Monday, September 29, 2008


By: Deborah A. Klein, MS, RD, Your Livitician

Stress can increase nutrient needs and decrease nutrient absorption, jeopardizing your strength and optimal function. What we eat can influence our brain chemistry, improving the way we feel! The anterior hypothalamus, an area of the brain has a special nerve network that generates a sense of wellbeing and encourages us to repeat behavior that has previously caused its stimulation. Sweet foods, for example, have historically been safe, so the anterior hypothalamus makes us seek more sweet foods. Substituting ripe fruit for candy will create a sense of wellbeing without the highs and lows, which induces fatigue.

Certain food combinations raise the brain’s levels of serotonin (“happy hormone”). Tryptophan- an amino acid (a building block of protein) converts to serotonin. Turkey is rich in tryptophan, which can improve your mood. Having some carbohydrate in the same meal, such as whole grain bread or fruit helps the brain to use tryptophan. Milk also supplies plenty of tryptophan and since warm foods release endorphins (other feel-good brain chemicals), warm milk acts as a mood-enhancing drink. Starch (high fiber sources: whole grain bread, green peas, yams, brown rice) triggers a slow release of insulin, which lowers blood levels of most large amino acids and increases blood levels of tryptophan = Long term increase in brain serotonin levels.

Vitamin B6 – aids in the manufacture of serotonin. A deficiency of this vitamin reduces serotonin production and affects mood and food cravings. Dietary sources of B6: Banana, avocado, chicken, wheat germ, collard greens, spinach, tomato, brown rice, green peas, broccoli, nonfat or 1% organic milk, orange, all natural peanut butter, apple, whole wheat bread.

A lack of iron, which is found in red meat, fish, sesame seeds, dried apricots and fortified breakfast cereals, has also been linked to low moods.

A magnesium deficiency raises stress-hormone levels, cortisol and epinephrine, resulting in stress-related depression and irritability. Magnesium rich foods: peanuts, bananas, low-fat milk, wheat germ, Phytotherapy supplement (available at Whole Foods -calcium, magnesium, and Vit. D supplement).

Antioxidants: Vitamin C, E, and Beta-Carotene: help regulate the immune system. Both emotional and physical stress increase your need for antioxidants. Aim for 7 servings of fresh fruits and vegetables per day: Have fruit twice per day and vegetables with lunch and dinner. As an insurance policy: take Juice Plus™ whole food nutrition supplement, available on -select the products tab, then juice plus.

Overall stress relief: Do deep breathing, breathe in the count of 10, and exhale the count of 20, a couple times a day. Fit moving into your day, ideally 6 days per week, minimum 4 for 30 to 45 minutes, e.g., walk, dance, go up and down stairs, bike, swim, have walking meetings, turn on the music and dance when you get home-fit moving in wherever you can, do calf raises while you are waiting in line. Eat within an hour and a half after waking up and every 4 hours throughout the day. Keep sipping water; bring a water bottle with you wherever you go. Eat predominately a vegetarian diet, including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fish, low fat dairy and legumes.

Relax and Enjoy Liviting!


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