Comparing Current Common Diets

Comparing Current Common Diets

Mental Health Gut Article

There are so many diets out there, that it can be completely overwhelming. You can’t turn on the TV, listen to the radio, or use social media without being subjected to advertising or discussions about the latest diet craze. It is hard to know where to start, and what the right diet is for you.

So, we are here to provide some guidance and insight to some of the current common diets. The 4 diets we are exploring today:

  1. Mediterranean Diet
  2. Vegetarian
  3. “Flexitarian” Diet
  4. “Paleo”

The Mediterranean Diet

The Mediterranean diet is one of the most researched diets in the world, as it has been around for centuries. In short, the Mediterranean Diet is based on the traditional foods eaten in Mediterranean regions such as Italy and Greece. The Mediterranean diet is considered to be the “best overall diet” by US News & World Report and many others in the nutrition and health world. Plus, the Mediterranean Diet is known to be beneficial for heart health and diabetes, plus it’s super easy to follow!

What Is The Mediterranean Diet

A traditional Mediterranean Diet is rich in plant-based foods including fruits,

vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds, and moderate amounts of red wine (yes, wine!); as well as plenty of good quality fats, with the main dietary fat being extra virgin olive oil; as well as fish, poultry, fresh dairy, and eggs. Red meat is used sparingly, and on a traditional Mediterranean Diet there is avoidance of added sugars, refined grains and oils, and other highly processed foods.

The Mediterranean Diet is flexible, simple to follow, and delicious! Plus, individuals typically feel satisfied and satiated thanks to the high-fibre content of the various plant-foods and goods fats being consumed.

Pros

  • Nutritionally sound/well researched
  • Diverse foods and flavours
  • Promotes heart health
  • Better diabetes prevention and management
  • Mental health benefits
  • Weight management
  • Reduced inflammatory markers
  • Cancer prevention
  • Environmentally friendly

Cons

  • Some foods are costly
  • Additional guidance may be necessary for certain conditions
  • Some dietary restrictions may be challenging
  • Concerns with it including alcohol intake
  • May fall short on some nutrients
  • No specific guidelines to follow
  • Can be time consuming

Specific Health Benefits of the Mediterranean Diet

As a result of the high fibre intake from whole foods, and the avoidance of refined sugars and grains, the Mediterranean Diet can help prevent blood sugar fluctuations and may improve cholesterol levels (1).

The Mediterranean Diet can also positively affect physical and mental well-being. It is associated with decreased risk of heart disease, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases (2,3,4,5).

Multiple studies have determined that the Mediterranean Diet can assist with weight loss, help prevent heart attacks and strokes, reduce the likelihood of developing type 2 diabetes, and decreases premature death (6). One long term study showed that the risk of combined heart attack, stroke, and death from heart disease was 31% lower and appeared to reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes by 52% (6).

What We Think?

The societal movement back to more traditional diets is a positive dietary trend. The Mediterranean Diet offers loose guidelines for overall healthy eating that the average person consuming a standard Western diet would benefit from, especially if care is given to moderate alcohol intake.

Vegetarian Diet

Vegetarian Diets have been followed for centuries, maybe millennia, in regions the world over – from Israel to India. In modern day, it’s a common misconception vegetarians are generally healthy, but this sometimes is not the case. A healthy vegetarian will focus on whole foods, but nowadays there are many vegetarians that will fill up on refined grains and sugars, which in combination with the avoidance of meat and seafood, puts individuals at high risk of nutrient deficiencies.

What Is A Vegetarian Diet?

While following a Vegetarian Diet, individuals avoid meat products. However, there are several versions of vegetarian diets:

  • lacto-ovo vegetarians eat both eggs and dairy products
  • lacto vegetarians eat dairy products but not eggs
  • ovo vegetarians eat eggs but not dairy products

Ideally focussed on whole foods such as fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds, fresh dairy, eggs, legumes, lentils and whole grains. Vegetarians need to take special care to ensure they are consuming adequate vitamin B12, calcium, iron, and zinc. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics warns of the risk of vitamin B12 deficiencies in vegetarians.

Pros

  • Possible reduced risk of disease
  • May boost longevity
  • May increase food variety
  • Improved weight control compared to a standard Western diet
  • Reduced food costs
  • Less environmental impact
  • Ethical treatment of animals

Cons

  • Possible nutrient deficiencies
  • Fewer food choices
  • Reduced satiety
  • Less convenient
  • Not always healthy
  • Difficult if eating out or dining at others homes

Specific Health Benefits of the Vegetarian Diet

There is ample research on the vegetarian diet. In a large cohort study evaluating vegetarian diets, researchers found that the group experienced a reduced risk of cardiovascular diseases, cardio-metabolic risk factors, and some cancers (7).

Vegetarians may be up to one-third less likely to die or be hospitalized for heart disease (8) and had half the risk of developing type 2 diabetes compared with non-vegetarians (9).

Osteoporosis rates are also lower in countries where people eat mostly vegetarian diets (10).

Several studies have shown that people who follow a plant-based diet may lose more weight than those who do not (11). A review of studies including over 1,100 participants determined those consuming a vegetarian diet for 18 weeks lost 4.5 pounds (2 kg) more than participants who weren’t (12). However, there are many other diets that provide even more effective weight loss and weight management, so vegetarianism may not be the optimal weight loss diet.

What We Think?

Vegetarianism, done well, can be a therapeutic diet for those addressing cardiovascular conditions or some forms of cancer. Additionally, for individuals particularly concerned with their environmental impact and/or the ethical treatment of animals, the vegetarian diet addresses many of those concerns without the elevated risk of nutritional deficiencies associated with a vegan diet (where eggs and dairy products are avoided in addition to meat and seafood).

The “Flexitarian” Diet

The diet was developed by nutritionist Dawn Jackson Blatner. She believes that eating a vegetarian diet is healthiest, but recognizes that giving up meat isn’t something everyone is willing to do. Plus, it enables individuals to get some of those key nutrients found in meat such as B12 and iron. She designed a balance that keeps meat in the diet but consumed at a reduced amount and consists of healthy foods to help lose and maintain a healthy weight.

What Is The “Flexitarian” Diet?

The Flexitarian Diet is a meal plan focuses on a vegetarian based diet with consumption of some meat and fish on occasion. Flexitarians limit processed foods and eat more whole foods.

Pros

  • Emphasizes nutritious foods
  • Easy to accommodate personal preferences or needs
  • Budget-friendly and sustainable
  • Supports weight loss
  • May reduce risk of diabetes

Cons

  • May be difficult for daily meat-eaters to follow
  • Potentially low iron intake
  • Additional guidance may be necessary for those with diabetes

Specific Health Benefits of the “Flexitarian” Diet

Since “Flexitarian” diets are relatively new, there limited evidence addressing it specifically, but it is expected to offer many of the same benefits as a vegetarian diet while offsetting some of the negatives with adhering strictly to vegetarianism or veganism.

What We Think?

There are no specific rules to follow on a “Flexitarian” Diet, making it an appealing option for many individuals and allowing the space to tap in to what your body is feeling day-to-day or week-to-week and adjusting accordingly. A “Flexitarian” Diet can easily be tailored to suit your own nutritional needs and health goals, which we love.

“Paleo”

The “Paleo” Diet also referred to as the Paleolithic Diet, Stone Age diet, hunter-gatherer diet and caveman diet has become increasingly popular over the past decade. It is based on eating the way our early ancestors did.

What is the Paleo Diet?

The basic Paleo Diet consists of whole foods including: animals (meat, fish, reptiles, insects, etc.) with a focus on “nose to tail” eating consuming almost all parts of the animals, including organs, bone marrow, and cartilage; animal products such as eggs or honey; vegetables and fruits; and nuts and seeds that can be eaten raw. While following the Paleo Diet foods that became common when farming emerged about 10,000 years ago are avoided including: dairy products, legumes, grains and, of course, processed foods.

 Specific Health Benefits of the Paleo Diet

There are many health benefits to following a Paleo Diet. In 2017, when researchers compared people whose diets most closely matched the attributes of a Paleo Diet to those whose diets least matched, they found a lower risk of all cause mortality, cancer  mortality, and cardiovascular disease mortality in those that followed the Paleo Diet (13).

Research has shown that participants that followed the diet had improved body composition. One study, in which participants followed the diet for just 3 weeks lost an average of 5lbs per person, as well as experiencing slight reductions in their waist circumference and systolic blood pressure (14).

There is emerging research on possible benefits for patients with MS, and other autoimmune conditions.

Pros

  • Rich in nutrient-dense foods
  • Helps some people lose weight
  • May promote heart health
  • Linked to longevity
  • Avoids many common food allergens/triggers

Cons

  • Eliminates entire food groups
  • Unclear impact on gut health
  • Small risk of iodine deficiency
  • Costly and time-intensive
  • Difficult to follow long term

In Summary

Bottom line, everyone’s biochemistry is different. The ideal diet for one person might not necessary be the best approach for the next. It really is true that there is no one diet out there that fits everyone.

Your health goals are, what disease or health conditions that you are struggling with, along with your individual genetics and biochemistry – all must be considered together to determine what dietary strategy is best for you.

We would love to help you on your health journey by creating an effective dietary plan that fits for your goals and lifestyle! To find out what is the best approach for you, please reach out to us at Koru Nutrition or book with us today!

 

References

1.Mediterranean diet adherence is related to reduced probability of prodromal Parkinson’s disease (2019, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)

2. Mediterranean diet: A heart-healthy eating plan (2019, mayoclinic.org)

3. Role of Mediterranean diet on the prevention of Alzheimer disease (2017, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)

4. The Mediterranean Diet and Cardiovascular Health (2019, ahajournals.org)

5. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/5-studies-on-the-mediterranean-diet

6. Le, L., Sabaté, J. (2014). Beyond Meatless, the Health Effects of Vegan Diets: Findings from the Adventist Cohorts. Nutrients, 6(6), 2131–2147. doi:10.3390/nu6062131

7. https://academic.oup.com/ajcn/article/97/3/597/4571519

8. https://www.healthline.com/health/type-2-diabetes

9. https://www.pcrm.org/veganstarterkit

10. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/maintain-weight-loss#TOC_TITLE_HDR_2

11. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26138004/

12. Whalen KA, Judd S, McCullough ML, Flanders WD, Hartman TJ, Bostick RM. Paleolithic and Mediterranean Diet Pattern Scores Are Inversely Associated with All-Cause and Cause-Specific Mortality in Adults. J Nutr. 2017;147(4):612–620. doi:10.3945/jn.116.241919

13. Osterdahl M, et al. Effects of a short-term intervention with a paleolithic diet in healthy volunteers. Trusted Source European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2008.

 

Top 10 Foods To Reduce Anxiety

Top 10 Foods To Reduce Anxiety

Mental Health Gut Article

Current polls suggest that as many as 4 in 10 Canadians are experiencing anxiety. The mental and emotional toll anxiety can take on a person can be significant, and the physical symptoms that can come from having anxiety can also be uncomfortable and unpleasant – headaches, nausea, chest pain or shortness of breath, restlessness and insomnia, fatigue, and poor immune function are just some of the physical manifestations of anxiety. In short, many Canadians are suffering.

Thankfully, as we covered in a recent blog post, there are simple dietary and lifestyle habits that can be implemented to help reduce anxiety. In this blog post, we’ll be exploring our Top 10 Foods to potentially help you get some relief from your anxiety symptoms.

Eggs

Eggs are one of the most economical food sources of Vitamin D3, the sunshine vitamin. Optimizing Vitamin D has been shown to be effective at reducing the symptoms of anxiety (1). Plus, they are protein-packed, which can help promote balanced blood sugar levels, which in turn promotes a more even mood. If you’ve ever been “hangry”, then you’ve experiences some of the mood instability that can occur with poorly managed blood sugar levels. Consuming adequate amounts of protein-rich foods such as eggs, is one step toward controlling blood sugar levels.

Eggs also contain an important amino acid, tryptophan, used to make serotonin in the body. Serotonin is an essential neurotransmitter that regulates mood, sleep, memory and behaviour. And as if all that wasn’t enough, eggs also offer a large dose of choline, an essential nutrient that supports brain and nervous system function, including mood and memory.

Boiled eggs are an easy food to keep on hand to slice and toss on a salad, or just peel and eat for a snack when you don’t feel like cooking. Boiled eggs can be stored in the fridge, for 7 days in the fridge, so make a batch for the week and this will be a great grab and go snack. You can also use eggs in baked goods, frittatas or quiches, omelettes and more!

Salmon

Studies have shown that salmon consumption three times per week can significantly decrease anxiety. (2) Salmon is not only delicious and another good source of vitamin D, it’s also full of healthy, brain-building omega-3 fats! Consuming adequate amounts of EPA and DHA may also promote your brain’s ability to adapt to changes, allowing a person to better handle stressors that can trigger anxiety symptoms. (3) Salmon also contains Vitamin B12 which helps convert amino acids (the building blocks of protein) into neurotransmitters that send messages within our brain and nervous system and help regulate many functions including mood.

If you are not a big fan of consuming fish, take an omega-3 supplement. Researchers found that people who took high doses of omega-3s (up to 2,000 mg a day) seemed to have the most reduction in anxiety symptoms. (4)

Salmon is enjoyable baked, fried, or barbequed! Plus, we have several sources of recipe inspiration to get you cooking up more salmon, including Salmon Avocado Toast, Smoked Salmon Egg Cups, and Salmon Chowder.

Spinach

Increasing your intake of fruits and vegetables can improve feelings of wellbeing in as little as 2 weeks! (5) In one study, participants who were given three extra servings of fruits and vegetables per day for just two weeks felt improvements in their vitality and motivation, although the study authors note that longer-term intervention is necessary to impact anxiety levels. Focussing on consuming a variety of nutrient dense plant foods is a cornerstone of solid nutrition that, in turn, supports our body and mind.

Spinach is high in dietary fibre, which, along with protein and healthy fats, assists in balancing blood sugar levels. Generally speaking, with more stable blood sugar levels come more stable moods. (6) Spinach is also rich in B-vitamins, which are known to support nervous system functioning, brain health, and boost energy levels.

While spinach is a great option… don’t forget about other leafy greens such as kale, beet greens, Swiss chard, bok choy, cabbage, and collards. These leafy green vegetables have many of the same nutritional benefits!

Turmeric

Curcumin, the bioactive compound found in the culinary spice turmeric, is a powerful anti-inflammatory. In studies, curcumin has been shown to be as effective at reducing anxiety, depression, and PTSD symptoms as leading SSRI prescription medications. (7) It is believed that curcumin may help boost serotonin and dopamine, two of our “feel good” neurotransmitters.

Turmeric is well-know for it’s distinct flavour in curries, like our Coconut Chicken Curry and Zoodles, whereas, the extract curcumin, is available in many supplement forms.

Jicama

Jicama is a low calorie tuber, native to Mexico and Central America. It has all the comforting feeling of other starches (like potatoes), but without spiking blood sugar levels, which as you’ll recall from above helps maintain a more even mood!

Jicama also contains inulin, a fibre that supports gut health by feeding the good bacteria in our intestinal tract. Our gut and brain are intricately connected via a pathway dubbed the “gut-brain axis”. When attempting to reduce anxiety symptoms, it is imperative to strengthen gut health as an unhealthy gastrointestinal system can be a cause of anxiety. (8)

If jicama isn’t available in your area, other healthy, slow-digesting carbohydrate options include sweet potatoes, winter squashes, beets and turnips.

Sardines

For many of you, including sardines in your diet may mean trying something new! Like other oily fish, sardines contain large amounts of omega-3 fatty acids. You brain is made of approximately one third Omega-3 fats. So, to keep your brain functioning well, consuming Omega-3s is critical! In addition to omega-3s, sardines contain Vitamin D, Vitamin B12 and the antioxidant mineral selenium. Studies show the lower the levels of selenium in the diet, the higher the reports of fatigue and mood disorders such as anxiety and depression. (9)

Making a paté is an easy and tasty way to introduce yourself to sardines!

If you aren’t interested in sardines, other oily fish include mackerel, herring, and Arctic char.

Cashews

In addition to containing a blood sugar balancing combination of proteins, fats, and fibre; cashews also contain an important amino acid called typtophan. Tryptophan is used within our body to create the neurotransmitter serotonin, which helps boost mood in folks with both depression and anxiety.

Most nuts have brain-boosting omega-3 fats and antioxidant vitamin E. Anxiety is believed to be correlated with overall lower levels of antioxidants. (10) The vitamin E in cashews and other nuts, is the most abundant fat-soluable antioxidant in the human bodies, so optimizing our intake of this vitamin may improve our overall antioxidant status, and therefore reduce anxiety levels.

Cashews are a great snack option, because you can just grab them and go! Cashew butter is delicious as a fruit or vegetable dip, as the base of creamy sauces or salad dressings, and in granola or these Crunchy Yogurt Clusters. If you don’t love cashews, you could reach for almonds, pecans or walnuts instead!

Sauerkraut

We’ve written in more depth about the connection between gut health and mood, here and here. But for the purposes of this blog post, suffice it to say, probiotics and the fermented foods that provide them, are key to the health of our digestive system – which is where we manufacture 95% of our serotonin! You may recall from above that serotonin is the neurotransmitter believed to regulate anxiety, happiness and mood, among other things.

If sauerkraut isn’t your favourite, other naturally fermented foods such as pickles, pickled carrots or beets, kimchi, and yogurt also boast probiotic benefits. We recommend trying to include some type of fermented food daily. A scoop of sauerkraut with dinner, some kefir in a smoothie, maybe a tablespoon of kimchi on your salad, or some pickle juice in a salad dressing; a little goes a long way to building a diverse microbiome, a happy gut, and a balanced mood!

Pumpkin Seeds

Pumpkin seeds are a tasty way to add some crunch to your day, even if you are nut free. These little green gems, also known as pepitas, are a rich source of protein and the minerals potassium and zinc. Zinc modulates nearly countless neurological actions in the brain, and zinc deficiency is associated with many brain disorders, ranging from anxiety to Alzheimer’s. (11)

One study noted, that raising levels of zinc in the body helped to raise GABA levels. And because GABA is primarily known as a calming neurotransmitter, increasing GABA levels in turn reduced anxiety levels (12).

Chocolate

You have likely heard of theobromine. It’s the part of chocolate that is toxic to dogs, but in humans it acts as a vasodilator, relaxing smooth muscles and enhancing blood flow to the brain. Less well known is anandamide, the “bliss chemical” which, when consumed, produces a feeling of euphoria. And perhaps even more obscure, Phenylethylamine (PEA) known as the “love chemical”. PEA increases signals to the nervous system that increase the release of endorphins, promoting alertness and focus while elevating mood and boosting memory.

In one study, individuals who consumed 74% dark chocolate twice daily for two weeks had improved levels of stress hormones commonly associated with anxiety, such as catecholamines and cortisol. (13) Eating dark chocolate has also been shown to increase levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin, which is our happy neurotransmitter and this may help reduce the stress that leads to anxiety (14, 15)

We bet we won’t have to do much convincing for you to include a little dark chocolate in your day! In recent years, chocolate avocado pudding has been popular. But, in case you need an extra little nudge, we’ve got you covered with some awesome chocolatey recipes like this Hot Chocolate Elixir, Chocolate Cauliflower Shake, JuicePlus Chocolate Bark, Pistachio Pomegranate Bark, or Black Bean Brownies.

Anxiety During A Pandemic: What Can We Do?

Anxiety During A Pandemic: What Can We Do?

Mental Health Gut Article

Canadian Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) policy advice in July 2020 reported that COVID-19 is having a negative impact on Canadians’ mental health, with many seeing their stress levels double since the onset of the pandemic. (1) People are struggling with fear and uncertainty about their own health and their loved ones’ health, concerns about employment and finances, and the social isolation that comes from public health measures such as quarantining and physical distancing. (2) A recent poll found that 50% of Canadians reported worsening mental health since the pandemic began with many feeling worried (44%) and anxious (41%). (3)

Although our individual circumstances are unique, these are stressful times for everyone and it is important to recognize when you or your family member maybe experiencing feelings or symptoms of anxiety.

What Are The Symptoms of Anxiety?

  • Headache
  • Diarrhea or frequent need to urinate
  • Nausea
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Chest pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Light headedness and dizziness
  • Tremors or twitches
  • Excess sweating
  • Restlessness
  • Insomnia
  • Fatigue
  • Weakness
  • Unexplained pain
  • Digestive issues
  • Decreased libido
  • Impaired immune function

If you or your family member have ticked off many of the symptoms above, it would be wise to check in with your primary care practitioner. Additionally, below we’ve outlined some strategies that you can incorporate into your diet and lifestyle to help manage and reduce your experience with anxiety.

Diet and Lifestyle Strategies To Reduce Anxiety

  1. Balance blood sugar levels.

We are all living through unprecedented times; a pandemic and lockdown. People are out of regular routines and stretched for time with trying to work, manage a household, and – if you’re a parent – homeschooling, all while everyone is confined to their home.

When you are stressed or anxious your body naturally produces the stress hormone cortisol. However, excess cortisol can wreak havoc in the body if you are producing high amounts over a prolonged time period. High cortisol can lead to numerous health problems, which are compounded even further if you have unbalanced blood sugar levels.

Blood sugar imbalance is an extremely common issue for so many people who consume standard western diet. With the stress of a lockdown, and the impact of cortisol, blood sugar imbalance can become even more of an issue.

Skipping meals, consuming processed foods, sugars and refined grains, ordering fast food, and consuming caffeine or energy drinks can all contribute to a rollercoaster ride with blood sugar highs and lows. Unstable blood sugar levels can have a negative impact, not just on our physical health, but on our mental health as well.

When blood sugars drop (hypoglycemia), you can experience a multitude of symptoms similar to the ones described above, including insomnia, mood swings, fatigue, irritability, weakness, anxiety, depression, aggression, blurred vision, headaches, difficulty concentrating, dizziness, and frequent urination.

The problem is, after consuming processed or refined foods and sugars or consuming caffeine, blood sugar levels will rise steeply and then drop. When blood sugars drop too far too fast, your body naturally produces that stress hormone cortisol to help raise blood sugars back up into a health range. Starting the blood sugar rollercoaster cycle all over again.

For most people, cortisol also increases cravings and appetite – adding further issues to eating habits and blood sugar imbalances. Plus, cortisol has also been shown to interfere with the production of neurotransmitters to help you feel calm and relaxed. We need those feel-good neurotransmitters right now!

How To Balance Blood Sugar Levels:

  • Eat within one hour upon waking to avoid a blood sugar drop
  • Consume 3 meals (and 1-2 snacks if needed) during the day
  • Each meal needs to include a healthy fat, lean proteins and complex carbohydrates (such as whole grains, beans/legumes, and starchy vegetables)
  • Avoid all sugar and refined grains which will spike blood sugars
  • Avoid stimulants such as energy drinks, caffeine and pop
  • Don’t go long periods of time between eating
  1. Consume Foods High In Calcium And Magnesium

Calcium and magnesium help to relax the mind, as well as calm the nerves and muscles. A person with a magnesium deficiency can show signs of nausea, muscle pain, gastrointestinal problems, cravings for chocolate, insomnia, restlessness and muscle weakness as well as anxiety. A calcium deficiency can cause a person to experience joint pain, nervousness, irritability, anxiety, sensitivity to noise, heart palpitations, insomnia and muscle cramps.

Unfortunately, when your body is under stress it uses up vitamins and minerals more quickly including calcium and magnesium, along with B-vitamins and Vitamin C.

Sugar, refined carbohydrates, coffee and alcohol, salt and vinegar all interfere with calcium absorption and should be limited.

To help increase your intake of magnesium it’s beneficial to consume foods such as black beans, Swiss chard, spinach, avocados, pumpkin seeds, and whole grains such as quinoa. Whereas incorporating broccoli, almonds, kale, salmon, or sardines can help boost your calcium intake. 

  1. Support A Healthy Gut

Growing research has been showing the gut microbiome plays a role in a wide range of neurological conditions, including Autism Spectrum Disorder, chronic pain, stress, Alzheimer’s disease, and Parkinson’s disease as well as depression and anxiety (4).

Research has also found that “good” gut bacteria can have a marked effect on GABA levels in the brain (a neurotransmitter that is involved in regulating anxiety, digestion, sleep and relaxation), which can reduce anxiety and elevate mood (5). So supporting healthy gut function can play an important role in supporting your mental health.

Dietary fiber supports the growth of positive intestinal bacteria that are critical to maintain proper digestion. One study found the diversity in the gut microbiome was based on the variety of fruits and vegetables in a person’s diet and that the microbial composition of the gut can be rapidly altered with dietary changes. This is great news!

To help support your mental health through optimizing your gut microbiome, consume a variety of fruits and vegetables, as well as other high fiber foods such as milled flax seeds, legumes, and whole grains. There are plenty of benefits to fermented foods such as kefir (dairy or non-dairy), sauerkraut, miso, and kimchi, and some folks choose to incorporate a probiotic into a supplementation program to boost good gut bacteria even further.

The other option to support a relaxed and clam state of mind is supplementing with GABA. Research shows that GABA helps to calm the mind and promote a sense of relaxation.

For more info on the gut-mood connection, check out our article.

  1. Exercise

Working out helps to release endorphins, which are “feel good chemicals” that act as a natural pain relievers, boost mood, burn off our stress hormones, help maintain a healthy weight, enable better sleep and help to stabilize mood and reduce anxiety. Exercise can also help to reduce fatigue, anger and tension associated with anxiety.

Although there might seem to be huge barriers to exercise – with gyms closed, kids at home, ski hills closed, and so on – there are a ton of great options for workout routines that you can do at home, even with kids! There are Avenger workouts, Pokemon yoga, dancing workouts, or indoor runs on the Wii! Although it might not be the typical exercise that you’re used to, it is a way to keep you (and your kids!) active.

Go out for family walks, nature hikes, sledding, skating, snow shoeing, or cross-country skiing. Plus, there are a plethora of apps and online workouts at your fingertips!

Our best advice is to create a schedule to establish consistency with exercise. Maybe getting up earlier to have some quiet time to exercise while everyone is sleeping could be the ideal workout time for you, or maybe you feel most energized after dinner. Whatever works for your life right now – just be sure to squeeze in some time to move your body! Your mind will thank you!

In Summary

If you or someone you love is struggling with anxiety, depression, or high stress – we would love to assist you in rebalancing mood through diet and lifestyle changes. Balancing blood sugar levels, increasing your intake of calcium and magnesium, supporting gut health, and committing to exercise are great places to start!

Plus you can follow us on Facebook or Instagram for more tips, or book an appointment today for one-on-one support!

References

  1. MHCC, 2020a
  2. MHCC, 2020a;Morneau Shepell, 2020; Pfefferbaum & North, 2020; Vigo, Patten & Pajer, 2020
  3. Angus Reid Institute, 2020
  4. Mayer EA, et al. 2014
  5. American Society for Microbiology, 2012

 

 

 

Why Your Child May Be A Picky Eater

Why Your Child May Be A Picky Eater

Why is My Child a Picky Eater? Koru Nutrition

As a mom it is not uncommon to get frustrated with your kid’s fussy eating patterns. However for moms with kids on the autism spectrum picky eating is an even more common issue.

You may think your child is just being stubborn and unreasonable at mealtime, but there are actually a number of biochemical reasons why a child might have a very limited repertoire of foods that they will consume or are refusing to eat certain meals altogether. In fact, a child’s picky eating could be based on a number of reasons, including:

  • sensory issues
  • oral motor problems
  • nutrient deficiencies
  • anxiety
  • food addictions/cravings
  • chemical addicitions to additives, preservatives and colourings

Food Addictions

Children often become “addicted” to foods that their body has difficulty processing. When certain, specific, “addicted” food proteins enter the blood stream, the body creates a compound that mimics the effect of morphine. Common foods that may cause this effect include dairy and gluten as they can create opiate-like response in the brain, making the child feel good in the short term. Unfortunately, that opiate-like response causes the child to restrict other foods to help fuel the addictive cycle and creates very picky eating.

Fear/Anxiety of New food

Being nervous about consuming a new food is a common developmental step in children between the ages of 2 to 3, but if this continues after this then there maybe an underlying issue such as oral motor issue, sensnory issue, or anxiety. One study identified that caregivers tried offering a new food a maximum of 3-5x before deciding that the child disliked it. However, the research shows that a caregiver needs to provide many more repeated exposures up to 8-15 times before the child would accept the new food. (Carruth, Ruth, Ziegler, Gordon, Barr, 2004). So, persevere it might not be enough exposures before the child feels comfortable consuming it.

Nutrient Deficiencies

Zinc is a nutrient that helps increase the sense of taste, smell and appetite. If your child has a nutrient deficiency, food may taste bad or bland, which can take away the pleasure of eating. A Survey of parent’s rating the efficacy with supplementing identified that austistic symptoms improved in 54% of children when the child was supplemented with zinc. It is recommended that blood tests be done to dtermine if there is a defeciencey before considering supplementing with zinc, but if that can not be done then taking a children’s multivitamin with a smaller dose might be a step in the right direction. Foods high in zinc to incorporate into the diet include: mushrooms, spinach, grass fed beef, lamb, summer squash, shrimp, pumpkin seeds, pumpkin seed oil, broccoli and sesame seeds.

Addictions to Chemicals (MSG, artificial additives)

Artificial food additives are often consumed in a typical Standard American Diet diet which consists mainly of processed foods that have a long shelf life. Addictions to these chemicals can cause restriction to specific brands or a large preference for processed foods. Addictions to salicylates, amines or glutamates can lead to a focus on foods high in these food chemicals, such as a diet high in fruit or fruit juice, tomato sauce, ketchup, and/or soy sauce (as examples), and avoidance of other food not high in them. MSG, in particular is neurodegenerative and contains glutamate that can excite the brain making the food taste more palatable, so subsequently the child craves that food. Removing these processed foods from your child’s diet may cause some withdrawal symptoms in the short-term, but the pay-off will be well worth it in the long-term with improvements in behaviors and mood

Yeast, Viral and Microbial Overgrowth

in the gut can cause a child to gravitate toward high carbohydrate foods such as breads, pizza, pasta and sugar-based foods. Refined grains such as white bread, pizza and pasta are broken down in the body quickly (due to minimal fiber content which would slow the release down) into glucose. These pathogens thrive on glucose to help them proliferate and flourish. These “bad” or “opportunistic bacteria and microbes” in the gut can affect your child’s brain chemistry causing them to crave refined carbohydrates and sugar, which as a result can lead to avoidance of other foods.

 

Helpful Strategies

  1. Make food fun! You can create pictures on the plate with food and create stories from it.
  2. Get your child involved in the grocery shopping, meal preparation or even in growing foods at home. This can build comfort and familiarity with the food and a sense of accomplishment
  3. Remember you need to expose your child to a new food 8-15 times before they may accept this into their diet. So keep trying!
  4. Don’t get anxious or hung up on the outcome when trying new foods. Kids sense stress and anxiety and will feed on this and not the food.
  5. Sneaking or hiding foods inside other foods can be either a benefit or a detriment, depending on the child. Most childrem prefer to eat foods they are familiar, so pureeing vegetables inside muffins, pancakes, meatballs, or pasta sauce may sneak in a bit of extra nutrition undetected. However, for some children with severe difficulty feeding, this strategy may cause them to lose trust or refuse a previously accepted food because there was something different about it. Hiding new foods or trouble foods inside other recipes is only recommended if that is a strategy has worked before or parents feel confident it won’t be a problem.

If you would like more information on this or would like to speak to one of our nutritionists specialized in working with kids on the autism spectrum please contact us.