Sunshine Vitamin

You may have heard that we get vitamin D from the sun. It’s actually true, but there are various aspects of this to consider.

Vitamin D is known as the sunshine vitamin because when UVB rays from the sun reach our skin, a form of cholesterol on our skin transforms into vitamin D3. This vitamin D3 then goes into our liver and kidney, where it eventually transforms into the active form of vitamin D, called calcitriol. 

But sunshine isn’t our only source of Vitamin D.  Fortified cereals or fatty fish like salmon also contain vitamin D.

Vitamin D plays vital roles within our body such as maintaining serum calcium homeostasis (which is the body’s ability to regulate the level of calcium in the bloodstream within a narrow range to support various physiological functions), cell growth, and strengthening bones.

With all this in mind, summer is upon us and this is a great time to get outdoors and go for a walk, have outdoor gatherings with friends, or take your family to a park or zoo. There are many opportunities to be active in the fresh air. 

However, it is important to practice safety as well. The best time to get vitamin D is early morning or late afternoon. Otherwise, it is best to wear sunscreen, protective clothing, and find shade to reduce risk of skin damage.

In conclusion, the benefits of vitamin D are multifaceted and crucial for overall health and well-being. Incorporating vitamin D-rich foods and appropriate sunlight exposure into one’s lifestyle can be an effective way to harness the many benefits of this essential nutrient.

With PCOS, knowledge is POWER!


Have you heard of PCOS? Polycystic Ovary Syndrome is a frequently under-diagnosed condition for many women and can lead to some very frustrating symptoms. PCOS is a hormonal disorder that also affects your body’s production of insulin and can increase your risk of diabetes. Commonly, PCOS causes very heavy or painful menstrual cycles (or irregular or nonexistent cycles!), acne, ovarian symptoms, unwanted hair growth on the face, male-pattern baldness, difficulty losing weight, and infertility.

Frequently, women with this condition feel they are doing everything right and yet still not losing weight. If this is the case for you, talk to your doctor about doing labs and an ultrasound to determine whether or not you may be dealing with PCOS.

The good news is, PCOS is very responsive to diet and lifestyle changes as well as targeted supplements or medications. Making changes in how often you eat, what nutrients you combine together, and what type of exercise you do can drastically improve your PCOS and how you feel. These changes can also reduce your risk of developing other health issues down the line. Eating regularly through the day and making sure your meals and snacks contain both carbohydrates and protein can go a long way toward stabilizing your blood sugar and insulin levels. Supplements such as CoQ10 and inositol have shown promising results in studies in helping improve carb cravings, irregular menstrual cycles, and insulin levels.

With PCOS, knowledge is POWER!

The Blueprint for Cognitive Health Mirrors Body Wellness

Cognitive health is a common concern as we age, as it plays a role in memory, awareness, judgment and mental acuity. Several factors are out of our control, but focusing on five areas within our control can reduce the risks of cognitive decline. Fortunately, the key to preserving cognitive health aligns closely with what’s beneficial for our bodies, so starting these now can help maintain a sharp mind.

1. Nutrition – Fueling Your Mind
Diets rich in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats, with limited added sugars, sodium, saturated fat, trans fat and alcohol not only support heart health but also nourish the brain. The Mediterranean diet, the DASH diet, and the MIND diet are proven to promote cognitive health by reducing inflammation and providing essential nutrients that support brain function.

2. Exercise – Boosting Brain Power
Physical activity is a powerful tool for preserving cognitive function. Research indicates that aerobic exercise and resistance training stimulate neuroplastic changes in the brain, counteracting cognitive decline associated with aging. Aim for at least 45 minutes of exercise, twice per week, to reap the cognitive benefits and maintain overall brain health.

3. Sleep – Restoring Mind and Body
Adequate sleep is essential for cognitive health, as it allows the brain to consolidate memories and recharge. Chronic sleep deprivation has been linked to cognitive impairments, mood disorders and an increased risk of neurodegenerative diseases. Both sleep quantity and quality play crucial roles in cognitive functioning and the rate of decline. Prioritize good sleep hygiene habits to ensure restorative sleep and support optimal cognitive function as you age. Aim for seven to nine hours of quality sleep each night.

4. Stress Management – Protecting Your Brain
Chronic stress can take a toll on cognitive abilities, leading to accelerated cognitive decline and an increased risk of dementia. Finding effective stress management techniques, such as yoga, meditation, deep breathing exercises, spending time in nature, reading, or listening to music, can lower the risk of cognitive decline and promote overall well-being. By reducing stress, you can protect your cognitive function and promote mental clarity.

5. Social Connections – Nourish the Mind and Soul
Human connection is essential for cognitive health. Engaging in social activities, maintaining meaningful relationships, and participating in community events can stimulate cognitive function, improve mood, and reduce the risk of cognitive decline. Prioritize social interaction as a vital aspect of your cognitive health regimen.

Since the blueprint for maintaining cognitive health in aging closely mirrors the principles of overall wellness for the body, you can essentially achieve two important health goals in a single lifestyle plan. By focusing on a nutritious diet, regular physical activity, quality sleep, effective stress management, and vibrant social interactions, you can support your cognitive function and enjoy a fulfilling life with a sharp mind and a healthy body. Remember, aging gracefully is not just about longevity—it’s about living life to the fullest, with clarity, vitality, and joy.

Milk Does a Body Good … But Which Kind?

Dairy alternatives and plant-based milks have gained ground over the years as common substitutes for traditional cow-derived dairy products, such as milk, cheese, yogurt, and butter. While these products are not necessarily new, they continue to be adapted and reinvented in new ways that meet the needs and preferences of individuals who are lactose intolerant, have dairy allergies, follow a vegan lifestyle, desire a different flavor profile, or simply choose to avoid animal products.

Common dairy alternatives include:

    1. Plant-based milk: These are beverages made from plant sources such as soy, almond, oat, rice, coconut, or hemp. They are often fortified with nutrients like calcium and vitamin D to mimic the nutritional profile of cow’s milk.
    2. Vegan cheese: These are non-dairy alternatives to traditional cheese made from ingredients like soy, nuts (e.g., cashews), or tapioca starch. They can be used for melting, shredding, or slicing like dairy cheese.
    3. Non-dairy yogurt: Made from plant-based ingredients such as soy, coconut, almond, or cashews, non-dairy yogurts offer a creamy and tangy alternative to dairy-based yogurts.
    4. Dairy-free butter: Margarine or plant-based spreads made from oils like soybean, canola, coconut, or olive oil can be used as substitutes for butter in cooking, baking, or spreading on bread.
    5. Non-dairy ice cream: Ice cream alternatives are typically made from plant-based milks, such as almond, coconut, or soy, and come in various flavors and textures similar to traditional dairy ice cream.

When it comes to plant-based milk, nutrition content can differ from traditional cow’s milk in a few ways: 

  • Nutritional Composition: Cow’s milk is naturally rich in nutrients like calcium, protein, vitamin D, and vitamin B12. Plant-based milk products are typically fortified to mimic the nutritional content of cow’s milk. However, the specific nutrient profile can vary depending on the type of plant-based milk and fortification practices.
  • Protein Content: Cow’s milk is a complete protein source, meaning it contains all the essential amino acids required by the body. Plant-based milk/milk products often has lower protein content, but some varieties like soy milk provide a similar protein profile to cow’s milk.
  • Fat Content: Cow’s milk contains varying levels of fat, including saturated fat. Plant-based milk/milk products typically have lower levels of saturated fat with the fat content differing depending on the plant source and processing.
  • Lactose: Cow’s milk contains lactose, a natural sugar that some people have difficulty digesting due to lactose intolerance. Plant-based milk/milk products are naturally lactose-free, making it a suitable alternative for those with lactose intolerance.
  • Allergies and Sensitivities: Cow’s milk is one of the most common food allergens, while plant-based milk is free from dairy allergens. However, certain individuals may have allergies or sensitivities to specific plant-based milk ingredients like nuts or soy.
  • Taste and Texture: Both cow and plant-based milk can have different flavors and textures depending on the fat and sugar content. For dairy alternatives, taste can vary depending on the plant source and added flavorings or sweeteners. 

Unique products and considerations – 

  • A2 Milk: A2 milk is a type of cow’s milk that contains only the A2 beta-casein protein, as opposed to conventional cow’s milk, which contains both A1 and A2 beta-casein proteins. It is claimed that A2 milk is easier to digest and may be a suitable option for individuals who experience discomfort or digestive issues when consuming regular milk. A2 milk is produced by cows that naturally produce milk containing only the A2 protein.
  • Fairlife Milk: This is a brand of milk that offers a unique approach to dairy production. It is a high-protein, lactose-free milk that undergoes a filtration process to remove some of the milk sugars while retaining a higher concentration of protein and calcium compared to traditional milk. Fairlife milk is made from the milk of cows that are not treated with artificial growth hormones, and it is also rich in vitamins A and D. This milk is marketed as a healthier and more nutritious alternative to regular milk.

At the end of the day, it’s important to note that individual preferences, dietary restrictions, and health considerations can influence the choice between milk alternatives, plant-based milk, and cow’s milk. If you have special needs or considerations, it’s advisable to consult with a healthcare professional or dietitian to determine the most suitable option for you. 

New Weight-loss Medications

It’s hard to go a day without hearing a news story about the new class of weight-loss medications known as “GLP-1” or “Semaglutides.” GLP-1s are powerful medications that work to lower blood sugar, decrease appetite and slow gastric emptying. However, these effects are only present while taking the medication on a weekly basis.

You might be curious if these medications are a good fit for you and your health goals. A physician you trust is the best person to discuss this with, and they will and help you safely assess the risks and benefits. If GLP-1 medications are found to be appropriate for you, long term “significant clinical benefits” are best achieved by having a dietitian on your healthcare team. These clinical benefits can include encouraging safe weight loss by maintaining appropriate macro- and micronutrient intake and coaching as to how to maintain these benefits if the medication is paused or stopped for any reason.

Many patients find transitioning off of GLP-1s to be challenging, and having a plan in place can help facilitate long term success. A dietitian can help you maintain behavior changes, identify the meal pattern that works for you, and manage your blood sugar through other interventions if needed.


Fresh Produce Tips

Do you struggle with consuming fresh produce in the winter? In Oklahoma, we have a wide variety of produce through warmer months, and fortunately, we also have a wide variety of produce that is in season this time of year! At Banister Nutrition, we post a list of produce in season for Oklahoma at the beginning of every month. When produce is in season, it tastes its best and it can usually be purchased at a lower cost. Check out our social media sites to view these each month.

Here are some ways you can utilize our fresh produce list:

  • You can keep it simple and just pick up these items to eat raw. Some examples are carrots, broccoli, or pears as side options with a meal or consumed as a snack.
  • You can add them to meals you are already preparing by swapping the out-of-season veggie for the in-season veggies in the list. 
  • Try some new recipes. Here are some of my favorite ways to include produce in season from our February list:


Sweet potato salad with kale, beets and tahini dressing


Stuffed Sweet Potato


Sweet Potato and Kale Frittata


Side Dishes:

Roasted Brussels Sprouts


Asparagus and Parmesan


Cauliflower and Cabbage Steaks In Air Fryer


Winter Pear Salad


Citrus Fruit Salad

Heart Healthy Blueberry Walnut Baked Oats

Heart Healthy Blueberry Walnut Baked Oats
Prep Time: 15 Minutes ● Baking Time: 45 Minutes ● Total Time: 1 Hour
Makes 8 Servings


  • 2 mashed bananas
  • 1 1/4 cups skim milk (or plant-based milk of choice)
  • 2 beaten eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 2 cups old fashioned rolled oats
  • ½ cup unflavored protein powder
  • ¼ cup ground flax seed
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons Baking Powder
  • 1 ½ cups blueberries (frozen or
  • fresh)
  • 1 cup walnuts, chopped

1. Preheat oven to 350 F°
2. Grease a 9X9 pan with oil or cooking spray.
3. Mash 2 bananas in a bowl until mostly liquid with some small chunks
4. Add milk, beaten eggs, vanilla, and maple syrup to mashed bananas and mix well
5. In a separate bowl, add oats, flax seed, protein powder, cinnamon, salt, and then sift in 2 tsp baking powder. Mix well
6. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix well
7. Fold in 1.5 cups blueberries (thaw in cold water first if using frozen) and 1 cup chopped or crushed walnuts – mix until distributed evenly throughout the batter8. Add batter to greased 9×9 baking dish9. Bake in 350 F° oven for 45 minutes OR until the top is lightly golden brown and a toothpick or knife comes out with minimal batter on it10. Let cool for 10 minutes, then serve with additional warmed maple syrup and butter or margarine if desired.

Storage Instructions: These can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 7 days OR frozen for up to 6 months. To reheat from frozen, recommend placing in fridge to thaw for 1-2 days and then microwave for 1-2 minutes.

Make Ahead: These can be prepared up to 24 hours in advance and reheated in the oven at 325 F° for 20-30 minutes or until heated to 165 F° internally.

Nutrient Information

Per 1/8 of recipe: 350 calories, 15 grams total fat (2 grams saturated fat, 13 grams unsaturated fat), 47

 mg cholesterol, 250 mg sodium, 42 grams carbohydrates with 8 grams fiber and 12 grams total sugar (3 grams added sugar), and 20 grams protein


National Soup Month

One of our Banister Nutrition team members, Ruth, is blessed with a wonderful South Indian family heritage.  As January is National Soup Month, she’d like to share a favorite soup her parents make: South Indian Sambar. Ruth says, “We usually eat this soup along with another dish called Idli, which is a steamed rice cake.” 

Even though the origin of Sambar is not known, it has become an integral part of South Indian cuisine and is enjoyed in various forms across the country. These various forms can be seen as a soup (more liquid based) or stew (thick, hearty texture). Sambar is a tangy and spicy lentil-based stew, typically made with tamarind, pigeon peas (toor dal), and a mix of vegetables, and it is seasoned with a unique blend of spices.

South Indian Sambar Recipe:



-6 baby carrots

-5-6 frozen moringa pods

-2 red potatoes 

-½ snake gourd (padavalanga)

-1 green hot pepper (adjust to spice preference)

-¾ red onion

-3 or 4 cloves garlic

-1 small ginger root

-1 cup lentil (toor dal)

-1 yam

-2 tomatoes (such as Roma)


-2-3 tbsp Sambar seasoning

-½ tbsp turmeric powder

-Salt (to taste)

-¼ tsp asafoetida

-1 tsp mustard seeds

-½ tbsp coconut oil


Prepare Lentils:

  1. Wash lentils then soak in 1 ½ cup water for 10-15 minutes. 

Prepare Vegetables:

  1. Thaw 5-6 frozen moringa pods in cold water.
  2. Remove skin from yam, ginger, and snake gourd (remove seeds as well).
  3. Cut red potatoes, yam, snake gourd, ½ red onion, and tomatoes into medium-size pieces (approximately 1-inch cubes). 
  4. Cut ginger into small size pieces (approximately ½ inch or less).
  5. Wash all vegetables (except tomatoes) after cutting.

Cooking in Stovetop Pressure Cooker:

  1. In a pressure cooker, add soaked lentils, all vegetables, sambar seasoning, turmeric powder, asafoetida, thawed moringa pods, and salt.
  2. Ensure the above ingredients are covered with water (DO NOT add coconut oil or mustard seeds until tempering step – see below).
  3. Start cooking in the pressure cooker. 
  4. After two-three whistles (or after 25-30 mins) take the pot off the heat. Wait for all the pressure to come out before opening the lid. The lentils and vegetables should appear cooked and have a soft texture.

Tempering (Tadka):

  1. Cut ¼ red onion into small pieces.
  2. In a fry pan, heat ½ tbsp coconut oil, then add 1 tsp mustard seeds, and cut onion.
  3. Cook until golden brown.
  4. Place on top of the cooked Sambar.


Enjoy this delicious South Indian soup by itself or with your favorite accompaniment, such as steamed rice cakes (Idli).



Nutritional Psychiatry

“Food and mood” is gaining attention in the mental health field. There  is considerable increase in research between psychiatric disorders and diet.

Nutritional psychiatry means using food and food supplements as alternative treatments for mental health disorders.

Your brain is on 24/7, taking care of  movement, breathing, heartbeat, sleep, senses and millions of daily decisions. Your brain requires a constant supply of fuel which comes from the foods you eat. Your brain functions best on premium fuel, which includes a high intake of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, fish, lean meats, limiting processed foods and sugar.

We may think of our emotions as solely related to the functioning of our brain or our central nervous system. The functioning of our gastrointestinal tract  also affects our emotions via production of serotonin, gut microbiome, and constant communication between the gut and brain through our vagus nerve. A person’s intestinal distress can be the cause or result of anxiety, stress or depression. This is because the brain and gastrointestinal system are intimately connected.

Serotonin is a neurotransmitter referred to as the “feel good” chemical. It helps regulate sleep, appetite, moods and pain. Almost 95% of your serotonin is produced in your gastrointestinal tract. Serotonin production is influenced by the “good” bacteria in your intestinal microbiome.  Adequate presence of “good” bacteria is affected by the quality of your diet. “Good” bacteria improve how well you absorb nutrients from your food affecting health.

Many medications used to treat anxiety and depression target increasing the level of serotonin in your brain. Research indicates consuming a “premium fuel” diet also supports increased serotonin production, leading to improvement in mood and sleep plus many other factors.  This connection between quality of diet — good bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract, serotonin production, and mood enhancement is considered nutritional psychiatry.

Sunday Stew

From our registered dietitian Annie Thorp, MS, RD/LD:

“Hello Friends, Happy New Year! This recipe is a family favorite for us that we call “Sunday Stew”—a delicious hot stew that covers our food groups for dinnertime—rich in protein along with tasty veggies and sweet potatoes to help us fill our meal with the macronutrients we need all in one pot!”



1 tbsp. vegetable oil (we prefer avocado oil or olive oil)

2-3 lb. beef chuck stew meat, cubed into 1″ pieces

1 tbsp. vegetable oil

1 onion, chopped

2 carrots, cut into rounds

2 stalks celery, chopped

2 tsp. salt (adjust higher or lower by preference or dietary needs)

3 cloves garlic, minced

6 c. beef broth

1 c. red wine

1 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce

1 tsp. dried or fresh thyme leaves

2 bay leaves

2 lb. sweet potatoes cut into 1 inch pieces or smaller (we often use two 10 oz. bags of frozen sweet potatoes; or sometimes frozen butternut squash)

1 c. frozen peas (we often substitute 10 oz. of chopped fresh kale or frozen spinach)

1/4 c. freshly chopped parsley, for garnish



Step 1 – Set Instant Pot* to saute, heat one tablespoon of oil, then add beef and brown on all sides for about 10 minutes. Transfer (with any liquid) to a plate or bowl.

Step 2 – Recoat Instant Pot with another tablespoon of oil, then cook onion, garlic, carrots, and celery, stirring, until softened, about 7 minutes. Add wine to pot and scrape the bottom of the pot to loosen any caramelized onion. 

Step 3 – Return beef to pot. Add broth, Worcestershire, thyme, bay leaves, sweet potatoes, and veggies. 

Step 4 – Set Instant Pot to pressure cook on high for 35 minutes. Then let pressure release on its own for at least 20 minutes. The result is very tender meat and a rich broth.

Step 5 – Remove bay leaves and serve. Our kids (who aren’t all convinced about stew) prefer to eat the stew over fresh steamed rice.


*Note:  If you want to skip the pressure cooker, just use a large pot or dutch oven. After step 3, just cover and simmer for about 60 minutes or longer.


Adapted from Lena Abraham at (link)