news & trends

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.

foods to manage stress with images of bread, lettuce, fish and tea

 

Does coffee cause cancer?

coffee cup

Nutrition is a relatively young science with new research constantly emerging. The recent headline about coffee and cancer is a good example of this.

Twenty-five years ago, the World Health Organization (WHO) had identified coffee as a possible carcinogen linked to bladder cancer. On June 15, 2016, the WHO updated their advice.

The WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer, which is an international working group of 23 scientists, reviewed 1000 scientific studies, and found that drinking coffee and maté (a tea made from the dried leaves of the yerba mate plant) is not linked to cancer. In fact, coffee may be protective against cancers of he liver and uterine endometrium.

The new findings however do see a connection between high-temperature beverages and their potential link to cancer. According to the WHO, drinking beverages (even water) that are very hot – which is defined as anything above 65°C (149°F) – is linked to a higher risk of cancer of the esophagus. It’s thought that the hot temperature scalds the delicate tissue in the esophagus. This damage may then trigger a faster turnover of the cells which in some cases can lead to out of control malignant growth.

Esophageal cancer is the eighth most common cancer worldwide with the highest incidence in Asia, South America, and East Africa where drinking very hot beverages is common. Maté is traditionally consumed at very hot temperatures (70°C). Certain countries such as China and Iran also tend to drink their teas prepared at very high temperatures, above 65°C or 70°C.

It’s likely that your favourite hot drink from the coffee/tea shop is made at very hot temperatures. Here are my tips for enjoying your hot cuppa:
– Allow your hot drink to cool down a bit before taking that first sip.
– Add some milk or cream to lower the temperature of your hot drink.
– Brew your own tea using hot but not scalding hot water.
– Stick to four cups of coffee or less (4 x 8 ounces or 4 x 250 mL) – any more will put you over your daily caffeine limit.

Highlights from Grocery Innovations Canada 2015

If you missed this year’s Grocery Innovations show in Toronto, don’t worry. We were there and we have all of the key highlights for you, starting with aloe water, protein water and locally grown quinoa. Here are our top 5 picks on what‘s trending!

1. Water, water everywhere! From alkaline and aloe waters to boxed water and protein water, it’s clear that manufacturers are duking it out to quench Canadians’ thirst!

FLOW alkaline waterAlkaline water –naturally alkaline water with a high pH. A 500 mL serving contains: 0 calories, 0 g fat, 4 mg sodium 0 g carbohydrates, 0 g protein, 4% DV for calcium. (Top 10 Most Innovative Products for 2015.)

AloeWateAloe water – pulp free and sourced in North America. A 450 mL serving contains: 35 calories, o g fat, 0.015 mg sodium, 9 g carbohydrates, 8 g sugars, 0 g protein. (Made with aloe vera inner leaf powder, organic cane sugar, RebA stevia extract.)

Boxed waterBoxed water – why, because as the package says, “Boxed water is better”. The package tells their story – 78% of the box is composed from trees. No nutrition facts information is shown on the box.

Protein2OProtein2O – a protein enhanced water. A 500 mL serving contains: 70 calories, 0 g fat, 120 mg sodium, 70 mg potassium, 2 g carbohydrates, 0 g sugars, 15 g whey protein. (Made with sucralose.)

2. Packaging with a story. Chios Gardens fruit juices uses the front of pack to highlight its fruity ingredients. The journey of the juice is featured on the back panel.

Chios Gardens juice front  Chios Gardens juice back

 

quinoa3. Locally-grown quinoa. Who knew this gluten-free grain could be grown right here in in Ontario? Available in 2016.

Popcornveggie4. Pop Fusion Popcorn. Another local innovation. Popcorn is flavoured with a seasoning blend made from all of the veggies you see in the photo!

5. Winners: Among the winners of the top 10 most innovative products this year were:

  • Coupgon App – no more having to cut out coupons!
  • Natural Delights Date Rolls – soft like a brownie with the sweetness of dates
  • Nordica Smooth Cottage Cheese – cottage cheese without the lumps!
  • Prema Chai Spiced Tea – a blend of black tea with spices
  • Tandoori Lasagna – why choose Indian versus Italian when you can have both!
  • Veggemo – a vegetable based beverage made from pea protein, tapioca and potato

Top Trends for 2014

From protein and probiotics to tea and cooking, we’ve got the scoop on the top 10 hottest trends for 2014.

  1. Protein Power – New science is underscoring the beneficial effect of dietary protein on weight management and muscle health. For example, eating a high protein breakfast not only leads to increased feeling of fullness but also reduces evening snacking. Also, a protein source at each meal and snack helps to maintain energy and muscle strength especially after exercise and as we age. In light of this, current protein recommendations may be under review with respect to the amount and distribution of dietary protein, including considerations for meal based rather than specific daily recommendations.
  2. Anti-wheat Sentiment – Although scientific evidence is lacking for wheat – or gluten-elimination diets for weight loss or health (unless it is associated with a clinical disorder or disease) consumers will continue to seek this popular diet. According to an NDP survey 28% of adults claimed to be cutting down or avoiding gluten completely.
  3. Supermarket Savvy – Supermarket Dietitians are increasingly visible at grocery stores which is an exciting trend for consumers. Registered Dietitians are the food and nutrition experts who are uniquely positioned to assist Canadians to shop smarter, cook healthier, and make healthier food choices. Some experts predict that supermarkets could become a new form of the culinary centre. Many stores already offer cooking demos or “community cooking centers” that allow shoppers to come together and learn from one another.
  4. Back to Basics with Cooking – The 2014 Nutrition Month Campaign – Simply Cook and Enjoy! – is dedicated to serving up practical advice on cooking and food skills from dietitians, the food and nutrition experts. Health Canada’s Healthy Eating Awareness and Education Initiative for 2014 concentrates on Healthy Eating and Healthy weights by focusing on food skills, portion sizes and calories. Industry experts say that a deeper understanding of how Canadians prepare and consume meals helps manufacturers and retailers provide mealtime solutions in the kitchen.
  5. Pro Biotic Power & Fermented Foods – Studies suggest that probiotics (live bacteria in food) may help lessen diarrhea, improve symptoms of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Consumers may be interested in foods other than yogurt that contain probiotics such as fermented foods like kefir milk, sauerkraut and kimchi. Also watch for more news on the gut – brain connection.
  6. Sugar & Sugar Substitutes – Media and consumers are intent on added sugar as another food trend. An IFIC survey reported that 58% of Americans are trying to limit or avoid sugar. Helping consumers understand the role of naturally occurring sugar, added sugar and sugar substitutes is important so they can make informed food and nutrition choices.
  7. Local & Eco-conscious – Sustainable food systems, local and eco-friendly foods are important to many Canadians who believe that a sustainable eating pattern contributes to their own health as well as the health of the planet. Food researchers say roughly one-third of food produced for humans around the globe is lost or wasted each year – 1.3 billion tons of it. Increased awareness of this problem is expected in 2014 with home and restaurant food preparers attempting to reduce food waste. Look for ways to promote sustainability in the kitchen, understand the issues of organics, local food systems, food choices, and carbon footprint.
  8. Government & Industry Compliance – Canada’s regulatory landscape continues to evolve and as a result industry’s relationship with regulators is also changing. Health Canada recognizes that a safe food supply is a major contributing factor to the health of Canadians. Food industry is also committed to providing safe food and wants to make sure consumers are happy with their products and continue to purchase them. Maintaining healthy and happy consumers is a challenge government and industry must face by working together.
  9. Tea is Hot – Canadian Tea consumption is expected to rise by 40%. Flavoured teas are catching on too. Expect to hear more about the health benefits of tea flavonoids related to heart health, brain health and weight management. Furthermore, tea is not just for sipping anymore, this natural ingredient is making its way into rubs, broths and marinades.
  10. The Age of (Mis)information & Social Media – Consumers continue to have an appetite for food and nutrition information which will only grow in 2014. Bloggers will continue to write about nutrition and health, there will be more and better food photography – watch for it on Pintrest and Instagram. With the boom of social media and the interest in health and nutrition, Canadians will continue to need advice from food and nutrition experts like dietitians to cut through the clutter.