Time to Supercharge Your Body

It’s that time of year again—cold and flu season is upon us, and let’s not even talk about COVID—so here’s my annual PSA about how you can increase your chances of staying healthy by eating right.

Continue reading “Time to Supercharge Your Body”

Food for Your Mood

Like I said in my December column, ‘January is the saddest of months around these parts.’ We’re as far away from Christmas as we’ll ever be; yet warm temps are months away. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a thing, and some are more prone to it than others. Inclement weather and the extra hours of darkness make it hard to get out for fresh air and sunshine (what little we get). Unless you can escape to your summer home in Florida, try these simple diet tweaks to help improve your mood while we wait out the long winter.

  1. Vitamin D. Known as the ‘sunshine vitamin,’ Vitamin D is made in our bodies when we’re exposed to the sun. However, it’s common for our levels to be low during the winter. Vitamin D isn’t found in many foods, but it is found in canned salmon, cheese and egg yolks. Additionally, many milks and orange juices are fortified with Vitamin D as well. Make It Happen: Whip up a salmon frittata with eggs, canned salmon, feta and a little dill.
  2. Studies show those with depression tend to have lower levels of folate than those without depression. Folate is one of the B vitamins and can be found in dark leafy greens, edamame and avocado. Make It Happen: Try a salad with kale, edamame, avocado, red bell peppers and a lemon vinaigrette.
  3. Omega-3 Fatty Acids. When people talk about ‘brain food,’ the first on the list is always omega-3s, found most commonly in cold-water fish. Studies show that those who eat more fish tend to have fewer symptoms of depression. Other sources of omega-3s include sardines, anchovies and walnuts. Make It Happen: Add sardines to spaghetti with pesto; recipe found in Run Fast Eat Slow.
  4. B vitamins. B vitamins play various roles in brain function, so making sure you’re loading up on those guys is a good idea. Whole grains are high in B vitamins, so take this opportunity to expand your repertoire. Instead of relying on traditional instant oats and brown rice, try steel-cut oats, quinoa, amaranth and millet, too. Make It Happen: Use steel-cut oats to make baked oatmeal and have breakfast ready all week long.
  5. Researchers have found that probiotics had a positive effect on depression symptoms in a majority of studies. Probiotic supplements are available, but it’s easy to add sources of probiotics to your diet. Yogurt, kefir, kimchi and miso all contain probiotics. Make It Happen: Consider a supplement if you’re not already into yogurt.
  6. Limit caffeine and added sugars. It’s always a good idea to moderate your intake of things that are known to affect mood and/or your sleep, such as caffeine and sugar. Consider quitting your afternoon cup of coffee or soda in favor of herbal tea or a sparkling water. While there is limited research to support added sugar having a dramatic effect on energy levels, we all know how we feel after downing an entire package of M&Ms: not good. Instead, take a walk when you need a pick-me-up. Make It Happen: Waterloo Grape seltzer water KNOCKS MY SOCKS OFF. I’m confident you’ll like it, too.
  7. Establish a Routine. Our bodies perform the best when we get enough sleep, good nutrition and plenty of fresh air and physical activity. Sticking to a regular schedule will help ensure you go to bed at approximately the same time each night, eat breakfast within an hour of waking and incorporate exercise into your day. Make It Happen: Set an alarm for each activity until you get used to the new routine.

I’ll be out jogging with the stroller a few times a week, and I’m looking forward to trying out some of the recipes from my new Whole30 Slow Cooker cookbook I got for Christmas. Will I see you out on a walk, too?



Buffalo News Refresh Blog – April 2016


Try These Dynamic Food Duos to Boost Your Health

by: Holly R. Layer

You’ve heard the phrase ‘two heads are better than one,’ right? Well, there are certain pairs of nutrients that work better together in our bodies than they do alone. Read over the following dynamic duos and be sure to pair them for best results!

Calcium + Inulin = better digestion, strong bones

Inulin, which is a type of fiber, both increases calcium absorption and promotes healthy bacteria in the GI tract. Calcium is found in more than just milk and yogurt; the mineral is found in canned salmon with bones, almonds, kale and broccoli. Inulin is found in artichokes, onions, garlic, leeks, asparagus, bananas and whole-wheat flour. Tasty Team-Up: Whole wheat banana muffins made with yogurt, or make a salmon salad with plain greek yogurt, dill and chopped onions and asparagus.

Calcium + Vitamin D = strong bones

Vitamin D must be present in sufficient levels in the body to promote absorption of calcium, which is why a deficiency of the vitamin can lead to softening of bones. Pair sources of Calcium (above) with salmon, light tuna, sardines, egg yolk or fortified milks. Tasty Team-Up: Cooked fish and broccoli, or a two-egg omelet with cheese and kale.

Vitamin E + Vitamin C = better vision

Vitamin C helps make the Vitamin E (which helps prevent macular degeneration) you eat more ‘available’ in your body. Vitamin E is in almonds, peanuts, sunflower seeds, wheat germ and soybeans. In addition to citrus, Vitamin C is high in bell peppers, broccoli, strawberries, tomatoes and potatoes. Tasty Team-Up: Add wheat germ to pancake mix, top cooked pancakes with peanut butter and sliced strawberries.

Iron + Vitamin C = increased energy

Iron carries oxygen in red blood cells all over your body, which helps prevent fatigue. Vitamin C helps iron from plant sources be absorbed in the body. Find iron in meat and eggs, as well as spinach, oatmeal, tofu, quinoa and beans. Tasty Team-Up: Cook quinoa and mix in orange segments, chopped bell pepper, black beans, drizzle with olive oil and orange juice.

Vitamin K + Fat = healthy heart

Healthy fats (monounsaturated and omega-3’s) help us lower our cholesterol and absorb certain vitamins, like K. ‘Good’ fats are all kinds of nuts, olive oils and avocado. Vitamin K is high in greens (spinach, chard, kale), broccoli and Brussels sprouts. Tasty Team-Up: Halve Brussels sprouts and roast with olive oil, toss onto a kale salad with walnuts and dried cranberries and balsamic vinaigrette.

Vitamin A + Fat = good skin

Vitamin A is another vitamin that needs fat to be absorbed in the body, and it promotes healthy immune and reproductive systems as well as clear skin. Sources of beta-carotene (which turns into Vitamin A) are orange fruits and vegetables, like carrots, apricots and sweet potatoes, as well as kale and spinach. Tasty Team-Up: Toss spinach leaves, shredded carrots, cubed cooked sweet potatoes and chopped avocados with olive oil and lemon juice.

Zinc + Sulfur Compounds = better immune system

Zinc plays a role in wound healing and a healthy immune system, and sulfur compounds found in onions and garlic increases the body’s absorption of the mineral. Whole wheat, brown rice and legumes are good sources of zinc. Tasty Team-Up: Cooked brown rice tossed with chopped garlic, onion, black beans, tomatoes and green peppers dressed with balsamic vinaigrette.

BONUS: Mitigate Your Mistakes!

Too Much Salt, Have POTASSIUM

Perhaps you had a canned soup for lunch, or Chinese take-out for dinner. Both of these meals are very high in sodium, but by eating potassium-rich foods, you can lessen the effects on your blood pressure. Lots of fruits and vegetables are high in potassium, but the best are spinach, sweet and white potatoes, kale, Brussels sprouts, winter squash, artichokes, bananas, grapefruit, apricots, avocados and beets. Fish, milk and yogurt are also high in potassium. The Fix: Pack a banana along with a low-sodium canned soup for work, or make your own stir-fry at home and load it up with veggies.

Too Much Bread, Have VINEGAR

Just 2 teaspoons of vinegar can help lessen the rise in blood sugar after eating foods high in carbohydrates. If you have or are at risk for diabetes, consider adding a bit of vinegar to each meal with lots of carb-y foods, like breads, cookies and crackers. The Fix: Use a vinaigrette on your salad or as a dressing for cooked chicken.

Adapted from a Nov. 17, 2011 Women’s Day article by Joy Bauer, RD.


Holly R. Layer is a Registered Dietitian and provides nutritional counseling to students at Buffalo State College, and teaches fitness classes at the Southtowns YMCA. She has a B.A. in Journalism from Penn State and a B.S. in Nutrition and Dietetics from Buffalo State College. She loves running, reading, fine stationery, colorful kitchen gadgets and ALL things food-related.  An avid cook and baker, you can find her in the kitchen most days whipping up something yummy.  Too bad her husband, Andrew (an East Aurora native) is the pickiest man alive!  In addition to writing for the East Aurora Advertiser, you can find her at www.thehealthypineapple.com.