Stress is killing us—literally. Cardiovascular disease, obesity, diabetes, depression, and anxiety are just some of the health problems associated with stress—with heart disease the leading cause of death among men.
What you eat matters
A poor diet is one of the leading risk factors for developing heart disease in men. Eating a balanced diet can help you maintain a healthy body weight, blood pressure, and healthy cholesterol levels, also reducing your risk of diabetes.
Healthy eating doesn’t have to be complicated. Enjoy a wide variety of foods from all the different food groups, focusing on fresh, unprocessed produce.
Here are a few basic principles for healthy eating.
Top tips for managing stress with diet
Meal planning for stress management and a healthy heart
Taking care of your heart doesn't have to cause you more stress or blow your budget! Here’s a simple example of how to pull our top tips together!
2 Slices of Wholegrain toast + 1 chopped tomato, red onion, herbs + ½ Tbsp extra virgin olive oil (or 2 tsp margarine
½ cup rolled oats + 1 cup low-fat or skim milk + 1 tsp chia seeds
tea or coffee + water
1 orange or 2 small mandarins + 30g Walnuts or almonds (unsalted)
1 cup legumes + 1 small can tuna in water or olive oil (drained) + 1 cup mixed salad vegetables
2 Slices wholegrain bread + Omelette (2 eggs) + 1 cup side salad
tea or coffee + water
¾ cup Low fat plain yoghurt + ½ cup mixed berries
1 cup couscous or ½ medium potato + 1 fillet (~100 – 150g) grilled or baked salmon + 1 cup steamed/baked vegetables.
1 cup of cooked basmati rice + Tofu stir fry with mixed vegetables + olive oil
2 small Kiwifruit or 1 apple or 1 banana
Top tips for managing stress with exercise
Staying active is crucial to optimising not only your physical health but also your mental health. Regular physical activity reduces the risk of high blood pressure and high cholesterol. It assists in maintaining a healthy weight and lowers your risk of diabetes and heart disease while helping to lessen the effects of anxiety and depression.
Exercise can help take your mind off daily stresses, reduce tension and boost energy. Running or walking with friends is also a great way to lower your stress—social connection is important!
Here are some of the Australia Government guidelines for staying active.
Make friends with rest
In addition to having a healthy diet and exercising, taking time to rest and relax is equally as important. Having a good work-life balance is crucial to maintaining a healthy body and mind. Prolonged stress takes a toll on your body, so prioritising mental health and setting aside time to relax, wind down, and rest helps to prevent burnout. Activities that encourage rest include sleep, meditation/mindfulness practices or socialising with friends and family.
Balance is best and easier than you think. We're here to help.
Make an appointment with our Accredited Practising Dietitians
and let us take the stress out of looking after your heart.
It's winter here in Australia, and it's cold!
If you live in the eastern states - it's icy! I'm not a fan of winter, but thoughts of open fires and bracing morning walks sound more appealing while I'm sweating through summer.
By August though, reality sets in. Getting out of bed is a mission, and everyone in the family is sneezing and blowing their noses. It feels like staying healthy in winter is about crossing your fingers and hoping for the best!
So, what can you do to help you and your family stay healthy? Thankfully, there's plenty you can do to feed your body and set it up to flourish this winter.
Start with Sleep
I'm going to start with an often forgotten, but vital ingredient in staying healthy in the winter months - or any other time of the year - SLEEP. It's one of the first things I talk to new patients about. The bottom line is that without enough good sleep, your body will always be playing catch up.
The sweet spot for sleep is between seven and nine hours. Anything less than seven hours is detrimental to your health, but surprisingly, more than nine hours can also adversely affect your physical and mental health.
A good night’s sleep will help to ensure your hormone levels stay balanced; in particular, leptin and ghrelin. Leptin is the hormone that helps you to feel full, increasing satiety, while ghrelin switches it off. If you aren't sleeping properly, your leptin levels decrease, and ghrelin levels increase. That means you are more likely to want to snack on high energy density foods that are quick and easy - in other words - junk food. If you are getting the right amount of sleep, your body will be able to make the most of the other ways you can set it up to thrive over winter.
Breakfast is Best
So, with sleep covered, let's talk about breakfast. No matter what the latest food fad is telling you, skipping breakfast is a bad idea! A healthy, balanced breakfast is going to set you up for the rest of the day and give your body its best chance of resisting the barrage of bugs.
Breakfast wakes your brain up, increases your metabolism, and gets you going. I start work early most mornings, so go for quick and nourishing, in the form of porridge or wholegrain toast with toppings like tomato, avocado, mushrooms or eggs, and coffee. I love food, so one of my favourite things on the weekend is to get more inventive and take my time enjoying breakfast.
Breakfast needs to be part of a healthy balanced diet with a regular meal pattern. You've set yourself up well by eating at the start of the day - so make the most of it. In general, I recommend three meals and three snacks to ensure that your blood sugar levels stay constant and you get hungry, but never 'starving'. Eating at regular intervals during the day also helps to regulate serotonin levels in the brain. Serotonin is the 'happy' hormone - and who doesn't want to feel happy?
Remember what you eat matters! Nutrition plays a vital role in optimising your immune system. Your immune system never takes a break, but when colds and flu are doing the rounds, your body's demand for energy-giving nutrients significantly increases. Having a balanced diet of wholegrain carbohydrates, proteins, and fats and including fruit and plenty of vegetables is the first line of defence against colds and flu.
Make kiwi fruit, oranges, strawberries, capsicum and broccoli a regular part of your daily intake. These fruit and veggies are rich sources of Vitamin C, an essential micronutrient with many functions, including supporting a robust immune system. Other key micronutrients include B Vitamins, Vitamin D, Iron, and Omega 3 Fatty Acids.
The Role of Supplements
As far as taking micronutrient supplements is concerned, there are always controversies around the effectiveness of popping a tablet to increase immunity. My take on it is that if you have any known deficiencies - the idea is to fix them. A blood test will give you answers quickly and then you can work with your dietitian and doctor to address them.
Vitamin D is a common deficiency, particularly during the winter months, resulting in decreased energy levels and a lowering of mood. However, very few foods contain Vitamin D. In Australia, the best sources are fortified margarine, fatty fish, and eggs. Vitamin D fortification is mandatory in Australia for margarine and voluntary for fresh and powdered milk, soy milk and yoghurt. Health professionals are best placed to ensure you get the right results when introducing supplements.
And lastly, we come to everyone's favourite topic; exercise! Exercise is an important part of having a balanced and healthy lifestyle. When done in conjunction with the other steps, it helps to set your body up to flourish all year round. The biggest issue I see with my patients around exercising in winter is that they try to maintain their summer regime - and it doesn't work. I know because I experience it too. In summer I walk early or in the evening - there are options. In winter I wake up when it's dark, I come home when it's dark, and I don't have time during the day to go outside and exercise. My winter plan has evolved over time, and it remains flexible. My current thing is having my road bike on a trainer and doing my exercise before I go to work. It's what works for me in winter.
Other options I discuss with my patients include, hiring exercise equipment, joining a gym, or getting exercise DVDs. The trick with any plan is setting realistic targets. If you're aiming to exercise seven days a week for an hour, break it down into smaller, bite-sized chunks. Start with 20 minutes, 3 times a week, for example. Once you've achieved your target, it will be easier to set new ones and increase your exercise incrementally.
Balance is Best
The bottom line is that we can't always avoid the coughs, colds and flu, but we can set our bodies up to make the most of the winter months. Heaving a plan for sleep, healthy nutrition, and exercise is key, and remember balance is best!
For further reading on the links between sleep and wellbeing https://www.sleepfoundation.org/excessive-sleepiness/health-impact/complex-relationship-between-sleep-depression-anxiety
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