The food/mood link: What to
eat for a happier, calmer you

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We all have those certain goodies that we “run to” when we’re feeling particularly stressed. However, while giving some immediate relief, these feel-good foods may actually be adding to your stress. But you can be smarter about what you put into your mouth. Here are some tips on what to eat, what to avoid — and why.

Picture it. You’ve just come home from a long day at work. The phone is ringing, your kids are fighting and you have 10 minutes to get dinner on the table. But before you head to the fridge for your favourite de-stress snack, know that what you put in your mouth can cause more harm than good.

Eating to improve your mood is all about making the right choices and following a few steadfast guidelines. And it’s easier and more satisfying than you might think.

The do’s: eating your way to stress management success

Use these tips to keep stress at a manageable level.

  • Concentrate on following a healthy diet, with proper portion control, as outlined in the Canadian Food Guide.
  • Try to keep a balance on your plate of ¼ protein, ¼ carbohydrates and ½ vegetables.
  • Include both protein and carbohydrates in your diet. Eating both is critical to the way that your brain functions — or doesn’t! Carbohydrates are absorbed as glucose, which is your brain’s main fuel. Protein is slower to enter your system, so it gives you stamina. And protein helps to keep that energy booster — carbohydrates or glucose — running longer to keep you on your toes.
  • Try to eat something every 3 hours to help keep your blood sugar levels even. Healthy snacks — such as fruit yogurt, nuts and cheese — can help you get through the day. Read Smart snacking made easy for more healthy snack ideas.
  • Drink 6-8 glasses of liquids (preferably water) a day, even if you don’t feel thirsty. Dehydration is one of your biggest enemies and a common cause of fatigue. Remember that thirst is one of the last signs of dehydration.
  • Enjoy every bite. Make sure that you eat consciously, and chew thoroughly to help your digestive tract. Eating well is a pleasure, and a necessity!

The don’ts: what to avoid

With these few simple changes, you could see a positive mood change.

  • Don’t constantly focus on dieting. Restricting your food intake and skipping meals can lower your blood sugar, which could lead to headaches, lack of concentration, irritability and that overall miserable feeling.
  • Don’t cut out carbs. Carb-restricted diets can cause fatigue in many individuals. Instead, choose whole grain bread, cereals, pastas, rice and potatoes — all are digested slowly and therefore release that good glucose over a longer period of time.
  • Restrict caffeine, alcohol, high fat and spicy foods. All of these can have a negative impact on your day — and night. Both spices and caffeine should be avoided after 3:00 p.m. so that you get a good night’s sleep. Alcohol can cause dehydration, which can make you tired and weak, and high fat foods are difficult to digest. Remember, all of these are best taken in moderation.

 

References
  • Calgary Health Region, Take a bite out of stress! website
  • C-Health, Eating Habits and Stress, website
  • Heart and Stroke Foundation, Healthy eating under stress, by Alyssa Rolnick, RD, website.
  • Toronto Public Health, Nutrition and Stress, website

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