7 Ways to De-Stress Your Diet

Nutritional tricks to help you stave off stress.

Which comes first: Do our high-stress lives lead us to eat badly, or do our bad eating habits make us more likely to feel stressed out?

The way I see it, the chicken AND the egg both come first, depending on the situation. Stress can lead some people to crave (and overeat) junk food. In other cases, a diet rich in sugar, unhealthy fats, caffeine, etc., can help set up some people to feel more physically stressed.

That means we need to work on both ends of the stick. We should find new ways to deal with the stress in our lives; and we should eat a healthy diet, rich in the nutrients that help keep moods up and stress down.

So before we get down to the nitty-gritty of food and stress, keep these two suggestions in mind:

  • Find new ways to cope with life's stresses. Whenever possible, plug in healthy coping strategies, like journaling; regular exercise; massage; yoga or Pilates classes; or support groups or counseling sessions that help you work through negative thoughts in a productive and healthy way.
  • Find ways to decrease the stress in your life. Get enough sleep, quit smoking, establish a great support system, strive for balance in the different aspects of your life (family, work, personal interests), and find a sense of purpose in your life.
  • Food, Hormones, and Stress

    One key to the link between food and mood is serotonin, which I have fondly nicknamed "the happy hormone." Serotonin is made in the brain from the amino acid tryptophan, with the help of certain B vitamins.

    Amino acids are the building blocks of protein, so you might think that foods high in protein would increase levels of tryptophan, but the opposite is true. Tryptophan has to fight with other amino acids to cross the blood-brain barrier and get into the brain. Since tryptophan is the weaker of the amino acids, generally only a small amount makes it into the brain when other amino acids are present.

    But here's the catch. When you eat a meal that's almost all carbs, this triggers insulin to clear the other amino acids from your bloodstream. That leaves tryptophan with a smooth passage into the brain. This, in turn, boosts the serotonin level in the brain. High serotonin levels help boost your mood and help you feel calm.

    The other main stress/food hormone is cortisol. When you're stressed, your body releases more cortisol into your bloodstream. Cortisol sends appetite-stimulating neurotransmitters into overdrive, while lowering your levels of serotonin. This combination programs your brain to crave carbohydrate-rich foods. And when you eat the carb-rich foods, it boosts serotonin levels, which makes you feel calm again.

    How to De-Stress Your Diet

    But before you rush out for that carb fix, here are six tips to help you give yourself the nutritional edge against stress:

    1. Keep It Balanced

    A balanced, nutrient-rich eating plan is your single best dietary defense against stress. There is more and more scientific evidence suggesting that what we eat contributes to mood, stress level, brain function, and energy level.

    2. Keep Healthy Carbs Handy

    Giving your body the carbs it craves during stress doesn't have to mean filling up with empty calories from sugar and white-flour products. Complex or "whole" carbohydrate foods (like whole grains, fruits, and veggies) give you carbs along with fiber, vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals galore.

    A study in 1995 (before the current low-carb hysteria) looked at obese women who said they overate carbohydrates when stressed. Researchers assigned the women to either a carb-rich diet or protein-rich diet -- both with 1,350 daily calories -- for seven weeks. Interestingly, more women lost weight on the carbohydrate-rich diet. But perhaps more important, those on the higher-carb diet reported having fewer carbohydrate cravings and more energy.

    3. Omega-3s to the Rescue

    Omega-3 fatty acids are found in fish as well as some plant foods, like canola oil and ground flaxseed. Although their uplifting effect on mood hasn't been proven, several studies have suggested a connection. This makes scientific sense because:

  • In areas of the world where more omega-3s are consumed, depression is less common.
  • Depression rates are high among alcoholics and women who have recently given birth. Both groups tend to be deficient in omega-3s.
  • People with depression have been found to have lower levels of omega-3 fatty acids in their red blood cells compared with others.
  • 4. Cut the Caffeine

    Caffeine is a stimulant. It stimulates the bowels and bladder, and it seems to increase your energy level for the short term. But what goes up must come down, and in people sensitive to caffeine, it can come crashing down.

    Larry Christensen, PhD, a researcher with the University of South Alabama, found in recent studies that when people who are sensitive to caffeine eliminated it from their diets, their moods and energy levels improved significantly.

    Don't know if you are one of the caffeine-sensitive people? Try avoiding caffeine for a few weeks and see if there's a difference in the way you feel. It can be hard to go cold turkey, so taper off your intake a cup at a time until you're down to none.

    5. Don't Be a Breakfast-Skipper

    When people eat breakfast, they tend to have more consistent moods and are less likely to suffer food cravings later in the day.

    6. Eat Smaller, More Frequent Meals

    This will provide your body with a consistent supply of energy throughout the day and help you avoid feeling tired or overly hungry.

    7. Don't Expect Alcohol to Help

    Alcohol is not a healthy or effective way to relax or relieve stress. Though many people believe the opposite is true, alcohol is actually a depressant. And overdrinking only adds to the stress in your life.

    By Elaine Magee, MPH, RD
    WebMD Weight Loss Clinic - Expert Column

    SOURCES: Journal of the American Dietetic Association, September 1995, Supplement, Vol. 95, Number 9. Reproduction Nutrition Development, May-June 2004, Family Practice News, Aug. 1, 2004.

    Original Article: http://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=55897

More Nutritional Health...

Nutritional tricks to help you stave off stress.

Which comes first: Do our high-stress lives lead us to eat badly, or do our bad eating habits make us more likely to feel stressed out?

The way I see it, the chicken AND the egg both come first, depending on the situation. Stress can lead some people to crave (and overeat) junk food. In other cases, a diet rich in sugar, unhealthy fats, caffeine, etc., can help set up some people to feel more physically stressed.

That means we need to work on both ends of the stick. We should find new ways to deal with the stress in our lives; and we should eat a healthy diet, rich in the nutrients that help keep moods up and stress down.

So before we get down to the nitty-gritty of food and stress, keep these two suggestions in mind:

  • Find new ways to cope with life's stresses. Whenever possible, plug in healthy coping strategies, like journaling; regular exercise; massage; yoga or Pilates classes; or support groups or counseling sessions that help you work through negative thoughts in a productive and healthy way.
  • Find ways to decrease the stress in your life. Get enough sleep, quit smoking, establish a great support system, strive for balance in the different aspects of your life (family, work, personal interests), and find a sense of purpose in your life.
  • Food, Hormones, and Stress

    One key to the link between food and mood is serotonin, which I have fondly nicknamed "the happy hormone." Serotonin is made in the brain from the amino acid tryptophan, with the help of certain B vitamins.

    Amino acids are the building blocks of protein, so you might think that foods high in protein would increase levels of tryptophan, but the opposite is true. Tryptophan has to fight with other amino acids to cross the blood-brain barrier and get into the brain. Since tryptophan is the weaker of the amino acids, generally only a small amount makes it into the brain when other amino acids are present.

    But here's the catch. When you eat a meal that's almost all carbs, this triggers insulin to clear the other amino acids from your bloodstream. That leaves tryptophan with a smooth passage into the brain. This, in turn, boosts the serotonin level in the brain. High serotonin levels help boost your mood and help you feel calm.

    The other main stress/food hormone is cortisol. When you're stressed, your body releases more cortisol into your bloodstream. Cortisol sends appetite-stimulating neurotransmitters into overdrive, while lowering your levels of serotonin. This combination programs your brain to crave carbohydrate-rich foods. And when you eat the carb-rich foods, it boosts serotonin levels, which makes you feel calm again.

    How to De-Stress Your Diet

    But before you rush out for that carb fix, here are six tips to help you give yourself the nutritional edge against stress:

    1. Keep It Balanced

    A balanced, nutrient-rich eating plan is your single best dietary defense against stress. There is more and more scientific evidence suggesting that what we eat contributes to mood, stress level, brain function, and energy level.

    2. Keep Healthy Carbs Handy

    Giving your body the carbs it craves during stress doesn't have to mean filling up with empty calories from sugar and white-flour products. Complex or "whole" carbohydrate foods (like whole grains, fruits, and veggies) give you carbs along with fiber, vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals galore.

    A study in 1995 (before the current low-carb hysteria) looked at obese women who said they overate carbohydrates when stressed. Researchers assigned the women to either a carb-rich diet or protein-rich diet -- both with 1,350 daily calories -- for seven weeks. Interestingly, more women lost weight on the carbohydrate-rich diet. But perhaps more important, those on the higher-carb diet reported having fewer carbohydrate cravings and more energy.

    3. Omega-3s to the Rescue

    Omega-3 fatty acids are found in fish as well as some plant foods, like canola oil and ground flaxseed. Although their uplifting effect on mood hasn't been proven, several studies have suggested a connection. This makes scientific sense because:

  • In areas of the world where more omega-3s are consumed, depression is less common.
  • Depression rates are high among alcoholics and women who have recently given birth. Both groups tend to be deficient in omega-3s.
  • People with depression have been found to have lower levels of omega-3 fatty acids in their red blood cells compared with others.
  • 4. Cut the Caffeine

    Caffeine is a stimulant. It stimulates the bowels and bladder, and it seems to increase your energy level for the short term. But what goes up must come down, and in people sensitive to caffeine, it can come crashing down.

    Larry Christensen, PhD, a researcher with the University of South Alabama, found in recent studies that when people who are sensitive to caffeine eliminated it from their diets, their moods and energy levels improved significantly.

    Don't know if you are one of the caffeine-sensitive people? Try avoiding caffeine for a few weeks and see if there's a difference in the way you feel. It can be hard to go cold turkey, so taper off your intake a cup at a time until you're down to none.

    5. Don't Be a Breakfast-Skipper

    When people eat breakfast, they tend to have more consistent moods and are less likely to suffer food cravings later in the day.

    6. Eat Smaller, More Frequent Meals

    This will provide your body with a consistent supply of energy throughout the day and help you avoid feeling tired or overly hungry.

    7. Don't Expect Alcohol to Help

    Alcohol is not a healthy or effective way to relax or relieve stress. Though many people believe the opposite is true, alcohol is actually a depressant. And overdrinking only adds to the stress in your life.

    By Elaine Magee, MPH, RD
    WebMD Weight Loss Clinic - Expert Column

    SOURCES: Journal of the American Dietetic Association, September 1995, Supplement, Vol. 95, Number 9. Reproduction Nutrition Development, May-June 2004, Family Practice News, Aug. 1, 2004.

    Original Article: http://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=55897

Diabetes nutrition — Make restaurant meals a healthy part of your diabetes meal plan.

For some people, eating out is an occasional indulgence. For others, it's a way of life. Either way, moderate portions and careful choices can help you make restaurant meals part of your overall plan for diabetes nutrition.

Research restaurant menus

Many restaurants include information about the nutrition values of their entrees at the restaurant itself or on their websites. Take advantage of this resource when it's available, and research food or meal options at those establishments to help you make healthy choices.

Keep portion sizes in check

Large portions are common at many restaurants — but diabetes nutrition is often based on moderate portions. To control your portions:

  • Choose the smallest meal size if the restaurant offers options, for example a lunch-sized entree
  • Share meals with a dining partner
  • Request a take-home container

Consider avoiding "all you can eat" buffets. It can be difficult to resist overeating with that many options. And even a small amount of many different foods can add up to a large number of calories.

Make substitutions

Don't settle for what comes with your sandwich or meal. For example:

  • Instead of french fries, choose a diabetes-friendly side salad or a double order of a vegetable.
  • Use fat-free or low-fat salad dressing, rather than the regular variety, or try a squeeze of lemon juice or flavored vinegar on your salad.
  • Ask for salsa with your burrito instead of shredded cheese and sour cream.
  • On a sandwich, trade house dressings or creamy sauces for ketchup, mustard, fat-free mayonnaise or a slice of fresh tomato.

Watch the extras

Keep in mind that extras, such as bacon bits, croutons and fried chips, can sabotage diabetes nutrition goals by quickly increasing a meal's calorie and carbohydrate count.

Even healthier additions — including fat-free salad dressing, barbecue sauce and fat-free mayonnaise — have calories. But you can enjoy small servings of these without adjusting your meal plan. Ask for them on the side to further control how much of them you eat.

Speak with the chef

Food preparation is also something to consider. Avoid breaded and fried food. Instead request that your food be:

  • Broiled
  • Roasted
  • Grilled

Ask if the chef can use:

  • Low-cholesterol eggs
  • Whole-grain bread
  • Skinless chicken

If you're ordering pizza, request a thin crust and lots of vegetables. Avoid doubling up on cheese or meat. If you're on a low-salt meal plan, ask that no salt or MSG be added to your food.

Don't feel like you're stepping out of line if you request healthier options or substitutions. You're simply doing what it takes to stay committed to your meal plan.

Watch what you drink

Avoid high-calorie drinks
Beware of the continuously refilled soda glass. Sugar-sweetened soda can add hundreds of calories to your meal. Shakes and ice-cream drinks often have even more calories, as well as saturated fat. Instead, order diet soda, water, unsweetened iced tea, sparkling water or mineral water.

When alcohol can worsen your diabetes
Alcohol has its own caveats. If your diabetes is under control and your doctor agrees, an occasional alcoholic drink with a meal is fine. But alcohol adds empty calories to your meal. It can also aggravate diabetes complications, such as nerve damage and eye disease.

If you decide to drink alcohol
If you choose to drink alcohol, choose options with fewer calories and carbohydrates such as:

  • Light beer
  • Dry wines
  • Mixed drinks made with sugar-free mixers, such as diet soda, diet tonic, club soda or seltzer

Limit alcohol to no more than two drinks a day if you're a man and one drink a day if you're a woman.

Eat on time

Eating at the same time every day can help you maintain steady blood sugar levels — especially if you take diabetes pills or insulin shots. If you're eating out with others, follow these tips:

  • Schedule the gathering at your usual mealtime.
  • To avoid waiting for a table, make a reservation or try to avoid times when the restaurant is busiest.
  • If you can't avoid eating later than usual, snack on a fruit or starch serving from the upcoming meal at your usual mealtime.

Save room for dessert

When you have diabetes, dessert isn't necessarily off-limits. Sweets count as carbohydrates in your meal plan. If you'd like dessert, compensate by reducing the amount of other carbohydrates — such as bread, tortillas, rice, milk or potatoes — in your meal.

Remember the ground rules

Whether you're eating at home or eating out, remember the principles of diabetes nutrition. Eat a variety of healthy foods. Limit the amount of fat and salt in your diet. Keep portion sizes in check. And above all, follow the nutrition guidelines established by your doctor or registered dietitian. Working together, you can feed your joy of eating out without jeopardizing your meal plan.

By: Mayo Clinic Staff

Original Article: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/diabetes-nutrition/DA00131/NSECTIONGROUP=2

Pop quiz! Which of the following are you most likely to remember?

A)    The name of your prom date
B)    The name of your 7th-grade nemesis
C)    Algebra

Chances are, it’s one of the first two, right? Who remembers algebra?

The point is, the average school day is filled with distractions. Most of them—like crushes, friends, and feuds—are actually good. They’re part of a different, but equally important, type of learning. But some classroom distractions aren’t so helpful, and some of the food that kids are eating these days are prime examples. The behavioral effects of poor nutritional choices include sugar crashes, foggy cognition, and hyperactivity. Not to mention the fact that plenty of kid-targeting foods are fundamentally messy, sticky, and disruptive.

Over the past few years, nutritional standards have improved in the lunchroom, but the classroom door is still wide open to the perils of junk food and empty calories. A recent study published in Childhood Obesity found that snacks brought from home are more likely to be high in fat and sugar, and that sack lunches often lack fruit, vegetables, and dairy products compared with school lunches. With that in mind, I took a good, hard look at what kids are eating these days and rounded up a list of foods that should be banned from school. Here are six foods that just don’t make the grade, compliments of the all-new Eat This, Not That! 2013 guide.

1. Cheetos (1 oz)
150 calories10 g fat (1.5 g saturated)
250 mg sodium

How unfortunate that Cheetos—the only chips represented by a kid-friendly cartoon character—are among the worst snacks in the store. They’re high in sodium, low in fiber, and are made with neurotoxic monosodium glutamate. Plus, when the iconic orange coating fuses with fingertip oil, it forms a putty-like crud that affixes to seemingly any surface. Finally, if you’ve ever seen a kid eat Cheetos, then you know that a lot of finger-licking goes into the process. Now think about all of the pathogens in a classroom—that’s a lot of sick days on the line.

THE YEAR IN BAD FOOD: Want to end the year on the right nutritional foot? Make sure to steer clear of the calorie culprits on our list of the Worst Foods In America!

2. Hostess Powdered Sugar Donettes (4 donettes)
240 calories12 g fat (6 g saturated, 0.5 g trans)
16 g sugars

The problem with this breakfast is written—or, rather, sprinkled—all over it: sugar. Each serving packs four teaspoons, enough to prime your child for a mid-morning energy crash. A bowl of Lucky Charms with milk would supply less! And don’t forget about the sugar that doesn’t make it into your kid’s mouth—that’s the sticky, chalky residue that will inevitably end up on bus seats, desktops, and in lockers. Do everyone a favor and find a better breakfast.

3. Kellogg’s Pop-tarts, Frosted Cherry (1 package, 2 pastries)
400 calories10 g fat (3 g saturated)
32 g sugars

Pop-tarts may be stocked in same aisle as the cereal and pancake mix, but breakfast fare they’re not. The primary ingredients here are refined flour, various sweeteners, and oil—fruit makes up less than 2 percent of each pastry! Plus, Kellogg’s skews the serving size. If it really intends one pastry to be a serving (like it lists on the nutrition label), then why did it package two per packet? (For other examples of sneaky portioning, check out The 9 Biggest Serving Size Rip-Offs.) A bowl of Teddy Grahams cookies—which contain fewer calories, less fat, far less sugar, and more fiber per serving—would make a better breakfast.

4. Skittles (1 package)
250 calories2.5 g fat (2.5 g saturated)
47 g sugars

What Skittles lack in fat, they make up for in sugar. They also contain nine different artificial dyes, including yellow 5, which the Journal of Pediatrics linked to hyperactivity in children. All that sugar and artificial stimulants? Not only does a combination like that make it difficult to focus on learning, but it could also lead to disruptive behaviors. Plus, all of those food dyes bleed all over kids’ hands and cause staining.

DO YOU HAVE A BEVERAGE BELLY? Americans take in about 355 calories of added sugar every day, much of it from sodas and other sugary drinks. Your best defense: Avoid everything on our list of the 20 Worst Drinks in America.

5. Yoo-Hoo (15.5 oz bottle)
230 calories2 g fat (1 g saturated)
45 g sugars

I endorse chocolate milk at any age, whether it’s served as an after-school snack for kids or post-workout fuel for adults. The problem with Yoo-Hoo is that it’s not milk. It’s actually a bizarre blend of water, high fructose corn syrup, and whey—and a high-calorie one at that. If your child drank 16 ounces of chocolate milk, she would gain 16 grams of protein. Yoo-Hoo offers a paltry 3 grams.

NUTRITIONAL REFUGE: Snag a copy of the all-new Eat This, Not That! 2013 Edition for thousands of food swaps that will help you lose up to 20 pounds in six weeks—without ever dieting again.

6. Coke (16 oz bottle)
200 calories
0 g fat
54 g sugars

Earlier this year, New York City began regulating serving sizes of soft drinks for adults. If grown-ups are unable to moderate portions, do you really think impulse-heeding children will be able to, especially when soda manufacturers include multiple servings per bottle? Absolutely not. This is particular concerning considering that the Center for Science in the Public Interest estimates that caramel coloring, a carcinogen and soda ingredient, is responsible for roughly 15,000 cancers in the U.S. every year. Between that, the calories, and the caffeine, Coke—and soda in general—is one drink that every school should suspend.

By David Zinczenko with Matt Goulding
Original article: http://health.yahoo.net/experts/eatthis/6-foods-should-be-banned-school

If you shun the sun, suffer from milk allergies, or adhere to a strict vegetarian diet, you may be at risk for vitamin D deficiency. Known as the sunshine vitamin, vitamin D is produced by the body in response to sunlight. It is also occurs naturally in a few foods -- including some fish, fish liver oils, and egg yolks -- and in fortified dairy and grain products.

Vitamin D is essential for strong bones because it helps the body use calcium from the diet. Traditionally, vitamin D deficiency has been associated with rickets, a disease in which the bone tissue doesn't properly mineralize, leading to soft bones and skeletal deformities. But increasingly, research is revealing the importance of vitamin D in protecting against a host of health problems.

Symptoms and Health Risks of Vitamin D Deficiency

Symptoms of bone pain and muscle weakness can mean you have a vitamin D deficiency. However, for many people, the symptoms are subtle. Yet even without symptoms, too little vitamin D can pose health risks. Low blood levels of the vitamin have been associated with the following:

  • Increased risk of death from cardiovascular disease
  • Cognitive impairment in older adults
  • Severe asthma in children
  • Cancer

Research suggests that vitamin D could play a role in the prevention and treatment of a number of different conditions, including type1 and type 2 diabetes, hypertension, glucose intolerance, and multiple sclerosis.

Causes of Vitamin D Deficiency

Vitamin D deficiency can occur for a number of reasons:

You don't consume the recommended levels of the vitamin over time. This is likely if you follow a strict vegetarian diet, because most of the natural sources are animal-based, including fish and fish oils, egg yolks, cheese, fortified milk, and beef liver.

Your exposure to sunlight is limited. Because the body makes vitamin D when your skin is exposed to sunlight, you may be at risk of deficiency if you are homebound, live in northern latitudes, wear long robes or head coverings for religious reasons, or have an occupation that prevents sun exposure.

You have dark skin. The pigment melanin reduces the skin's ability to make vitamin D in response to sunlight exposure. Some studies show that older adults with darker skin are at high risk of vitamin D deficiency.

Your kidneys cannot convert vitamin D to its active form. As people age their kidneys are less able to convert vitamin D to its active form, thus increasing their risk of vitamin D deficiency.

Your digestive tract cannot adequately absorb vitamin D. Certain medical problems, including Crohn's disease, cystic fibrosis, and celiac disease, can affect your intestine's ability to absorb vitamin D from the food you eat.

You are obese. Vitamin D is extracted from the blood by fat cells, altering its release into the circulation. People with a body mass index of 30 or greater often have low blood levels of vitamin D.