms of depression can be reduced by simply eating differently, many studies have shown that people can manage or reduce their depression symptoms by changing their diet.
Here are some foods that are thought to help manage the symptoms of depression:
Selenium – Can be found in whole grains, Brazil nuts, some seafood, and organ meats.
Vitamin D – When you can’t get outside and soak up the sun, you can find this vitamin in foods like oily fish, fortified dairy products, beef liver, eggs, fortified soy products, mushrooms. You can also talk to your doctor about taking a Vitamin D supplement.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids – Good sources of omega-3 fatty acids can be found in cold water fish such as salmon, sardines, tuna, and mackerel. You can also find them in flaxseed, flaxseed oil, chia seeds, and walnuts.
Antioxidants – Antioxidants help remove free radicals in the body. If the body cannot eliminate enough free radicals, oxidative stress can develop and number of health problems can result such as anxiety and depression. Fresh, plant based foods such as berries, fresh fruits, vegetables, and soy are good sources of antioxidants.
B Vitamins and Folate – B Vitamins can be found in eggs, meat, poultry, fish, oysters, milk, and some fortified cereals. Folate can be found in dark leafy vegetables, fruit, nuts, beans, whole grains, dairy products, poultry, seafood, and eggs.
Studies also show that managing your weight, taking a good probiotic, getting a good source of tryptophan, and maintaining good levels of zinc in your diet help with managing symptoms of depression.
If you feel like you are getting a good variety of foods and still battling with symptoms, you can also try eliminating certain foods from your diet. Processed or deep-fried foods often contain trans fats and a variety of chemicals that can promote inflammation. It has been said that inflammation is a possible cause of depression, as well as other brain illnesses like dementia.
Eating a diet that includes a lot of sugary foods and drinks has been linked to higher rates of depression as well. This may also be because sugar increases inflammation and can destabilize your blood sugar.
Try avoiding the following foods:
- Meats, including bacon and sausage
- Pre-packaged baked goods like cookies
- Instant noodle meals
- White bread
- Sugar, or foods containing high levels of sugar
- Soda, including diet soda
The holiday season is officially upon us, and even though it will look a bit different this year, I’m an expert in modifying! I love to modify old comfort recipes into new healthy family favorites. This year, you may not be getting trick-or-treaters at your door, but you can definitely make it a holiday worth celebrating, and even incorporate some healthy favorites. When you don’t have to worry about pre-packaged single-served treats, the sky is the limit!
If you are modifying your nutrition to help ease your symptoms of depression, or trying to limit sugar intake, these recipes will still work within those recommendations and fit the festive mood.
Dark Chocolate-Dipped Apples
This recipe is healthier than caramel and is full of antioxidant-rich dark chocolate. Antioxidants are compounds that help protect your cells from the damage caused by inflammation and I can’t think of a more indulgent way of consuming this beneficial ingredient.
- 8oz dark chocolate
- 8 Medium apples
- various toppings as desired
- 8 bamboo skewers or wooden pop sticks
Makes 8 servings. Serving size: 1 apple.
Nutrition facts: 221 calories, 2g protein, 41 grams carbs, 9 grams fat
- Wash and dry apples.
- Arrange toppings in medium sized bowls
- Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper coated with cooking spray.
- Insert wooden stick into apple cores.
- Fill a medium sauce pan halfway with water.
- Bring water to a boil and place a medium glass mixing bowl over boiling water and immediately remove from heat.
- Melt chocolate in the glass bowl over the hot water.
- Coat the apple with a thin layer of chocolate by gently spooning melted chocolate on to each apple starting about one fourth inch away from apple top working downward
- If you are using additional toppings dip apples into topping bowls or sprinkle toppings over apples.
- Place decorated apples onto parchment paper and refrigerate for fifteen minutes to harden.
These blueberry muffins are not only filled with antioxidant-rich blueberries, but are also made with whole grains that contain selenium, and made with fortified soymilk containing vitamin D – all ingredients to help fight the blues and make for a delicious snack or even a sweet Halloween treat!
- 2 cups whole wheat flour
- 1/2 cup monk fruit or natural sugar replacement
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/2 cup fortified soymilk
- 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
- 1 Large egg
- 1 tablespoon lemon zest (about 1 medium lemon)
- 1 cup fresh blueberries
- cooking spray
- Preheat oven to 400°.
- Combine flour, ZSweet, baking powder, baking soda, salt, nutmeg, and cinnamon in a medium mixing bowl.
- Combine light soy milk, applesauce, egg and lemon zest mix well with a whisk.
- Add flour mixture to liquid mixture; stir with a large spoon until moist (don’t over mix).
- Gently fold in blueberries.
- Spoon batter into 12 muffin cups coated with cooking spray.
- Bake uncovered for 20 minutes or until you can poke with a tooth pick and it comes out clean.
- Place on a wire rack to cool.
Makes 18 muffins; serving size 1 muffin
Nutrition Facts per serving: 100 Cals, 4g Protein, 19g Carbs, 1g Fat
Steel Cut Oats with Fresh Cherries, Blueberries, and Walnuts
This next recipe is full of amazing ingredients. Walnuts provide a good source of Omega-3 Fatty Acids, fortified soy milk contains vitamin D, blueberries and cherries are powerful antioxidants, while the soluble fiber found in steel cut oats dissolves in water, forming a gel-like substance that lowers your cholesterol levels and stabilizes blood glucose. Make a large batch of this and have all week long for breakfast and start the day off right!
- 1 cup steel cut oats
- 2 cups water
- 1/4 teaspoon salt (I use Celtic Sea Salt)
- 2 dashes cinnamon
- 1/2 cup blueberries
- 1/2 cup cherries
- 2 tablespoons walnuts
- 1/2 cup fortified soy milk (I also use light coconut milk)
- Bring 3 cups of water to a boil. Add salt, cinnamon, and steel cut oats.
- Reduce to low heat and simmer for 10 minutes.
- Serve ½ cup cooked oats with a bit of walnuts, blueberries and cherries.
- **Alternatively follow package directions, top with your favorite nuts and fruits.
I hope you enjoy these recipes and have a healthy and safe Halloween.
Don’t forget – wear a mask, wash your hands, and practice safe social distancing!