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Each season has its collection of favorite meals. At the arrival of fall, we put away the barbecue and take out our crockpot. We fancy hot and comforting dishes made with seasonal vegetables, such as stews, soups and recipes featuring root vegetables. With the cold season on our doorstep, here are some tips and tricks to eat well and keep up your energy and your vitality despite the gray and cold months ahead.
Interview with Isabelle Huot, Doctor in nutrition
In order to stay healthy, what type of nutrition should we adopt when the cold weather arrives?
In fall we face two challenges: strengthening our immune system so our body is able to defend itself against viruses and bacteria floating around in our environment, and fighting against seasonal depression. For these two reasons, nutrition plays a vital role.
Here is a look on certain foods that help you reduce the likelihood of contracting a virus or bacteria:
Citrus fruits are rich in Vitamin C, which is a contributing factor to overall immunity. Vitamin C supplements won’t prevent the cold itself, but will reduce the duration and slightly lessen the symptoms.
Reishi mushrooms, available in Chinatown, or Shiitake mushrooms, sold in most grocery stores, have immunostimulatory properties. You should definitely put mushrooms on your grocery list and cook with them.
Foods rich in zinc
Zinc can regulate the immune system. It is found in oysters, red meat, seafood, pumpkin seeds and nuts. Be careful with zinc supplements, when consumed in high doses it might actually lower your resistance.
Foods rich in iron
An iron or protein deficiency can cause the immune system to fail. It is therefore important to consume iron rich foods such as liver, red meat, fortified grain products and dark green vegetables.
Garlic and onion
Used as an antibacterial and antifungal agent since thousands of years, they have a beneficial effect on the immune system.
These living microorganisms improve the balance of the intestinal flora and thus having a positive effect on our health.
Let’s look at some key products that can help us prevent seasonal depression:
They promote the secretion of serotonin, which is a neurotransmitter of happiness.
A fatty acid found in fish oils, omega-3s can help with mild to moderate depression. For promising results one should consume one gram of EPA acid per day. In addition one should eat fish about three times a week, choosing oily fish species (tuna, salmon, trout, etc.).
Last but not least, vitamin D helps to fight the effects of the decreasing day light and depression. Studies have shown that the vitamin D levels were lower in people with depression.
Could you share some tips and tricks for guilt free comfort foods on our plates?
Comfort foods contain an important amino acid called tryptophan. This neurotransmitter allows the synthesis of serotonin, which manages physiological functions such as sleep, aggression, sexual and eating behavior. Associated with well-being, it is the key to our moods. When the level of serotonin circulating in our body is elevated, our morale improves and we become less irritable. Regular physical activity and exposure to natural light are also great ways to increase serotonin levels. Yet another way to do that is by eating foods that are rich in tryptophan such as fish, nuts, peanuts, eggs, dairy products and meats.
Do you have any suggestions to tweak classic comfort food recipes to make them healthier?
I like to make my lasagna with zucchini or eggplant to reduce the amount of carbohydrates in the dish. I also add crumbled tofu (or cottage cheese) to make it a complete and balanced dish, and I use skim mozzarella cheese. This lasagna is as healthy as it is tasty.
Grilled cheese sandwich
I use good whole grain bread (such as St-Méthode, of course!) that I layer with apples and light cheddar cheese. As a side dish I serve an arugula salad with toasted almonds. A half grilled cheese sandwich served with a grated carrot salad with raisins is also a good option. You can also add some spinach, Portobello mushrooms or other vegetables to the grilled cheese sandwich, to make it even tastier!
I like stews that are chockfull of vegetables as well as tagines. Root vegetables such as parsnips, carrots and potatoes are particularly suitable for these types of dishes. I love tagines with lemon and green olives, cooked in a saffron vegetable broth and served with a whole wheat couscous.
There are countless options. How about cooking a pie with green lentils or millet? You can also make the pie dough with olive oil and a mix of whole wheat and white flour. Adding some crumbled tofu to the ground meat is also a good idea. And finally, a wise choice would be to prepare mini pies in individual ramekins with a single crust. Enjoy the mini pie directly out of the ramekin and serve it with a side of lamb’s lettuce salad with pears.
A single layer pie is still the best option. Otherwise a baked apple stuffed with diced apple pieces, raisins, almonds and cinnamon, or an apple crumble are good compromises. Finally, you can also serve warm homemade apple compote with a scoop of frozen yogurt. A comforting and healthy classic!
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