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Megan Ware, RDN, LD

Feeling Stressed? All You Need is TRX and These Top 5 Stress-Fighting Foods

 

 

Exercise can do amazing things for our body; it can relieve stress and boost our moods by releasing feel-good hormones, it can relieve aches and pains caused by a sedentary lifestyle and it can decrease our risk of many chronic diseases all while keeping us at (or helping us get to) a healthy weight.

 

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While you may have already heard that exercise is extremely effective at treating depression, anxiety and stress, did you know that the foods you consume can also be used to boost your mood and relieve stress?

 

A research group in the UK recently launched The Food and Mood Project, which helped to identify "food stressors" and "food supporters," that either exacerbate stress or help to relieve it. 

 

Nearly 90% of the projects' participants reported that their mental health had improved significantly with changes in diet.

 

Participants reported that cutting down or avoiding "food stressors" like sugar, caffeine, alcohol and chocolate had the most impact on mental health, along with consuming more "food supporters" like water, fruits and veggies and oil-rich fish.

 

If you're feeling stressed or need a boost in your mood, try incorporating these Top 5 Stress-Fighting Foods into your diet:

 

1. Heart-healthy nuts such as almonds and walnuts contain tryptophan, an amino acid which helps to promote relaxation and boost serotonin, low levels of which can contribute to moodiness and depression.

 

2. Leafy greens like spinach and kale are great sources of magnesium, a mineral which helps improve your body’s response to stress and may even prevent migraine headaches.

 

3. Fruits that are high in vitamin C, like oranges, which help to fight stress-related free radicals.

 

4. Omega-3 rich fish like salmon and albacore tuna can also boost serotonin levels and regulate anxiety related hormones like cortisol.

 

5. Foods that are high in B-vitamins, such as eggs and oatmeal, which can combat stress by maintaining nerves and brain cells health and by converting food into energy for the body.

 

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“Let food be your medicine and medicine be your food." --Hippocrates

 

 

References:

"Fight Stress With Food." Today's Dietitian Health and Nutrition Center

"Eat Right to Fight Stress." Psychology Today


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Megan Ware, RDN, LD

The Best Recovery Foods for First Time TRXers

 

At Fitness With Insight, we know that those first few classes can be some of the toughest. Since a lot of the muscles you target during TRX aren't used on a normal day-to-day basis, you might wake up the next day after your first class feeling sore in places you didn't know existed! But what if there were some foods or drinks you could incorporate into your day to help alleviate that soreness, or at least to help you recover quicker?

 

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The period of time right after your workout is the most important. You have a 30- 45 minute window to get in the right nutrients and acheive optimal recovery for your muscles. You've all heard that protein is important for recovery, but carbohydrates also help to refuel energy stores and allow your body to produce insulin, a hormone that contributes to muscle building. The trick is to get in the right kind of carbohydrates; from fruits, dairy or whole grains instead of simple sugars. Quinoa and old-fashioned oatmeal are two high fiber, high protein sources of healthy carbohydrate to incorporate into a post-workout meal or snack. 

 

You've probably know that antioxidants help prevent cancer and heart disease, but did you know they also reduce inflammation and alleviate muscle soreness? Fruits and vegetables are the best sources of antioxidants. The more color on your plate, the better.

 

Check out this recipe for Protein Packed Pizza Bites for a perfect post-workout snack. They’re high in protein from the eggs and the quinoa and packed with nutrients and antioxidants from the onion, tomatoes, garlic and herbs. 

 

If you tend to not have an appetite following a workout, liquid meals or snacks are a perfect remedy. Try making your own smoothies at home with plain Greek yogurt and frozen berries. Beware of smoothies from chains or fast food restaurants, as they may contain upwards of 800 calories and 60 grams of sugar (a whole days worth)!

 

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One drink that is loaded with antioxidants and has been shown to reduce muscle soreness is tart cherry juice. A study published in the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine found that drinking tart cherry juice following strenuous exercise reduces inflammation and aids in the recovery of muscle function. Studies conducted using watermelon and watermelon juice have also shown similiar results. Try blending tart cherry juice or seedless watermelon chunks into a smoothie for an anti-inflammatory boost.

 

References:

Active: Recovery Foods that Ease Muscle Soreness


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Megan Ware, RDN, LD

Organic Food: Is It Worth The Extra Buck?

 

Organic products, organic honey, organic raspberries, organic pumpkin seeds, organic cereal

 

Organic labels aren’t limited to just produce anymore. Even the budget grocery stores and big box stores are carrying options like organic cookies, organic cereal, organic soups, organic potato chips and more. With all these options, shouldn't you always buy organic when you can? Not necessarily.

 

The bottom line when it comes to packaged organic products, is that an organic cookie is still a cookie, chips are still chips, and high sodium organic soups and frozen dinners are still high in sodium. Each of these foods are still highly processed and probably have a paragraph’s worth of ingredients. A common assumption is that just because a product has an organic label, it is automatically "healthy." Having an organic label on a package does not mean these products have any less calories or more nutrients than their conventional produced counterparts. If you’re buying packaged foods, the most important thing is not to make sure it’s organic, but to look at the ingredients label and ask yourself three questions:

 

1. Are there any ingredients I can’t pronounce?


2. Does it take me longer than 10 seconds to read through all of the ingredients?


3. Are sugar or one of it’s derivatives (corn syrup, cane syrup, brown rice syrup, maltodextrin, fruit juice concentrates, dehydrated cane juice, sucrose or anything else ending in -ose) one of the top three ingredients?

 

If you answered yes to any of these questions, put it back on the shelf, whether it’s labeled organic or not.

 

Why is buying organic so much more expensive? Organic foods typically cost 10-40% more than similar conventionally grown products. To obtain a USDA certified organic label (which guarantees the product contains at least 95% organic ingredients), farmers must meet stricter quality standards. They use natural fertilizers, such as manure or compost instead of chemicals and use crop rotations to conserve the nutrients in soil. Organic farming aims to reduce pollution and conserve resources. More labor is required, which brings up the cost for the farmer and brings up the cost of the product for you.

 

The best and cheapest way to buy produce is still from a Farmer’s Market, where the produce may not carry any USDA labels saying it’s organic, but it is organic in every sense except for the name. Small farmers can’t afford to attain pricy labels, yet most of them are already farming using organic standards. Ask the farmer where the food was grown and if any pesticides were used.

 

The jury is still out on whether organic produce has a higher nutrient content than conventional. Research findings differ because foods grown in healthier organic soils are likely to taste better and have more nutrients initially, however most organic produce is shipped from far across the country or even overseas to your local grocer which causes it’s nutrients to diminish, possibly cancelling out the benefit of being organic in the first place. That is why it’s important to look for produce grown locally AND by organic standards (cough, cough– Farmer’s Market).

 

Pick your battles. If you have a choice between eating non-organic, non-local fruits or vegetables or no fruits and vegetables at all, please EAT the fruits and vegetables. The benefits of eating produce far outweigh the risks of potential pesticide exposure.  The Environmental Working Group has come up with a list of fruits and vegetables with the highest and lowest levels of pesticide residue, which changes year to year. You may have previously heard of the Dirty Dozen, but in 2013 the EWG expanded the list to the Dirty Dozen Plus. When possible, buy these foods in the organic version:

 

  • Celery
  • Strawberries
  • Peaches
  • Apples
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Cucumbers
  • Grapes
  • Hot Peppers
  • Sweet Bell Peppers
  • Imported nectarines
  • Spinach
  • Potatoes
  • Kale
  • Collard Greens
  • Summer Squash

 

The EWG also have a Clean Fifteen list, showcasing fruits and veggies with the lowest pesticide levels.

 

My last tip on buying organic is to not forget your freezer. Organic frozen produce is often cheaper than fresh, especially if the fruit or vegetable is out of season. Most frozen produce is frozen when the fruit or vegetable is at its peak ripeness, so don’t worry about it containing less nutrients than the fresh version.  Just make sure there aren’t any added ingredients. The ingredient label should read: organic _____ (raspberries, edamame, lima beans, etc.) and that’s it!

 

Another option is to grow your own produce at home. Even if you only have a small balcony or window sill space, you can still grow your own herbs like basil, cilantro and parsley. The more you know about where your food comes from, the healthier you will be.

About the author: Megan Ware is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and owner of Nutrition Awareness, based out of Dallas, TX. She specializes in weight loss and has recently partnered with Fitness with Insight to offer their clients a whole-body approach to getting fit and healthy.


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