Category Archives: seasons

Summer Vegetable Soup - The Ingredient Guru Recipe

Instant Pot Summer Vegetable Soup

I love my Instant Pot

Ever since I got an Instant Pot® (IP) it has become my favorite appliance. I use it so much that I got tired of dragging it up from the cupboard under the counter and now it lives on my kitchen counter full-time.  It gets used regularly for a wide variety of dishes.  That includes for summer meals. 

Just because it’s summertime doesn’t mean that we should not eat soup. And while there are lots of delicious cold summer soups, like this amazing gazpacho, even hot soups can be a wonderful summertime dish because they take advantage of the season and what’s fresh.  Of course just because we want to enjoy summer soups, doesn’t mean we want the heat and humidity in our kitchen that comes along with cooking soup. That’s where the instant pot is such an amazing kitchen tool. it takes so much less time and therefore adds less heat to the kitchen.

This recipe is so quick and easy to put together that it’s sure to become one of your summertime (or anytime) favorites. And one of the best things about it is that it’s actually a pretty flexible recipe. Don’t have green beans? Use lima beans.  Or asparagus. Don’t have zucchini, add mushrooms. You really can add a wide variety of vegetables to this.  (pssst…I’ve sometimes been known to clean out my crisper drawer by simply throwing a bunch of veggies into the instant pot, following the general proportions of this recipe, adding bone broth, herbs, and letting the IP do it’s magic.)

Instant Pot Summer Vegetable Soup
  1. 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  2. 3 cloves garlic, minced
  3. 4 large stalks celery, chopped
  4. 4 large carrots, sliced
  5. 1 medium red onion, chopped
  6. 1 cup green beans, cut into pieces
  7. 1 cup zucchini or summer squash, diced
  8. 8 cups bone broth
  9. 1 pound red potatoes, quartered
  10. 1 teaspoon fresh rosemary, minced
  11. 1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme, minced
  12. 1 teaspoon fresh parsley, minced
  13. 1 pint cherry tomatoes, chopped
  14. 2 cups fresh baby greens such as kale, spinach or arugula
  15. Sea salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
  16. 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  17. Parmesan cheese, freshly shaved or grated
  1. Add olive oil to liner pot and set function to Sauté
  2. Add garlic, celery, carrots, and onion,
  3. Sauté until onion is wilting and golden in color, approximately 4-5 minutes
  4. Add green beans, zucchini, potatoes, tomatoes, herbs, salt and pepper
  5. Add bone broth and stir to combine
  6. Put on lid and lock into place, setting the vent to “Sealing”
  7. Set pot to “Manual” for 3 minutes
  8. When cooking time is finished, allow pressure to release naturally for 10 minutes, then manually release any remaining pressure
  9. Remove lid and add baby greens and lemon juice, stirring to combine well
  10. Serve immediately topped with freshly shaved or grated Parmesan cheese
  11. Enjoy!
The Ingredient Guru, Mira Dessy

More delicious summer recipes

Here are a few more fabulous summertime recipes

fruit smoothie

Four Delicious Superfood Smoothies For Fall

Superfood Smoothies

While smoothies are certainly more popular during the warmer months of the year, there’s nothing wrong with enjoying them during the Fall season. A superfood smoothie can be a great way to add a nutrient-dense bump to your diet. To increase your nutrition you can simply change the ingredients in your smoothies. This allows you to take advantage of the season by eating those superfoods that are available at this time of year.

Important notes for smoothie making

  • By using bone broth instead of plain ice cubes you’ll be adding a small amount of a wonderful nutrient dense liquid that adds to the health benefits of the smoothies.
  • For added protein in each of the smoothies listed below add 1-2 scoops of collagen powder.  This odorless, flavorless powder is also highly beneficial for gut health but won’t change the delicious flavor of the smoothie.
  • When using almond or coconut milk be sure to read the label and avoid carrageenan. This ingredient, made from a red seaweed, can be highly irritating to the gut.
  • Each recipe below makes 2 servings, if desired you can cut the recipe in half to make just a single serving.
  • If you want to make two servings and save one for later it’s recommended that you freeze the second serving in order to prevent the ingredients from oxidizing. When you are ready to drink it, thaw a little more than halfway (overnight in the fridge should work) and re-blend. The frozen one may have a thicker consistency when blended depending on how much you let it thaw.
Wonderful Walnut Smoothie
  1. 2 cups almond or coconut milk
  2. 3/4 cup chopped walnuts
  3. 2 cups frozen organic wild blueberries
  4. 2 tbsp fresh-ground flax seeds
  5. 2 tbsp organic molasses
  6. 1-2 tsps cinnamon
  7. 4 bone broth cubes
The Ingredient Guru, Mira Dessy
Cran-Orange Breakfast Boost
  1. 6 oranges, washed, peeled and sectioned
  2. 2 cups frozen cranberries,
  3. 1 16-ounce bottle cranberry kombucha
  4. 1 ½ tsp vanilla extract
  5. 6 bone broth cubes
The Ingredient Guru, Mira Dessy
Almost Pie Smoothie
  1. 1/3 C gluten-free oats
  2. ½ C pumpkin puree
  3. 1 ½ C organic Greek yogurt
  4. 2 medium organic Fuji apples (about 2 cups)
  5. 1 banana, frozen and broken into pieces
  6. 1 C almond or coconut milk
  7. ¼ t pumpkin pie spice
  8. 6 bone broth cubes
The Ingredient Guru, Mira Dessy
Carrot Cake Smoothie
  1. 1 frozen banana, broken into chunks
  2. ¼ cup shredded carrots
  3. 1 tbsp vanilla extract
  4. 1- 1½ tsp cinnamon (to taste)
  5. generous pinch nutmeg
  6. 1 C organic yogurt
  7. ½ C almond or coconut milk
  8. ¼ t ginger
  9. 4 bone broth cubes
The Ingredient Guru, Mira Dessy

More great Fall recipes

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superfood pumpkin

Three Delicious Pumpkin Recipes For Fall

Pumpkin season is here!

It’s that time of year when the days are getting shorter, the temperatures are dropping, and all those scrumptious, warming, Fall foods are appearing at your grocery store. This includes pumpkin, one of my favorite, most versatile vegetables. Fabulous in soups, baked goods, as a side vegetable, and even as a snack using the seeds. Pumpkins are so tasty that I find it surprising how in the United States we spend nearly $600 million on pumpkins just to carve them up for Halloween and then discard them. They’re so nutritious and delicious that I think we should all be eating more of them.

Superfood benefits of pumpkin

Qualifying as a superfood, pumpkins are a wonderful source of potassium, vitamin A, a good source of vitamin C, and also provide quite a bit of fiber. Health-wise, due in part to their high antioxidant status, studies show pumpkin may be supportive in decreasing the risk of cancer. They’re also believed to help with improving insulin regulation, lowering blood pressure, providing lignans (which can have an antimicrobial benefit), and consuming pumpkin may even be helpful for the treatment of benign prostatic hyperplasia.

It’s not just the flesh of the pumpkin that’s good for you. The seeds also have health benefits. Helpful for cholesterol metabolism and in addition to being a good source of protein, the seeds also deliver tryptophan, manganese, phosphorus, copper, magnesium, and zinc. All of this goes a long way towards making pumpkins and their seeds something you definitely want to add to your nutritional plan.

Pumpkin Recipes

While almost everyone is familiar with pumpkin pie and pumpkin bread, and possibly even pumpkin soup, there’s so much more you can do with them.  Here are a few delicious ways to add more pumpkin to your Fall menu and bump up your nutrition.

Pumpkin Hummus

2 cups cooked chickpeas (or 1 15 oz can organic chickpeas, drained and rinsed)
15 ounces pumpkin puree
juice of 2 lemons (about 4 tablespoons)
1/3 cup virgin olive oil
1/2 cup tahini paste
3 cloves garlic finely minced
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp allspice
1 1/2 tsp sea salt 
2-4 Tbsp chickpea liquid, as needed for consistency

Blend all ingredients except salt and liquid together
If needed, add chickpea liquid 1 Tablespoon at a  time for smoothness and consistency
Once fully blended add salt to taste
Best served at room temperature

Pumpkin Alfredo

1 pound gluten-free tagliatelle (my preferred brand is Jovial)|
2 Tbsp organic butter
2 Tbsp gluten-free flour
3 garlic cloves, minced finely
4 cups organic milk
1 cup pumpkin puree
1 tsp finely minced rosemary
1 pinch red pepper flakes (to taste)
sea salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
shaved parmesan for topping
minced rosemary for topping

Cook, drain, and lightly rinse pasta
Heat butter in a saucepan, add flour and whisk until combined
Add garlic, pepper, rosemary, and milk, reduce heat
Whisk all ingredient together until fully combined
Add pasta to the sauce and combine, coating noodles well
Garnish with extra minced rosemary and shaved parmesan

Superfood Pumpkin Shake
makes 2 servings

1 cup pumpkin puree, cold, not freshly cooked
2 bananas
½ cup plain organic Greek yogurt (full fat if possible)
½ cup unsweetened almond milk (avoid carrageenan)
2 tbsp protein powder
1 tsp honey
1 tsp ground flax seeds
1 tsp bee pollen granules
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
2 cups ice

Blend well until fully combined
If needed add extra liquid to fully blend ingredients together

For a few more Fall posts be sure to check these out:


oral allergy syndrome

Do You Have Oral Allergy Syndrome?

You wake up in the morning and you brush your teeth then wash your face with your all natural face wash.  You’re in a hurry to get out the door for work but know you need to at least try to eat something, so you grab a ripe peach, or my favorite a crisp apple, to eat on the way to work.  You take a few bites and then it starts, your mouth gets itchy and your tongue starts to burn.  You start to think, “Was there something in my toothpaste?  Maybe I got some of the facewash in my mouth?  I think I would have known that.” While there are real concerns with the products we use for our oral hygiene, there is another concern that may not have crossed your mind, pollen food syndrome, also known as PFS. 

What is PFS?

PFS is an allergic response marked by severe itching of the skin of the lips and mouth that can come with swelling or tenderness in and around the mouth or lips.  PFS, also known as oral allergy syndrome, OAS, is distinct from another condition affecting the lips and mouth, burning mouth syndrome, or BMS.  The difference between the two conditions is the cause of the itching and burning.  In BMS, the symptoms can be caused by a variety of things such as a systemic issue like diabetic nerve damage, nutritional deficiencies, hormonal changes, psychological disorders or from other causes like chemotherapy, neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson’s, simple mouth infections like cold sores, or a candida infection. When the condition is BMS the issue can sometimes be resolved by removal of the causative factor, such as changing to a different brand of toothpaste if the is caused by a specific chemical in it, such as sodium lauryl sulfate. In the case of systemic causes, dietary changes and treating any nutritional deficiencies can help to solve the overarching issue.  In PFS the cause is from an antibody cross-reaction with proteins in the problem food. 

For our immune system to work properly a protein on a bacteria needs to be recognized by our immune system.  Once recognized, our immune system can then identify and go to work attacking the problem organism.  The issue in PFS, like all allergies, comes when your body starts to recognize proteins as problematic when it shouldn’t.  Fortunately, unlike other food allergies, PFS is rarely life-threatening, though this fact won’t comfort someone who suffers from PFS.  A diagnosis of PFS is typically done on a case by case basis and those with PFS often have a history of hay fever with skin tests to the pollens or foods in question.  Due to the need to rule out other causative factors, people typically don’t get diagnosed until they have a medical history documenting issue. This explains why children are often undiagnosed. Some doctors will look at total or specific IgE antibodies to try and confirm an immune response and to rule out other factors.

How is PFS different?

While the itching, pain, and discomfort from PFS may seem like BMS, there are important differences.  One of these differences is that those who suffer from PFS often have an allergy to something else such as a classic food allergy, or an allergy to pollen.  Another factor is that in people with PFS, the trigger foods typically come when raw food is consumed, and sufferers don’t have the same reaction when the food is cooked.  If you reacted to a raw apple or peach, you typically don’t get the same reaction to a cooked fruit dessert such as an apple or peach pie. This is because the proteins that cause the reaction in the food are not heat tolerant.  When these foods are cooked, the proteins will start to break down and thus won’t result in an immune response because our body is no longer able to recognize these proteins it thinks are harmful. 

PFS is often seen in people who have cross-reactions to birch, grass, or ragweed pollens.  People who are sensitized to birch pollen often cross-react with apple, pears, carrots, or celery and those sensitized with grass pollen will often cross-react with celery and carrots. There is concern that pesticides applied to plants may increase the expression of cross-reactive proteins in plants.  This means that eating clean foods and minimizing the chemicals in our environment can go a long way in terms of prevention PFS prevention.   


The Cross Reactors
Environmental AllergenFruitsVegetables>NutsSpicesOther Foods
Tree Pollen (typically birch and alder) Apple, apricot, cherry, fig, kiwi, lychee, nectarine, pear, plum, peach, prune, persimmon, strawberry Beans, carrot, celery, green pepper, potato, parsnip, peas Almond, hazelnut, walnut Anise, basil, dill, caraway, chicory, coriander, cumin, fennel, marjoram, oregano, parsley, paprika, pepper, tarragon, thyme Lentils, peanut, soybean, sunflower seeds
Grass Date, fig, kiwi, melons, orange, tomato, watermelon Peas, potato     Peanut
(More common in Europe and Asia)
Apple, melons, orange, peach, tomato, watermelon Carrot, celery, green pepper, onion, parsnip     Chamomile, sunflower seeds
(pollinates in autumn)
Banana, melons (e.g. cantaloupe, honeydew), watermelons Cucumbers, zuchhini      

What to do if you have PFS?

If you suspect you have, or have been diagnosed with, PFS one of the first things you may be told is that there is no treatment available and to simply avoid the food that is causing the reaction.  As mentioned above, cooked foods don’t result in the same reaction most of the time. When the food is from a fruit like an apple, you can also remove the skin as a way to weaken or remove the reaction.  The reason removing the skin works for some foods is because the skin often contains more protein than the rest of the food.  When you remove the skin, you also take the problem causing proteins with it.  This should be done with caution though because fruits and vegetables can contain different amounts of the problematic protein depending on the conditions the food was grown in or how ripe it is.  This means that removing the skin of one type of apple might not work while it may for another.  It’s been estimated that 47-70% of people who suffer from allergic rhinitis also have PFS.  So if you have seasonal allergies it may be worth finding out if you have minor PFS symptoms that have gone unnoticed.


Allergic Living. (2010). Oral Allergy: Plants, Foods That Cross-React.  Retrieved from:

Coculescu, E. C., Ţovaru, Ş., & Coculescu, B. I. (2014). Epidemiological and etiological aspects of burning mouth syndrome. Journal of Medicine & Life, 7(3), 305-309Hofmann, A., & Burks, A. W. (2008). Pollen food syndrome: update on the allergens. Current Allergy and Asthma Reports, 8(5), 413-417.

Ludman, S., et al. (2016). Pollen food syndrome amongst children with seasonal allergic rhinitis attending allergy clinic. Pediatric Allergy & Immunology, 27(2), 134-140. doi:10.1111/pai.12504

Ivković-Jureković, I. (2015). Oral allergy syndrome in children. International Dental Journal, 65(3), 164-168. doi:10.1111/idj.12164

Portnoy, J. (2015). IgE in clinical allergy and allergy diagnosis. World Allergy Organization. Retrieved from:

Rivinius, C. (2009). Burning mouth syndrome: Identification, diagnosis, and treatment. Journal of The American Academy of Nurse Practitioners, 21(8), 423-429. doi:10.1111/j.1745-7599.2009.00424.x

Seto, C. (2010) OAS- When raw food is forbidden.  Allergic Living. Retrieved from:


Three One-Pot French Dishes Every Cook Should Know

Coq au Vin, Beef Bourguignon and Cassoulet the Ingredient Guru Way

Most classic French dishes are simple, rustic fare prepared well. Dishes such as cassoulet, beef Bourguignon and coq au vin have a gourmet air to them in the States, but in the French countryside, they’re about as common as fried chicken and mashed potatoes are in the American South. And best of all? They require just one pot to make.

Delicious anytime, these dishes are especially warming and nourishing in the Fall and Winter months when we enjoy seasonal foods and hearty dishes. It goes without saying that for optimal nutrition ingredients should be fresh and organic. The better quality the ingredients that you start with the more delicious and nutritious your dish will turn out.


Start to finish: 1 hour, 30 minutes | Prep time: 30 minutes | Servings: 4


  • 8 bone-in chicken thighs, skin removed
  • Kosher or sea salt, to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, duck fat or schmaltz, plus more as needed
  • 2 Spanish onions, roughly chopped
  • 1 medium carrot, roughly chopped
  • 1 medium stick celery, roughly chopped
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 2 or 3 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 3 cups button mushrooms, cleaned and stems removed (reserve stems for vegetable stock)
  • 3/4 cup dry red wine
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 4 fresh thyme sprigs
  • 2 parsley sprigs
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons parsley, freshly chopped


  1. Season the chicken thighs to taste with sea salt and freshly ground pepper. Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a tall, heavy-bottomed pan on the stove over medium heat.
  2. Add the chicken thighs and cook until browned, about 8 minutes. Set the chicken aside.
  3. Add the other 2 tablespoons tablespoon of butter to the pan. Add onions, carrots and celery and cook until softened and lightly browned, about 8 to 10 minutes. Add a little more butter to the pan if needed.
  4. Add the tomato paste, stir everything together and continue cooking until the tomato paste turns a rusty color, about 3 minutes.
  5. Next, add the garlic and mushrooms. Season the mushrooms to taste and cook until most of their water cooks off, about 7 minutes.
  6. Add the wine to the pan while scraping the bottom with a spatula. Add the broth, thyme sprigs, parsley sprigs and bay leaf to the pan. Return the chicken to pan and bring everything to a simmer.
  7. Simmer the coq au vin uncovered until the chicken pulls away freely from the bone, 45 minutes to 1 hour. During cooking, spoon the fat from the surface of the cooking liquid and discard.
  8. Taste the coq au vin and season it as needed with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. Garnish with freshly chopped parsley before serving. Pair the coq au vin with a bold, dry red wine and serve over mashed potatoes.



Start to finish: 1 hour, 30 minutes | Prep time: 30 minutes | Servings: 4


4 slices thick-cut, naturally cured bacon, roughly chopped

2 pounds beef chuck, cut into 1-½ inch cubes

Sea salt or kosher salt, to taste

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

2 Spanish onions, roughly chopped

1 medium carrot, roughly chopped

1 medium stick celery, roughly chopped

2 or 3 garlic cloves, crushed

2 cups button mushrooms, cleaned and stems removed

1 teaspoon flour (gluten free does work here)

1 teaspoon tomato paste

1/2 cup Burgundy or other dry red wine

1 ½ cups beef broth or chicken broth

2 sprigs parsley

2 sprigs thyme sprigs

2 sprigs rosemary

1 bay leaf

1 to 2 tablespoons parsley, freshly chopped


Cook the bacon over medium-low heat until the fat renders out, about 12 minutes. Transfer the bacon to a plate lined with paper towels.

Season the beef to taste with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Increase the heat to medium and brown the beef in the rendered bacon fat. Set the beef aside.

Add the onions, carrots and celery to the pan and cook until softened and lightly browned, about 8 to 10 minutes. Add the garlic and mushrooms to the pan.

Cook the garlic and mushrooms until most of their water evaporates, about 7 minutes. Add the flour and tomato paste to the vegetables and stir to coat. Cook until the tomato paste turns a rusty color, about 3 minutes.

Add the wine to the pan while scraping the bottom with a spatula. Add the broth, thyme, parsley, rosemary and bay leaf to the pan and bring everything to a simmer.

Return the beef to the pan and cover. Turn the heat on the stove to low and cook until the beef is tender, at least one 1 hour. Spoon the fat from the top of the cooking liquid as needed.

Garnish the beef bourguignon with freshly chopped parsley. Pair the dish with your favorite Burgundy and gluten free noodles (my favorite is Jovial tagliatelli).



Start to finish: 1 hour, 30 minutes | Prep time: 30 minutes | Servings: 4


  • 2 teaspoons bacon fat, schmaltz or duck fat
  • 2 medium onions, roughly chopped
  • 1 carrot roughly chopped
  • 2 or 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 pound naturally cured kielbasa, thinly sliced
  • 2 ¼ cups plum tomatoes, roughly chopped
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 3 ½ cups Great Northern beans, cooked to al dente, or 2 cans Great Northern beans
  • 1 ½ cups skinless chicken breasts, diced
  • 1/2 tablespoon fresh thyme, chopped
  • Sea salt or kosher salt, to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste


  1. Heat the fat in a large pan on the stove over medium heat. Add the onions and carrots and cook until softened, about 7 minutes. Add the garlic.
  2. Continue cooking until aromatic with garlic, about 3 minutes. Add the kielbasa and cook until browned, about 5 minutes.
  3. Add the tomatoes, broth, wine, beans, chicken and thyme. Bring the cassoulet to a simmer.
  4. Simmer the cassoulet until thickened, about 40 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper and garnish with freshly chopped parsley, if desired.


What’s In Season

We’re about to shift seasons again.  That means a whole new influx of fresh fruits and vegetables that are typically grown at this time of year.  While many of us are able to afford to eat whatever we want whenever we want it, we miss out by not eating seasonally.  By choosing to eat produce when it grows we are often able to get food that is more nutritious, that tastes better, and potentially is grown closer to home.


children seasonal affective disorder

Helping Children Overcome Seasonal Affective Disorder

Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD is a type of depression occurring at certain times of the year. SAD usually occurs during the late fall or winter months. It is believed to be caused by lack of sunlight since it occurs in higher frequencies in latitudes farther from the equator, where hours of sunlight are less during the winter. It may also be related to a drop in serotonin levels. Even young children can suffer from SAD.  Here are the top three things you can do to help support your kids and keep them feeling great during the winter months.


Because SAD is believed to be connected to limited light exposure, make sure that your children spend some time outdoors during winter daylight hours. Yes, it will be cold, but bundle them up properly and the sun exposure will do them good. Encourage them to get light exposure directly into their eyes (in other words, forgo the sunglasses). This is because light exposure, particularly bright light, through the eyes boost serotonin activity. You may want to make a point of having your children go out on weekends during the winter, as they will likely be shut in at school during the weekday daylight hours. If desired you can also buy special lights that are meant for treating SAD. Light therapy has helped many people who suffer from SAD.


While it may be difficult for your children to play outside in the winter, the activity and sunlight will be very beneficial. This is because exercise and physical activity is a great way to fight depression, even SAD. You may find it effective to provide a space in your house for your children to be physically active. A partially finished basement or a room that you don’t need to keep in the best shape is perfect for this. You could put a small basketball hoop in this room or provide other activities that will encourage your children to be active. If provided with space and encouraged to be active, many children will jump at the opportunity.


Lastly, proper diet is important in the treatment of SAD. As with all depression, make sure your children limit the amount of sweets and simple carbs that they eat. Eating a healthy, whole-food diet, low in processed food and artificial ingredients, can help to address nutrient deficiencies that may be exacerbating SAD symptoms.

Consuming foods rich in Vitamin D and DHA may be particularly helpful in treating SAD. Vitamin D is produced easily in the summer sun by our bodies, but is limited in the winter, due to the angle of the sun and the reduced hours of sunlight. Fish and other types of seafood are high in both Vitamin D and the essential omega 3 fatty acid DHA. Both are commonly consumed by certain cultures who have a lower prevalence of SAD, despite living in latitudes far from the equator. Vitamin D can also be found in dairy products (be sure to choose organic in order to avoid added hormones, antibiotics, and other chemicals), eggs, and mushrooms (especially portabellas which are raised under appropriate conditions – these are sometimes found in the grocery store under the label “sun-bella”).

If you feel that your kids may not be getting the Vitamin D they need through their diet, you could ask your doctor to have their levels checked. Your doctor may recommend a vitamin D supplement for the winter months.

Try some of these ideas to help keep SAD away from your household and to get your kids through the winter blues. Don’t forget to smile and take time to relax so you can your family can enjoy a healthy and happy winter.

Josiah Garber enjoys studying and pursuing health and nutrition. He works as Manager of Technology at Medical Support Products an online respiratory equipment and supplies company.

seasonal affective disorder winter light

Light Solutions For Seasonal Affective Disorder

Seasonal affective disorder, often referred to as SAD, is a condition that is getting a lot more attention lately. People are aware of the negative consequences of not getting sunlight. Yet while many people think that sunlight causes cancer, they don’t realize that the long wavelength of the Sun simultaneously detoxifies you from the damage from UVB. And it’s not only about the amount of vitamin D because vitamin D is absorbed within 30 minutes of sun exposure.

Blue light

Florescent lights, computers, cell phones, televisions, e-readers, and more all contain blue light. This light wave range is not helpful for those with SAD. Unfortunately the winter season is also when we are more likely to be exposed to these light waves because the days are shorter and we tend to spend more time indoors. We are also more likely to curl up on the couch with a good movie or another electronic device, making our exposure to this light wave even more significant. 

One way to reduce some of this blue light exposure is to wear special glasses which block this light wave. Although many new devices have apps or programs that can block the blue light, it may not be enough to significantly cut your exposure. Therefore glasses can be a useful option.

Red Light

Light from the Sun, predominantly the red and orange light, is a beneficial thing, especially during the shorter, darker days of winter. The reason most people usually notice a difference in their mood after spending time outside in the sunshine is due to the red and orange light waves that come from the sun. The more intense the sunlight is the more powerful the benefit’s are going to be. It’s important to note that a short period of intense sunlight is actually much better than a longer period of sunlight with cloudy weather.

In addition to improving mood, sunlight can increase thyroid function; thyroid hormone is required to properly detoxify your liver. When you increase thyroid function you also regulate blood sugar and help support the body to secrete adequate amounts of stomach acid. This means that incorporating light therapy through the sun or the right types of lights is highly supportive of good health.

Getting the right light

SAD is a diagnosis that indicates you’re not getting enough of the correct spectrum of light. To remedy this, if you’re in a climate that doesn’t give you access to sunlight, you can purchase special lights and use those for a period of time every day.

The best option for SAD, however, is sunlight. This is due to its long wavelength and the better concentration of red and orange light waves. 

While there are other pieces to the healing puzzle, such as organic foods and adequate sleep, light therapy is something that many people forget about. It appears to be very helpful with health problems, energy, mood, and anxiety.

Nancy Farber is a strong advocate of light therapy and it’s benefits; she believes that food and light are the keys to healing. She can be found online at Benefits Of Light.

How Diet Affects Winter Seasonal Affective Disorder

Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD for short, is a common mood disorder where people experience depressive symptoms in the winter or anxiety in the summer consistently every year, but maintain a healthy mental state during other seasons. Symptoms of SAD include:

  • Fatigue 
  • Increased need for sleep 
  • Decreased levels of energy 
  • Weight gain or loss 
  • Increase or decrease in appetite 
  • Difficulty concentrating 
  • Trouble sleeping 
  • Sadness 
  • Anxiety 
  • Irritability 
  • Antisocial behavior,  and 
  • Craving carbohydrates 

Seasonal Affective Disorder, also called winter blues, summer blues, or seasonal depression affects about four to six percent of Americans severely. According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, SAD is four times more likely in women than in men, ten to twenty percent of Americans may have a mild case of SAD, and it usually isn’t found in people younger than the age of twenty.

If you suffer from the above symptoms, you may have Seasonal Affective Disorder; however, there must to be a history of these symptoms for a couple years before it can be correctly diagnosed. According to Clinical Psychologist Kathy Hogan Bruen: “There’s a difference between feeling down and being depressed. Being clinically depressed means you have more than just a couple of symptoms and they’ve lasted for more than a couple of days. Before someone receives a diagnosis of SAD, they must experience this consecutively for two years. It’s not just ‘I feel bad one winter, therefore I must have SAD.’ There has to be a history there.” If you suspect you have SAD, seek a professional opinion. Self diagnosis is never a good idea.

The exact cause of SAD is unknown. Medical professionals attribute it to any of the following:

  • Lack of sunlight 
  • Increase in melatonin levels 
  •  hormone levels 
  • Irregular brain chemistry 
  • Lack of serotonin 
  • Disruption of our circadian rhythm, or
  • Lack of vitamin D 

Research on Winter Seasonal Affective Disorder continues, but thus far the lack of sun is the most compelling cause since lacking sunlight affects the brain by increasing melatonin while decreasing serotonin and vitamin D levels in the body. When exposed to sunlight, your optic nerve sends a message to your brain to produce less melatonin. Melatonin is a hormone that calms the body and allows you to sleep. When the sun comes up your brain produces serotonin, a hormone that induces feelings of wakefulness. When the sun’s ultraviolet rays touch your skin, your body produces vitamin D. Vitamin D also helps the body maintain proper serotonin levels. So during the dark winter months you could have insufficient amounts of vitamin D and serotonin, but overly sufficient amounts of melatonin thus the depressive state.

A research project done at the University of Alaska, Anchorage found that “as serum vitamin D decreased, symptoms of SAD increased.” Winter Seasonal Affective Disorder and the Mediterranean Diet Studies such as that of the University of Alaska, Anchorage lead us to believe that SAD can be controlled through diet. More specifically through a diet high in vitamin D which aids in the production of serotonin in the body. Psychiatrist David Mrazek on, claims that eating a Mediterranean diet can help.

A Mediterranean diet is a diet high in fresh fruits and vegetables. With the Mediterranean diet whole grains, healthy fats, fish, and lower amounts of meats can help reduce depression. According to Mrazek this diet can reduce depression by up to one-third. Dietary supplements also help with Seasonal Affective Disorder. In addition to vitamin D, supplements to add into your diet include: omega-3 vitamin B3 vitamin B12 and folate. Fish, and nuts contain high amounts of omega-3 while B-complex vitamins come from oily fish, beans, nuts, and whole grains. Herring, mackerel, salmon and flaxseed are the richest sources of omega-3 fatty acids.

Key components of the Mediterranean Diet include exercise, eating whole grains, using olive oil, eating plant-based foods, such as fruits, vegetables, legumes and nuts. The diet also calls for the use of herbs rather than salt to flavor foods, enjoying meals with family and friends, limiting red meat consumption while increasing fish and poultry, and drinking red wine in moderation.

In a study by R. J. Wurtman and J. J. Wurtman published in Obesity Research, it was found that consuming foods high in carbohydrates increases serotonin in the brain, which alleviates the symptoms of depression involved with Seasonal Affective Disorder. Excess carbohydrates may; however, cause unwanted weight gain and worsen depression. A study published in the International Journal of Eating Disorders supported eliminating simple carbohydrates from the diet of individuals with SAD, claiming this helped control the depression for a longer period. The consumption of carbohydrates and its effect on Seasonal Affective Disorder continues to be a controversial issue and the center of more studies; however, the Mediterranean diet in considered a low-carb diet, balancing the amount of carbohydrates with a variety of other nutritious foods and is highly recommended.

Kate Hunter is a writer at Everlasting Health Center, Reno’s best vitamin, supplement, herb and health food store since 1995. She enjoys organic gardening, whole food cooking, and following up on the latest health food news. Katie obtained B.A. in English with an emphasis on writing from Southern Oregon University and has been writing about nutrition, healthy living, cooking, and gardening for over nine years. She is a mother of three and spends her time baking, canning, growing and drying herbs, and reading food labels of course.

Five Fabulous Fall Foods

Summer, that season of fresh salads, greens, berries, and melons all bursting with healthful vitamins and nutrients, has passed. Autumn, however, also please our palates, providing us with different gifts of nature. There are many seasonal fruits and vegetables, which are just as tasty as summer while delivering different health benefits. Here are some fabulous fall foods (depending on your location) and their health benefits.

Tomatoes – This berry provides high lycopene content, that rare plant pigment which imparts their red color to tomatoes and other fruits . According to several studies lycopene can prevent cancer, lower cholesterol, and appears to protect us from harmful ultraviolet radiation. In addition to lycopene, tomatoes are high in potassium, fiber and vitamin C, helps to strengthen the immune system before the influenza season.

Cabbage – High in fiber, which supports digestion, can lower cholesterol, and provides cardio-protective benefits, cabbage is also rich in antioxidants which can protect the body against many types of cancer (including breast, prostate and ovarian cancers). Another benefit of this versatile benefit is that cabbage juice has long been known for it’s healing effects on stomach ulcers.

Persimmon – Another berry, persimmons are high in fiber, and antioxidants. They also provide vitamins A, C, D, iron, potassium, calcium, copper, magnesium, manganese, and iodine. Persimmons can provide a fair number of health benefits from lowering blood pressure to being cardioprotective to it’s anti-tumor benefits. However, persimmons are also high in glucose and sucrose making them a poor choice for those suffering from diabetes.

Turnips – A root vegetable containing potassium, magnesium, sulfur, iron, sodium, iodine and manganese, turnips are anti-cancerous while their high fiber content make them a great choice to lower cholesterol and support a healthy digestive system. One of the great things about turnips are that you can eat the greens as well as the roots, making them a versatile food to add to your diet. And those greens are just as loaded with nutrients as the roots, containing vitamins A, C, K, and folate. Turnip greens are even high in calcium making them a good choice to support bone health.

Beetroot – Another root vegetable which has edible greens, beets are highly anti-inflammatory and support detoxification in the body. Beetroot is high in folate, manganese, fiber, potassium, and vitamin C while the greens are a great source of lutein and zeaxanthin, two phytonutrients which are especially supportive of eye health. While almost all products can be found in stores throughout the year, for freshness and higher nutritional content it is important to eat seasonally.

Adding these autumnal foods to your diet is not only tasty and easy, it’s also good for you.

Korah Morrison has been working as a freelance writer for over 2 years. She writes essays on various topics at and loves her work.

photo:  Jean-Pol Grandmont