You’ve heard the old saying that “an apple a day keeps the doctor away.”
But would it surprise you to know that an apple — or a carrot — also discourages the blues and makes you more engaged in life? That’s what research has found — repeatedly! — in recent years.
Research shows fruits and vegetables boost emotional well-being
- A 2016 study that focused on the food diaries of over 12,000 Australian adults found significant increases in emotional well-being of individuals who increased their intake of plant foods. This occurred within a relatively short (2-year) time span and could not be explained by other life changes.
- A 2014 study that looked at emotional health in 100 volunteers, half of whom snacked on fruit and the other half on chocolate or chips in mid-afternoon, found that those who ate fruit scored lower on measures of anxiety, depression, and emotional distress than those who ate junk food.
- And a 2015 study in 405 British young adults found not only improved emotional well-being, but increased creativity and curiosity as well, were reported by the subjects — not only in general, but in particular, on the specific days the study subjects reported eating more fruits and vegetables.
Changes can happen almost immediately
We’re all well aware of the long-term physical health benefits of a diet loaded with plant foods. Now these studies indicate that benefits to our emotional well-being occur in the short term once we start incorporating more fruits and vegetables into our daily food intake. The British study suggests that such changes may happen almost immediately!
Keep this in mind, the next time you reach for a snack like the delicious Green Agua Fresca.
Green Agua Fresca recipe: Combine a fruit and vegetable in this snack!
- 3 cups fresh watermelon
- 2 cups fresh spinach or other mild green
Mix in blender until smooth. Your drink will be bright green and taste entirely of sweet watermelon.
Smith AP, Rogers R. Positive effects of a healthy snack (fruit) versus an unhealthy snack (chocolate/crisps) on subjective reports of mental and physical health: a preliminary intervention study. Front Nutr. 2014 Jul 16;1:10. doi: 10.3389/fnut.2014.00010.
Mujcic R, Oswald A.J. Evolution of well-being and happiness after increases in consumption of fruit and vegetables. Am J Public Health. 2016 August; 106(8): 1504–1510.
Published online 2016 August. doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2016.303260
Conner TS, Brookie KL, Richardson AC, Polak MA. On carrots and curiosity: eating fruit and vegetables is associated with greater flourishing in daily life. Br J Health Psychol. 2015 May;20(2):413-27. doi: 10.1111/bjhp.12113. Epub 2014 Jul 30.
I’m naming ginger one of my fall superfoods. While I highly recommend hot ginger tea as my choice for a cold weather drink, there are so many other ways ginger can be used to add zing to your recipes while enhancing your overall health – and bone health – on many fronts.
One of the main benefits of ginger is its exceptional antioxidant properties – surpassed only by pomegranate and some berries. Unmet antioxidant needs are a major cause of osteoporosis.
Increase ginger’s antioxidant power
As we move into the winter months, you can significantly boost the antioxidant capacity of ginger by choosing certain warming and comforting cooking methods. Simmering, stewing and making soup all increase ginger’s antioxidant power, while grilling and stir frying decrease it.
My favorite holiday ginger recipe
Here’s one of my favorite holiday recipes with a healthy amount of ginger.
Gluten-free ginger snap cookies
2½ cups blanched almond flour
½ cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
4 to 5 teaspoons fresh ground ginger
½ teaspoon each ground cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, cardamom (or to taste)
6 Tablespoons butter, softened
2 Tablespoons honey
- Mix together all dry ingredients in a large bowl
- Beat together honey and butter, add egg and mix until combined
- Add wet ingredients to dry and mix until dough comes together (if the dough is not coming together add some cold water – a tablespoon at a time)
- Refrigerate dough for at least an hour (at this point you can roll the dough into a log, about 1½ to 2 inches in diameter, then instead of rolling the chilled dough into balls in the next step you can simply slice off as many cookies as you need.
- Roll dough into 1 to 2 tablespoon sized balls and bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees for about 10 minutes
5 extra reasons to add ginger root to your recipes
In addition to its antioxidant properties, extensive scientific research shows the bioactive components of ginger root, particularly gingerol and shogaols, have the following benefits:
1. Highly anti-inflammatory and can reduce pain, swelling and tissue damage. Unwanted inflammatory cytokines weaken bone and contributes to arthritis.
2. Enhances digestion, warms the body, “expels cold” and cures nausea. Strong digestion and assimilation is key to optimum bone health.
3. Aids in detoxification. Toxic build-up of any amount interferes with the functioning of all our cells. Ginger helps us detoxify through its alkalizing actions and by its contribution to the production of glutathione, our most important inner-cellular antioxidant.
4. Enhance immunity. Our immune system is our “circulating intelligence” intimately linked to skeletal functioning. Boosting immunity serves bone.
5. Cardio-protective. This is important news given the now established link between osteoporosis and heart disease.
It’s no wonder ginger has been used for over 5,000 years to improve health! What’s your favorite way to use ginger?
The Amazing And Mighty Ginger, Chapter 7, in Herbal Medicine: Biomolecular and Clinical Aspects. 2nd edition. Benzie IFF, Wachtel-Galor S, editors.Boca Raton (FL): CRC Press/Taylor & Francis; 2011.
Curcumin: Getting Back to the Roots Shishodia, Shishir et al., Annals of the NY Academy of Sciences Nov., 2005:206-217.
Chohan, M. et al., Plant Foods Hum Nutr (2008) 63: 47. doi:10.1007/s11130-007-0068-2
As the days get shorter and colder, I load my wood stove to keep myself warm. And I stoke my “other stove” as well — my digestion. It’s the “burner” of our physical body that miraculously transforms food into energy to keep us strong during the long winter.
Try my 6 tips for strengthening digestion:
- Fall is when we transition from light, raw summer salads to more substantial, hot, cooked foods like soups, stews baked and roasted dishes that warm both the house and our digestion. Cooked fall fruits make a great dessert. Try the Apple oat and nut muffin recipe below.
- Sip warming teas like fresh ginger root tea and my favorite toxin-busting cardamom, fennel, ginger tea. You can always just drink hot water after your meals too. If that doesn’t seem appealing, I challenge you to try it for just one week. I suspect you’ll make it a regular habit because it feels so good. Let me know!
- Warming spices and herbs not only provide antioxidants, but also warm and enhance digestion. Turmeric and ginger root are my favorites, but cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, nutmeg, mustard seed, red and black pepper are close behind. Try using more of these spices in your everyday cooking.
- Eating a larger lunch and an earlier, lighter dinner allows digestion to be complete before going to bed and making for a more successful and restful sleep-repair stage.
- Even if your meal is simple, enjoy the food in peaceful surroundings. Take time to chew well and savor different tastes. Just last night, I prepared a quick one-pan meal and enjoyed it while watching the sunset.
- One day a week, give your digestion a rest and eat only easy-to-digest liquid foods like soups, smoothies, and juices (made with warm water), protein shakes, pureed foods and plenty of hot water.
Apple oat and nut muffins recipe
From The Amazing Acid Alkaline Cookbook
Yield: 12 muffins
1 1/3 cups light spelt flour (option: gluten-free flour)
1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
½ cup Sucanat sugar
1 Tbsp baking powder
1 ½ tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp baking soda
1 cup finely chopped peeled apples
½ cup unsweetened almond milk
½ cup finely chopped and shelled raw pumpkin seeds, unsalted cashews or macadamia nuts
¼ cup unsweetened applesauce
¼ cup melted clarified butter
¼ cup rice syrup
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Lightly coat a 12-cup muffin pan with vegetable oil or clarified butter, or use a silicone muffin pan or paper liners, and set aside.
- In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, oats, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, and baking soda. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients.
- In a medium-sized bowl, combine the apples, milk, pumpkin seeds, applesauce, butter and rice syrup. Mix well with a spoon until blended.
- Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix just until combined.
- Divide the batter evenly among the prepared muffin cups. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean.
- Let the muffins cool in the pan for no more than 2 minutes before transferring them to a cooling rack.