Fight Winter Depression Naturally

Natural Ways to Cure Winter Depression 

As the days grow shorter and fall turns into winter, do you tend to feel less energetic, more lethargic, and occasionally depressed? Would you love to have a solution that doesn't involve antidepressants or chemical stimulants? Here are some naturals solutions to curing winter blues without medication.

 Some Symptoms of Winter Blues

  • Your mood changes as the seasons change
  • You feel depressed (mildly or more)
  • You sleep too much
  • You have less energy  - or no energy, you are very lethargic
  • You have difficulty waking up in the morning
  • You have a craving for carbohydrates, resulting in weight gain

Seasonal Affective Disorder - "S.A.D."

People have varying degrees of the above listed symptoms. Those with the most sever symptoms may even be diagnosed with what has come to be called Seasonal Affective Disorder, commonly called SAD. Studies have found that approximately 20% of the population may have some of these symptoms, but not severe enough to meet the diagnostic criteria. Symptoms of winter depression seem to increase in people living farther and farther from the equator.  Symptoms of winter blues seem to occur more often in women than men.

Why does S.A.D. or Winter Depression Happen?

Scientists have determined that the cause of seasonal mood variations and winter depression are often light related, a result of inadequate bright light and low levels of Vitamin D. The symptoms may be an evolved human adaptation that can be compared to the hibernation patterns of wild animals.

Biological Factors Involved in Winter Depression

A very simplified explanation is as follows:
Melatonin, a hormone that induces sleep,  is produced by the pineal gland in the brain. It is affected by light. Decreased exposure to sunlight during the winter triggers increased levels of melatonin making us want to sleep more. On the other hand, seratonin, a chemical found in the brain, is a neurotransmitter that allows us to feel more rested, energetic, and generally happy. It is also adversely affected by light. Reduced daylight means a reduction in the production of seratonin. The combination triggers the symptoms of winter blues.

Five Ways to Battle Depression

Since an increase in seratonin causes us to feel more rested, energetic and 'upbeat', it follows that if we can increase the levels in our bodies, then the negative effect of winter blues can be diminished.

 How to Fight Winter Blues

    • Increase outdoor activity on sunny days to increase solar exposure
    • Establish a workout regime.  Exercise itself increases seratonin levels. Ideally, you will benefit most by exercising outdoors in the daylight, but exercise indoors will still be beneficial.
    • Eat healthy foods. Stay away form sugar.  If you are craving carbs, go for complex carbs including complex carbs, whole wheat pasta, brown rice, fruits, corn and potatoes
    • Vitamin D and Vitamin B complex increase seratonin levels. Add these supplements to your diet. They have other multiple health benefits as well.
    • Use Light Treatment Photo Therapy.  Decrease fall and winter depression through regular exposure to full spectrum or fluorescent light.

Using a Light Therapy "Box" or Lamp

Get a light therapy lamp that gives off 2500 to 10,000 lux (the measure of illumination). Use it regularly in the morning and mid afternoon for 15 minutes to 2 hours at the recommended distance. Over a few weeks time, or less, you will feel happier and less moody. (Don't use the light therapy lamp in the evenings, as you want the diminishing light of day to allow for your meletonin levels to rise again, assuring that you will be able to fall asleep at night.)

I recommend two different lights, each with its own advantages, depending on what appeals to you.

I personally use this one and have been very happy with it: BlueMax 70w Full Spectrum Dimmable Desk Lamp. This one serves double-duty as a desk lamp, and is very convenient for me, as I spend a lot of time in front of the computer. It is heavy and sturdy, is very well made and has a dimmable light so that you don't have to use it strictly for therapy purposes.

This is another that I have and use:  Philips goLITE BLU Light Therapy Device. This one is compact and comes with a travel case. It has a clock and a light timer. It's great to take to the office, or if you travel a lot, it packs easily and is also helpful for jet lag. Read my review of the Philips goLite BLU.

Recommended Reading for Seasonal Affective Disorder and the Winter Blues

10 Tips to Get a Better Night's Sleep

Tips for a Good Night's Sleep
Do you often have trouble with falling asleep, or waking up during the night, and then have trouble getting up in the morning? Lack of sleep, (or in more extreme cases - insomnia) can bring on a variety  of undesirable symptoms.

Symptoms of Sleep Loss or Sleep Deprivation

  • You wake up exhausted, feeling "hungover" or spacey
  • You are sleepy, sluggish or drowsy during the day
  • You are unable to think clearly or accomplish tasks efficiently
  • You feel "tired all the time"
  • You are often irritable, angry, depressed or anxious, for no
    particularly good reason
Lack of sleep can cause your immune system to become compromised because the body has not had enough time to heal and rejuvenate itself. As a result you are more likely to succumb to seasonal
infections and take longer to recuperate from illnesses.

Sleep Tips to Incorporate into Your Life to Help You Get a Good
Night's Sleep

  1. Sleep only at night.  Taking naps during the day will only make you less tired in the evening.
  2. Get on a consistent sleep/wake-up schedule. Get up at the same time on weekends as you do during the week.  This will help your body to develop a natural sleep rhythm.
  3. Exercise during the morning or daytime. Exercise in the evening does not help your body to relax.
  4. Try taking a hot bath or shower before bedtime to help relax you.
  5. Keep the bedroom slightly cooler.
  6. Read a light novel or listen to soft music to help you unwind and relax.
  7. Don't eat a big meal within two hours of going to bed. Instead, eat light, and choose food with a high content of L-tryptophan. Tryptophan helps the body to produce seratonin which is a hormone that the brain releases for a calming effect. Food such as shrimp, turkey, tuna, chicken, salmon, asparagus, cheese, eggs, kale, whole wheat, black beans, kidney beans and pumpkin seeds contain high levels of L-tryptophan. You can also try L-Tryptophan supplements in 1000-1500mg doses for the same result.
  8. Stay away from caffeine, alcohol, nicotine and sugar within 2 hours of bedtime. These are all stimulants.( Contrary to popular belief, alcohol will not help you to seep better, as it wears off it puts your body in a very restless state.)  Instead try drinking Valerian teavalerian tea. The Valerian root has been used for hundreds of years as a medicinal herb to treat anxiety and insomnia. It will not leave you groggy or foggy feeling in the morning. Use it daily for 2-4 weeks for best results.
  9. Try taking Vitamin B3 (niacin) about 20 minutes before bedtime. Take between 100 and 500 mg. It may give you a warm tingly feeling (niacin flush) which will subside quickly. If it bothers you, lower the dosage a little. You can also purchase no flush niacin supplements.
  10. Sleep in silence and complete darkness.  Your body will produce more melatonin, a sleep inducing hormone if you keep the room as dark as possible. If you have an alarm clock with a bright face, turn it to the wall or, even better, cover it with something so that there is no light in the room. If you wake up at night you won't know what time it is, which can make it harder to fall back to sleep, knowing how soon you have to get up. You can also try taking a
    melatonin supplementmelatonin (3-6 mg) about an hour before bedtime.
Finally if you are a person who may or may not have had a good night's sleep, but hate being jarred awake by a blaring alarm clock, consider looking into a Light Therapy wake-up lamp. It wakes you in a natural way with light that increases gradually, providing a more pleasant and natural way to wake up in the morning. The Wake Up Light simulates the sunrise to help you face the morning with a better mood and energy level. It also has a power down mode that you can use before bedtime to simulate nightfall. That should help you get a better night's sleep as well.

Natural Sleep Remedy - Raw or Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

Sleep Better Naturally - A health Benefit of Pumpkin Seeds

Improve your Quality of Sleep - A Natural Home Sleep Remedy

Do you have trouble falling asleep at night in spite of being tired? Or do you wake up during the night?  Lack of sleep over an extended period of time not only affects your mental health and cognitive abilities, but also wears on your physical health as well.

Sleep Better Naturally

A natural solution to sleep disorders is clearly a better choice for your health than over the counter or prescription drugs.

Roasted Pumpkin Crostini Recipe

Halloween has past but its still Pumpkin season. Pumpkins have more value and uses than just being a happy, or scary, face for trick-or-treaters. The flesh of this member of the squash family  can be boiled, baked, steamed, pureed, mashed or cubed and roasted. And they are a healthy vegetable as well.  So look for a small pumpkin in your grocery store labeled "cooking", and give some different pumpkin recipes a try.

This Roasted Pumpkin Crostini Recipe makes a great little appetizer before a holiday meal.  I served it to the "football fans" in my house while they were watching the games this weekend and it was a hit.

The pumpkin and goat cheese are both healthy and vegetarian. I will list the nutritional benefits at the end of this post.

Strawberry Mango Banana Smoothie with White Tea

Strawberries, mangoes, and bananas top the list of my favorite fruits. Here is an excellent replacement for a breakfast that might be too carb-heavy or too time consuming. You can fix this smoothie quickly before leaving for work in the morning. With the added Greek yogurt, this delicious  smoothie is packed with antioxidants and protein. It  both fills you up and provides an energy boost. This smoothie recipe has enough natural sugars to wake you up, as well as protein and fiber to sustain you til you break for a healthy mid-morning snack.
(The best Greek Yogurt EVER)

Brown Rice Pasta with Eggplant Recipe

Since I seem to be hooked on eggplant these days, (it seems I go through phases on having favorite things to eat, and then I tire of them and move on to a new temporary favorite) I was on a mission to find another dish in which to use eggplant.  Eggplant Parmesan is my all-time favorite but is very labor intensive, and I wanted something a little less so.

I came across this recipe in an old Cooking Light Magazine, and as usual, made a few changes to it to suit what I had on hand.

Eggplant Mini Pizzas

On my weekly grocery shopping excursion, I always try to stick to my usual shopping list, which consists mainly of fresh vegetables, fruit and  whole wheat pastas and breads. I always search, though, for something a little different as well. This time the eggplants looked especially nice, so I got one. The next day I  realized there was no way I was going to have time to make Eggplant Parmesan. I decided to get creative and came up with these Eggplant Mini Pizzas. I think these would be a great healthy item for kids too, and they might even enjoy helping to make them.

Best Childrens Laptop Computers - Educational Toys for Toddlers

Educational Toys for Toddlers -  Best Childrens Laptop Computers

I am convinced that children can start learning reading, writing phonics, and the like much sooner than society allows them. Granted, I'm not saying kids should be sent off to school sooner than we do, but I am saying that the time they are still at home could be used to allow them to advance more quickly, and be ahead of the game when they do enter school. I also think that with the importance of computers in the world these days, it is equally important to introduce children to computers at an early age as well.

Alaskan Crab Salad with Grapefruit and Avocado

    I found this Alaskan Crab Salad with Grapefruit and Avocado Recipe in a local grocery store magazine. It was originally posted in  It is healthy, light, and refreshing. I made some changes to the original, as noted.

Honey Mango Smoothie Recipe - Yes, Another One!

Here's another yummy Mango Smoothie I whipped up the other day with variations to one I posted a few months ago. I made this one without my usual addition of plain low fat Greek yogurt, so maybe it could be classified more officially as a slushy  but, call it what you will, it was delicious, very refreshing, and low in calories.

Honey Mango Smoothie Recipe:

Basil Pesto Veggie Wrap Recipe - My Favorite Lunch

This Pesto Veggie Wrap is a great refreshing, light recipe for lunch or even dinner, especially appealing for a hot day. Healthy, and low in calories you could even eat two of these for dinner and would not be going overboard on calorie intake, as long as you've been practical about your other meals that day.  I love this wrap, but knew I had really created a winner when I served it to a bachelor friend of mine who is normally a meat lover.

Successful Deer Repellent Solution

I think I've found a winning combination of tactics to keeping the deer from eating my plants and flowers!

In a previous post I was venting that the deer had made a meal out of my hostas, newly planted impatiens, and daylilies, and had asked if anyone had some suggestions for solutions. A well-meaning (?) Facebook friend suggested a gun. Not a reasonable solution. I went on search for a better alternative as I had just ordered 50 day lily plants from Smokey's DayLily Gardens, and was not looking forward to losing my investment.

Kiwi, Banana, Honey Mango Smoothie Recipe

Here's a great fruit smoothie recipe that requires no extra sweetener, and is therefore low-calorie in addition to it being healthy and delicious!
The beginning of June and it's already July-hot and August-humid out. After a 20 minute bike ride today and then going straight into the Ab Ripper X workout DVD from P90X, I was hot and sweaty (or perhaps "perspiring" is the proper ladylike term).  After drinking a big glass of water, I still wanted something else to reward myself, so I decided to whip up a smoothie, and relax for a few minutes.

Frittata with Asparagus, Goat Cheese and Herbs

I discovered a new magazine that looks like it will become another often-referenced source of information for me.It is called "Whole Living - body + soul in balance". There are plenty of healthy recipes and I found one that I decided to cook for dinner tonight. Once again, it seemed fairly simple, had ingredients that are healthy, and that I already had on hand. I modified it somewhat and halved the recipe. I will post the original version and include the changes I made.

Basil Pesto Chicken over Angel Hair Pasta

Last night I had a friend over for dinner - a rarity for me, and decided  make this recipe that I'd been meaning to try and was just looking for a good excuse. I liked all of it's ingredients, though I don't eat chicken often (I am "mostly vegetarian"). Best of all, the recipe seemed pretty simple, and not too time consuming.

Awesome Anti-Aging Skin Cream - Source Naturals Skin Eternal DMAE Cream - A Review

As much fun as it is to talk about (and eat) food, and as much as we might try to eat the right foods, we often need supplements, i.e. vitamins and minerals added to our diet to assure it's complete. Eating the right foods can also help our skin, (the largest organ in out body, by the way) but supplements also come into play here as well.
There is a great facial skin cream that I love, that contains necessary "nutrients" to keep skin healthy and younger looking. This is the stuff: Source Naturals Skin Eternal DMAE Cream.
Skin Eternal DMAE Cream
DMAE is for dimethylaminoethanol, a nutrient that is coincidentaly found in salmon. DMAE acts as a building block for neurotransmitters which communicate with the muscles. These neurotransmitters decline as we age, resulting in decreased muscle tone. Additionally, DMAE acts as an antioxidant, stablizing cell membranes and protecting them from free radical damage. As cell membranes deteriorate, the skin starts to age. DMAE helps the skin cells to be renewed and restored.So much for technical explanations.

I like Skin Eternal DMAE Cream because I feel my skin has more elasticity while looking firmer - if that makes sense. It seems to have a plumping effect and has improved my fine lines and wrinkles. I use it all over my face and neck before I go to bed at night, and in the morning I put it specifically on my crow's feet, under my eyes (be careful not to get it in your eyes) and in my nasolabial folds (smile lines).
It seems a little greasy at first when you apply it, but absorbs quickly into your skin. It is a buttery yellow color with very little smell. A little goes a long way, and a jar will last you several months. I really think that using this religiously has improved my skin and given it a younger appearance.

Source Naturals  carries a whole line of products, many of which I haven't tried, because I like to switch things up and give other product lines a try as well. But I would feel confident purchasing other products in their line as I am so impressed with the results from this  DMAE Cream.

 I will be blogging in the future bout some other products  - from different companies that I also love.

If you would like to read up more on DMAE, as well as other anti-aging topics, I reference this book often, "The Perricone Prescription".

Please always remember that it is important for your skin to stay hydrated. Drinking eight or so glasses of water a day is a simple habit not just for your skin, but for your body in general.

Chilled Melon Soup Recipe

Yesterday I attended the yearly Women's Club Luncheon at the local Country Club in my neighborhood. The best thing they served was the starter - Chilled Melon Soup. The women at the table were all raving about it, and trying to detect the flavors we were tasting.  After the luncheon, I cornered one of the servers to see if he could let me know what was in it. He was kind enough to let me talk to one of the chefs, who gave me a basic recipe for a "home-based" quantity off the top of his head. I am very excited about this recipe, as it is so very refreshing, as well as healthy and low-cal.

Main Ingredients

Chilled Melon Soup Recipe
  • 2 cups chopped cantaloupe
  • 2 cups. chopped honeydew melon
  • 2/3 cup orange juice
  • 1/2 cup lime juice (2 limes)
  • 6-8 ice cubes
 Puree melons with orange and lime juice in food processor. Add ice cubes and blend smooth. Garnish with mint leaves. Serves 4-6.

I pureed the melons separately and poured the two halves in the bowl separately and tried swirling it with a knife. It ended up as kind of a yin-yang thing. I put it in the freezer for awhile to get it really cold and it was delicious. The hint of citrus kept it from being too sweet, and made it a little tangy.

Chilled Melon Soup

Health Benefit of Cantaloupes
Cantaloupe as an excellent source of beta-carotene which, inside the body, can be converted into vitamin A. When you eat cantaloupe it's like getting both these nutrients at once. One cup of cantaloupe is just 56 calories, but provides 100% of the daily value for vitamin A. Both vitamin A and beta-carotene are important for vision health.
One cup of cantaloupe also contains 110% of the daily value of Vitamin C, another antioxidant. Cantaloupe is also very good source of potassium, vitamin B6, fiber, folate, and niacin . This makes cantaloupe a good fruit for supporting energy production. good metabolism and blood sugar stability.

Meanwhile, here's my little snapdragon that the deer thankfully did not find!

Kiwi Smoothie Recipe - (and Deer Repellent Ideas Needed)

I got up early this morning to do some yard work and gardening, as I knew it was going to be hot outside today. As I did my usual survey of the yard to determine what was the priority for the morning , I found that sometime last night, a deer had snacked on my tiny (and now tinier) newly planted Impatiens, nibbled on my newly planted Day Lilies, and took a good hunk out of my Hostas from last season, that were just starting to look impressive and pretty. I like deer and I think they are pretty animals, but I wish they would stay away from my few things that I have to attempt and make my yard look pretty too!

Half-eaten Hosta
If anyone has some good deer repellent solutions, please post them for me, as that now has to be added to my ever-growing project list. I recently ordered 50 day lily bulbs from Smokey's Daylily Gardens for a barren area in the back yard that I don't want to be turned into a midnight buffet stop for the neighboring deer. So any suggestions will be appreciated.

Yard work is now done, for the day at least, and I decided it was a good time to treat myself to a refreshing smoothie. I bought a couple kiwi fruit yesterday, so the decision was easy:
 A Kiwi Smoothie.

Kiwi Banana Smoothie Recipe

Fresh Cut Kiwi Fruit
  • 2 very ripe Kiwi, peeled and chopped
  • 1 ripe banana ( mine was pre-cut and frozen)
  • 1/2 cup cold plain almond milk (vanilla would be good too)
  • 1/2 cup Chobani plain, non-fat Greek yogurt (or something similar)
  • 1 tbsp. pure organic honey
  • throw in a few ice cubes, if you'd like 

Add all the ingredients to your smoothie blender and blend on low power til smooth. Serve immediately, and enjoy!
Kiwi  Banana Smoothie
Kiwi Fruit Health Benefits:
Kiwi Fruits are are rich in  antioxidant Vitamins C, A and E , flavonoids and minerals. In particular, they contain more Vitamin C than oranges, as much potassium as bananas, and a good amount of beta-carotene. They have a  high content of dietary fiber. High fiber helps improve diseases such as diabetes, by controlling sugar levels, and colon cancer, since fiber binds to toxic compounds in the colon and helps to expel them. All in all, a tasty and healthy fruit!  (Check out more of my healthy Smoothie Recipes here.)

As promised in my last post, here is today's flower to enjoy. The first Day Lily bloom! - Fortunately I took this photo before the deer sneak attack. Now, who knows how long it will be before I get new blooms.

Stella De Oro Day Lily

Wild Caught Salmon/Grilled Salmon and Asparagus Salad

Wow, I just tried this recipe and LOVED it! A great light and healthy dinner to have on a warm day, it takes no time to fix. This Grilled Salmon and Asparagus Salad is a variation of a recipe I found in Coastal Living Magazine - one of my favorite magazines not only for recipes, but for the beautiful coastal water photos and the great design ideas for coastal (or non-coastal) homes if you desire a relaxed beachy feeling. But I digress. Here is my recipe:

Serving Size: for 2; Prep: 8 minutes; Cook: 11 minutes
Grilled Salmon and Asparagus Salad
Two 6-7 oz Alaskan salmon fillets
6-8 leaves of romaine lettuce
1/2 lb. asparagus spears
2 tbsp. olive oil
2 Roma tomatoes
1/2 Vidalia Onion cut into a couple "chunks"
Salt and pepper to taste
A Lite vinaigrette dressing of your preference
(I used Ken's Sun-dried Tomato Vinaigrette)

Brush salmon and toss asparagus with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Grill salmon over medium-high heat (350 to 400 degrees) for 3-5 minutes on each side, or until desired degree of doneness. Grill asparagus and onion, turning occasionally, 3-5 minutes, or until tender.

Divide chopped Romaine evenly on two plates, top with flaked salmon, asparagus, onion and tomatoes. Serve with vinaigrette dressing.

This is not the clearest picture I've ever taken! I blame the 2 glasses of wine I had before we even started eating. Won't do that again..... But you get the gist.

The recipe from Coastal Living used arugula instead of romaine, yellow cherry tomatoes, and didn't include the onions. They also left the asparagus spears whole, but my friend chopped them up before I had a chance to stop him. (Guys aren't too great about reading directions or, in this case, even looking at the picture.) No matter, still came out pretty darn delicious!

Health Benefits of Salmon
First and foremost, go for the salmon labeled Pacific or wild caught, as opposed to Atlantic or farm-raised. One store I went to for this salmon had only "Color-infused, Chilean farm raised Salmon".  Nothing about that sounded good, nor did the $10.99/lb price tag. I went to another grocery and found wild caught salmon on sale for $5.99/lb. Wild caught salmon have fewer toxins than farm raised, as they are not kept in confined pens and are also leaner as they get more exercise in open waters through their migration patterns.

Salmon are high in omega-3 fatty acids which protect against heart disease and reduce inflammation. They are a rich source of niacin, magnesium, and vitamin B12. One serving contains more than the daily requirement of selenium, said to regulate thyroid function and boost the immune system.

Global 5.5-in. Fish Bone Tweezers
Global 5.5-in. Fish Bone Tweezers
This is a really cool gadget if you eat fish often, and especially if you have a fisherman in your household who brings you fresh fish to fillet. These fish bone tweezers are the kind used by many sushi chefs. The fish bone tweezers will help you quickly and easily remove pesky bones and such from whole fish. The textured handle that makes it extra easy to grip and maneuver. It's made of stainless steel so it will remain new looking forever. This is a great gift for a kitchen aficionado or even for the fisherman who will clean his "catch" for you. (Available from Coupon offers of this page!)

In my continuous quest for less stress, gardening is one of my solutions, so I will try to start a trend here, following up on my post with the dahlia photo. Here is my first hibiscus bloom of the season.

Hibiscus flower

Easy Roasted Asparagus Recipe

I can't take credit for this Asparagus Recipe. I got it from the Food Network. But it is easy (important in my cooking world) and really tasty (also extra important). The photo is also courtesy of the Food Network (as it is better than the photo I took).

Photograph by Food Network Magazine

Here's the recipe as it was given - then I'll add the changes I made: 


1 lb fresh asparagus
1 tablespoon olive oil
salt and pepper
1/3 cup toasted pine nuts
1/2 cup chopped parsley
grated zest of 1 lemon

Toss the trimmed asparagus in the olive oil and place on a baking sheet. Roast at 450 degrees until lightly browned, approximately 15 minutes. Mix 1/3 cup toasted pine nuts, 1/2 cup chopped parsley, the grated zest of 1 lemon, and salt and pepper. Sprinkle over the asparagus.

Here's the changes/additions I made: 

I added some lemon juice, a fresh clove of  garlic, finely chopped  and some thyme tossed with the asparagus and olive oil and put it in a baking dish. I didn't have pine nuts, so I used organic raw sunflower seeds. Just before eating I topped it off with some grated Parmesan and Asiago cheeses (both staples in my refrigerator). Delicious!

So, as per the point of this blog, here are the health benefits of asparagus. This is a great, healthy veggie loaded with nutrients.
  • It is one of the foods highest  in vitamin K. Vitamin K aids in bone formation and repair. Asparagus is therefore helpful in preventing osteoporosis and osteoarthritis. 
  • Asparagus is high in folate. (Folate is the natural form of folic acid, the latter being the supplemental form). Folate helps the body reduce inflammation and is therefore an important protection against cancer. Folate has also been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease. For pregnant women folate is very important as it reduces the risk of birth defects (such as Spina Bifida) and low birth rate. Folate helps to regulate embryonic and fetal nerve cell formation. 
  • The high alkalinity of asparagus, as well as an abundance or the amino acid asparagine acts as a detox.    They reduce the acidity of the blood and help to cleanses the tissues and muscles of waste. Its high fiber content helps to clean the digestive system.
  • The diuretic and alkaline properties of asparagus help prevent and treat urinary tract  infections and  prevent or dissolve kidney stones.  It helps break up oxalic acid crystals formed in the kidney.
  • As an anti-aging vegetable it is rich in potassium, vitamin B6, vitamins A and C and thiamine. It also contains an amino acid compound called glutathione. it has strong antioxidant properties, protecting cell from free radical toxins.
  • Asparagus has no fat or cholesterol and is very low in sodium.
I keep asparagus as a regular part of my diet. I'll be posting some more asparagus recipes in the weeks to come. (And don't worry about it making your pee yellow and smelly - that's just asparagus doing its part to clean out toxins!)

Not a fan of asparagus? Then consider folic acid supplements for your health.


Bike Riding for Fitness - Dahlias for Serenity

Going by the definition of a blog, I'm not exactly doing a bang-up job of keeping up with daily, or even almost daily posting. But considering I was just scheduled to work 18 evenings in a row (yes, I mean NO days off), and doubles on the weekend, I'm beginning to know what an air traffic controller must feel like. I'm just trying to keep up with regular household chores, still work out and have time leftover to eat, and maybe get enough sleep.

I try to ride my bike for 20-25 minutes a day, three times a week. It is not a leisurely ride, but rather a "sprint workout". This is a high intensity workout in which you aim to raise your heart rate by pushing yourself to ride as fast as you can for 20-30 seconds, and then allow yourself 90 seconds to recover. The cycle (no pun intended) is repeated 8 times. It is best to have about a 3 minute warm up riding at a comfortable speed, and then a 2 minute cool down. The best part of this for me, with my time constraints, is that instead of an hour long cardio workout, I'm done in about 20 minutes!

I didn't come up with this plan all on my own but read about this system in Phil Campbell's book, Ready, Set, Go! Synergy Fitness. The idea he presents is that anaerobic exercise,  - or sprint style interval training - will promote the release of the Human Growth Hormone in our bodies. This will lead to weight control and a reversal of the metabolic slow down associated with aging beginning in our middle years. And I am all about the anti-aging thing. 

After the bike ride, and especially on days that I don't ride, I try to get in anywhere from 20-40 minutes of targeted exercises and/or weights. But that will be the subject of another blog.

I'm all about a little of getting in the anti-stress thing too, which for me these days is some time spent gardening and working in the yard - which isn't really work to me, but rather enjoyment. So I have to post this picture of an Awaikoe dahlia plant I just bought and re-potted. I find the flowers so amazingly beautiful that just sitting and looking at it is peaceful and relaxing to me. I snapped a bunch of pictures of it, mainly because I am camera-challenged, and got a few good ones out of the lot. Here's a couple:

Awaikoe Dahlia
I Hope these brighten your day!  They definitely brighten mine!

Caesar Salad Recipe with a Twist

I am a creature of habit - so I've made an effort to work at creating good habits. I have this salad type almost every day for lunch , and never tire of it. I love Caesar salads, and the romaine lettuce in them is definitely healthy (better than Iceberg lettuce - the greener the leaves you eat, the better.)  I started eating Caesar salads and then kept adding things to them to get more of a variety of healthy foods all at the same time The flavors in the different ingredients go really well together.

Caesar Salad Recipe with a Twist:

Romaine lettuce, 3-4 leaves
1 Roma tomato
1/6 wedge of avocado, sliced into small pieces
A few "shakes" of grated Parmesan cheese
"Shaved" pieces of Asigo cheese - to your taste. I just shave pieces off of a big chunk of cheese with a paring knife.
2 tablespoons of Lite vinaigrette dressing, I use balsamic vinaigrette, or sun-dried tomato-basil
(whatever you like)
 2 teaspoons of Caesar dressing

Here's the dressings I use that go great together:

Ken's Lite dressing has only 60 calories per 2 tablespoons but pack a punch as far as flavor, while this yummy Caesar dressing has 85 calories per teaspoon - hence why I use both - love the flavor of the Caesar, but don't love the calories.

So a quick rundown of health benefits:
Romaine lettuce - high in Vitamins K, A, and C: good source of fiber, low,low calories
Tomatoes - high in Vitamin C and Lycopene, an antioxidant
Avocado - high in Vitamin E. The "fat" is monounsaturated fat - the good kind which, along with oleic acid, helps to lower cholesterol.
Parmesan cheese - high in Vitamin B12 and protien
Asiago cheese - low in fat, and high in protein

Try this for your lunch or include this as a side salad with your dinner. As a side, the recipe is enough for two.

Honey Mango Fruit Smoothie Recipe

I love mangoes! And don't get to have them nearly as often as I'd like since moving from Florida.
I picked up a honey mango at the store yesterday, noticed it because it was all yellow-orange in color, not like the mangoes from Florida that are light green blending with yellow and red. Turns out, from what I researched, it is from native of Pakistan, and is grown in Mexico as well. It's also known as a Champagne mango or Ataulfo mango.
 So I was now motivated to whip up a good smoothie recipe - going for healthy and yumminess combined.

Mango Smoothie Recipe
Prep Time: 8 minutes
Cook Time: none - (that's the best part about Smoothies)
Serves: 1
  • Mango Smoothie1/8 cup cranberry-raspberry juice
  • ¼ cup green tea - made with one tea bag
  • ½ cup frozen mango
  • grated fresh ginger (use about a 1" square chunk)
  • several ice cubes, depending on how thick you like it
Make the green tea first to allow it to steep, and cool a little as well.
Place all ingredients in a blender, start at low speed until it starts to mix and then move to the higher speed until blended.

Okay so lets run through the health benefits, while we're at it. 
Health Benefits of Mango:
  • The enzymes in a mango help relieve acidity in the stomach and aid indigestion problems.
  • Vitamin E is abundant in mangoes
  • High in dietary fiber, vitamin C, and pectin, mangoes help lower LDL cholesterol.
  • Mangoes are rich in iron and therefore beneficial to those who suffer from anemia.
  • Mangoes are high in antioxidants so, when eaten regularly, can help fight cancer and heart diseases.
Health Benefits of Ginger:
  • Studies  conducted by Cornell University Medical College show that ginger is effective in thinning the blood, which aids in dissolving blood clots.
  • Ginger is high in calcium and iron which helps build strong bones.
  • Like Garlic, it has anti-inflammatory antioxidant properties, strengthening the immune system.
  • Ginger may help increase blood flow to your extremities, helping cold hands and cold feet. ( I have this problem, unless it's about 75 degrees outside.)
  • Ginger also seems to help regulate blood sugar and relieve menstrual cramps.
    For more about Ginger read, "The Benefits of the Ginger Root"  and "Health Benefits of Ginger".

And of course there is also the Green Tea which is also known for its antioxidant  properties.
Get a bunch of Honey Mangoes while they're in season, and treat yourself and your body to them. Cut up and freeze the rest for mango smoothies throughout the summer. I'll post some more mango smoothie recipe ideas as I come up with them. In the meantime, here's some delicoso Strawberry Smoothie Recipes I put together. Have fun and enjoy!

( If you have any great mango smoothie recipes to share, I'd love to hear about them.)

Cuisinart Smoothie Blender
If you are really into Smoothies, like I am, this 15-piece Cuisinart Smoothie Blender is the greatest! I whip up a smoothie in the morning right in one of the travel cups and head out the door to work.
It also comes with a chopping cup to mince herbs. I use that when I just want to make a small amount of my favorite pesto (see my previous blog).