Diane May Nutrition Blog

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What Is An Adaptogen

November 3rd, 2018

Adaptogens have been all over the news lately, especially in regard to wellness, purporting to be a magic elixir.  They can be found in supplements, powders and tinctures.  But what is an adaptogen? By definition, in herbal medicine, an adaptogen is a natural substance (non toxic plant) considered to help the body adapt to stress and to exert a normalizing effect upon bodily processes. A study in the Journal Pharmaceuticalshas shown great promise for certain adaptogens, more specifically: Rhodiola rosea, Schisandra chinensis and Eleutherococcus. There is promise in regard to stress, anxiety and immune response. It is extremely important to note that studies on adaptogens have NOT been done on humans, only on animals and human tissue samples, which do not respond the same way that human bodies do. Should we all run out and start buying these supplements? Not so quick. First of all, supplements are not regulated by the FDA, so be very careful when purchasing supplements. If you are considering trying one of these supplements, see if they have a USP mark (The United States Pharmacopeia), which does set standards for dietary supplements or NSF certification, which provides standards of development. You want to make sure you are actually getting the plant you are paying for.  I recommend if interested in trying this trend, get it through herbs that you can add to your food or drinks yourself-beware, most do not taste good on their own. Some good sources of adaptogens include:

  • Asian Ginseng
  • Reishi mushrooms
  • Ashwagandha
  • Rhodaiola
  • Indian Goosberry
  • Holy Basil
  • Cordyceps

You can add these herbs, plants or mushrooms to teas, smoothies or soups. It is very important to note that herbal supplements can interact with prescription medications and may have side effects, so whether you buy a pre made supplement or make your own blend, ALWAYS talk to your physician first to be safe. Adaptogens can boost your health, but by no means are they a cure all or magic bullet.

Asian-Inspired Chicken Soup

From: EatingWell Magazine, March/April 2010

What is so obliging about this hearty chicken soup is that you can add any vegetables that suit your fancy: napa or Savoy cabbage, mushrooms, Chinese broccoli, broccolini, onions, leeks, mustard or turnip greens, celery or whatever tickles your bonnet. Just be sure that you don’t overcook the vegetables. Spice it up with Asian-style chile sauce, such as sriracha, and/or serve the soup over noodles to make it a more substantial main dish.



    • ½ ounce (about ½ cup) dried Reishi or mixed dried mushrooms
    • 3 cups boiling water
    • 1 tablespoon peanut oil or canola oil
    • 2 cups diced onion
    • 3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
    • 6⅛-inch-thick slices peeled fresh ginger
    • 6 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
    • ¼ cup reduced-sodium soy sauce
    • 1 2-to-3-inch cinnamon stick
    • 1 whole star anise
    • 1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
    • 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
    • 1 bulb fennel, cored and cut into 1-inch pieces
    • 8 scallions, whites cut into 2-inch pieces and greens chopped, divided
    • 1 pound bok choy, preferably baby bok choy, white stems sliced lengthwise and greens chopped, divided
    • 2 cups (4 ounces) mung bean sprouts (see Note)
    • ½ cup chopped fresh cilantro
    • 2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
    • Lime wedges for garnish


  • Place mushrooms in a heatproof measuring cup and cover with boiling water. Soak for at least 30 minutes or up to several hours. Remove the mushrooms from the water, remove and discard stems (if any) and cut into ⅛-inch slices; set aside. Strain the soaking liquid and reserve.
  • Heat oil in a large soup pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add onion, garlic and ginger and cook, stirring, for 5 minutes. Pour in the reserved mushroom liquid, broth, soy sauce, cinnamon stick, star anise and pepper. Bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and stir in chicken. Simmer for 20 minutes.
  • Stir in fennel, scallion whites and the reserved mushrooms and cook for 5 minutes. Add bok choy stems, return to a simmer and cook for 3 minutes more. Stir in bok choy greens and bean sprouts. Cook until the greens are just wilted, about 2 minutes more.
  • Discard the cinnamon stick and star anise. Ladle the soup into bowls. Garnish each bowl with scallion greens, cilantro and a ¼-teaspoon drizzle of sesame oil. Serve with lime wedges, if desired.
  • Note: Mung bean sprouts (germinated mung beans), often simply labeled “bean sprouts,” are white with a light yellow tip and are thicker than more common alfalfa sprouts.
  • People with celiac disease or gluten-sensitivity should use soy sauces that are labeled “gluten-free,” as soy sauce may contain wheat or other gluten-containing sweeteners and flavors.

Nutrition information

Serving size: about 1¾ cups

  • Per serving: 257 calories; 11 g fat(3 g sat); 3 g fiber; 13 g carbohydrates; 27 g protein; 79 mcg folate; 76 mg cholesterol; 5 g sugars; 0 g added sugars; 2,920 IU vitamin A; 29 mg vitamin C; 107 mg calcium; 3 mg iron; 789 mg sodium; 831 mg potassium
  • Nutrition Bonus: Vitamin A (58% daily value), Vitamin C (48% dv), Folate (20% dv)
  • Carbohydrate Servings: 1




What To Do After You Pick Your Pumpkin

October 8th, 2018

Its that time of year when the weather gets crips and people are apple and pumpkin picking.  We eat those apples, but only decorate the poor pumpkins.  Pumpkins are incredibly healthy and loaded with nutrients. Yes, they are a superfood! Although fresh is always best, using canned pumpkin is just as good, just do not get pre- seasoned pumpkin, as it may contain added sugar and may have flavors you do not want. It is a member of the squash family and you can cook the flesh and roast the seeds.  Pumpkin has about 30 calories per cup, is low in saturated fat, and very low in cholesterol and sodium. It is also a good source of vitamin E (Alpha Tocopherol), thiamin, niacin, vitamin B6, folate, iron, magnesium and phosphorus, and a very good source of dietary fiber, vitamin A, vitamin C, riboflavin, potassium, copper and manganese. There are many health benefits to consuming pumpkin:

  • The potassium can help to lower blood pressure and reduce risk of stroke.
  • The beta carotene is a powerful antioxidant that has shown to reduce the risk of certain cancers and assist with eyesight (as well as the Vitamin A). It can also improve the immune system. A study published in The Journal of Pharmacological Science showed promise for the benefit of pumpkin and cancer prevention, especially prostate and colon. 
  • A great source of fiber, can assist with bowel function and blood glucose control.
  • Can assist with weight loss due to its high fiber content, which keeps us feeling full longer.
  • Give you glowing skin due to the fruit enzymes and alpha hydroxy acids.
  • Can reduce inflammation due to the high levels of beta cryptoxanthin ( a pro vitamin A carotenoid).

Pumpkin puree can replace oil or butter when baking (ratio of one to one for oil, for butter, multiply the amount of butter by 3/4), Add 1/4 cup pureed pumpkin for each egg, puree can replace a banana in a recipe,  you can roast the flesh, puree it into a creamy soup or filling, add to yogurt or even make a healthy spiced latte. Always store in a cool, dark place.  If you eat too much, your skin may turn orange due to the beta carotene-don’t panic, its not permanent! So just don’t carve that pumpkin, eat this superfood!

Pumpkin-Oat Mini Muffins

From: EatingWell Magazine, September/October 2018

These flourless pumpkin muffins are made entirely in the blender, making cleanup a breeze. If you’d rather make 12 regular-size muffins, bake for 18 to 20 minutes and let cool for 10 minutes before turning them out of the pan.

Ingredients       24 servings

  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1½ cups rolled oats (see Tip)
  • 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1½ cups rolled oats (see Tip)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • ¾ cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • 3 tablespoons grapeseed or canola oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ⅓ cup mini chocolate chips or chopped dried cranberries


  •  Prep       15 m
  • Ready In     45 m
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Coat a 24-cup mini muffin tin with cooking spray.
  2. Pulse oats in a blender until finely ground. Add baking powder, pumpkin pie spice, baking soda and salt; pulse once or twice to blend. Add eggs, pumpkin, brown sugar, oil and vanilla; puree until smooth. Stir in chocolate chips (or cranberries). Fill the prepared muffin cups two-thirds full.
  3. Bake the muffins until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 15 to 17 minutes. Cool in the pan on a wire rack for 5 minutes, then turn out to cool completely.
  • Tip: People with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity should use oats that are labeled “gluten-free,” as oats are often cross-contaminated with wheat and barley.


Nutrition information


  • Serving size: 1 muffin
  • Per serving: 82 calories; 3 g fat(1 g sat); 1 g fiber; 13 g carbohydrates; 1 g protein; 6 mcg folate;16 mg cholesterol; 9 g sugars; 8 g added sugars; 1,611 IU vitamin A; 0 mg vitamin C; 26 mg calcium; 1 mg iron; 66 mg sodium; 64 mg potassium
  • Nutrition Bonus: Vitamin A (32% daily value)
  • Carbohydrate Servings: 1
  • Exchanges: ½ starch, ½ other carb