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Thursday, 13 January 2011

Does your diet affect your stress levels?

The short answer is ....YES!!!

If you are eating a healthy, wholesome diet comprised of the right amount of total kcalories for your needs with an optimal mix of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats and you eat at intervals spaced out throughout the day so as to regulate your blood glucose and synthesis and secretions of key hormones and other substances in the body, then you will really find your feeling of well-being, calm, and sanity will prevail. Honest, you won't be as cranky, tired, or sluggish. AS LONG AS you ARE getting enough kcalories per day -- ie -- don't starve yourself! That makes people cranky!
So, for women -- about 1800 kcals per day and up to 2200 or more, IF you ARE regularly exercising!
For men -- 2200-2600 kcals per day -- again, higher end intakes to correlate with more active of the species. And, PLEASE, folks -- these are GENERALIZATIONS and AVERAGE, sane recommendations. Of course, -- your age, height, and sex affect recommendations as do if you are tiny, small-framed, genetically pre-disposed to gain weight, very sedentary, low muscle or lean body mass or on the other hand, big-framed, tall, extremely active, high lean body mass -- the numbers will change!!! You can always ask me for individualized advice. There are a few good equations available to calculate pretty closely your total daily kcalorie needs: The Mifflin-St. Jeor Equation, the Cunningham Formula, the Katch-McArdle Formula (this gives BMR -- basal metabolic rate and then another factor is multiplied, depending on your level of activity). Again, if anyone is interested in obtaining these equations, comment at the end here or email me --

Avoiding high fat (especially saturated fat), sugary (simple carbohydrate, like soft drinks, candy, white breads and cakes, donuts, etc), high salt and sodium (chips,other salted snack-foods, salty crackers,pepperoni and other salty meats, salted nuts), and too much alcohol can make a big difference in how your body reacts to stressful situations AND in priming your body to be full of the nutrients and substances it needs to decrease stress from occurring, in the first place.

I know many Food Guide Pyramids and Dietary Guidelines recommend something like 55% carb, 15% protein, and 30% fat comprise your caloric distribution, but I personally prefer to recommend people to distribute as 50% carb--emphasizing COMPLEX carbs, 20% protein -- emphasizing LEAN and Low-fat, and 30% fat -- never more than 10% of fat coming from saturated fat,and the bulk of fat coming from poly- and mono-unsaturated with daily good sources of omega-3-fatty acids (salmon walnuts, flaxseed).

IF a person is involved in REGULAR, HEAVY, STRENUOUS endurance sports, then a higher carb percentage is probably better (55%), but, for most of us, 50% carbs per day is great and enough.

Including tryptophan-rich foods in your diet can really help to balance your stress levels: cottage cheese, brown rice, avocados, walnuts, bananas, tomatoes, legumes (soy, lentils, carob, peanuts, baked beans), all lean meats, but especially, turkey. Chocolate(dark) and tea can also diminish stress levels, but in REASONABLE amounts. 1 ounce of dark chocolate (about the size of 1 1 1/2 " square) is enough! Choose caffeine-free teas in the evening.

Tryptophan is the source of serotonin AND melatonin in our bodies, so the sleep-wake cycle is optimized -- thus, you will sleep better and have enough of the 'happiness hormone' to kick in when you need it!

Avoiding EXCESSIVE caffeine -- say more than 4 cups per day (that's 240 ml per cup,folks! -- large servings from coffee chains yield double, often TRIPLE that amount!).

Avoid excessive alcohol -- 1 drink per day for women: 2 drinks per day for men or equivalent per week, but NO binge drinking -- ie -- having all 7 or 14 drinks at once!

These are just minimal tips. Of course, include green leafy veg (Swiss chard, spinach, spring greens, kale) and a variety of fruits and other veg (carrots, butternut and acorn squash, sweet poatoes are also stress-busters). Fat-free and low-fat dairy -- milk, yogurt, even ice milk and ice creams are great -- only a couple servings per day if you're adult and 3-4 for children and pregnant.

I really and truly feel much of the radical and fanatical -- even criminal -- behavior we are seeing today is related to junk food eating. There is so much wonderful, colorful, delicious, healthful food available next to all the junk -- if we start eating better, demand that better foods be AS accessible and inviting as the junk, then companies will scramble more to deliver better variety, taste, and access. It IS improving on all those fronts and we ARE on the road to seeing that 'win-win' scenario of better food and healthier eating. We just need to be consistent, continue to make healthy food and eating our lifestyle habit that STICKS, and connect the dots that .... it DOES make a difference -- for YOUR stress level and in YOUR life, but also for the betterment of the community at-large and the world.

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