By: Gloria Tsang, RD
Last Updated on:
A recent study conducted by the Canadian Health Food Association (CHFA) and Leger revealed a whopping 67% of working Canadians reported that their work causes them stress. What is even more alarming is that the majority of these Canadians feel that work stress actually negatively impacted other areas of their lives!
An interesting finding was that only 55% of subjects from West Coast British Columbia reported that their job causes them stress. This geographical difference may be due to the type of jobs available on the West Coast or it may be attributed to a different health and lifestyle out West. For sure BC has fairer weather than Central of the Eastern Canada but don’t count out that diet may have a positive effect on work stress.
Mood Lifting Nutrients
Being able to enjoy an abundance of seafood year round may help to contribute to the lower percentage of stress in the above study. Omega 3, found abundantly in fish oil, has been shown to keep our minds sharp. In addition, a study published in the March 2005 issue of The Journal of Neuroscience showed that omega 3 fatty acids called DHA may actually protect against Alzheimer’s disease.
Most fish contain omega-3 fatty acids but they are most in abundant in fatty fish like mackerel, salmon, sardine and herring. The suggestion from the American Heart Association actually recommends eating fish at least 2 times a week. The best omega 3 source is marine-based, as DHA is only present in marine-sourced foods like seafood and sea micro-algae. Plant-based foods like walnuts, flax and pumpkin seeds do provide other omega 3’s, but not DHA.
Omega 3 supplements are quite common nowadays, as they are often used as a complementary therapy to lower blood cholesterol. When purchasing omega 3 or fish oil supplement, it’s best to check the DHA content listed on the back panel and not just the total fish oil content on the front label. For more details on omega 3 supplements, read Omega 3 Supplements: Which One to Take.
Another mood lifting and stress-relieving nutrient is B Complex. All B vitamins are known to play an important role in maintaining nerve cells and neurotransmitters. These vitamins are needed for normal brain development and help our brain to stay sharp.
Eat to Decrease Stress Hormones
Have you ever wondered why we crave for carbs when we’re stressed? Our bodies need it during stress, so don’t deprive ourselves and it’s not a good time to go on a diet either. Carbohydrates stimulate a feel-good hormone, serotonin, which helps relieve the stress feeling and improves mental performance. However, it’s not a time to dive into a big bowl of pasta. Choosing good carbs is indeed the most important element in a stress-busting diet. It is well documented that blood sugar spikes and subsequent crashes can make us feel down. A good way to counter this drastic movement of blood sugar is to eat more complex carbohydrates like lentils, beans and legumes. These high fiber foods slows and stabilizes absorption and the net result is a more steady supply of blood sugar for the brain as opposed to peaks and valleys.
Foods to Help with Better Sleep
Getting a good night’s rest is just as important for keeping up our mood. It’s been shown that people who regularly sleep well are less stressed about their lives and work. To try and get a better night’s sleep, you can try drinking a cup of warm milk before bed. Milk contain tryptophan that in turns help your body to produce melatonin (a sleep promoting hormone). Melatonin helps you sleep and your body needs tryptophan and Vitamins B3 (niacin) to synthesize it. B Vitamins play an important part in mood regulation and sleep. If you’re a vegan, try eating a banana alternately.
Take Care of Your Body for Stress Relief
Whether it’s eating more Omega 3 or B Vitamins (through food or supplements) or just making sure you get a good night’s sleep will help your body to de-stress. Your body will thank you tomorrow and every day thereafter. Take care of your body and it will take care of you.
Gloria Tsang is the author of 5 books and the founder of HealthCastle.com, the largest online nutrition network run by registered dietitians. Her work has appeared in major national publications, and she is a regularly featured nutrition expert for media outlets across the country. The Huffington Post named her one of its Top 20 Nutrition Experts on Twitter. Gloria’s articles have appeared on various media such as Reuters, NBC & ABC affiliates, The Chicago Sun-Times, Reader’s Digest Canada, iVillage and USA Today.