We at Mindpath Health are always looking for new ways to work towards destigmatizing mental health in our world, whether that be through blogs, videos, or social media. Keeping that in mind, we decided to venture into podcasts, to bring you the voices of our providers and to talk about important mindcare topics.

Below you’ll find the second episode of our new podcast, “Let’s Talk Mindcare” with provider Ellen Minier, PMHNP. We hope you enjoy!


Read the Transcript:

Trent Brown (Host): Hello and welcome to let’s talk mindcare, a podcast brought to you by Mindpath Health. MindPath is one of the largest outpatient mental health organizations in the southeast U.S. with over 25 locations and more than 180 providers for the past 25 years, we have helped tens of thousands of patients across North Carolina. And now we’ve created this podcast to further commit ourselves to ending the stigma and continuing the conversation around mental health through discussions with real mental health professionals. Please note that while the podcast will include accurate information with professional input, it is not intended as a replacement for medical advice from licensed providers to receive such advice. Please contact Mindpath Health at mindpath care dot com or call us at eight seven, seven, eight, seven, six, three, seven, eight, three and we will connect you with a professional who can further assist you. We hope you enjoye the episode.

Trent Brown (Host): Alright, welcome to Let’s Talk Mindcare, a podcast brought to you by Mindpath Health. My name is Trent Brown. I’m one of your hosts for the podcast. And I’m here with Ellen Minierr, who is a psychiatric nurse practitioner in our Asheville office. So,Ellen has a blog and a blog called Mood Food with us, where she teaches about how cooking things and how cooking different recipes can improve your mental health and really just affect the way you see the world. So, Ellen, I’m going to let you take it away and talk about, you know, your background and how you got to doing mood food.

Ellen Minier, PMHNP: Alright. Hi, everybody. I am so grateful for this opportunity to continue talking about my passions, which are, you know, mental wellness and culinary arts. So I really appreciate the opportunity to be here. I know some of my earliest memories and my fondest memories are from when I was about five years old, standing on a chair in front of my grandmother’s stove. That was really super safe. But she was, she was a fabulous cook. But I would stand in that chair and watch magic happen. It was exciting to see the individual ingredients transform into a meal. And she let me be really involved even at that young age. I remember loving to stir that pot and knead the bread roll out cookie dough and all that was so wonderful for a child to experience. But then the best part for me was after making this beautiful meal, we would all sit down as a family and really spend hours around the table talking and laughing. And it was just wonderful. So then when I got older, I became interested in a career in culinary arts. So I went to Johnson & Wales University, graduated summa cum laude in nineteen ninety eight and worked in some amazing restaurants in Charleston, South Carolina, and up here in Asheville, North Carolina.

Ellen Minier, PMHNP: And then when my husband and I started a family working in kitchens, I guess it became a lot less appealing with the kinds of hours I had to keep a career. So my brilliant mother, who just happens to have her Ph.D. in nursing and was a nursing professor, talked me into going to nursing school. And so she said it would be better health insurance and much more conducive hours for a family life. So after nursing school, I went where I was immediately drawn, into the the psychiatric nursing for my very first job as an LPN. And I continued to work and go to school, got my R.N. and then my BSN and then my master’s degrees in nursing. But all along that way I was working full time and, you know, a friend of mine had this nickname. She said chef nurse because whenever I heard that somebody was sick or if there was a birth in the family, a death in the family, I would go deliver a whole freezer full of food to them so that they can watch themselves.

Trent Brown (Host): I’m a big fan of the, I’m a big fan of that nickname.

Ellen Minier, PMHNP: Thank you. Yeah. It’s important to be nourished when when when you got a lot going on, you know, so so I became the chef nurse during that time. But yeah, I never lost my love for food. I was raised around that family table and I wanted my kids to have that experience as well. So I taught them to cook when they were young and definitely noticed that when my kids were involved in the cooking process, they would try just about anything that they created.

Trent Brown (Host): Yeah, absolutely. No, I can tell you, I just started cooking a lot, got really into cooking last August, I think. And it has been an awesome experience. I mean, it’s one of my favorite parts of my day, definitely. And I’ve noticed that I feel a lot better, you know, after I cook instead of just going to pick something up. So, yeah, I can I can see how all of that could really inspire you to combine everything together.

Ellen Minier, PMHNP: Yeah, absolutely. And I’m so glad you started cooking for yourself. It’s and that you made that connection that, you know, it made you feel better emotionally when you needed this meal. Yeah. I remember thinking that there had to be a way to marry these two careers I have had and to make this unique little place for myself and within the realm of the psychiatric profession, you know, something special to offer my patients in addition to medication management. You know, I believe that all aspects of food from the ingredients chosen to the preparation of the food itself, to the sharing of food, all of that can have a positive impact on one’s mental illness.

Trent Brown (Host): Yeah, absolutely.

Ellen Minier, PMHNP: That’s how I got started.

Trent Brown (Host): Yeah, yeah. So so something I wanted to ask. You know, one big part of food is not just the recipes, but the neuroscience part, which full disclosure, I am the one who edits Ellen’s videos. So I spend a lot of time with them when she sends them to me. And I love the parts that talk about, you know, how it actually affects the brain. It’s super interesting to me. So could you talk a little bit about that, about the science of everything?

Ellen Minier, PMHNP: Oh, sure. Sure. I’ll give it a, I’ll give it a go at the science behind the food. It can be pretty kind of dry when you read, like, the evidence-based research articles and kind of hard to understand. So I like to think of things in terms of commentary because it makes sense to me. So there are these things called neurotransmitters. There are chemical messengers in our brain. Serotonin is a big one. Serotonin is a good example of a neurotransmitter. But this chemical in our brains helps us to feel happy and calm. And when I was learning about neurotransmitters in school, it was fascinating to me that they are made from nutrients. So basically the food we eat provides the building blocks or the ingredients for nerve matter. And each one of these chemical messengers in our brains needs its own recipe of amino acids, vitamins, minerals to be synthesized. So it’s pretty cool to think that you can have an impact on creating neurotransmitters just by being conscious of your diet.

Trent Brown (Host): Yeah, yeah, absolutely. So, so tell me a little bit more surface level and more talking about, you know, the therapeutic side. How can cooking, you know, affect your emotions and how can it be used kind of as a therapeutic technique?

Ellen Minier, PMHNP: Oh, yeah. That’s a good one, too. And we touched on that a bit before when you were talking about why you felt calmer after you for yourself, because cooking a meal can be just wonderful in terms of their therapy. So it’s very grounding. It can help you center yourself when you’re anxious just by paying full attention to the task at hand, what you’re doing. And, hey, if you’re chopping up a big pile of onions and nobody’s going to come by and ask you why you’re why you’re crying, let out some emotions that way. No, but seriously, if you’re if you have a task, you can perform with your hands right in front of you, like chopping vegetables for soup. It’s really, you know, you kind of forget your troubles that are around you and you’re focusing on what you’re doing. So so that’s that’s it can be a good distracting technique. You know, it gets you away from your troubles for a bit.

Trent Brown (Host): Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. So so you talked about this a little bit earlier, talking about your family and everything. But can you kind of tell me, that’s something that I’m really interested in, you know, with me and my fiancee; and when I go home in my family, you know, how can cooking kind of provide connection to yourself and the people around you?

Ellen Minier, PMHNP: Oh, definitely, yeah, you know, one of my pet peeves has always been, you know, if if I go out to a restaurant less frequently, I guess over the past over the past little bit here. But, you know, I used to go to restaurants and see a family of four all sitting around the table, each on their individual cell phone devices. So I definitely recommend putting away the electronic and, you know, take the opportunity that a shared meal provides, you know, for conversation, you know, that opens up so many avenues for, you know, you’ve created a meal maybe together and you sit down as a family and share the meal and focus on each other. And it’s just a great opportunity to open up that line of communication. So, you know, just like those memories from my childhood at that family table, not all those conversations were were not all were great, you know, some difficult intellectual, uncomfortable or even silly. But the pathway for communication was around that shared table. There have even been studies done about families who eat together, have a better overall emotional health. In fact, my very first made food blog on the MindPath Be Well blog is about the family table and all the benefits you can gain just by sitting down together at the table.

Trent Brown (Host): Yeah, yeah, yeah. I have read that. Yeah, you’re definitely right. So so my mom is a very big cook, so I grew up super lucky eating southern food all the time. My mom’s fried chicken is a reason I have many friendships because I bring friends over and they would just fall in love with how good the food was. Yeah. I mean it’s amazing. So but something for Mother’s Day, you know, on this topic is I went back home and I told my mom for Mother’s Day because my mom doesn’t like presents very much. I said, how about me and my younger sister just cook food for you this weekend? And I don’t think there could have been a better present. I mean, it was you know, her and my dad were just so happy to kind of just sit down and watch me and my younger sister, you know, get things done and then and just walk around in the kitchen so I can attest to what you’re saying.

Ellen Minier, PMHNP: What a gift, what a gift for them to see that, you know, you care enough to create the space for togetherness and deliciousness, especially if you’re serving fried chicken.

Trent Brown (Host): Yeah, absolutely. So let me ask you this more on the cooking side. I think I know what the answer is going to be, because you’ve talked about it a little bit on one of your one of your video blogs. But if you could only have three ingredients that you could tell everyone to always keep at their house, what would they be?

Ellen Minier, PMHNP: Ok, I have been asked that question before, so Kale, can’t say enough good things about kale because it contains a bunch of folic acid. And when you’re talking about the science of moving, folic acid is a very necessary ingredient in the building of serotonin. And so they all for sure, I like garbanzo beans. Beans are really good mood food, too. And I need to do more video blogs about those. But definitely garbanzo beans are very versatile. You can do just about anything with them. And my very fave would have to be dark chocolate. At least 70 percent, 70 percent dark chocolate. Got to have it.

Trent Brown (Host): Oh, my goodness. Yeah. No, I, I can co-sign on the dark chocolate in moderation. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Well yes. Sometimes, sometimes. So, so tell me, kind of on the same topic, is there a recipe that you would like to share, you know, if you want to go through steps or however,

Ellen Minier, PMHNP: You know, going back to one of my top three ingredients. I do. And this is also in one of the video blogs. This is the toasted chickpeas, super easy. You know, you don’t even need a recipe for it. You take it, you take a can of chickpeas, drain them, drain them in a colander, dry them off on a kitchen towel, and then spread them out on a sheet pan with sides on it. You know, you don’t want those little suckers gone rolling all over your kitchen, so put them on a sheet pan, little drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, some salt and pepper and whatever spices you like, you could take that to any country you want to do. Do a curry version. Do a southwestern version. Sprinkle a bunch of spices on it, throw it into a hot oven at four hundred degrees, 15, 20 minutes, shake the pan and you got an awesome snack. That’s good for your body and your brain.

Trent Brown (Host): Wonderful, wonderful. Yeah, and I will I will make sure to include that in the description for this podcast.

Ellen Minier, PMHNP: Yeah, it’s a link to the exact recipe I kind of got out of midair.

Trent Brown (Host): Yeah, absolutely.

Ellen Minier, PMHNP: And as you know, you can experiment with these things and a recipe is just kind of a starting place and you can put your creativity into any recipe you read. So, yeah, I’d love to share that link.

Trent Brown (Host): Yeah, absolutely. I will include that in there. Well, you know, wrapping up, is there anything else that you’d like to share? This has been really awesome.

Ellen Minier, PMHNP: Oh, thank you so much. I just really appreciate to you know, that the airspace and the, you know, people are interested in this kind of thing because, you know, I do believe that it all works together to improve your mental wellness. You know, you do all the stuff, you know, between medication management and therapy and, you know, using some of these other techniques that, you know, really improves overall mental health. And we all need that right now.

Trent Brown (Host): Yeah, absolutely. No, I think it is awesome. You know, this is another I would say, like a building block. You know, you have all these things that kind of help you out, whether it be therapy or cooking or something else, that when you put them all together, it makes things awesome.

Ellen Minier, PMHNP: Exactly.

Trent Brown (Host): Yeah. Well, thank you so much, Ellen, for joining us.

Ellen Minier, PMHNP: Oh, you’re so welcome.

Trent Brown (Host): Absolutely. So this has been the Let’s Talk Mind Care podcast. Thank you for listening.

Ellen Minier, PMHNP: Thanks bye.

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