Diet and Mental Health

                                       Diet and Depression

brainfoodpicYou eat good, you feel good. In this lesson we are going to learn about mental health (in this case- Depression), and how eating healthy may benefit your brain. Let’s get started!

Let’s learn a little bit about Depression. What is Depression?

Have you ever felt sad? Really Sad? Usually it goes away after a couple days or maybe a week. Depression is a sadness that effects every part of your life. It’s not just a feeling, but a disorder of the brain (so saying “feel better” might not work for someone who is depressed). Approximately 1 in 10 people in the United States has reported depression (CDC2011), this number is even higher among women of whom 1 in 5 have reported suffering from depression. For these people, depression is something they have to live and struggle with.

What kind of depression is there? Well, there are several forms:

Major Depression: severe symptoms that interfere with your ability to work, sleep, study, eat, and enjoy life. An episode can occur only once in a person’s lifetime, but more often, a person has several episodes. (NIMH-Depression)

Persistent Depressive Disorder: depressed mood that lasts for at least 2 years. A person diagnosed with persistent depressive disorder may have episodes of major depression along with periods of less severe symptoms, but symptoms must last for 2 years. (NIMH- Depression)

There are even some unique forms of depression that can come from particular circumstances:

Psychotic depression: which occurs when a person has severe depression plus some form of psychosis, such as having disturbing false beliefs or a break with reality (delusions), or hearing or seeing upsetting things that others cannot hear or see (hallucinations). (NIMH-Depression)

Postpartum depression: which is much more serious than the “baby blues” that many women experience after giving birth, when hormonal and physical changes and the new responsibility of caring for a newborn can be overwhelming. It is estimated that 10 to 15 percent of women experience postpartum depression after giving birth.   (NIMH-Depression)

Seasonal Affective Disorder: which is characterized by the onset of depression during the winter months, when there is less natural sunlight. The depression generally lifts during spring and summer. SAD may be effectively treated with light therapy, but nearly half of those with SAD do not get better with light therapy alone. Antidepressant medication and psychotherapy can reduce SAD symptoms, either alone or in combination with light therapy. (NIMH-Depression)

Do I or someone I know have depression? What are the symptoms?

  • Anxiousness, persistent sadness, or an empty feeling
  • Loss of interest in hobbies that you once loved
  • Low energy, fatigue
  • Thoughts of suicide
  • Insomnia or oversleeping
  • Over eating or loss of appetite
  • Feeling hopeless, having difficulty concentrating, making decisions, or remembering things.

Now let’s talk about eating healthy foods and its effect on the brain.

A poor diet may result in some of the symptoms of depression. When eating un-healthy foods, your body has trouble digesting them- resulting in stress, drowsiness, low energy. What you eat may affect how you feel, so it’s important to eat right. Jodi Corbett, a 47 year old woman who lives in Catonsville, struggled with depression. She then decided to change her eating style. In her case she stopped eating gluten and in just a couple months she lost weight . . . and her depression. Now this might not work for everyone, but its good reminder that what you eat can be related to your mood.

““Diet quality” refers to the kinds of foods that people eat, how often they eat them and how much of them they eat. In several studies, including a 2011 analysis of more than 5,000 Norwegians, Berk and his collaborators have found lower rates of depression, anxiety and bipolar disorder among those who consumed a traditional diet of meat and vegetables than among people who followed a modern Western diet heavy with processed and fast foods or even a health-food diet of tofu and salads.” – Michael Berk, a professor of psychiatry at the Deakin University School of Medicine

In the particular case of depression and diet, there is still more research to be done. Rif El-Mallakh, a professor of psychiatry (at the University Of Louisville School Of Medicine) says: “It’s unclear how diet relates to mental health. There seems to be a clear link, but it’s an association — it doesn’t tell you cause and effect,” he said. “We don’t know which is the chicken and which is the egg.””

Another cool case was a recent study (Nutritional Neurosci 2015; 18:137-144). For 23 months the study between diet and overall mood state was tested on 84 adult humans with metabolic syndrome. Carefully monitored, the participants consumed their daily servings of cereals, vegetables, fruits, dairy/meat (as well as their daily amount of cholesterol and sodium). Different foods equaled a different diet. What they found out was that a poor diet that was high in saturated fats and caloric levels lead to depression. The participants with a healthier diet reported a better mood overall. That’s amazing! (Information provided by Psychology Today)

These studies show that food does affect your mental state, and with more research scientists and nutritionists will prove how healthy food will do a lot more. We know exercise makes a person feel better, healthy food does too! So eat healthy, be healthy! Your body and your brain will thank you for it.sandfacefoodpic


January Recipe of the Month

applechickenstirfryApple Chicken Stir Fry


 1 pound cubed boneless, skin-less chicken breast

 1/2 cup onion, vertically sliced

 1 3/4 cups (3-4medium) car-rots thinly sliced

 1 1/2 tsp. vegetable oil

 1 teaspoon dried basil, crushed

 1 cup fresh or frozen Chinese peas pods

 1 Tbsp. water

 1 medium baking apple, cored and thinly sliced

 1 tsp. oil

 2 cups cooked brown rice


1.) Stir- fry chicken breast in 1 Tbsp. vegetable oil in non-stick skillet until lightly brown

2.) Remove from skillet and stir-fry onion, carrots and basil in remaining oil until carrots are tender.

3.) Stir in pea pods and water and stir fry for 2 minutes.

4.) Remove from heat.

5.) Stir in apple and add chicken to vegetable and apple mixture serve over cooked rice

Makes 4 portions

Benefits of Recipe: Apple Chicken Stir Fry

Nutrient dense dish which helps:

Keep us full to not over eat

Full of fruits and vegetables

Has four of the five food groups from

My Plate:

 Fruits: Apple

 Vegetables: Onion, carrots, Chinese Pea Pods

 Protein: Chicken

 Grains: Brown rice

Add a glass of milk or yogurt to have a balanced meal of all five food groups

Salteado de Pollo con Manzana


 1 libra de pollo deshuesada y sin piel troceada

 ½ taza cebolla cortada verticalmen-te

 1 ¾ tazas (3-4 medianas) zanaho-rias en rodajas finas

 1 ½ cucharadita de aceite vegetal

 1 cucharadita de albahaca seca

 1 taza vainas de guisantes chinos frescos o congelados

 1 cucharada de agua

 1 manzana medio cortada en roda-jas finas

 1 cucharadita de aceite


1.) Revuelva pechuga de pollo en un sartén con 1 cucharada de aceite vegetal hasta que estén marrón y cocinada

2.) Sacar el pollo del sartén y ponerlo en un plato aparte

3) En el sartén revuelva la cebolla, las zanahorias y la albahaca en el aceite que queda hasta que todo esté tierno

3.) Pon las vainas de guisantes en el sartén con los vegetales y añade 1 cucharada de agua. Revuelva los ingredientes por 2 minutos

4.) Retírelo del calor u añade la manzana y el pollo al sartén

5.) Dejo reposar por 2 minutos

5.) Sírvelo sobre arroz cocido

Beneficios de la Receta: Manzana salteado de pollo

Plato denso de nutrientes que ayuda:

Mantenernos llenos a no comer en exceso

Lleno de frutas y verduras

Tiene cuatro de los cinco grupos de alimentos de Mi plato saludable

 Frutas: Manzana

 Verduras: cebolla, las zanahorias, las vainas de guisan-tes chinos

 Proteínas: Pollo

 Granos: El arroz integral

Añadir un vaso de leche o yogur para tener una comida balanceada de los cinco grupos de alimentos

Food Safety

Food Safety- January Lessonfoodsafetytitlepic

“Each year, one in six Americans get sick from contaminated food or beverages. Salmonella, a bacteria that commonly causes food born illnesses, results in more hospitalizations and deaths than any other bacteria in food”- CDC (Center of Disease Control and Prevention)

Knowing and practicing food safety is a key in preventing this from happening. In this lesson we’ll discuss some important points on food safety.

Main points:

  • Washing Hands
  • Cross-Contamination
    • Cooking and Storing Food

Washing Hands

We may forget at times the simple procedure of washing hands before we begin to cook. However, it is an important thing to do. By not washing your hands, you may be contaminating the very food you’re preparing.washinghandspic

This is how it goes: We wet our hands with warm water, add liquid soap, scrub (be sure to get b/w those fingers), rinse and dry using a paper towel. While you wash say the ABC’s or sing the happy birthday song twice, doing that you’ll have spent a proper time ridding your hands of any bacteria and dirt.

  1. Cross Contamination
  1. Cross Contamination means when bacteria from one thing is transferred to another object. Ex/ Cutting lettuce with the same knife you used to cut meat with (without washing/sanitizing the knife)
  • To prevent this it’s important to keep meat/poultry away from ready to eat foods!

Always properly wash/sanitize utensils, cutting boards, and any surface area where raw food was just handled to avoid cross- contamination.

On the topic of raw food/meats it’s also important to know where to store your meats in the fridge. Remember to have the raw food in a sealed container and be sure to put it on the bottom shelf. Why on the bottom? Having a raw chicken on the top shelf and have it accidently leak will contaminate everything below it. Having it on the bottom and accidently leak won’t drip on anything else.

  • Cooking and Storing Foods

You come to the kitchen and smell that pork you’re roasting in the oven. Only problem is you don’t know if it’s fully cooked through. How do you tell? Instead of crossing your fingers or over-cooking it, try using a thermometer. A good thing to note is when using a thermometer- place it in the thickest part of the food for an accurate reading.

Food. . Minimum Internal Temp

Ground Beef, pork, lamb, or veal. . . 160F

Ground turkey or Chicken. . . 165Ftherminfoodpic

Beef, pork, lamb, steak, chops. . . 145F

Poultry (turkey/chicken) whole or pieces. . . 165F

Seafood. . . 145F

Whenever you have any meat/poultry/seafood, be sure to store them in the refrigerator or freezer as soon as you get home from the grocery store. If it’s left at room temperature, the bacteria will want to thrive in it. We’ll discuss this in just a moment.

  • Briefly I mentioned room temperature being a danger area because of bacteria. You never want to leave any raw foods sitting out or thaw them at room temp because bacteria thrive in temperatures between 40 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit; this is what’s known as the Danger Zone. Keeping foods out of this zone will keep them safe to eat.dangerzonepic


If you have any leftovers in the freezer, you’ll have to know how to thaw it properly. There are three main ways to defrost food:

  • Cold Water
  • Microwave
  • Refrigerator



Here are the things to remember:

  1. Whenever you’re starting or switching a task, be sure to wash your hands properly.
  2. To avoid cross contamination it’s important to clean utensils/surface area before preparing other foods. Keep Raw away from ready to eat foods.
  3. Use a thermometer to check if the food is cooked all the way through.
  4. Watch how you store, cook, or thaw foods.

You might be thinking that working with food is less simple than you thought. Some of the things we’ve talked about are habit to a lot of people, it all starts by learning what and what not to do. Whether you’re a chef by occupation or just within your kitchen, practicing food safety is important. We learn food safety because it keep us and those we serve safe.


December Agency Spotlight: Grey Bears

Grey Bears Spotlightgrey bearspic

It’s hard to believe that Grey Bears began with two UCSC students. It was 1973 when both of these students, Kristina Mailliard and her boyfriend Gary Denny, decided to take in food from local farmers and gardens and share it with the elderly. Both were surprised at the undernourishment of the poor/low-income elderly, knowing that, they continued with the organization.

In 1976 Grey Bears had established itself as a non-profit organization under 501©3. Throughout Santa Cruz county Grey Bears have delivered bags of fresh produce and healthy staples to 4,500 seniors each week through the Brown Bag Program. In 1985 Grey Bears purchased the 1st mid-county lot at 2710 chanticleer Ave, SC where they currently are today.

Visiting this organization, one would be amazed at the dedication and coordination of the group of volunteers that help create the many bags that feed the elderly. David Fuentez, the Brown Bag Program Coordinator, is very proud in having such hard and fast working volunteers; “We have an amazing community of volunteers and many have become my personal friends. In my department alone we have 25 plus volunteers who are here Monday – Wednesday helping with quality control processing. On Thursday and Friday you’ll find over 65 volunteers helping pack our bags for distribution along with 90 more volunteer drivers on those days delivering the bags for distribution. Most of our volunteers have been with Grey Bears for many years and that kind of dedication speaks for itself and makes me proud to be part of the Grey Bears”- David Fuentez. David is 10 months into his third year at Grey Bears. If you ask him what he does at Grey Bears he would reply: “I help grocery shop for 4500 weekly to ensure our membership receives the most nutritious bag we can provide.” He knows that it’s because of these volunteers that Grey Bears have the success they are known for. Their establishment can be seen to dedicate itself around the slogan “nothing goes to waste”. For the spoils they have, there are six large compost tubs. For the recycling they even operate two recycling centers, one at the Chanticleer Recycling Center and the other at the Buena Vista Landfill Recycling Center. David would tell you that Grey Bears also offers classes such as computers and tech support, Spanish, yoga, cooking and Taiko drumming and host several events during the year that helps keep seniors socially active in our community. It’s a BIG organization that does A LOT of things. For all the members Grey Bears serve, low-income seniors get fresh food and healthy food to supply their days.

Photo by: Lance Linares A large group of volunteers working efficiently to fill bags to be delivered

This year Grey Bears will have delivered 2.5 million pounds of food to their 4,500 members. Grey Bears has also been named 2015 organization of the year by Aptos chamber of commerce and community. With the help of 500 hardworking volunteers who deliver 80,000 hours of service each year they hold true to their vision of all seniors living healthy lives. Grey Bears have improved the health and wellbeing of seniors through all the hard work they accomplish. No doubt Kristina and Gary (founders) are very proud of what Grey Bears is accomplishing.

Second Harvest Food Bank has worked with David Fuentez/Grey Bears for years and we are proud to have them as a partnered Agency. With their help, and the help of the many other Agencies, we may soon make sure that no one goes hunger whether they be young children, middle-aged, or elderly seniors.

grey bearspic

December Recipe of the Month

curry-pumpkin-soupPumpkin Soup


  •  1 large onion
  • 1 medium sweet red pepper chopped
  • 2 Tbsp. margarine
  • 2 cups of corn, fresh or frozen
  • 1 jalapeno pepper seeded an chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tsp. chili powder
  • 2 cans low sodium vegetable broth
  • 1 3/4 cups pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • Dash of cayenne pepper
  • 2 Tbsp. lime juice


1.) In a large sauce pan, sauté onion, margarine and red pepper until tender

2.) Add corn, jalapeno pepper, garlic, and chili powder. Sauté for two more minutes

3.) Stir in broth, salt, pumpkin, and cayenne pepper until blend-ed. Set to boil

4.) Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes

5.) Stir in lime juice and serve

Makes 7 portions

Benefits of Recipe:

Pumpkin Soup

Pumpkins have an excellent source of Antioxidants such as Beta– carotene which is converted to Vitamin A which helps:

  • Reduce the risk of certain type of cancers
  •  Protect against heart disease.

Reduce the risk of degenerative conditions of aging (ej. Osteoporosis, cancer)

Sopa de Calabaza


  • 1 cebolla grande, picado
  • 1 medio pimiento rojo dulce, picado
  • 2 cucharadas de margarina
  • 2 tazas de maíz , fresco o congelado
  • 1 chile jalapeño
  • 2 dientes de ajo, picado
  • 2 cucharaditas de chile en polvo
  • 2 latas de caldo de verduras, bajo en sodio
  • 1 3/4 tazas de puré de calabaza
  • 1/2 cucharadita de sal
  • Pimienta de cayena
  • 2 cucharadas de jugo de limón


1.) En una sartén grande, salteé la cebolla, la margarina y el pimiento rojo hasta que estén blandos.

2.) Añade el maíz, el chile jalapeño, el ajo y el chile en polvo. Saltee por dos minutos más.

3.) Mezcle el caldo, la sal, la calabaza, y pimienta de cayena hasta que se combinan. Deje a hervir.

4.)Reduzca el fuego y cocine a fuego lento por 10 minutos

5.) Mezcle el judo de limón y sirve.

Rinde 7 porciones

Beneficios de la Receta:

Sopa de Calabaza

Las calabazas tienen un buen fuente de Antioxidantes como beta – caroteno que se cambia a Vitamina A que ayuda:

  • Reducir el riesgo de ciertos tipos de cancerpumpkin-soup-su-x
  •  Proteger contra la enfermedad de corazón
  • Reducir el riesgo de aspectos degenerativos de
  • Envejecimiento (i.e. osteoporosis, cancer)


Healthy Holiday Substitutions

Obesity Prevention III- Healthy Holiday Substitutions  presentpic

     Of all our talks on Obesity, Metabolism, and Portion Control, we have finally wrapped them up in a small box with a bow on top, adding a card that says “To: The Holidays”. Everything you’ve learned so far is preparing you for this moment. Holidays are the time of the year where the gift that keeps on giving is food and with food comes weight.

  • Did you know that Americans gain an average of 1 Pound during holiday season? Why? Two reasons:
  1. All that holiday food
  2. Less/ no exercise due to cold weather

In this Lesson we’ll discuss a few things:

  1. How healthy substitutions can be incorporated in your favorite holiday meals
  2. How spending more time away from the plate and with family and friends will lead to a better, activity filled day.
  3. Different games and activities to do with the family.
  • Healthy Substitutions Chart
  1. Holiday recipes tend to use a lot of fat, sugar, and cream for their ingredients. What if you could substitute such ingredients for healthier ones and still have the same great taste? Well you can!

Check this out!

For this ingredient Substitute this healthier option Benefits
Sour cream, butter, cream cheese Low-fat Greek yogurt Reduced fat, increase protein
Oil in baking Apple sauce Reduced fat,
Sugar (white refined) Apple sauce, Honey, Agave Nectar Natural sugar
Butter Avocado puree, coconut oil Trade cholesterol unsaturated fats
Pasta Spaghetti squash Reduced calories
Soda Carbonated with fruit No calories from high sugar drinks
Iceberg Lettuce Kale, chard, dark leafy greens Increased fiber and vitamins
Syrup Pureed fruit Less processed sugar + fiber
1 Whole Egg 2 Egg whites Decreased fat and cholesterol
White flour Whole wheat flour Increased nutrient density + fiber
Mashed potatoes Mashed cauliflower Reduced calories


  • Physical Activity

Before you skip this section, I’m not talking about lifting weights or doing a 10k run. It’s the holidays, you need a break. All I’m saying is that you don’t necessarily have to spend the whole day on the couch. We’re talking about fun activities, being active with your family and friends. Your whole family is around for the holidays, spend time with them, here are some fun suggestions:

  • Have a Family Game Time: Play Soccer, baseball, football
  • Have a walk with some with a relative instead of watching T.V.
  • Whip out a board game like twister or Pictionary (games that will get you moving).
  • Physical Activities relieve stress so move around instead of sitting down. Exercise helps you sleep better, and you’ll feel more energized and productive during the holidays.

Holidays are a busy time of the year. Families come together and enjoy each other’s company. Great food is past around. You could use the excuse of saying “its one day out of the year that I can eat however much I like”, but if you’re the type who says that, chances are you’re not as committed to being healthy or losing weight as you might think.

We’ve learned about Obesity, Metabolism, and Portion control. Now we’ve learned about healthy substitutions. The holidays are going to be a test on what you’ve learned, and how much you’re committed to having a healthy lifestyle.

The most important thing to take away- Enjoy the time with your family and friends, having fun activities with them doesn’t just help with your metabolism, but brings the family together. You can still cook that famous Christmas dessert everyone secretly arrived for, but try it with the substituted ingredients. You’ll find out that it tastes just as great and is a lot healthier.

Happy Holidays!

holiday reef

November Recipe of the Month

microwaveapplesFestive Microwave Baked Apples


 1 medium apple (skinned and cored not cut into pieces

 1 tbsp. brown sugar

 1/2 tbsp. nut meg

 1.2 tbsp. raisins

 1 tbsp. butter alternative spread (butter without fat)


1.) Place apple on plate facing up.

2.) Stir in separate bowl, brown sugar, nutmeg, and cinna-mon.

3.) Put raisins on and around apple

4.) Put butter on apple and cover with plastic wrap

5.) Microwave for 2 1/2 to 3 minutes on high

6.) Let apple cool for 30 seconds and serve

Benefits of Recipe:

Festive Microwave Baked Apples


Apples have antioxidants which help:

Against cardiovascular disease

Dietary Fiber which helps with:

Food digestion

Maintain healthy levels of LDL cholesterol (good)

Vitamin C which helps:

Fight diseases in the body

Nutrient dense food to help:

. Keep you full

. Healthy snack before a meal to avoid overeating

Manzanas horneadas festivas en microondas


 1 manzana mediana (sin piel o pelada, sin cortar)

 1 cucharada de azúcar morena

 1/2 cucharada de nuez moscada

 1/2 cucharada de canela

 1 cucharada de mantequilla o alternativa ( mantequilla sin gra-sa)


1.) Pone la manzana en un plato con la parte abierto arriba

2.) Combine en una taza separada de azúcar morena, nuez moscada y canela, y pone en la manzana

3.) Pon las pasas en la manzana

4.) Pon la mantequilla en la manzana y cubre con plástico

5.) Ponla en el microonda por 2 1/2—3 minutos en alta potencia

6.) Deja la manzana enfriar por 30 segundos y sírvala

Rinde 1 porción: 1 manzana

Beneficios de la Receta:

Manzanas horneadas festivas en microondas


Las manzanas tienen antioxidantes que ayudan a

Combatir las enfermedad cardiovasculares

Fibra dietética que ayuda con:

La digestion de la comida

Mantener los niveles saludables de colesterol (Buena)

Vitamina C que ayuda a:

Combatir enfermedades en el cuerpo

Comida denso en nutrientes que ayuda a:

Mantenernos llenos

Un bocadillo saludable antes de comer para no comer en exceso



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