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PARMESAN CHICKEN

This is one of my favorite ways to cook chicken. It is unbelievably moist and flavorful and super easy to make. Prep time is 5-10 minutes. It is a great source of B vitamins, calcium, potassium, and protein, making it a super anti-depressant food!

“NATURAL” vs “ORGANIC”

  Many people are confused about the difference between products labeled, “All Natural” and “Organic”. When a product is labeled, “Natural”, it simply means that there are no artificial ingredients added during the processing or packaging of the product. These include things like artificial sweeteners, artificial flavorings, artificial colors, preservatives, etc. It does not, however, tell you anything about what that product was exposed to prior to packaging or processing. In other words, hamburger can be labeled “all natural” as long as when it is processed or packaged, nothing artificial was added. It has nothing to do with what the animal that hamburger came from was fed or exposed to. The animal could have been given antibiotics, growth hormones, fed genetically modified feed and grain, or grazed on pasture that was treated with pesticides and herbicides. All of these will be present to some extent in that meat. Milk is another good example. Milk can be labeled “all natural” as long as no artificial coloring, flavorings, preservatives, etc., were added to the carton. But whatever medicines the cow that milk came from was treated with, and whatever chemicals the cow ingested, are likely to be present in the milk. Likewise, green beans, or any other vegetables, fruits, nuts, grains – basically any kind of food that occurs naturally – can be labeled “all natural” as long as no artificial ingredients were added to it after it was harvested. But while it was growing, it could have been saturated with chemical pesticides and herbicides and grown in soil with synthetic chemical fertilizers that can be absorbed by the plant. Some of the chemical spray can be washed off, but not necessarily all of it. On the other hand, if something is labeled, “organic”, it means that it was grown free of synthetic chemicals, irradiation, sewage sludge, or genetically modified organisms. Certification for organic meat forbids use of growth hormones, antibiotics, genetically modified feed, or animal by-products in the feed at any time throughout the animal’s life. It also means that they did not graze on chemically treated pasture or eat other types of chemically treated feed. ORGANIC IS BETTER FOR OUR HEALTH There are many reasons to eat organic food. Organic food is generally more nutritious than non-organic food. The soil that organic foods are grown in is usually more nutrient-rich than soil that has been stripped of its nutrients and replaced with chemical fertilizers that are designed more for rapid growth and higher yields than nourishing the plants. A tomato grown in soil that has been leached of its...

WHAT’S WRONG WITH PROCESSED FOOD?

  There is overwhelming evidence that the Western diet is responsible for myriad health problems including heart disease, hypertension, cancer, osteoporosis, obesity, celiac disease, diabetes, and some autoimmune disorders. The correlation is pretty clear – as our diet has included more processed and refined foods, the incidence of these health problems has increased. As we have increased harmful things in our diets, like refined salt, sugar, flour and hydrogenated oils, we have decreased the nutrients necessary for good health. While most of our attention has focused on the health consequences of the Western diet, those of us in the mental health field have seen a similar rise in many mental disorders including bipolar disorder, ADHD, schizophrenia, Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia, as well as depression and anxiety disorders of all sorts. It doesn’t seem too big a leap to suspect that the Western diet and its lack of nutrients necessary for physical health may also be responsible for the rising incidence of problems related to mental illness. WHAT IS PROCESSED FOOD? The definition of “processed” can vary because the degree of processing can range from minimal as in the case of some canned goods, especially home canned, to highly processed foods as in some lunchmeats, artificial cheese, and boxed foods. It usually refers to food in boxes, cans, and other types of packages. Examples of minimally processed food would be canned fruit with no other ingredients added and some whole grain breads. Examples of highly processed food would be hot dogs, margarine, cola drinks, boxed macaroni and cheese, and artificial sweeteners. Basically, processed food is man-made food, or food that has been altered from its natural state. Whole food, on the other hand, is food that grows in the ground and on trees such as fresh fruit, garden vegetables, and nuts. Whole foods are free of artificial ingredients or additives. HARMFUL ADDITIVES Processed foods have artificial ingredients like dyes, texturizers, preservatives, and trans-fats. Many of these ingredients are known to be detrimental to our health and some that are commonly used in the U.S. are outlawed in other countries. For instance, numerous studies, including a 2007 study from the University of Southampton, have found that artificial food coloring increases ADHD (hyperactivity) behavior in children. As a result, at least six food colorings that are prevalent in the U.S. have been outlawed in the UK and other parts of the world. Processed foods often contain very high amounts of sodium from refined salt. Trans fat is primarily a man-made type of fat. It is made by taking an...

JUNK FOOD, DEPRESSION AND ANXIETY

  America’s love of junk food and fast food and the high incidence of mental illness compared to other countries may be more than coincidence. America’s 26% of the population currently diagnosed with mental illness is in stark contrast to the worldwide prevalence of 4.3%. This could, in part, be attributed to a difference in diagnostic criteria but could also be due to a lack of nutrients in processed food compared to diets richer in less processed foods in other parts of the world. Unfortunately, this American trend is now creeping into other developed countries and affecting their populations in the same negative ways. JUNK FOOD IS LINKED TO DEPRESSION For instance, researchers in Britain followed 3,000 middle-aged office workers over a period of 5 years monitoring their diets and reported levels of depression. Those who ate a diet high in junk food including processed meat, chocolate, sweet desserts, fried food, refined cereals, and high-fat dairy products were more likely to report depression. Those who ate a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and fish were less likely to report being depressed. In a larger European study of over 12,000 volunteers whose diets and lifestyles were followed for 6 years, researchers found that participants whose diets were high in trans-fats (present in commercially baked goods and fast-food) were 48% more likely to develop depression than those who did not consume trans-fats. Additionally, participants who consumed most of their fats in the form of fish and olive oil had a lower risk of suffering depression. Where there are trans-fats there is often sugar and a study conducted in 6 countries established a highly significant correlation between sugar consumption and the prevalence of depression. While we are still uncertain what the relationship is, there is reason to suspect that a high intake of sugar may interfere with the balance, production or reception of neurotransmitters. Similarly, researchers at the University of Melbourne examined over 1000 randomly selected women, ages 20-93, assessing for symptoms of depression and anxiety and comparing “traditional” diets to “western” diets. They found that the women who ate a “traditional” diet of vegetables, fruit, meat, fish, and whole grains had less depression and anxiety than those who ate a “western” diet of processed or fried foods, refined grains, sugary products, and beer. A 2009 study by the University of Navarra also showed that a diet rich in vegetables, fruits, fish, and whole grains and low in red meat and dairy was associated with a lower risk of depression. Another large study of 2579 college students over 7 cities in China...

RAW vs COOKED FOOD

  There is considerable debate about the pros and cons of various popular diets including diets that lean heavily towards meat consumption, like the Paleo Diet, versus vegetarian plant-based diets. Some vegetarians will eat eggs and dairy products with the rationale that animals are not killed in the harvesting of eggs and milk. “Vegan” vegetarians do not eat any animal products, including eggs and milk or other dairy products. There is yet another subset of, usually vegetarian although a very small number of meat eaters fall into this category, people who believe that humans are designed to eat only raw food. All sides have plausible arguments, although we really don’t know exactly what all of our ancestors ate. We know that some of them ate meat. We also know that gorillas, with whom we share common ancestors and 98% of our DNA, are primarily vegan with the exception of some insects. RAW IS TIME CONSUMING One of the problems with eating nothing but raw fruits and vegetables, or even primarily raw fruits and vegetables, is that it would require over 50% of our waking life to chew what we would need to survive and be healthy. We basically would never be able to do anything else but gather, prepare, and eat food. People who eat primarily raw food are heavily dependent on electric blenders to “pre-chew” the food so it can be broken down and digested faster, as well as consumed faster. A “smoothie” made of 2 quarts of raw vegetables that would take an hour or more to chew will blend down to a couple of cups of pulpy liquid that you can drink in minutes. The blender probably does a better job of “chewing” than we do, which is also going to cut down on digestion time. COOKED FOOD CAN LOSE NUTRIENTS Cooked food is already partially broken down and is easier to digest than raw food. Cooking usually reduces the volume of food, making it easier to consume more food in much less time, which is appealing in our fast-pace world but can also contribute to overeating. Cooked food also makes many more nutrients available to us. However, the flip side of this is heat, especially high heat and prolonged heat, destroys some nutrients, especially the water-soluble nutrients like vitamin C and the B vitamins. Some minerals, like potassium, leach out of vegetables into cooking liquid. So vegetables that contain significant amounts of potassium, like carrots and potatoes among others, should not be boiled in water with the water thrown away. It is best to steam,...