Tag Archives: back to school

Back to the Daily Grind. Can diet and supplements relieve the pressure?

I recently offered some nutrition tips for kids as they prepare for the new academic year. However, September is not only ‘back to school’ for kids, but it can also mean ‘back to the daily grind’ for busy parents and teachers too. The return to work after a summer break can be quite stressful for many. Fortunately a few nutritional strategies may help to cushion the blow.

A recent Health and Safety Executive report states that stress is one of the most common types of work-related illness, with teachers, healthcare workers and social workers most commonly affected (1).

There are in fact numerous nutritional strategies that can help support stressed workers. For example, choosing foods and adopting eating patterns to keep blood sugar levels stable can help to manage mood and anxiety levels. Below is a quick guide to some of the most effective nutritional strategies for dealing with work-related stress.

Healthy Snack
Healthy Snacks such as fruit and nuts can help maintain stable blood sugar levels.

Foods to include:
Including protein with each meal will go a long way towards helping your body cope with the demands of work stresses. In fact, starting your day with a protein-rich breakfast such as eggs or yoghurt can actually help control your blood sugar levels for the rest of the day, helping to keep you mood and energy levels more stable.

Keeping healthy snacks at hand – fruit, nuts or even protein shakes are easy to store at the office – will also help to manage your blood sugar levels as well as providing nutrients such as zinc and vitamin C which are in great demand at times of stress.

Finally, keep hydrated with plenty of water, herbal teas and decaffeinated teas throughout the day. Dehydration can affect mood and concentration, making it more difficult to cope with the everyday demands of the office.

Foods to avoid:
Alcohol is used by many as a stress reliever, and a couple of glasses of wine in the evening seems harmless enough after a hard day at work. Unfortunately, alcohol can in fact deplete levels of vitamins and minerals that are needed in times of stress, and over time it alters levels of stress hormones such as cortisol (2).

Caffeine is a stimulant and can cause irritability. Many office workers habitually turn to caffeine for a mid-afternoon boost when energy is flagging. Unfortunately stimulants such as caffeine place additional pressure on the adrenal glands, important bodily organs which we rely on in times of stress.

Sugar can impair the function of out ‘stress buffers’, the adrenal glands. Eating sugary foods means that the adrenals must work harder to keep your blood sugar levels stable.

Nutrients for stress: B, C and Omega-3
Nutritional therapists often recommend B Vitamins alongside Vitamin C in order to help the body to cope with stress. In fact a recent study has found that a simple B Vitamin supplement may provide welcome relief to stressed workers (3).

The study was a double-blind, placebo controlled trial. To determine whether a high dose B vitamin supplement could improve mood and psychological wellbeing linked with chronic work stress, researchers supplemented 60 men and women with a high dose B Vitamin or placebo for 12 weeks. At the end of the study, those who had taken the B Vitamins reported significantly lower levels of stress symptoms such as depressed mood, confusion and personal strain.

The B vitamins are needed in higher amounts when the body is under stress, as the adrenal glands require these nutrients to function effectively. B vitamins are also involved in the production of the neurotransmitters serotonin and acetylcholine which help to ward off feelings of anxiety.

A recent review of functional foods in the management of psychological stress concluded that the most promising nutritional intervention in relieving stress is high dose Vitamin C with omega-3 fish oils (4). Well-controlled human trials have found that high dose sustained-release vitamin C can lower the effect of stress on blood pressure and improve recovery time after stressful periods (5). Omega-3 supplementation has also been found in several human studies to lower the stress response and decrease levels of stress hormones (6,7).

Many of us have suffered with work-related stress at one time or another, and this type of ongoing stress has a serious effect on wellbeing and quality of life. Returning to long days at the office after the summer holidays can be a daunting prospect for the best of us. Choosing the correct nutrition might just help make that transition a little easier.

Written by Nadia Mason, BSc MBANT NTCC CNHC

References
1. HSE (2011) Stress and Psychological Disorders. www.hse.gov.uk/statistics/causdis/stress/index.htm

2. Badrick et al (2008) The Relationship between Alcohol Consumption and Cortisol Secretion in an Aging Cohort. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2008 March; 93(3): 750–757.

3. Stough C et al (2011) The effect of 90 day administration of a high dose vitamin B-complex on work stress. Hum Psychopharmacol 26:7 470-476

4.Hamer et al (2005) The role of functional foods in the psychobiology of health and disease. Nutr Res Rev 18, 77–88.

5. Brody et al (2002) A randomized controlled trial of high dose ascorbic acid for reduction of blood pressure, cortisol, and subjective responses to psychological stress. Psychopharmacology 159, 319–324.

5. Sawazaki et al (1999) The effect of docosahexaenoic acid on plasma catecholamine concentrations and glucose tolerance during long-lasting psychological stress: a double-blind placebo-controlled study. Journal of Nutritional Science and Vitaminology (Tokyo) 45, 655–665.

7. Delarue et al (2003) Fish oil prevents the adrenal activation elicited
by mental stress in healthy men. Diab & Metab 29,289–295.

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Back to School: Children’s Nutrition Tips

The month of September means Back to School for children, and is a good time to think about your children’s nutritional needs to see them through the academic year in good health. After all healthy children are not only more likely to grow into healthy adults, but are more likely do better in school too (1). We all know that children need a balanced diet with plenty of fruit and veg, but putting this into practice can be a struggle for many parents. Fortunately there are a few lunchbox ideas that can encourage even the fussiest of eaters.

Healthy packed lunches for kids
Healthy packed lunches for kids don’t have to be “obvious”. Trying hiding grated carrots with grated Red Leicester cheese in a sandwich for example!

Suzannah Olivier, author of “Healthy Food for Happy Kids” suggests that making food fun and offering variety is key to encouraging your child to eat healthily (2). “The best way to avoid faddiness is to give your child a variety of foods, tastes and flavours from a young age”. Here are some quick and easy alternatives to the traditional sandwich:

• Use leftover pasta, couscous or rice for a salad in a box with chopped sausages, tomatoes or black-eyed beans and red peppers.
• Try oatcakes with hummus and cherry tomatoes
• Make some Bircher Muesli: in a container mix 2 tablespoons of oat flakes, chopped nuts (if your school allows these), half a grated apple and some milk or soya milk and seal. By lunchtime the mixture will be soft and sweet and utterly delicious.
• As most kids love finger foods, this can be great way of boosting their veg intake. Try baby carrots or carrot sticks, cherry tomatoes, cucumber wedges, baby sweetcorn, cooked green beans, red and yellow pepper strips, cooked asparagus spears, raw sugar snap peas. Provide a dip to dunk them into, such as hummus or a yoghurt dip.

Even ‘anti-veg’ children can be persuaded to eat their greens with a few inventive lunch options. Suzannah suggests small cubes of vegetable omelette, onion bahjis, mini vegetable pizzas or quiches, vegetable samosas or spring rolls and mushroom pate.

Karen Bali, author of “The Art of Hiding Vegetables” agrees that when dealing with fussy kids, a little stealth can go a long way (3). “All you need to do is disguise or conceal healthy food and your children’s won’t notice – or even know – they’re eating it.” Karen offers the following ideas for packed lunches:

• Include smoothies made with yoghurt and fresh fruit (and no added sugar)
• Warm some vegetable baby food and add to tomato soup, for veggies with ‘no lumpy bits’. Keep it warm until lunch in a flask.
• Disguise carrots by grating them finely and mixing them with finely grated red cheese (such as Leicester) in sandwich fillings
• Choose vegetables with mild flavours – watercress, thinly sliced cucumber and finely shredded lettuce can work well.

For parents interested in nutritional supplements for their children, there are a number of ranges now specifically designed with children’s nutritional needs in mind. While supplements are not intended as a replacement for healthy food, they can help to ensure that your child is meeting his or her nutritional requirements. Parents often ask me which supplements I recommend for children. There are in fact three types of supplements that I have come to refer to as the Children’s Healthy Trinity: probiotics, essential fatty acids and a broad spectrum multi-vitamin and mineral formula. Alongside a healthy diet, these basic supplements can go a long way towards supporting your child’s digestion and immune system, and safeguarding against any nutritional deficiencies in his or her diet.

Written by Nadia Mason, BSc MBANT NTCC CNHC

References

1. Kleinman et al (2002) Diet, Breakfast, and Academic Performance in Children. Ann Nutr Metab. 2002; 46(Suppl 1): 24–30
2. Suzannah Olivier. Healthy Foods for Happy Kids. Simon & Schuster 2004.
3. Karen Bali & Sally Child. The Art of Hiding Vegetables: Sneaky Ways to Feed Your Children Healthy Food. White Ladder Press 2005.

 

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