Good nutrition can help battle stress

Nutrition has become complicated and people are often confused about what to eat, nutritionist Leslie Beck told a crowd at the Advancing Women in Agriculture Conference.

People are looking for ways to manage stress, get more energy and stay healthy, which can be achieved with proper nutrition, she said at the event held in Calgary March 26-27.

“What you eat and what you don’t eat for that matter can actually worsen your body’s ability to deal with stress. Your body’s stress response depends on a steady intake of fuel, vitamins and minerals in order to function optimally,” said Beck, a Toronto nutritionist.

Chronic stress disrupts nearly every body system. It leads to elevated cortisol levels that can suppress immune systems, increase the risks of anxiety and depression, impair digestion, slow metabolism and thicken waistlines.

Stress is unavoidable and is a normal reaction to a harmful situation where the adrenal glands pump out more adrenaline. It is the way the body protects itself but prolonged stress can cause exhaustion, illness and inability to concentrate.

Stress can also trigger food cravings and many reach for sugars and carbohydrates.

“When you are tired, you are more likely to make poor food choices and maybe overeat in an attempt to boost your energy. We know that quick cookie is a temporary fix,” she said.

She offered 10 nutrition strategies:

It improves moods, con-centration and memory and provides glucose to the brain cells. Skipping breakfast or having a light meal influences the release of hunger hormones later in the day. Those who eat less at breakfast report hunger. The breakfast should include a protein, grains, healthy fat and carbohydrates.

For a protein, eat the whole egg because 40 percent of the protein is in the yolk. Poor choices include refined cereals, white breads or cinnamon buns because of the higher sugar content. Fast food breakfasts are high in calories, sodium and saturated fats.

If using a milk alternative, select pea or soy milk because it contains almost as many proteins as conventional milk.

Glycemic index is a measure of how quickly or slowly blood sugar rises after eating a carbohydrate. High-gylcemic foods release sugar quickly and can lead to premature hunger and low energy. Low glycemic foods are digested slowly and can be found in whole and minimally processed foods.

Try to limit added sugars. Women should have no more than 25 grams, while men can have no more 37 grams of sugar a day. Much of the added sugar comes in foods so read ingredient labels. However, be aware that labels do not discern whether these are natural or added sugars.

Protein helps the brain release dopamine for alertness and activity. Protein helps burn energy and make immune compounds.

Spread protein out across the day so 20 to 30 grams are consumed per meal for better muscle health. Add protein at breakfast. This could be the equivalent of three-quarters of a cup of Greek yogurt.

Remember three ounces of protein is equivalent in size to a deck of cards and includes poultry, lean meat, fish, dairy and plant proteins.

Try to eat fish twice a week and seek out oily types like salmon, trout, Arctic char, herring, sardines or mackerel for omega 3 fatty acids. Women and children should avoid high mercury type fish like swordfish, shark, tuna steaks or sushi, canned albacore tuna or king mackerel.

Add 20 grams of nuts to the diet each day. That is the equivalent of 15 almonds, 13 cashews, 20 peanuts, four Brazil nuts, 34 pistachios or 13 pecan halves. Do not overdo it because they contain fat and one cup of peanuts has 1,000 calories.

Consider four servings of plant protein per week. This includes pulses of all kinds that can go into soups, hummis, chili or salad.

Look for monounsaturated fats. These help the body use insulin better and have ant-inflammatory properties. Look for canola, peanut, canola, avocado, almonds, olive oil or eat walnuts.

Looks for fats and oils rich in vitamin E like sunflower seeds, almonds, walnuts or sunflower, safflower or grapeseed oils.

One serving equals one medium fruit or half a cup of raw or cooked vegetables or a cup of salad greens. Breakfast is not completed with only fruit.

Choose vegetables by colour to get phytochemicals. Eat dark green vegetables like cooked greens, romaine, leaf lettuce or Swiss chard once a day.

Orange is needed once a day for beta carotene found in carrots, apricots, papaya, mangos, squash or peaches.

Purple and blue items contain anthocyanins found in blueberries and strawberries. Eat these twice per week.

Cruciferous vegetables include broccoli, bok choy, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, cabbage, turnips or kale. These vegetables are better lightly cooked or raw. Do not overcook them.

Eat every three to four hours to maintain a stable blood glucose level. Plan for mid to later afternoon snacks to prevent hunger and cravings. This means planning for snacks that offer protein and carbohydrates.

Sip every 15 minutes to hydrate the brain and muscles. Mild dehydration affects how you feel and how you think.

Women need 2.5 litres, men require three litres per day.

Coffee, tea, water and juices all count toward water, but alcoholic beverages do not.

The body needs sodium to maintain fluid balance in the body, which helps nerve impulses transmit and muscles contract.

People younger than 50 need 1,500 milligrams per day. Older people need 1,200 to 1,300 mg per day. The daily upper limit is 2,300 mg or one teaspoon per day.

Broad-based, low-dose multivitamins and minerals can provide added vitamins B and C.

Menstruating women require 18 mg of iron per day.

Adults older than 50 need supplements or foods supplemented with B12.

Vegans need iodine, which can be obtained from algae-based supplements.

Eating fish or taking fish oil supplements boost EPA/DHA to help prevent heart disease.

Adults should take 1,000 IU of Vitamin D per day for bone and immune health. Older adults, people with dark skin and obese people may need more.

Concentrate on getting calcium through foods.

People should know their body mass index, the ratio between height and weight. It provides an estimate of body fat and health risk.

Waist circumference should be less than 31.5 inches for women and 37 inches for men. Where you carry that extra weight is linked to heart disease and diabetes.

More than 60 percent of Canadians are overweight or obese.

A pound of fat is about 3,100 calories and if an extra 150 calories is consumed per day, it adds up to about 15 pounds of weight gain per year.

Practice portion control on the plate. One quarter should be protein, one quarter carbohydrate and half vegetables.

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