Vitamin C-You Later, Winter. Hello Springtime!
Plus My Fam & Friend Fav Recipes for Crispy Good Sweet Potatoes, Salmon and Roasted Asparagus
“When spring came, even the false spring, there were no problems except where to be happiest." - Ernest Hemingway, A Moveable Feast
Q: What do Kiwifruit, Asparagus & Sweet Potatoes all have in common
a. They are rich sources of vitamin C, some even higher than citrus!
b. They are spring produce
c. They all boost both immune system, improve mood and enhance wellbeing
d. All of the above
You're home now. More than ever. Most of us that is--Thanks to those who are out in the trenches making our lives easier and to the others who are saving them. For the rest of us, why not take advantage of being able to start dinner while finishing up those final work tasks or on the weekend with that new found home time?! I'm aiming to look at being quarantined as an opportunity to make roasted sweet potatoes during the weeknight because pre-stay-at-home-order there was never enough time after getting home from work. Even though Alexia fries are a time saving staple in our freezer (and please try them if you haven't already), we're definitely enjoying being able to have more of my homemade version (oh the sliver linings :)). AND we need to turn ourselves to what we are grateful for in challenging times-you'll feel better for it! I guess for me, it's sweet potatoes...
The coronavirus pandemic is challenging us in ways that are going to be both different and similar for all of us. And while, yes, there are lots of negatives to what's happening around the world and even in our own backyards (and if you have a backyard, that's amazing, because that means you can play in it), however I'm here to remind you of the benefits of taking care of yourself because let's face it, no matter how bad or hard life is, taking care of yourself is more than likely to leave you better off to manage those stressors. Eating, moving and relaxing in ways that respect our bodies' needs are elements we need to take time to reflect on and probably schedule if you're like most of my clients who prioritize family, work, and others over themselves. You'll be able to take care of all those responsibilities even better than you thought possible.
Having a game plan is key because the way our food system and culture are set up, transitions in our lives (positive or negative) often result in a worsening of eating habits. We eat emotionally too often. We drink too much, too often. And I'm not talking about the one-off's. Forgive yourself and move on to the behaviors that are leaving you feeling stuck. You don't have to stop all these fun, social activities in extreme ways and do a cleanse, but are there more moderate ways to move yourself towards better health and wellbeing? Spoiler alter: Try eating more fruits and veggies. That's right. It's gonna change your life. Okay, I'm saying that in jest, but I would encourage you to notice, how do you feel when you're taking better care of yourself? How do you feel when you aren't? Maybe you can check off the box of adequate fruits and veggies intake, then you're ready to move on to something else that's more salient to you. Is it sleep? Is it eating in ways that better meet your body's needs? Is it connection? Is it reading more, TV less?
If you're wondering, true healthy eating isn't the end-all-be-all to happiness and well-being, but it certainly plays a part-just ask Maslow. Please move towards common sense of what you can do, verses our cultural belief that being healthy means being extreme (bring on the juice cleanse-'I feel so superior mentally, yet so bad physically). I'll be the first to say that nutrient rich foods like fruits, nuts, veggies, whole grains play a part in health and look at how to include them more.
Let's move on to how these foods will result in cooking a delish meal that will enhance your immune system and increase your wellbeing. A triple win!
So how exactly do kiwifruit, asparagus and sweet potatoes accomplish that? They all contain good 'ol Vitamin C. While most people know Vitamin C plays a vital role in basic immune function (hence the newly promoted Emergen-C cocktail), studies show that eating a few servings of Vitamin C rich foods everyday has been shown to reduce tiredness and fatigue plus promote wellbeing and vitality. Part of the explanation is that vitamin C is an enzyme cofactor for the production of dopamine, other neurotransmitters and hormones made in the nervous system and adrenal glands, therefore it's possible vitamin C supplementation may be all that's necessary. However separate studies have shown that increased intake of fruits and vegetables are associated with an increase in wellbeing and vitality. How much? Aim for 8 servings, but even incorporating 4-6 servings of fruits and veggies per day show benefit. I realize that this isn't new news for many of you, but the aim of my blog is to get you thinking of how to make healthy eating possible in a positive way by providing you with the fun research that eating healthier does work and reducing the negative factors that get in our way when trying to change for the better!
So, before you think "I'm already doing that" or "that's impossible", what I would love for you to do is to write down what you eat over the course of 3 days or even count up the fruits and veggies you've had so far today and see where your number is. Make your goals from there. AND consider how and where you can make this happen.
In the research above, the authors reported that only 20% of people consume enough vitamin C to achieve the health benefits (the other 80% were considered to have a "subclinical deficiency," so not scurvy, but definitely not in a great place for ideal health), so don't feel badly if your intake is low, you're in good company. I was surprised by this number but it is also supported by other research that found only 1 in 10 people eat the recommended servings of fruits and vegetables. And for a quick self-disclosure I'm a dietitian who loves fruits and vegetables, I even view strawberries as a delicious treat, but after having kids I saw my fruits and veggies dropped off. Even I have to mentally plan for how to get in my produce, usually I plan for them at all meals and currently loving 2 Kiwifruit as a snack with some walnuts. Need another reason to eat kiwifruit: in Italian study, 5-7 Kiwifruit per week reduced shortness of breath by 32%; severe wheezing by 41%; nighttime cough by 27%; chronic cough by 25% and runny nose by 28%.
Lastly, salmon or steelhead trout is one of our family go-to's. Omega 3's are linked to improved mood as well-we all need that in general, but especially now. I know that fish might not be up your ally, but check out this simple skillet preparation recipe. If the picture above looks good to you, it's worth a try. Quick, healthy and delicious.
Finally, below are my springtime vegetable recipes that promote health, simplicity and taste satisfaction. For timing purposes, prep the sweet potatoes first, then while baking prepare the asparagus. Clean up the dishes along the way. Enjoy!
To your health and good food,
Easy and eye-appealing, roasting asparagus is crisp yet tender. Dry asparagus with a dish towel so the water doesn't lead to steaming. Parchment paper is for faster clean up.
1 lb asparagus, washed, dried, ends removed
1.5 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Coarse salt and ground black pepper to taste
Step 1: Preheat oven to 450 F. Place asparagus on a wire rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Drizzle oil and sprinkle salt and pepper overtop.
Step 2: Roast asparagus for 16-20 minutes.
Check out my Asparagus Risotto recipe. I posted this years ago and have gotten tons of positive feedback. My kids aren't too receptive to roasted asparagus, but they gobble up the asparagus risotto like champs!
Parmesan Crusted Sweet Potatoes
Using a half gallon or gallon Ziplock freezer bag can speed up this recipe and saves time with clean up. Parchment paper helps to avoid sticking and for faster clean up as well.
4 sweet potatoes, cleaned, ends removed, skins on, cut into rounds
3 tbsp cornstarch or arrowroot
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1.5 tbsp dried thyme or 3 tbsp fresh thyme
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
Coarse salt and ground black pepper to taste
Step 1: Preheat oven to 450 F. In a freezer bag, place sweet potatoes and sprinkle cornstarch/arrowroot overtop. Close the the bag and shake, evenly distributing. Either keep in bag or transfer to a large bowl and pour oil overtop, tossing to distribute oil. Sprinkle thyme, cheese and salt and pepper.
Step 2: On a parchment lined cookie sheet, spread potatoes overtop. Bake in oven for 45-50 minutes, flipping potatoes halfway through cooking to achieve a crispy texture on both sides.