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GP Nutrition: The Guide To Keep Calm

February 11th, 2015 | Health, Lifestyle, Nutrition

The hustle and bustle of modern life has become increasingly stressful. We are juggling more than ever before: careers, parenting, housework and families while trying to fit in some downtime for personal relationships, exercise and holidays. If you’re looking for healthy ways to reduce, manage and deal with stress then taking a proper look at your diet is a good start.

Stress can affect people’s eating behaviours in different ways which may include binge eating or not eating at all. Studies show elevated levels of cortisol (the hormone produced in response to stress) are associated with overeating, craving high­fat, high­sugar foods and blood sugar and insulin imbalances. Chronically high cortisol levels are linked to the development of abdominal obesity and symptoms of ill health long term.

Consider including or increasing the following foods to help you eat well in the face of stressful lives:

Leafy greens such as spinach and kale may not be your idea of comfort food, but they are packed with magnesium, the mineral that helps regulate cortisol levels and promote feelings of wellbeing. Slip some in with your morning eggs, green smoothie, salads or soup.

Asparagus is high in folic acid and low levels have been linked to depression. Up your intake of folic acid with broccoli, citrus fruits beans, peas and lentils too. Snack on steamed asparagus spears with a healthy dip.

Avocado is rich in stress­relieving B vitamins to help ease jitters and bring a feeling of calm. Avocados are packed with monounsaturated fats and vitamin E, which over time are vital for dewy, glowing skin. Mash up your avocado to make guacamole, and serve it as a dip with carrot and celery sticks.

B vitamins are needed for healthy nerves and brain cells, and feelings of anxiety may be rooted in a B vitamin deficiency. Choose wholegrains such as oats, rye and barley and munch on almonds. Magnesium also helps bolster the immune system during times of stress.

Vitamin C is another vitamin known to lower blood pressure and the stress hormone cortisol. For a quick burst of vitamin C, simply eat a whole orange or add a handful of berries to your breakfast. Blueberries pack a powerful punch of antioxidants and vitamin C, which our bodies need to help repair and protect cells.

Put more fish on your dish! A diet rich in omega­3 fatty acids helps keep cortisol and adrenaline from spiking when you’re feeling tense. Salmon is one of the very best sources of omega­ 3s. Aim to eat oily fish 2­3 times a week as it can help protect your heart when those stress hormones are surging.

The amino acid tryptophan signals the brain to release the feel­good chemical serotonin, which promotes calmness and promotes sleep. Turkey and oats are foods which can help get the calm­inducing hormone serotonin flowing. Choose jumbo oats which are higher in fibre taking longer to digest meaning the calming effect lasts longer.

And try the following behavioural changes:

  • Don’t skip meals. Try to avoid gobbling typical go­to comfort food because that will only leave you feeling guilty and even more anxious.
  • Plan and prepare. Choose something easy for when you’re on the hoof. Smoothies are quick and fuss­free. Try to combine protein, fibre and good fats to ensure your blood sugar levels stay stable, keeping a rumbling tummy at bay and your energy levels stay up.
  • Cut back on caffeine. It can play havoc with blood sugar levels and disrupt sleep. Opt for herbal, decaffeinated teas and filtered water.
  • More meditation. Meditation has been shown to reduce stress and help people become more mindful of food choices. Try to fit in a short meditation every day.

Gabriela and team

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