Archive for May 2017

From my TCM nutrition book: Treating anxiety with food

treating anxiety naturally with food Vancouver nutritionStill working on it…my TCM nutrition book. One whole section of it will contain food suggestions for various health conditions. Because so many suffer from anxiety, I thought that would be a good section to share with all of you now.

Treating anxiety with food

Though there are several different types of anxiety—including panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, and phobias—and a wide range in severity of anxiety symptoms, the general symptoms include feeling panicked or uneasy, palpitations, shortness of breath, dry mouth, cold or sweaty hands or feet, muscle tension, dizziness, nausea, and problems sleeping.

TCM usually looks to the Water and Earth elements when addressing anxiety, as it is a combination of fear and worry. The Water element is related to the Kidneys and adrenal glands that pump out stress hormones. Some salty flavoured foods address this issue. The Earth element is fed by whole sweet foods, including complex carbohydrates. Unrefined complex carbohydrates maximize the presence of L-tryptophan in the brain which aids in the formation of the neurotransmitter serotonin.  Serotonin is required for calming the mind and promoting sound sleep.  L-tryptophan is found in most foods, but other amino acids in high-protein foods compete with its use in the formation of serotonin, so carbohydrates are your best source.

Of course you shouldn’t go overboard on the salty or sweet foods, and you may notice you crave these foods when you’re stressed, anxious, or depressed. But, look to find a healthy balance of whole foods that include these flavours.

Whole grains fit this category, as they are rich in B vitamins. They also contain some essential fatty acids, like the omega-3s you’ve probably heard about time and again as a thing you should make sure you eat. When the germ and bran of a grain is kept, you get these nutrients, and the bitter flavour of the whole grain supports the TCM Heart, helping to calm the mind. The interesting thing is that TCM and Ayurveda both use whole grains like wheat and barley (both gluten grains) as herbs and foods to help calm the mind and even improve digestion. That is, if your digestive system is not completely out of balance.

Foods rich in essential fatty acids and magnesium are also key to addressing anxiety. Essential fatty acids help improve brain function. Magnesium has been called “the original chill pill,” as it can help decrease an overactive stress response through a number of hormonal and brain mechanisms.

Put it all together, and these are foods that can help treat and decrease your anxiety.

  • Avocado
  • Chamomile tea is calming and ideal for the evening
  • Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, collard greens, kale, mustard greens
  • Green tea contains L-theanine which helps release chemicals in the brain that promote a feeling of alertness with calmness during the day
  • Magnesium-rich foods, including beans (black, kidney, lima, navy, pinto, white, etc.), halibut, tuna, artichoke, dates, figs, barley, oat bran, brown rice, almonds, pine nuts, brazil nuts, cashews, pumpkin seeds, chickpeas, lentils, broccoli, beet greens, okra, parsnips, peas, pumpkin, spinach, squash, sweet potatoes
  • Omega-3 essential fatty acid foods, including wild salmon, sardines, mackerel, and herring; also chia seeds, flax seeds (ground), and walnuts
  • Seaweeds such as dulse, kelp, kombu, nori, wakame

Foods that are best avoided or limited include stimulants like caffeine-containing food and beverages and processed or concentrated sugary foods.

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Local Superfoods BC

Many foodies are keen on splurging on the most recently “discovered” superfood, from achacha to zucchini flowers. Jicama salads, coconut aminos, and turmeric milk tea are all healthy foods. But you can’t grow their ingredients in Canada–they need warmer climates. I don’t call myself a foodie. I’ve yet to try achacha, jicama, or turmeric milk. I won’t line up for the next hot restaurant. And, I won’t spend half my paycheck on a meal. But I do consider myself food-focused, food-enthralled, and even a food-fiend. And so it is that I thought to write about some of the many wonderful local superfoods available in BC

Local Superfoods BC

Berries

local superfoods BC Vancouver healthy food natural medicineAs a Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) student, I spent 3 months in China doing internship in 2 different hospitals. One thing I noticed was that most of the TCM doctors drank hot water with goji berries (I know them as an herb called gou qi zi). As the weather got hotter, they added in chrysanthemum flowers. But the goji berries seemed a staple. 

Most of the world’s commercial goji berries are grown in China, but luckily we do actually have a local goji farm! Gojoy (great name!) is in Aldergrove. A nice local superfoods option, and you can u-pick starting soon! I’m going! 

Many other superfood berries are also locally grown, including blueberries, cranberries, strawberries, raspberries, boysenberries, blackberries, and so on and so on. Berries are a great source of fibre, potassium, folate, vitamins C, K, and an assortment of Bs. They are also one of the best sources of antioxidants (including resveratrol–not just in red wine!), helping stave off a wide range of diseases. They may help with fighting off, treating, or managing Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and obesity.

Mushrooms

local superfoods BC vancouver natural health foodsWant to know a secret? Mushrooms. Okay, maybe it’s not an actual secret–you know about mushrooms. But do you know that mushrooms sit atop the list of some of TCM’s most revered herbs? Reishi, shiitake, maitake, cordyceps, turkey tail, and lion’s mane are just some of the most wonderful and wondrous of the medicinal fungi we can eat. 

Researchers are expanding their study of the powerful compounds contained in these sometimes odd-looking edibles. Many of them have shown a remarkable ability to help boost immunity when we need to fight off a virus, bacteria, or cancerous cell, while also calming an overactive immune system when it comes to allergies and autoimmune disorders. Depending on the mushroom, they can also support the health of many other body systems, including brain, heart, lungs, liver, and kidneys. 

Even the lowly button mushroom has been shown to support many of our systems. Portobello mushrooms make a great vegan alternative for a burger. They are the right size and have a meaty consistency and taste. Which reminds me, I need to make this grilled portobello recipe soon.

At Christmastime I bought myself this bag of mixed dried BC mushrooms from West Coast Wild Foods and enjoyed every precious bite, including in this recipe for sauteed mushrooms (atop mashed sweet potatoes).

Sea Veggies

local superfoods bc vancouver natural health food“Eat your veggies,” said King Triton to his daughter Ariel. Or, at least I imagine he might have told her that, as she probably didn’t want to eat her friends Sebastien (the crab) or Flounder (the fish). What veggies would he be referring to? Sea vegetables, of course, including kelp, kombu, dulse, and wakame.

Seaweed is a particularly rich source of calcium, but also magnesium, chromium, iodine, iron, phosphorus, zinc, and vitamins A, Bs, C, E, and K. As it additionally contains a good amount of fibre, it has also been identified as a food that can reduce the incidence of colon cancer, decrease intestinal inflammatory diseases, support intestinal probiotics, and help regulate blood sugars.

For many, the only thought about eating seaweed is when you enjoy a California roll or other sushi. But did you know that you can crumble dried seaweed onto your rice or cooked vegetables, add it to soups or stews, or soak it and toss it on a salad.

Buckwheat

local superfoods BC vancouver natural health foodsLike quinoa, buckwheat is actually a seed that is thought of as a grain. So, yes, it is gluten-free–don’t let the fact that the name contains the word “wheat” fool you. Unlike quinoa, buckwheat can be grown locally in BC.

Buckwheat offers an excellent source of protein, fibre, antioxidants, magnesium, manganese, zinc, iron, phosphorus, B vitamins, and folate. It has been shown to help lower elevated blood pressure, reduce cholesterol, improve digestion, and help balance blood sugar.

I know people love their quinoa. It seems like healthy restaurant menus contain quinoa in everything. Personally, I find this a real challenge because quinoa causes me stomach pain that radiates into my back. I’d love to love quinoa. But it doesn’t love me back. That’s because the seed and its coating contain the compound saponin, which causes allergies with symptoms like stomach pain, hives, and itchy skin. Some find that soaking quinoa before cooking removes enough saponin to make it easy to enjoy. Doesn’t work for me. So, instead…I get to have a local superfood (even better!) called buckwheat. 

I just wish the local restaurants would catch up and make the switch. 

A slew more local superfoods 

local BC superfoods Vancouver health foodWhile I do occasionally enjoy tropical fruits and I love coconut oil and avocados, it’s definitely a good idea to try to emphasize local superfoods over exotic ones that have to travel a long way to make it to your plate. The good thing is that here, in BC, we have a lot of options. 

Just because these foods might be common, doesn’t mean they should be downplayed. We should really celebrate their availability, flavour, and health benefits.

For example, many of us health nuts are nuts over almonds. But almonds are grown largely in California, and they require a lot of water for their growth. Note that California has had some major droughts. Instead, you might consider hazelnuts. These beauties, full of fibre, essential fatty acids, vitamins E and the Bs, folate, copper, and manganese, are grown in the Fraser Valley.

Other wonderful local foods include west coast wild salmon, apples, spinach, broccoli, cauliflower, beets, and pumpkin. 

I don’t have a green thumb or the space to keep a garden, but if you do, growing your own local superfoods is perhaps the best way to save money, de-stress, and get and stay healthy.

What local BC superfoods are your favourite?

 

 

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Sauteed mushrooms and mashed sweet potatoes recipes

mashed sweet potato and sauteed mushroom healthy easy recipe nutrition vancouverWant a delicious side dish that will support your immune system? And, want that dish to be easy to make? This is it! I usually eat fewer root veggies as the weather warms, but today I was craving sweet potatoes, and though I would normally roast them, seasonal changes mean I’d try something different. 

Traditional Chinese Medicine rates different cooking methods as adding different levels of heat to the food. If you experience a lot of cold signs, like poor blood circulation, feeling cold, slow digestion, and pale complexion, then you should add more warming foods. If you tend toward more heat symptoms like feeling hot, sweating easily, fast metabolism, and flushed complexion, then cooling foods are a better call for you. Roasting adds a lot more warmth than boiling, so as the weather is starting to warm, I’m pulling back on how much roasted food I consume, adding in more steamed, boiled, and juiced. Because I still tend toward cold, I still limit how much raw food I eat.

Sweet potatoes are a rich source of vitamins A, C, Bs, potassium, copper, and fibre–great for strengthening the immune and digestive systems. Mushrooms are often used to support the immune system too. While spring is here, cold and flus are still circulating, so it helps to have immune supportive foods to keep a spring cold at bay.

Mashed Sweet Potatoes
Better than mashed potatoes, I think.
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Ingredients
  1. 4 sweet potatoes (you could use yams instead if you like, but though people often use the names interchangeably, they are different vegetables)
  2. 2 Tbsp coconut oil
  3. 1/4 cup of almond milk
  4. 2-6 Tbsp of maple syrup (depends on your sweet tooth)
  5. salt and pepper
Instructions
  1. Peel and cut the sweet potatoes into cubes
  2. Boil in water until soft, 20-30 minutes
  3. Drain out water
  4. Mash sweet potatoes with a potato masher, fork, or hand blender
  5. Stir in coconut oil
  6. Add in almond milk so it's the consistency you like
  7. Add in maple syrup to taste
  8. Add salt and pepper to taste
Acupuncture, TCM, natural health, Vancouver, BC http://www.activetcm.com/
Mushroom Saute
Mushrooms should always be cooked. But the cooking of them can be super simple. Like this.
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Ingredients
  1. Mushrooms, 1/2 cup sliced (instead, I rehydrated a bag of West Coast Wild Foods mixed mushrooms)
  2. 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce (I used Copper Kettle Fine Foods small batch handmade sauce)
  3. 1 Tbsp coconut oil
Instructions
  1. Heat oil at medium heat
  2. Add mushrooms and saute a few minutes
  3. Add Worcestershire sauce (took me a long time to learn how to spell that; still can't pronounce it!)
  4. Saute another few minutes
  5. Optional to serve on top of mashed sweet potatoes
Acupuncture, TCM, natural health, Vancouver, BC http://www.activetcm.com/

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Quick and easy tropical smoothie bowl recipe

healthy smoothie bowl recipe healthy food vancouverMay 1. I think. One moment it’s sunny and dry. The next it’s raining and cold. Hard to know what to wear when you head outside. It’s also hard to know what to eat, if you follow treating to eat with the seasonal cues. The last recipe I shared was a warming soup. Today wasn’t warm out, but after the rain cleared for a bit and the sun came out, I felt like having something cool and refreshing. Thus, my smoothie bowl recipe.

Smoothie bowl recipes are all over the internet. But I find some of them too complicated, too many ingredients and things I need to slice. Now, I normally recommend local, seasonally available foods. But, that’s what to emphasize, not hard core. Every now and then you might want something tropical. Like mango.

Mango is rich in antioxidants, fibre, vitamin C, carotenes, vitamin A, potassium, and more.

What I love about smoothies and smoothie bowls is that you really don’t need a recipe (even though I’m going to give you one). Modify it to contain what you want. Smoothie bowls are basically super thick smoothies. 

Quick and Easy Tropical Smoothie Bowl
Couldn't get much simpler.
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Ingredients
  1. 2 large mangoes
  2. 1 cup coconut water
  3. 1 scoop vanilla protein powder
  4. 1 tray ice cubes
Instructions
  1. Peel and cut up the mango small enough to put in your blender (I have a Vitamix, so I don't need to chop very much)
  2. Add coconut water, protein powder, and ice cubes to blender
  3. Blend until smooth. If too thin, add more ice. If too thick, add more water or coconut water.
Notes
  1. If you're using frozen mango, you may not need as much ice.
  2. Optional to add coconut flakes on top. Or, if you want, sliced fruit.
  3. Note that this makes a lot. For me it's 4-5 servings because I treat this as a treat, not a meal.
Adapted from nope
Adapted from nope
Acupuncture, TCM, natural health, Vancouver, BC http://www.activetcm.com/
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