Florida Keys Business
Sunday, July 28, 2013
My Kitchen Rx: Food and your mood

Much to my surprise, the locker room here at NGI (Natural Gourmet Institute) is an interesting place.

We have a rule that students cannot wear their chef uniform outside the campus or on the way to school because NGI considers it unsanitary to prepare food in a commercial setting in clothes worn outside the kitchen. Our locker room has 81 lockers in a tight space with no private changing areas. Our class of 16 grown men and women simultaneously strip down to undergarments and throw on uniforms in a frenzy because no one wants to have points subtracted for being late or have anything negative in their permanent record.

It's a frantic and funny co-ed start to our daily classes. But there is also a lesson to incorporate in all of our cooking lives. It is probably not a good idea to cook for your family and friends in clothes you've worn to mow the lawn, wash the dog or attempt the Duval Crawl.

Just as I expected, at NGI every day I am learning so many things that will positively affect every person I am ever honored to cook for and serve, not the least of which is acknowledging the founding principle that what we eat significantly affects our physical, mental and spiritual wellbeing. An easier way for me to think of that is in line with Socrates: Thinking of food as natural medicine.

According to the Mayo Clinic researchers, seven in 10 Americans take prescription drugs. No wonder there is a CVS and Walgreens on every corner in every city in this country. The CDC (Centers for Disease Control) reports that 48.5 percent of Americans in 2010 took one prescription medication per month and 10.6 percent took five or more prescriptions each month. Although prescription drugs may successfully treat the symptoms of a specific health condition, they often create other health problems and almost always result in nutrient deficiencies.

Most forward thinking health professionals agree the best thing we can do for our individual health is achieve and maintain a weight, body and fitness condition that requires no daily prescription medicine. One way to do that is to eat well and wisely and to address certain health conditions with our diet by increasing the foods that help alleviate certain symptoms and by avoiding those foods that may aggravate the condition. Often, how and what to eat are not addressed by doctors and hospitals.

So let's look at the second most prescribed category of prescribed drug in this country: anti-depressants such as Prozac, Zoloft, Paxil, Lexapro, and Celexa.

Peter Bongiorno is a naturopathic physician and author, and I've attended three of his lectures and was amazed at the information he provides about using food as medicine in the treatment of depression and its symptoms.

Anti-depressants are a class of drugs you cannot stop taking without the risk of serious consequences. So if you take an anti-depressant, speak to your doctor before making any change in what you take. In the meantime, incorporate happy foods into your diet.

Eat the following:

Fish and seafood, especially wild-caught salmon

Sea veggies

Raw nuts and seeds (at least a total of one cup a day)

Many green vegetables daily


Fruit, especially bananas

Organic when possible

Avoid the following:

Sodas, regular and diet

Preserved foods

Fast foods

Junk foods




Working these healthful and happy foods into your daily menu is easy. One of my favorite ways to cook salmon is to poach it in orange juice. Put a little organic olive oil in a pan, heat it up until you see a rolling ripple in the oil then sear the salmon on both sides. Add a few capers on top with salt and pepper, then add enough orange juice to cover the fish and poach (a low-heat simmer) with the lid on for 5-10 minutes or until done.

An idea for preparing green leafy vegetables is to use your organic extra virgin olive oil in a pan, add some minced garlic and just when the edges of the garlic look like they are turning brown, add a variety of mixed greens turning frequently with tongs. The vegetables should remain a little crunchy and the color should stay vibrant, with a light shine from the oil, not mushy and flat colored or saturated in oil.

Snack on crackers like flax seed crackers which are high in omega 3. They come in many flavors and are very tasty. Two great places to find flax seed crackers and snacks in the Florida Keys are Sugar Apple Natural Foods in Key West and Food for Thought Natural Health Food Store and Organic Café in Marathon.

Drink about eight glasses of water throughout each day starting first thing in the morning. People often forget how important water is. It carries nutrients throughout your body and flushes your system.

These suggestions in adapting a diet to decrease the symptoms of depression are essentially using food as medicine or at least supplemental medicine that assist medications we must take. Thinking of and using food as medicine is the right approach in so many ways. Good for our health by decreasing symptoms, good for the economy by decreasing healthcare costs, and good for the environment when incorporating organic products in our diet.

To your good health.


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