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Nutrition and Anxiety: Is Your Diet Making You Anxious?

Anxiety disorders are one of the most common mental illnesses in the U.S. (affecting over 40 million adults). 
You may think that the stress in your life is just a result of your hectic schedule or financial worries. But what you may not realize is that the food you eat for comfort could not only be adding stress to your system, but could also be causing you to see the challenges in your life as more stressful than they are.

Symptoms such as insomnia, irrational fears, and chronic worrying are red alerts that your body and brain are stuck in “fight or flight” mode. But how did you get there? We often blame our jobs or family life, but what’s on our plate can also turn up the tension. Although there are many causes of anxiety, there are some common foods that may be making your anxiety worse. So, I have put together a list of 3 common foods that might be making you anxious.

1.  Caffeine 

Millions of people rely on a regular caffeine fix to jump start their day or to perk up when their energy nosedives. Caffeine is a stimulant (which can be bad news for someone with anxiety). Caffeine’s jittery effects in your body are very similar to those of a frightening event. That’s because caffeine stimulates your body’s “fight or flight” response. Studies have shown that consuming too much caffeine can make anxiety worse and even trigger a panic attack (racing heartbeats, shortness of breath, etc). Similar to the symptoms of anxiety, consuming too many cups of coffee may leave you feeling nervous, moody, and unable to sleep! 

Try this instead: 

  • Drink more water, and decaffeinated tea and coffee, and ask the barista for only a single shot in your long black. 
  • Avoid energy drinks. Some have the equivalent of five cups of coffee in one can.
  • Wean yourself off caffeine over time to avoid symptoms such as headaches, and switch to drinks such as dandelion coffee and herbal tea.

2. Sugar 

The Standard American Diet, which is full of sugar and fat, does not necessarily cause anxiety but it does appear to worsen anxiety symptoms and impair the body’s ability to cope with stress. Individuals who suffer from panic attacks, for example, are hyper-alert to signs of impending danger. Sugar can cause blurry vision, difficulty thinking and fatigue, all of which may be interpreted as signs of a panic attack, thereby increasing worry and fear. A sugar high and subsequent crash can cause shaking and tension, which can make anxiety worse.

Try this instead: 

Make a goal to eliminate sugar for 1 week (or 2) and see how you feel. You might not even realize how bad it makes you feel until you add it back in. Try it out for yourself!

3.  Food additives: Aspartame, Food Coloring, Dyes  

Many people suffer from mood swings after eating food additives like artificial flavors, colors & sweeteners. Avoid them where possible or if you do have something with an artificial dye or sweetener try to monitor how you feel afterwards. Many artificial sweeteners & colorings are neurotoxins and can disrupt the normal functioning of your nervous system resulting in increased feelings of anxiety.

Food for Thought:

If you experience stress and anxiety or panic attacks, making some modifications to your diet may help alleviate your symptoms. 



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Meatless Monday: Indian-Spiced Potato & Pea Patties

These potato patties are 100% vegan and they make a great appetizer or you can serve them as a main dish! 

 INDIAN-SPICED POTATO & PEA PATTIES 

Ingredients

  • 3 large potatoes, peeled, boiled and mashed
  • ¾ cup frozen peas (uncooked)
  • ½ large onion, chopped
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, minced
  • 1 tsp. chili powder
  • 2 tsp. garam masala
  • 1 tsp. cumin powder
  • 1 tbs. grated ginger
  • 1 handful fresh parsley or cilantro leaves, chopped
  • 2 tbs. bread crumbs (I used panko)
  • 4 tbs. flour (I prefer chickpea flour)

Instructions 

  1. Once the potatoes have been boiled and mashed, add in all the other ingredients.
  2. Form into patties (you should be able to get 8 large patties or 10 smaller ones).
  3. Heat a little oil over medium-high heat and fry a few minutes on each side until golden brown. 
  4. Drain and cool on paper towels.
  5. Serve with any kind of sauce you like.
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Poison Ivy & Other Poisonous Plants

7 out of 10 people are allergic to poison ivy, making this the world’s most common allergy. People who have the allergy are sensitive to an irritating resin that’s found in poison ivy, poison oak and poison sumac.   
A rash from poison ivy, poison oak or poison sumac is caused by an oil (resin) found in these plants called urushiol (you-ROO-shee-all). When this oil touches your skin, it often causes an itchy, blistering rash.

See a Doctor

Most people can safely treat the rash at home. However, if you experience any of the following symptoms, go to the emergency room right away. 

If you have any of the following, go to the emergency room right away:

  • You have trouble breathing or swallowing
  • The rash covers most of your body
  • You have many rashes or blisters
  • You have a temperature over 100 F
  • If the rash spreads to your eyes, mouth, genital area, or covers more than one-fourth of your skin area
  • You experience swelling, especially if an eyelid swells shut
  • Much of your skin itches, or nothing seems to ease the itch
  • If the itching keeps you awake at night

Tips for Treatment

If you do not have the above symptoms, the rash appears on a small section of your skin, and you are absolutely certain that your rash is due to poison ivy, poison oak, or poison sumac, you may be able to treat the rash at home. To treat a rash from poison ivy, poison oak, or poison sumac and help stop the itch, the following recommended:

  1. Immediately rinse your skin with lukewarm, soapy water. If you can rinse your skin immediately after touching poison ivy, poison oak, or poison sumac, you may be able to rinse off some of the oil. 
  2. Wash your clothing. Thoroughly wash all of the clothes you were wearing when you came into contact with the poisonous plant. The oil can stick to clothing, and if it touches your skin, it can cause another rash.
  3. Wash everything that may have the oil on its surface. Besides clothing, the oil from poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac can stick to many surfaces, including gardening tools, golf clubs, leashes and even a pet’s fur. Be sure to wash your pet’s fur, and wash tools and other objects with warm, soapy water (this is also discussed in “Tips for Prevention.”
  4. Take short, lukewarm baths. To ease the itch, take short, lukewarm baths in a colloidal oatmeal preparation, which you can buy at your local drugstore. You can also draw a bath and add one cup of baking soda to the running water. Taking short, cool showers may also help.
  5. Apply cool compresses to the itchy skin. You can make a cool compress by wetting a clean washcloth with cold water and wringing it out so that it does not drip. Then, apply the cool cloth to the itchy skin.
  6. Leave blisters alone. If blisters open, do not remove the overlying skin, as the skin can protect the raw wound underneath and prevent infection.
  7. Try not scratch, as scratching can cause an infection.

Other Home Remedies include:

  • Moisten a plain old tea bag (black or green, it doesn’t matter) and apply it to the itchy skin. The tannic acid in tea, which is astringent, helps contract inflamed tissue and relieve the itching.
  • Dab calamine lotion onto the rash. This classic poison ivy remedy relieves itch and will help dry up blisters. If you find the lotion too runny, just mix in a little cornstarch.
  • Using a cotton ball, treat your rash with witch hazel, which has a great reputation as a skin soother. The kind that comes in an alcohol solution cools your skin as it evaporates.
  • Use a vinegar compress to dry the rash and relieve itching. Mix a half-cup white vinegar with 1-1/2 cups water. Chill in the refrigerator. When you need cool relief, moisten a cloth in the solution and press it onto the rash.

Remember: If your rash is not improving after 5-7 days, or you think your rash may be infected, seek medical treatment. A healthcare professional can treat your rash and any infection and help relieve the itch.

Tips for Prevention 

Learn what poison ivy, oak, and sumac plants look like so you can avoid them. The following explains how you can identify these plants so you can avoid these plants. But, keep in mind that the appearance of each of these plants can vary considerably from region to region and with the seasons. 

What poison ivy looks like:  

 

  • Each leaf has 3 small leaflets.
  • It grows as a shrub (low woody plant) in the far Northern and Western United States, Canada, and around the Great Lakes.
  • It grows as a vine in the East, Midwest, and South of the United States.
  • In spring, it grows yellow-green flowers.
  • It may have green berries that turn off-white in early fall.

What poison oak looks like: 

 

  • Each leaf has 3 small leaflets.
  • It most often grows as a shrub.
  • It can grow as a vine in the Western United States.
  • It may have yellow-white berries.

What poison sumac looks like: 

 

  • It has 7 to 13 leaflets per leaf stem. The leaves have smooth edges and pointed tips.
  • It grows as a tall shrub or small tree in bogs or swamps in Northeast, Midwest, and parts of the Southeast. 
  • Leaves are orange in spring, green in summer, and yellow, orange, or red in fall. 
  • It may have yellow-greenish flowers and whitish green fruits (berries) that hang in loose clusters.

Other Tips for Prevention:

  • Wash your garden tools and gloves regularly. If you think you may be working around poison ivy, wear long sleeves, long pants tucked into boots, and impermeable gloves.
  • Wash your pet if it may have brushed up against poison ivy, oak, or sumac. Use pet shampoo and water while wearing rubber gloves, such as dishwashing gloves. Most pets are not sensitive to poison ivy, but the oil can stick to their fur and cause a reaction in someone who pets them.

Learn more at familydoctor.org

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    Meatless Monday: Apricot Oatmeal Granola Bars

    Granola bars are one of my favorite grab-n-go snack foods. They’re easy to pack, store well and can give you a much needed energy boost when you’re out and about but aren’t ready for a full meal.  Homemade granola bars are quite easy to make and definitely fit the bill for a tasty snack.

    So, if you’re looking for a high energy snack that won’t weigh you down, you’ve got to try these granola bars. They taste great and are completely vegan (no eggs, milk, or dairy products)!

    Apricot Oatmeal Granola Bars (V)

    Ingredients:

    • 2.5 cups old-fashioned rolled oats (not instant)
    • 1/4 cup peanut butter
    • 1 large mashed banana
    • 1 cup chopped toasted pecans
    • 1/3 cup chopped apricots
    • 1/3 cup raisins
    • 2/3 cup maple syrup
    • 1 tsp cinnamon

    Instructions 

    1. Preheat over to 325 degrees and toast the pecans for 10 minutes on a small baking sheet. 
    2. Meanwhile, prepare the granola batter. In a large bowl, mix together the mashed banana and peanut butter. Add maple syrup and cinnamon and whisk until combined.
    3. Stir in the oats, making sure that all of the oats are moistened. Add more maple syrup or peanut butter if needed. (note: the less “wet” ingredients you add, the crunchier your bars will be)
    4. Remove toasted pecans from oven and stir into the oat mixture. Add raisins and chopped apricots. 
    5. Press mixture into 8×8 baking pan, making sure it is evenly distributed and tightly packed.
    6. Bake for 25 minutes. Cool for at least 1 hour before cutting into squares. (Makes 16 bars)
    7. Enjoy!   

    Recipe from Sally’s Baking Addiction

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    Meatless Monday: Avocado Brownies

    The avocado is one of the best foods you can eat. You will find over 20 essential nutrients in an avocado. These include B vitamins, Vitamin E, Folic Acid, Potassium, and Fiber just to name a few.  

     There is an added health benefit of eating avocados. They contain healthy fats which bind with nutrients from other foods allowing the body to absorb and digest them better.

    Many people who are trying to lose weight are concerned about the calorie content of an avocado. It is true that they are one of the more calorie dense fruits but this generally isn’t something to worry about for most people. For those who are trying to maintain or lose weight, the bigger concern is the fat content. One cup of avocado has about 21g of fat. 

    Even if you are on a diet and concerned about the calories and fat content you can still enjoy avocado (in moderation) a couple of times a week. The nutritional benefits far outweigh any possible down side associated with this delicious fruit!

    One of the greatest things about this delicious food is the wide variety of recipes you can make using it.

    Today’s Meatless Monday recipe is for vegan avocado brownies! These are healthy brownies made with black beans instead of flour, and avocado instead of butter or oil. Holy Guacamole, you’re going to love these fudgy chocolate-packed vegan and gluten free treats!!!

    Avocado Brownies (Vegan, GF)

    Ingredients

    • 1 large flax egg (1 Tbsp Flaxseed meal + 2.5 Tbsp of water)
    • 1 – 15oz can low sodium black beans, rinsed and drained
    • 1/2 medium to large ripe avocado
    • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
    • 1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
    • 2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
    • 1 teaspoon coconut oil
    • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
    • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
    • 1/3 cup vegan chocolate chips, plus 2 tablespoons for sprinkling

    Instructions 

    1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 8×8 inch baking pan.
    2. Place flax egg, black bean, avocado, vanilla, and brown sugar and process in a food processor until smooth. 
    3. Add in cocoa powder, coconut oil, baking soda, and baking powder and process again until smooth. Batter will be thick. If batter is way too thick and won’t process, you can add in a tablespoon or two of almond milk. This batter needs to be very thick in order to produce fudgy brownies. 
    4. Fold in chocolate chip or sprinkle onto batter then transfer to prepared pan and use a spatula to spread evenly to sides. 
    5. Sprinkle top of batter with 2 tablespoons of remaining chocolate chips.
    6. Bake for 22-30 minutes or until knife inserted in center comes out somewhat clean. We don’t want these to dry out, but we also don’t want them completely raw either! The top of the batter should be completely set and no longer jiggle. 
    7. Cool pan completely on wire rack then cut into 12 bars.
    8. Enjoy!  

    Notes

    The brownies are best went made in a food processor so that beans can blend together better.

    The brownies are best when served at room temperature or cold. They should be stored in the fridge. 

    Recipe from www.ambitiouskitchen.com

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    Meatless Monday: Deviled Tomatoes

    Deviled Tomatoes If you no longer eat eggs but have a craving for classic deviled eggs, you’ll really enjoy these deviled tomatoes (a completely vegan version). The combination of chickpeas, nutritional yeast, and vegan mayo add up to a fairly egg-like flavor and consistency. And these are even easier to make than the originals! 

    Ingredients:

    • 15- to 16-ounce can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
    • 1/3 cup vegan mayonnaise (Soy-free) veganaise 
    • 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
    • 1 tablespoon fresh squeezed lemon juice
    • 2 tablespoons yellow mustard
    • 1 teaspoon curry powder
    • Pinch of ground cumin, or more, to taste
    • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
    • 2 tablespoons finely chopped chives or scallion
    • 8 to 10 ripe plum (Roma) tomatoes or other small tomatoes
    • Paprika for topping
    • 2 tablespoons cubed pickled relish (optional)

    Instructions:

    1. Combine the chickpeas, mayonnaise, nutritional yeast, lemon juice, mustard, curry powder, and cumin in a food processor fitted with the metal blade. 
    2. Pulse on and off until the mixture is nicely melded, but don’t puree—leave a little texture. 
    3. Add the chives or scallion through the feed tube and pulse on and off a few times to whirl in. 
    4. Then season to taste with salt and pepper. I also add approximately 2 tablespoons of cubed, pickled relish.  (If you don’t have a food processor, simply mash the chickpeas well in a bowl, and stir in the mayonnaise, nutritional yeast, lemon juice, mustard, curry powder, cumin, salt, pepper, and chives).
    5. Stuff the tomatoes generously with the chickpea mixture. Sprinkle with paprika. 
    6. Enjoy!
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    Grilled Veggie Kabobs

    The Fourth of July is right around the corner, and if you’re like me, you’ll probably spend part of Independence Day grilling out. My family usually has veggie burgers, Carolina pulled (Jackfruit) BBQ, baked beans, and veggie kabobs! Recently I found this recipe for red white & blue veggie kabobs, I think these will be the perfect addition, don’t you?

    These kabobs are incredibly easy. If you use (purple) potatoes, you will need to boil them for just a bit to soften them, since potatoes will take longer than the onions and peppers to cook on the grill. You’ll also want to soak the skewers in water. Other than that, there are just a few quick steps and you’ll be ready to enjoy these delicious – and gorgeous – veggies.

    Grilled Veggie Kabobs

    Ingredients 

    • 12-16 purple potatoes
    • 2 white onions
    • 4 red peppers
    • Olive oil
    • Salt
    • Pepper

    Instructions 

    1. Soak bamboo skewers in water for at least 30 minutes prior to assembling your kabobs.
    2. Boil purple potatoes in salted water for about 10 minutes, or until slightly tender; drain and let cool.
    3. Cut each onion into 12 wedges, and cut the red peppers into rectangular pieces similar in size to the onion wedges.
    4. Cut the rounded portions off of the potatoes so you end up with a cubed shape; depending on the size of the potato you may be able to get 2-3 cubes per potato. Try to keep the cubes close to the same size as the onions and red peppers.
    5. Slide three red pepper slices up to about 2 inches from the top of the skewer; follow with an onion wedge and a potato piece, then repeat the process one more time.
    6. Fill all your skewers with the veggies, then brush with olive oil, sprinkle with salt & grind black pepper over the tops of each one.
    7. Place on a hot, oiled grill for about 10 minutes, making sure to flip the kabob over to the other side about halfway through.
    8. Serve immediately or place on a plate covered with foil to retain heat for a bit until the other elements of your meal are ready to serve.

    Recipe from: foodandfam.com

    Other Veggies That Are Good For Grilling

    Want to make your own rainbow kabobs? You can use the same fruits and veggies I did or mix and match based on what is in season or available. Wouldn’t it be fun to do coordinate team colors at an end of the year BBQ or school colors for a graduation party? Below are some foods you can use to make your own kabobs sorted by color.   

     Red

    • Tomato
    • Red Pepper
    • Radish
    • Watermelon
    • Red Onion

    Blue/Purple

    • Eggplant
    • Purple Potatoes 
    • Purple Cauliflower

    White

    • Button Mushrooms
    • Portobello Mushrooms/Baby Bella Mushrooms
    • Cauliflower
    • Spanish/Vidalia Onion
    • Pearl Onion

    Yellow

    • Yellow Peppers
    • Yellow Tomatoes
    • Pineapple
    • Yellow squash

    Green

    • Green Pepper
    • Broccoli
    • Brussels Sprouts
    • Jalapeños
    • Poblano Peppers
    • Zucchini

    Orange

    • Orange Peppers
    • Mango
    • Peaches
    • Apricots
    • Nectarines 
    • Butternut Squash
    • Sweet Potatoes 

    Note:  You can definitely do this over an indoor grill pan if you do not have access to a gas grill or outdoor space!