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Foods to Manage Stress

 

woman wearing glasses, looking stressed, sitting at her computer desk and chewing on a pencil

Can you believe that we’re into week 7 of physical distancing and the COVID quarantine? If you’re feeling stressed, you’re not alone.

In fact, a recent poll by Angus Reid found that 50% of Canadians say their mental health has worsened, feeling worried and anxious.

First of all, please know that there are many support resources available online to help you manage stress and anxiety during these tough times. Regular exercise, meditation and other healthy stress busting behaviours can help. Talk to a health care professional if you need some support.

As a dietitian, here are 5 key nutrients and foods to add to your plate which can help you manage stress.

Watch my 1-minute video summary below.

 

 

 

Carbs, especially whole grain carbs

Carbs help trigger the production of serotonin. This is the feel good chemical in the brain (a neurotransmitter). Serotonin is made in brain from the amino acid tryptophan. This is a small amino acid and has a tough time getting into the brain.

When you eat a meal that’s mostly carbs, it triggers the insulin to clear the bigger amino acids from your bloodstream, allowing tryptophan to get into the brain and make serotonin. Overall, serotonin helps you to feel calm.

Some good whole grain carb choices are:

  • brown rice
  • whole wheat bread, whole wheat pasta
  • quinoa

Vitamin B6

Vitamin B6 also helps our body make serotonin. This vitamin is found in a wide range of foods, so it’s important to eat a variety of foods. Some of the best foods for vitamin B6 are:

  • chicken, turkey, meat, fish like salmon
  • chickpeas, pistachio nuts, sunflower seeds
  • potatoes, bananas, avocados

Magnesium

When we are stressed, our body (adrenal glands) releases cortisol which is a stress hormone. Cortisol actually depletes the body of magnesium. So we need to make sure we’re getting enough magnesium when you’re feeling stressed.

Some of the best foods for magnesium are:

  • leafy greens like spinach, kale and Swiss chard
  • nuts and seeds like almonds, pine nuts and sunflower seeds
  • whole grains like whole wheat bread (Fun fact: whole wheat bread contains 4x more Mg than white bread)
  • dark chocolate!

Omega-3 fats

You may already know that omega-3 fats are good for our heart health. But did you know that the animal sources of omega-3 fats also help to boost our mood!

Some of the best sources of omega-3 fats are:

  • fatty fish like salmon, trout, arctic char, sardines. Try to eat fatty fish at least twice a week
  • omega-3 enriched eggs

Tea

Tea contains a special amino acid called L– theanine. This actually triggers the release of another neurotransmitter in the brain (called GABA or gamma-amino-butyric-acid) which gives you a relaxed feeling. Black tea, green tea, white tea and oolong tea all contain this special amino acid.

Stay well and stay safe. We are all in this together to get through the COVID-19 crisis.

 

 

 

Our 6-point checklist for spotting the REAL & Healthy Mediterranean-style diet

eggplant 1

May was International Mediterranean Diet Month and the perfect time to explore the secrets of a diet-lifestyle that is connected to many health benefits including increased quality of life and lower risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease and diabetes. In our work and travels, we found many people were mixed up about what is the REAL Mediterranean-style diet. Fix the mix-up with our 6-point checklist.

Tasty Italian food such as pizza, pasta (which we love to enjoy from time to time as well) is not the real pattern of a healthy Mediterranean-style diet. The healthy Mediterranean diet is the traditional eating pattern of those who live along the shores of the Mediterranean Sea. It is a culturally diverse region with over 20 countries including Italy, Greece, Spain, France, and North African countries. This classic Mediterranean-style of eating was one of the three approaches for healthy eating recommended by the latest USDA Dietary Guidelines. Here is our 6-point checklist to recognize a Healthy Mediterranean-style diet that is based on nutrient dense, quality food.

  1. Plant based, using vegetables, fruit, whole grains, nuts, seeds, beans and legumes.
  2. Olive oil (which is high in monounsaturated fat) is a key ingredient
  3. Moderate fish / meat consumption
  4. Flavour boost from lemon, garlic, herbs, cheese, yogurt
  5. Wine with meals in low to moderate amounts
  6. Food and meals are enjoyed in the company of family, friends or community

Interested in learning more about the Mediterranean-style diet? Contact us for tips from our culinary travels and recipe collections. For starters try this “Memories of Italy” healthy snack: sliced pears topped with Parmigiano Reggiano cheese chunks and walnuts, drizzled with aged traditional balsamic vinegar (not the popular store variety).