Brighten your day with good nutrition

Farm Forum

Many people may experience a general lack of energy, depression and overall blues during the winter months. This feeling may be due to seasonal affective disorder, also known as SAD. SAD affects 25 million Americans, most commonly women. Although much research has been done, it’s not completely understood why it happens. While SAD is multifaceted, researchers believe it has to do with the lack of light during the winter months, which results in our bodies producing lower levels of serotonin. Serotonin is a mood-enhancing chemical that regulates our overall feeling of well-being, as well as appetite.

Depression is one of many symptoms associated with SAD, and they can range from mild to severe. If you feel you may be experiencing SAD see a doctor to help with appropriate therapies.

In general, there are a few ways we can help boost our serotonin level. The obvious one is through increasing time spent in the sunshine (when available) and even through brightly lit indoor rooms.

Diet and exercise can also help. Exercise reduces levels of stress hormones and helps release the feel-good endorphins that boost your mood. If you don’t currently exercise talk with your doctor to find out what type of exercise program is suitable for you.

Eating a balanced, nutritious diet is recommended for all. Choosing a variety of nutrient-rich foods from all the food groups is important. USDA’s MyPlate reminds us to eat plenty of whole grains, like brown rice, from the whole grains group. Here’s a tip: Cook a large batch of brown rice, then properly cool and portion it into freezer bags for convenience for future meals. You can also use the quick cook brown rice products, as research shows they have a similar nutrient profile as regular brown rice. Choose low-fat or non-fat dairy. Make half your plate brightly colored fruits and vegetables full of nutrients and antioxidants. And don’t forget to add lean protein at each meal. Try to aim for 3 to 6-ounces per day.

People who struggle with depression and anxiety tend to be deficient in certain nutrients. A 2005 study found that depressed women in their childbearing years tend to be deficient in nutrients like folate, vitamin B-12, iron, zinc and selenium.

Lean beef is an excellent source of protein, zinc, B-12 and selenium. It’s also the number-one food source for iron. When deciding on a protein for your meal, be sure to remember a 3-ounce serving of lean beef provides 10 essential nutrients your body needs to stay healthy and active for only about 150 calories. Now that is a nutrient-rich food you can feel good about feeding your family!

This Beef Steak with Brown Rice and Vegetables recipe represents a very quick and easy everyday meal solution. Serve with a side of dairy and fruit for dessert and you are one step closer to a balanced diet.

For more information about beef and recipes, contact Holly Swee, RD, LN at the South Dakota Beef Industry Council (605-224-4722) or visit

Beef Steak with Brown Rice & Vegetables

Marinade time: 15 minutes

Total recipe time: 25 minutes

Makes 4 servings


1 boneless beef top sirloin steak, cut 3/4 inch thick (about 1 pound)

1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons non-creamy Caesar dressing

2 teaspoons lemon pepper

1 cup uncooked instant brown rice

2 cups frozen vegetable mixture, such as baby green and yellow beans and carrots

2 tablespoons shredded Parmesan cheese (optional)


1. Cut beef steak crosswise into four equal pieces. Place steaks and 1/3 cup dressing in food-safe plastic bag; turn steaks to coat. Close bag securely and marinate in refrigerator 15 minutes. Remove steaks from marinade; discard marinade. Season steaks with lemon pepper.

2. Heat large nonstick skillet over medium heat until hot. Place steak in skillet; cook 12 to 15 minutes for medium rare (145°F) to medium (160°F) doneness, turning occasionally.

3. Meanwhile, cook rice according to package directions, including salt but omitting butter. When adding rice to saucepan, stir in vegetables. When rice is done, stir in remaining 2 tablespoons dressing. Serve with steaks. Sprinkle with cheese, if desired.

*Recipe courtesy of the Beef Checkoff Program