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January, 2010

Plan with Produce

By Mark Mulcahy

Stressed out? Plan with produce.

The New Year can be a time of great optimism for many of us, as we look forward to –
• Finding a new job
• Losing some weight
• Starting an exercise program
• Changing our eating patterns

But for others, it can very stressful, as they have to deal with things like –
• Being unable to pay their rent or mortgage
• Feeling stuck in a job you don't like
• Having a spouse or partner who expects too much of them or doesn't understand them
• Having a child who isn't doing well in school
• Acting as a family caregiver for someone in poor health

And when you are under a lot of stress it can have an affect on how you eat.

A recent study from the University of California, San Francisco, questioned more than 600 overweight or obese women about their eating habits and what caused them chronic stress. Researchers found that those with greater chronic stress in their lives (such as the things mentioned above) were more likely to eat high fat foods and also felt that they lacked control over their eating and hunger. Researchers also noted that people who lived with chronic stress tended to use more rigid dietary practices such as vowing to avoid fattening foods and skipping meals to control their weight. Though this may seem to make sense to them, researchers have found that these types of decisions ultimately lead to more weight gain. So what can someone do who is feeling this way? Perhaps produce can be of help. If you know you have a tendency to want sweeter or fattening foods during particularly stressful times then choose produce that can satisfy these cravings but provide a healthier alternative instead of denying the feelings. Jenny Brewer of www.nourishingnutrition.com recommends starting with a plan. Plan your shopping, plan your meals, and plan ahead so you can be ready to make a healthy choice. Melissa’s produce can help. Buy items that provide a good substitute for less healthy items.

Looking for fat? Choose an avocado with a low-fat cracker. The creamy texture and oily flavor of the avocado satisfies your desire for fat. Even a baked potato with a small amount of butter provides a better choice than other fattening foods. Looking for sweet? Try a Medjool date or a Melissa’s organic sweet potato. Complex carbohydrates keep you going during the day. How about a Fuji apple or a tangerine, to satisfy the craving and fill you up? No, they are not ice cream or chocolate, but they can satisfy a sweet tooth in a pinch. If you are looking for foods that help fight stress, produce can help there as well. Check out these five stress-fighting super foods I found in an article I read in a recent copy of Self Magazine. Spinach

Spinach
Spinach is loaded with magnesium, and magnesium has been shown to reduce the effects of stress on the body by stopping blood pressure from spiking. According to the article, three cups of spinach supply 40 percent of your daily magnesium. So why not make a Melissa’s spinach salad for lunch, or include it in your favorite wrap? It goes great in egg scrambles, or sautéed with other veggies and served with rice.

Oranges and other citrus
A study from Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh found that healthy people who were exposed to cold viruses were more likely to get sick if they were under pressure. The study found that even a brief bout of stress or tension can influence your immune system, so that’s where oranges and other citrus can come in because the vitamin C in citrus bolsters your body's natural immune defenses so you can stay well even in stressful times. This time of year is when your citrus selection is almost unlimited, and it is the perfect time to add Melissa’s grapefruit to your breakfast, oranges for lunch, Organic Orangesand tangerines for an after dinner treat.

Chocolate
Even though you probably shouldn’t always reach for sweets when you’re stressed, a little chocolate can help. You see, cocoa can boost certain neurochemical levels, which help produce a sense of happiness and relaxation. So perhaps a small square of dark chocolate and a Melissa’s organic apple in the afternoon may be help you to get through a tough workday.

Fish
We all know that fish such as salmon and tuna are high in Omega-3 fatty acids, but did you know that Omega-3 fatty acids from fish could actually help suppress anxiety? Wow, it sounds like a nice fish dinner with lots of Melissa’s steamed organic broccoli on the side can make a huge difference during a stressful time.

Oatmeal
As I may have mentioned in past columns, I eat oatmeal for breakfast nearly every morning. Originally it was to help with cholesterol but then it turns out that it is because I liked it with cut up apples, tasty pecans and blueberries. So now I look forward to it every day. But I found another reason in the article to appreciate oatmeal; apparently the B vitamins in oats stimulate production of serotonin, a key neurotransmitter that sends soothing signals to your brain. No wonder I feel so good going to work. So when times are stressful in your life, buy Melissa’s organic produce to have handy so you can make a better choice when the moment to munch strikes. Little steps can make a big difference and produce can be a perfect partner on the road to a less stressful day.