in the spotlight

Food & Mood

Food & Mood

Our bodies work much like a car does, and cars need constant care to ensure they run smoothly. The food we eat fuels our bodies and, like a car, the type of fuel we give ourselves influences how well we run. One such fuel is serotonin, also known as the “happy hormone,” which regulates sleep, appetite, and mood. Serotonin is made from the essential amino acid tryptophan, found in many foods you may already eat. 95% of serotonin is produced in the
gastrointestinal tract, so it’s no wonder our mood and our food are intermingled.

The beneficial bacteria in the stomach limit inflammation and improve how well we absorb
nutrients from food. They also activate neural pathways between the gut and the brain that are responsible for transporting chemicals like serotonin and dopamine. Essential nutrients like B6, folate, magnesium, and unsaturated fats also contribute to our mental wellbeing.

If you are struggling with low mood, consider combining a balanced diet with exercise,
stress-relief, and better sleep quality to amplify your mental health and happiness
progression. When planning your next meal or grocery run, try including some of the foods
below that boost your mood! *


Fermented foods. Choose fermented foods like yogurt, tempeh, miso, kombucha, kefir, sauerkraut, and kimchi. The fermentation process creates probiotics, which in turn, supports healthy bacteria in your gut.

Avocados. Eat more avocados, “the hormone balancer.”  Avocados contain healthy fats (mono-unsaturated and polyunsaturated) and stress reducing vitamins, ensuring your brain is making the right chemicals needed for sleeping well and feeling happy.

Dark chocolate. Nibble on some dark chocolate, which contains tryptophan, magnesium, and antioxidants that help boost your mood.

Bananas. Eat a banana to get 25% of your daily intake of vitamin B6 which is needed to create serotonin.

Green salads. Have a salad full of dark leafy greens, rich in magnesium and folate (vitamin B9), which provide the chemical
housekeeping necessary to battle the blues.

Fish and seafood. Eat foods rich in omega-3 (poly-unsaturated fats), like salmon and shrimp, to improve your mental wellbeing and reduce depression.

Water. Gulp down lots of water! Water helps carry the nutrients from your food to your cells and being well-hydrated has proven to improve sleep quality and cognition in addition to mood.

*  Make sure to listen to your body. If a type of food does not agree with you, consult with your doctor on whether you should consume it or not.

monthly Post stories

Andrea Ledger

Pictured: Queenie Tran (Left) and Andrea Ledger (Right) after running the Medtronic Twin Cities 10k.

Andrea Ledger

Deputy Director of Procurement
Department of Human Rights and Equal Economic Opportunity

Tell us about the pillar of wellbeing you are thriving in and what you are doing:

Thanks to Healthy Saint Paul, I’ve prioritized getting active as a tool to maximize my energy. I love to run and have enjoyed participating in Run Saint Paul, but I recently sprained my ankle after slipping on some ice. Healthy Saint Paul has helped me to expand my exercise horizons by thinking about smaller ways to incorporate movement and exercise into my day, like walking the skyway at lunch or doing some simple exercises at my desk.

How has the Healthy Saint Paul program improved your quality of life, work-life balance, or job satisfaction?

The HSP program has been a great way to meet new people, especially through Run Saint Paul. I highly recommend it for runners of all skill levels. It’s been great to find a new running buddy in my colleague, Queenie Tran.

What do you aspire to improve in your wellbeing over the next year?

Over the past year, my diet has suffered. I have a terrible sweet tooth. This year, I’m going to focus on making healthier choices to satisfy it (like going for a piece of fruit instead of chocolate). I don’t want to deprive myself, but focus on moderation and mindfulness when I’m eating.

What have you done to improve your wellbeing in the last year?

I decided to address a longstanding shoulder injury by committing to physical therapy. I’m amazed by how much better I feel and how I’m able to do more things now. I’ve also incorporated yoga into my exercise routine as a way not just to focus on my mobility and strength, but also to focus on mindfulness. I find that doing even a few poses before bed really improves my sleep.

Thank you for sharing Andrea!

in the spotlight

Family Health History

“The laws of genetics apply even if you refuse to learn them.”

― Allison Plowden


Family Health History

Brown eyes and stubbornness are not the only things that can run in the family. Knowing your family’s health history is important for determining your risk for certain health conditions and diseases that can be inherited throughout generations. High blood pressure, stroke, certain cancers, and type 2 diabetes are all conditions for which your
family health history can indicate risk. With an up-to-date family health history, you can determine your own risk, plus the risk for your dependents and those you care for, then take preventative measures.

How do I collect my family health history?
Start by getting to know your family. If possible, create a family tree that spans at least three generations. This should include relatives like grandparents, parents, aunts, uncles, siblings, half-siblings, nieces, nephews, and cousins. Next, begin to fill in the blanks. Include information on major medical conditions, causes of death, age at disease diagnosis, age at death, and ethnic background.

How can I use my family health history to improve my health?
While having a history of certain conditions is an indicator of your own risk, it is not a guarantee of inheriting the condition. Genetics is just one factor, as environment and habits can also play a role in your risk for disease. Staying active, eating well, and avoiding tobacco can certainly lower your risk for diseases like cancer and diabetes. In addition, screening tests, such as blood sugar testing, mammograms, and colorectal cancer screening help find
early signs of disease and can often mean better health in the long run.

Even if your family history is healthy, it does not mean a health event could not occur in the future, so you should always prioritize your health.


Rose Duffy

Rose Duffey

Office of the City Attorney

Tell us about the pillar of wellbeing you are thriving in
and what you are doing
Music is very healing for people. I play the saxophone in a band, and I look forward to seeing the crowd dancing, singing along, or just sitting back and enjoying the music. I bring people together at our gigs through Facebook invitations. It’s rewarding to see mutual friends getting to know each other through our music. I also get exercise as a musician since I move around a lot on stage.

What do you aspire to improve in your wellbeing over the next year
I published my new children’s book and song early this year. I was a motivational speaker for 7 years at a local high school. In May of 2022, I visited a grade school and read my book to the Kindergartners through second grade students. I taught the kids my original song and it was a lot of  fun and very rewarding to know that I am making a difference in their young lives. I want to visit more schools in 2023 in order to motivate and inspire even more young kids.

What you have done to improve your wellbeing in the last year?
As I get older, I’m more aware of the importance of getting outside for exercise and enjoying the fresh air. It helps to clear my mind as well and it helps me to feel grateful for everything I’ve been blessed with, including the beauty of nature.

I have also made up my mind to eat foods that are healthy versus foods that are not good for me. I’ve also been drinking a lot more water.

How has the Healthy Saint Paul
program improved your quality of life, work life balance, or job satisfaction?
I love reading the healthy habits included in Virgin Pulse. The tips have motivated me to eat healthy foods , get up and move, and they help me as a mom of 3 adult children. The tips apply to them as well!

Thank you for sharing Rose!


Bertrene Cage

“I have improved my wellbeing in the last year by losing 30+lbs, joining a strength training group, completing a financial challenge, and tracking my sleeping habits to experience a more productive day.”

Bertrene Cage

Tell us about a pillar of wellbeing you are thriving in and what you are doing:

I have joined a strength training class 4 days a week, which has transformed my body physically, as well as mentally. It has given me confidence to perform tasks I didn’t think I was capable of  accomplishing. When I stay  active, I notice that I experience a more restful sleep. I have lost 30+lbs of fat but have also gained muscle weight. This was very
challenging in the beginning because I saw my body changing but the scale wasn’t moving much. Once I got over the mental turmoil of muscle weighing more than fat, I was able to continue the course and enjoy the benefits my body was giving me

How has the Healthy Saint Paul Program improved your quality of life, work life balance, or job satisfaction?

I am a very competitive person. Healthy Saint Paul has helped feed my competitive nature in a positive way. I knew my weight was hitting a dangerous high, so I set a goal. I would enter my daily results in HSP and was able to track my progress. What a joy to go back one or two weeks/months and see the change. In the VirginPulse app for healthy Saint Paul, you can create challenges, groups, or invite your co-workers. When I saw one or several of them having more steps than me, my competitive nature surfaced, and I would try to increase my
daily steps. This created fun banter among me and my co-workers, not to mention it was a
great health benefit.

What do you aspire to improve in your wellbeing over the next year?

Consistency!! I have been a part of Healthy Saint Paul for years, but this year was different. I want to be consistent in my wellness journey instead of the start and stop commitment o f past.

Thank you for sharing, Bertrene!

in the spotlight

Finding Care

Finding Care

A Primary Care Provider (PCP) might be a doctor, nurse practitioner, or physician assistant.

They know you and your family history, can better manage chronic disease, catch health issues earlier and save you time and money.

Choose Your Provider
If you do not already have a PCP, now is the time to find one. You can begin your search by asking for recommendations from trusted friends, family or
coworkers. Then, call a clinic in
your network and ask:

  • Are they accepting new  patients?
  • Does this provider accept your insurance?
  • What is the provider’s special field of practice or background?
  • Where should you receive care outside of  office hours if needed?
in the spotlight

Caring for Your Joints

Caring for Your Joints

Your musculoskeletal system consists of muscles, bones, tendons, ligaments, soft tissues, and cartilage. They work together to support your body’s weight, help you move, and maintain your posture. Aging and poor habits can lead to problems in your musculoskeletal system, however, what you do daily can impact your joint health and prevent pain and injuries.


  • Stay physically active. In addition to weight management, aerobic exercise allows fluid to push into the cartilage, helping to prevent stiffness in your joints. Try low-impact activities like walking, biking, or swimming.
  • Maintain a healthy weight. Excess weight puts extra stress on the joints, especially the knees and hips. Focus on controlling your portion sizes and staying active.
  • Build muscle. Strength training helps build stronger muscles and ligaments taking pressure off your joints. Strong muscles also improve posture and balance. Make sure you work all the
    major muscle groups, including your core, at least two times per week.
  • Stay hydrated. Your body will start to take water from other sources, including cartilage, if you are not properly hydrated. Aim for 64 ounces of water every day.
  • Stretch. Tight muscles and joints can lead to strains and injury. Stretching and range of motion exercises help keep the muscles flexible, strong, and healthy. The best time to stretch is when your muscles are warm, preferably after 10 minutes of activity. Engage in stretching and flexibility activities (yoga, Pilates, tai chi), at least 2 to 3 times per week.
  • Straighten up. Be mindful of your posture. Poor posture when sitting, standing, or lifting, can lead to strain or injury to your muscles and joints.
  • Veg out! Boost your cruciferous
    vegetable intake. Not only are they packed with antioxidants, vitamins, and fiber, but new research found that an antioxidant found in these vegetables block an enzyme that causes joint pain and inflammation. Aim for a half cup of a coniferous vegetable every day, such as broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, or kale.
  • Stand and move. Avoid sitting for the entirety of your workday. Take a movement break like walking or stretching every 30 to 60 minutes to prevent joint stiffness.
  • Protect yourself. When active, wear braces for aching or injured joints. Wear padding for activities like inline skating and contact sports.
About 1 in 4 U.S. adults have arthritis. Arthritis is a general term for conditions that affect the joints, tissues around the joint, and other connective tissues.
Implementing simple joint health tips can decrease your risk or improve the condition.

Bridget Hajny

Bridget Hajny

Administrative Manager Saint Paul Fire Department

What drives your passion for wellbeing?

I stay active because when I stay active, I feel better. Of course, I have less inflammation, aches and pains, but I stay active for not only my physical health but my mental health too.

To Run, Or Not To Run:
Many assume I love running since I’ve run a handful of marathons and I lead the Saint Paul run club, We Run Saint Paul . But I don’t always love running, it depends on the day. I’ve found I have a much better experience if I keep a positive attitude. All it (usually) takes is for me to tell myself that “I get to go running”, or “it’s a beautiful day for a run” before I venture out. This helps tremendously! I look forward to runs more when I’ve made plans to run with a friend.

We Run Saint Paul meets Wednesdays at noon, it’s a great group of runners that are very supportive Not all of my training runs were great, learning what works well for me helped a lot more than running, I enjoy lifting weights. I’ve found a lifting class that I take with another fun group of people. Even if I’m not excited about the workout for the day, I’m always happy to see my friends, by the end of the workout I’m always glad I went.


I was happy to champion the Healthy Saint Paul team for Twin Cities Marathon weekend. It was  fun to get the notification emails that other City employees had signed for the 5K, 10K, or marathon. Healthy Saint Paul decided to sponsor the team again for 2023, watch for additional information!

My favorite parts of training were having my kids ask me how far I ran each day and them being amazed, as well as coming home from my run to my partner and our dog. I can’t thank my family enough for their support during my summer training! The kids have started getting into running , trying a 5K each year. This year was their first in person race, they were so excited to cross the finish line!

Thank you for sharing, Bridget!

in the spotlight

grief awareness , management, & support

Grief Awareness, Management, and Support

Grief is a natural response to a loss of something or someone you love. Grief comes with the loss of a loved one, pet, friendship, job, dream, or your health. It can also show up with big changes like a move, breakup, divorce, or retirement.

No one tackles grief in a systematic way. Everyone goes through their own grief journey. Managing grief can depend on
many factors from one’s beliefs, background, personality, age, support network, mental health, and physical health.

Understanding grief and how to manage it can help improve your resiliency when going through a tough time and can also help you better support others going through the grieving process.


Each person navigates the stages in their own way. Some people may skip a stage as others get stuck at one stage for an extended period.

  • Denial
  • Anger
  • Bargaining
  • Depression
  • Acceptance

If you or a loved one are unable to perform daily functions, such as getting out of bed or going to work for more than an occasional day, consider seeking additional professional help.


Be patient and give yourself grace as you go through the grieving process

  • Acknowledge your pain
  • Know your triggers
  • Give yourself permission to feel
  • Understand the process will be unique to you
  • Share your feelings with a therapist or loved one
  • Let your family and friends help you Invest in your mental and physical wellbeing.
  • Meditate, pray, or journal
  • Maintain hobbies or find new ones
  • Try for 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night
  • Get some physical activity each day
  • Be mindful of your nutrition


Let your loved one know you are there for them. Often family, friends, neighbors, and
coworkers don’t know what to say or they are afraid of saying the wrong thing. Try not to let doubts and fears get in the way of reaching out to a grieving loved one. Simply showing up can make a huge difference.

Things to say:

“I’m here if you ever want to talk — now, later, even in the middle of the night. Whatever would help you.”

“I know I can’t possibly know what you’re going through, but I’m here for you. I’ve been thinking about you.”

“I’m checking in because I care about you. I just want to let you know that I’m here.”

“You cannot prevent the birds of sorrow from flying over your head, but you can prevent them from building nests in your hair.”

Chinese proverb


Kyle Bode

Kyle Bode

Health and Wellness Coordinator Saint Paul Fire Department

What interested you in becoming  a wellbeing champion in your department?

Fitness has always been a huge part of my life. I’m always training for something like a marathon, a triathlon, or a rucking event. More recently, things got out of hand for me, and I checked myself into treatment and was treated for PTSD. As I continued down my recovery path, I recognized that I could help others through all my own life experiences.

What drives your passion for your own personal wellbeing?

My wellbeing is so important to me because being the best version of myself helps me serve those around me. Being well helps me to be a better husband, father, and employee. Also, as the Health and Wellness Coordinator for the Fire Department, I like to lead by example to help my fellow firefighters be the best version of themselves.

What have you learned about yourself or others since becoming a wellbeing champion?

I think the biggest lesson that I have learned is that it is ok to ask for help. For the longest time, I thought that I had it all under control. It took me a long time to realize that I didn’t and that it was ok to reach out for assistance.

Thank you for sharing Kyle!