Karen Schuppert

Karen Schuppert

We are official residents of Baja California, Mexico. Seems strange to say, let alone digest, but each day that brings a new sunrise and sunset on a vast blue horizon makes it easier to process. Oh yes, many tears were shed as we pulled away from our treasured home of over 20 years. And the stress of preparing for such a move was daunting, to say the least.

It’s never easy to relocate even if it’s just around the corner. Moving to another country adds new challenges that often the best prepared can’t always anticipate. For the most part, the procedures were seamless and our applications were processed quicker than usual, according to many locals. My Spanish is functional but not yet fluent. Thankfully, many of the government agencies speak English and with so much of the paperwork done online, it almost seemed like it was smooth sailing. Almost.

It’s not that we ran into trouble, mind you. It’s just a very complicated process to move furnishings across the border. There are several steps that must be taken to clear your goods even in advance of loading the truck. Once it’s approved and ready to go, there is a bit of staging that happens at the crossing. This is where the anxiety kicks in.

If you’ve traveled to Mexico, you may have experienced the random red light, green light system. If you happen to get a red light, you are pulled over for further inspection. Moving companies are equally as vulnerable. We hired a professional service from Mexico who knows the regulations, but even they aren’t sure if they’ll see green or red. To see a red light means they will have to unload every item off the truck, so you can imagine the nail biting in advance of reaching the border.

Thankfully, our truck got a green light, and everyone breathed a sigh of relief. Next, we had to get our fully loaded cars and two dogs across without incident, and once again, green was our friend. The entire process of packing up (for months), leaving Napa, preparing for a big move to a new country and everything it took to get there was about the most stressful time in my life I can ever recall.

And as we’ve reviewed often, stress is the number one most detrimental effect on our health. It creeps in through digestive issues, sleep disorders, depression, inflammation and many other serious conditions. Diet (and rest) play significant roles in keeping our bodies — and minds — out of the doctor’s office. There are many foods which are:

— Nuts: Stress depletes our B vitamin stores and snacking on nuts helps replenish them.

The potassium in nuts is also key: Penn State researchers found that a couple servings of potassium-packed pistachios a day can lower blood pressure and reduce the strain stress puts on our heart.

— Red peppers: (viva Mexico!) While oranges get all of the vitamin C hype, red peppers have about twice as much (95 vs. 50 mg per 1/2-cup serving). Diets loaded with vitamin-C-rich foods lower cortisol and help people cope under duress.

— Wild salmon: to keep calm when life gets messy, you need omega-3s, especially DHA, which is abundant in wild salmon (now in season at the farmers’ market.) Aim for about two servings a week of wild salmon or other oily fish.

— Spinach: this leafy-green veggie is rich in stress-busting magnesium. People with low magnesium levels (most of us, actually) are more likely to have a greater risk for depression. Magnesium helps regulate cortisol and blood pressure too. And since magnesium gets flushed out of the body when you’re stressed, it’s crucial to get enough. Other solid magnesium sources: beans, brown rice.

Oatmeal helps your brain generate the destressing neurotransmitter serotonin. Research in the Archives of Internal Medicine shows carb-eaters felt calmer than those who shunned carbs. The carb-avoiders reported feeling more stressed. Any carb won’t do, however. Refined carbs (white bread and pasta) digest faster and spike blood sugar, messing with moods and stress. Complex carbs like oatmeal are digested more slowly and don’t spike blood sugar.

If you crave chocolate when you’re on edge, have some. According to Dr. Andrew Weil, People who ate just over an ounce daily for two weeks had lower cortisol and fight-or-flight hormone levels. To reap the feel-better rewards, choose chocolate that’s at least 70 percent cocoa.

The following recipe gives you a double dose of stress relief. You may even channel some of that ocean breeze…ahhhh.

Salmon with Lemon Garlic Spinach -

Serves 6.

For the salmon:

1/2 teaspoon salt

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1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon ground coriander

1/4 teaspoon paprika

1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 (2 1/4-pound) skinless wild salmon fillet

2 cups thinly sliced onion

For the spinach:

1 teaspoon olive oil

2 garlic cloves, minced

2 cups fresh baby organic spinach,

1 teaspoon grated lemon rind

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Garnish: 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro, extra lemon

To prepare salmon, combine first 6 ingredients; rub spice mixture evenly over fish. Place onion in an 11- by 7-inch baking dish lightly oiled. Place fish on top of onion; bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes or until fish flakes easily when tested with a fork or until desired degree of doneness.

To prepare spinach, heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add garlic to pan; cook 1 minute. Add half of spinach; cook for 1 minute, stirring frequently. Add remaining spinach; cook 4 minutes or until wilted, stirring frequently. Sprinkle spinach mixture with rind and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Stir in juice; remove from heat.

Place salmon on a platter. Arrange onions and spinach evenly around salmon. Sprinkle salmon with chopped fresh cilantro. Serve with lemon wedges, if desired.

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