Why You Should Be Eating More Healthy Fats In The Winter

Why You Should Be Eating More Healthy Fats In The Winter


Warding off the winter blues could be as simple as eating more nuts, salmon, and grass-fed beef.

We’re fast approaching winter, and for many of us, that means we’re craving carbs. Potatoes, pastas, pastries—it all sounds good right about now, and with the summer and swimsuits months away, it can be easy to give in to those cravings. But letting our excuses win does more than just sabotage the waistline, says Nora Gedgaudas, certified nutritional therapist and author of Primal Body, Primal Mind. Loading up on carbohydrates in the winter can destroy your mood as well—and not just because you feel like your pants are getting tighter.

We’re fast approaching winter, and for many of us, that means we’re craving carbs. Potatoes, pastas, pastries—it all sounds good right about now, and with the summer and swimsuits months away, it can be easy to give in to those cravings. But letting our excuses win does more than just sabotage the waistline, says Nora Gedgaudas, certified nutritional therapist and author of Primal Body, Primal Mind. Loading up on carbohydrates in the winter can destroy your mood as well—and not just because you feel like your pants are getting tighter.

The urge to gorge on carbohydrates is just one symptom of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), a pattern of depression that affects 14 million people in the United States for nearly four months each year—children and teens included and women four times as much as men. Those afflicted with this severe variety of winter blues may be sleepier than normal, have difficulty getting out of bed in the morning and have a hard time accomplishing daily tasks at home and work. They may have less interest in sex and social activities, experience depressive thoughts and feelings, and quarrel more frequently with partners and loved ones.

In 1984, Norman Rosenthal, M.D., piloted a milestone study correlating reduced exposure to sunlight with incidence of SAD. Sunlight triggers the production of serotonin, a neurotransmitter in charge of boosting your mood. When the sun goes down at night, serotonin converts to melatonin—a hormone that makes us sleepy. The next morning, the arrival of daylight converts melatonin back to serotonin, giving us the get-up-and-go we need to make it through the day.

What do carbohydrates have to do with all of this? In Rosenthal’s 1984 study, 79 percent of participating SAD sufferers complained of heightened carbohydrate cravings. And there’s a reason your body wants them. Consuming carbohydrates boosts the availability of the amino acid tryptophan, which is what sunlight converts to mood-boosting serotonin and vitamin B6. The problem is, you’re not consuming anything that contains high levels of tryptophan, says Gedgaudas.

The best sources for tryptophan are seafoodpoultrygrass-fed meatsleafy greens, and green vegetables such as asparagus and broccoli. But because SAD causes you to crave refined carbs, you eat less of those healthy foods, and as a result, your body has no tryptophan to turn into serotonin. As a result, your energy levels plummet and you feel bad. “So you feel tired and you feel out of it, and you feel like you want to be sleeping. You’re depressed,” she says.

While Gedgaudas thinks refined carbs should be eliminated permanently, if that’s not an option for you, it still is a good idea to cut back in the winter, particularly for SAD sufferers. Even though refined carbohydrates give you energy and provide a short-term mood lift, they’re really just a “short term fix,” Gedgaudas says. “White rice, potatoes, cereal, pasta—you can kind of look upon those as being like paper on a fire,” she says. They tend to flood your system with tons of energy all at once, and then you experience a blood-sugar crash that causes you to crave more carbs, and the cycle goes on and on. Even carbohydrates such as brown rice and beans can have the same effect, she says, but at less severe levels. What’s more, she adds, “grain-based diets are part of the reason people are so deficient in tryptophan.  Grains don’t contain this essential amino acid, and eating grain-based diets depletes tryptophan.” (Here’s exactly what one woman ate to get her blood sugar levels under control.)

Instead, Gedgaudas suggests a more efficient energy source: fat—a long-lasting, even-burning fuel. Healthy fats, such as organic coconut oil and ghee (Indian clarified butter), along with grass-fed meats provide all the tryptophan your body needs at a consistent level, keeping your mood elevated. In fact, a study in the Journal of Affective Disorders found that giving volunteers tryptophan supplements was as effective as light therapy for treating SAD.

The fuel switch is not always easy. Cravings for starchy or sugary treats can be intense for the first few days, but that goes away, says Gedgaudas. While you’re transitioning, add healthy fats such as coconut oil to healthy complex carbohydrates; doing so will slow down your body’s absorption of carbohydrates, resulting in a longer, steadier energy burn. “Taking omega-3s for SAD I think is quite important, as well,” she adds. They improve your body’s serotonin receptors and help ward off depression.

Of course carbohydrates are just one piece to the SAD puzzle. There are lots of other ways you can lighten seasonal depression, if giving up carbs isn’t doable. Getting more sunlight is essential, whether it’s through spending more time by the window, incorporating a walk everyday or investing in a full spectrum lightbox for your desk at work. The old healthy living standbys have a lot of sway here, too. Don’t forget to get enough sleep and enough hilarious downtime with friends. And exercise! After all, there’s no better mood-lift than a post-workout endorphin rush.


4 Amazing Ways Spices Boost Your Immune System (Plus 9 Spices To Try)

4 Amazing Ways Spices Boost Your Immune System (Plus 9 Spices To Try)


Research has given us four reasons to keep your spice rack stocked with these staples.



It’s time to replace your medicine cabinet with your spice rack, according to 16 research papers published in Nutrition Today summarizing a Science Summit held by the McCormick Science institute and the American Society for Nutrition in Washington, DC. They named four major areas where herbs and spices can impact your health:


Health food has a reputation for being rather boring since it’s not loaded up with fat and sugar (two things that taste really good). However, research from the University of Colorado found that adding spices to healthy dishes could make them just as appealing as full-fat versions. This means that “diet” food can be incorporated into a long-term plan for healthy eating.


We turn to salt when our food doesn’t have enough taste. Unfortunately, for people with high blood pressure on a low-sodium diet the menu can start looking pretty tasteless. Fortunately, research from Johns Hopkins found that simply adding spices led people to eat 966 milligrams of sodium per day less than those who didn’t.


Not only does food seasoned with herbs and spices taste better, it also makes you feel fuller and boosts metabolism. Researchers from Maastricht University in the Netherlands found that adding red pepper helped increase satiety, and if you’re full, you’re less likely to reach for an unhealthy snack later in the day.


While the healthy-eating strategies above can help you lose weight (which is protective against heart disease), the spices themselves may also have heart-healthy benefits. A review of research from The Pennsylvania State University found that adding spices to even a high-fat meal resulted in lower post-meal insulin and triglyceride levels.

Not sure which herbs to add to your cooking in order to get the most health benefits? Elson Haas, MD, and Sondra Barrett, PhD, authors of Ultimate Immunity, share their favorite immunity-boosting spices next.

Cayenne Pepper

Haas and Barrett explain that cayenne gets its kick from the compound capsaicin. Not only does capsaicin turn up the heat, but it also can inhibit pain due to inflammation. Plus, this spice is a great source of antioxidants.



Sure, cinnamon flavors every fall treat, but it can also help you fight off those fall colds as an immune stimulator. Plus, it prevents blood platelet clumping, inhibits inflammatory substances, and can regulate blood sugar.



Vampires and colds beware—we’re armed with garlic. Haas and Barrett point out that this cooking staple is antiseptic, contains antioxidants, and has been shown to help fight a cold, due to the effects of the compound allicin.



While ginger is most famous for its ability to quell nausea, Haas and Barrett explain ginger also decreases inflammation, fights bacteria and fungi, and improves circulation.



Unfortunately, we don’t mean the candy. Licorice root, however, has the ability to lessen the inflammation response, especially in the stomach. (The authors do caution that, if taken in large amounts, it can raise blood pressure.)



Forget the Mash: Upgrade with Turmeric Cauliflower

Forget the Mash: Upgrade with Turmeric Cauliflower


We understand that the holidays often come preloaded with a table full of traditional dishes. We get it – mom’s mom makes the best stuffing you’ve ever had, and so on.


We however, also acknowledge that this way of thinking doesn’t do much for our wellness routines we’ve worked so hard on for the other 360 days of the year. When did holiday meals instantly equate indulgent or unhealthy. We’re righting this wrong and upgrading our holiday dinner plates with a delicious and equally healthy turmeric cauliflower that will make you forget the mash.

Cauliflower is an excellent source of vitamin C, vitamin K, folate, pantothenic acid, and vitamin B6. It is a very good source of choline, dietary fiber, omega-3 fatty acids, manganese, phosphorous, and biotin. Additionally, it is a good source of vitamin B2, protein, vitamin B1, niacin, and magnesium. Low in carbohydrates and boosted with anti-inflammatory turmeric, this dish is a welcome addition to the dinner table anytime of year.


Serves 4


1 medium head of cauliflower, chopped into florets

½ cup almond flour

⅓ cup nutritional yeast, plus 2 Tablespoons for topping

2 Tablespoon ghee, or coconut oil

1 Tablespoon ground turmeric powder

¼ teaspoon paprika

¼ teaspoon pink Himalayan sea salt

Few grinds of freshly ground black pepper

Sprig of fresh rosemary


Preheat oven to 380℉.

In a large bowl, use your hands to massage the cauliflower with the melted coconut oil or ghee, turmeric, salt, black pepper, and nutritional yeast. Load into a baking dish and top with the additional 2 Tbsp of nutritional yeast and the almond flour. Sprinkle the rosemary and paprika on top and bake for 40 minutes until the cauliflower is soft and succulent and the top is crispy and browned.

If desired, pureé or process cooked and seasoned cauliflower into a mash and substitute for a potatoes. Sprinkle with additional nutritional yeast and almond flour and baked again for 15 minutes until golden brown.



Guide to Winter Immunity

Guide to Winter Immunity


Fall and winter don’t have to be cold and flu season. Try these natural tips to improve your chances of fighting illness and staying healthy all year long.


Late fall and early winter offer many wonderful things: The start of the holiday season, a time to slow down and get more rest, long cozy evenings spent around the fire. But as winter gets nearer, we also tend to notice a few undesirable side effects: namely, increased illnesses that can seem to spread like wildfire in our workplaces, community spaces and schools.

Although nearly all of us will catch a stray bug here and there, we can take many steps to bolster our immunity, thereby avoiding or significantly shortening the length of illnesses and enhancing our well-being throughout the season. What follows are some of our favorite ways to avoid illness, both preventive daily measures and emergency tactics for when that scratchy throat hits. Use these tips and enjoy a winter season with less illness and more contentment.

Eat for Wellness

One of the most important ways we support our immunity, year-round and against both acute illness and chronic disease, is with our diets. Eating a wide array of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, high-quality protein and healthy fats helps boost the health of every organ and bodily system, making us more resistant to stress and illness. While scientists are quick to point out that no one “immune-boosting” food is a silver bullet for illness avoidance, certain micronutrient deficiencies are linked with increased rates of infection, so making sure to take in plenty of vitamins and minerals through daily consumption of whole foods is critical to our health.

One specific food group that researchers are finding may be directly linked with our immunity is the family of foods containing beneficial bacteria. All types of traditionally fermented foods, including sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir, kombucha, fermented pickles, miso, tempeh, yogurt and natto, help maintain a healthy balance of bacteria in our bodies — together, these bacteria are known as our microbiome. While scientists are still learning all the mechanisms involved in our microbiome’s relationship with our health, the research is fairly solid to support a distinct connection between thriving gut bacteria and resistance to illness. To take advantage of the effects, try to eat a small amount of fermented foods every day, and include a variety of probiotic-rich foods to build the most diverse population of healthy bacteria in your own body. (Check out the book The Cultured Cook by frequent Mother Earth Living contributor Michelle Schoffro Cook for a huge array of fermented food recipes.)

Manage Stress, Manage Illness

Managing stress is key to managing illness. In fact, according to Psychology Today, some experts claim stress is responsible for as much as 90 percent of all illness and disease, including everything from colds and flus to cancer and heart disease. This is because stress triggers chemical reactions that flood the body with the hormone cortisol, decreasing white blood cells and Natural Killer (NK) cells and increasing rates of infection. The effects of stress are cumulative, so learning to manage stress daily is critical for avoiding the many serious health problems it can cause. Some of the best techniques for managing stress include daily meditation, positive thinking and developing a network of solid social support. A strong network of social support may, in fact, help boost immune function all on its own. Studies find strong social support to improve immunity and lower rates of morbidity and mortality across a number of diseases.

Sleep for Health

Getting enough sleep is fundamentally linked with healthy immune function. A significant body of research shows that immune function is closely tied to our 24-hour circadian clock, and that disruption of this cycle weakens the immune system. While much of the research on sleep and immunity focuses on extreme sleep deprivation (for example, in one recent study, staying awake for more than 24 hours straight), other research confirms that even modest sleep loss can reduce NK activity and cellular immune response. Many people find that in winter their bodies require more sleep than in summer — longer nights may trigger the desire for more sleep. Whenever possible, yield to these desires and allow yourself to sleep longer during the coldest parts of the year. It may be key to avoiding illness. If you have trouble sleeping, experts recommend a few initial steps: Go to bed and wake up at the same time daily; practice meditation or breathing exercises before bed; stay away from screens and blue light within an hour or two of bedtime; and avoid caffeine in the afternoon and evening. You may also find the routine of a nightly cup of chamomile tea — a mild sedative — or golden milk to be a calming pre-bed ritual. For more information on getting a good night’s sleep, visit motherearthliving.com/sleep.


Exercise for Immunity

The best way to use exercise to maximize immune response is to engage in daily moderate exercise, research suggests. Moderate exercise enhances the activity of our NK cells, which recognize cells infected with a virus and try to eliminate them. However, highly intense exercise — such as marathon running — may actually depress the immune system, making us two to six times more likely to get sick immediately after the long workout. This is because prolonged exercise can suppress TH1 — our first-line defense against illness. Experts recommend regular, moderate exercise to boost immunity, including 30-minute walks, biking a few times a week, exercising at the gym every other day or playing sports. Yoga may also benefit immunity. Although some of this effect is attributable to its influence on stress response, some of it may also be physical. Yoga stimulates the digestive, circulatory, nervous and endocrine systems, all of which may make our bodies able to more quickly respond to threats.

Enjoy the Outdoors

Preliminary research suggests that spending time outdoors, particularly in forest settings, may stimulate the production of anti-cancer proteins and offer a general boost to the immune system, although researchers don’t have a clear explanation as to the mechanisms behind these actions. In one study conducted by Japanese immunologist Qing Li, hiking twice a day for three days increased participants’ white blood cells by 40 percent, and they remained elevated by 15 percent a month later. These results weren’t found after urban walking, suggesting something uniquely beneficial about spending time in a natural setting. In our next issue, we’ll cover the health benefits of spending time outdoors in the winter in greater depth.





7 Tips For Caring For Your Pet This Winter

7 Tips For Caring For Your Pet This Winter


When temperatures drop and snow starts to coat the ground outside, it’s important to adjust your pet’s daily routine so you can keep him happy, safe, and comfortable until the buds of spring begin to bloom. Caring for your pet in the winter is a multi-pronged effort that will require some thought and preparation. Here are seven things you can do to make this your pet’s best winter ever.



1. Take Care of Your Dog’s Paws

A dog’s legs, tail, and ears are most susceptible to frostbite, says Dr. Rebecca Ruch-Gallie, service chief for the Colorado State University Veterinary Teaching Hospital’s community practice. While there’s not much you can do for the tail and ears—besides keeping your walks short or walking during daylight hours—booties will provide some welcome warmth to your dog’s paws. Booties can also protect your dog from harmful chemicals like deicers. While some ice melts are clearly marked as safe for pets, many others are not. If your dog licks his paws after walking on deicer, he may be at risk of getting sick. For dogs who refuse to wear booties, you can use a towel to wipe their paws after a walk, Ruch-Gallie says. If you notice your dog stepped in salt, rinse the area as soon as possible.

2. Adjust Daily Calories for Changes in Activity

A dog’s diet is precisely calibrated to give him all the vitamins, minerals, and calories he needs to thrive. But when a dog’s activity level changes drastically, as it can in the winter, adjustments need to be made to ensure adequate nutrition. Ruch-Gallie says this can happen in both directions. “My dog loves the snow. She’ll go out five or six times a day when it snows to play. On those days, she may need more calories because of the increase in exercise,” she says. “Other dogs don’t like to go out at all—even for potty breaks. Because they’re less active, they should consume fewer calories.” If you’re unsure what’s best for your dog and his activity level, consult with your vet to come up with a plan.

3. Play with Your Pet’s Food

When it comes to how you feed your dog, there are fun, creative things you can try that will both satisfy his hunger and give him a bit of a workout, says Dr. Deborah Linder, research assistant professor at Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University. “For dogs that are food-motivated, you can encourage activity by spreading meals throughout different parts of the house or throwing kibble to have your pet chase it down a hallway,” she says. “Mentally stimulating dogs can also be a great way to get them moving with food-dispensing toys and interactive or puzzle toys.”




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