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Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Anti-Stress Diet!

If you're stressed out, trying to lose weight can be a challenge. That's because stress actually makes us gain weight by increasing our appetites, promoting fat storage around our waistlines, and raising our insulin levels. To help you reach your weight loss goals, we sought out the best foods to manage and control stress -- and keep your metabolism humming.

Whole Grains
Judith Wurtman, author of The Serotonin Solution, says go ahead and eat a baked potato or a bowl of pasta. Carbohydrates cause the body to make insulin, which allows tryptophan, an amino acid that's a precursor to serotonin -- the brain's natural "feel good" chemical and appetite suppressant -- to get into the brain. "When people talk about comfort food, usually they don't talk about sardines or cottage cheese," Wurtman said. "They talk about foods that are carbohydrates, and the reason that carbohydrates have always been known as a comfort food is not just because you associate it with your mother making cookies, but because when you eat those foods it makes a chemical that comforts you and that chemical is serotonin." Before you reach for that double fudge brownie or second helping of mashed potatoes, keep in mind that complex carbohydrates, such as sweet potatoes, whole wheat bread and oatmeal, are digested more slowly and will keep you feeling calm for longer. Wurtman recommends including complex carbs like brown rice and sweet potatoes with every meal and carrying around portion-controlled servings of dry whole grain cereal, such as Puffins or Cheerios. By snacking on the cereal between meals, you'll be less tempted to reach for that cupcake at 3 p.m. An added bonus: Brown rice is high in complex B vitamins, selenium, manganese and iron, which are important vitamins and minerals that may help to relieve stress.

Milk

According to a study at the University of Maastricht in Holland, whey, a protein found in milk, increases serotonin levels in the brain. Researchers found that when they fed this tryptophan-rich protein to frazzled university students, their stress levels decreased and they were able to perform better on cognitive tests. To calm nerves before a big presentation, sip on a glass of non-fat milk or eat a small bowl of low-fat yogurt.

Chamomile Tea

Certain herbal teas, most notably, chamomile, are believed to help relieve stress.
A randomized, double-blind study of Matricaria recutita (chamomile) extract therapy in patients with generalized anxiety disorder found that the herb improved subjects anxiety levels. Although findings from this trial cannot be applied to the general population, anecdotal evidence suggests that people find chamomile to have a calming effect. Chamomile is also believed to promote sleep, which in turn, may help combat stress if your worries are keeping you up at night. Recent research also suggests that lack of sleep can disrupt appetite regulating hormones and cause people to eat an additional 300 calories per day.

Coffee

Too much caffeine will leave you jittery or staring at the clock at 3 a.m., but skipping it altogether may make you feel worse. Coffee, tea and other caffeinated beverages provide a temporary lift by raising adrenaline and dopamine levels, but can leave you feeling depressed later. Caffeine also increases cortisol, otherwise known as the "stress hormone." Increased levels of cortisol are associated with abdominal fat storage and increased cravings for fat and carbohydrates. But caffeine can also speed up metabolism, suppress appetite, and help power you through a tough workout. Bottom line: If you're already a coffee drinker, no need to cut it out altogether, but you may want to limit yourself to one cup per day and try not to drink it after 2 p.m.

Dark chocolate

A 2009 study in ACS' Journal of Proteome Research found that consuming about one and a half ounces of dark chocolate a day for two weeks reduced levels of stress hormones in highly stressed subjects. Keep in mind that chocolate is high in calories and fat, so be mindful of portion size (one and a half ounces has about 230 calories and 13 grams of fat).

Wine

A glass of wine can be relaxing way to unwind at the end of the day, but make sure to stick to just one. While small amounts of alcohol may provide a temporary boost, alcohol is a depressant and excessive drinking can lead to more stress, says the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. In addition to relaxing your mind, wine also leads to relaxed inhibitions, which may encourage emotional eating and weight gain.

Eggs

A protein-rich meal boosts production of dopamine and norepinephrine, two neurotransmitters that regulate mood and behavior. Start the day off with a plate of scrambled eggs to keep hunger and anxiety at bay.

Salmon

A study published in the journal Diabetes and Metabolism in 2003 found that men given fish oil supplements (rich in omega-3 fatty acids) for 3 weeks experienced less mental stress. Good food sources of omega-3s include salmon, mackerel, and tuna.

In addition to eating a healthy diet, make sure you're getting enough sleep and exercise. Too little sleep can leave you feeling cranky and overwhelmed, and as noted above, may cause weight gain. And just 30 minutes of exercise throughout the day can boost endorphins, contribute to a better night's sleep, and help keep weight in check.

http://www.thatsfit.com/2011/04/08/the-anti-stress-diet/?icid=maing-grid7|main5|dl7|sec1_lnk2|55707

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