Nutrition for Carers

Tuesday 08 May 2018

I wanted to talk about how as carers, you can try and support yourselves nutritionally. This is often overlooked, but is really important as your body too will be experiencing the effects of stress. The information in this blog is designed to look at the nutrients to include in your diet to help nourish your body, and also practical tips on how to achieve this.

The first place to start when looking at supporting your body, is to think about stabilising your blood sugar levels. This can be achieved by not letting yourself get too hungry, and also managing your intake of simple carbohydrates, (such as white bread, white rice, cakes, biscuits etc.) and simple sugars.

When your blood sugar dips (often a rebound from blood sugar highs), this promotes the release of adrenal hormones, as do stimulants such as caffeine and nicotine. The more stress hormones are produced, the more symptoms of stress we might experience. Whilst we might not always be able to control the amount of external stress we are experiencing, managing the amount of internal stress in our body can be more easily achieved.

The mineral chromium helps to even out blood sugar by making you more sensitive to insulin – that’s the hormone that keeps blood sugar level even. It is particularly effective in those with symptoms of depression associated with sugar cravings, feeling tired and oversensitive. Good food sources include broccoli, barley, oats, green beans, tomatoes, lettuce and black pepper.

Eating a diet rich in fresh fruit and vegetables will ensure you absorb plenty of nutrients and minerals, which is crucial when your body is feeling stressed. Aim to try and eat at 8 to 10 portions of fruit and vegetables a day for a sufficient amount of vitamins and minerals, and focus on foods containing vitamins B, C and magnesium.

  • B vitamins - Found in bananas, leafy greens, nuts, seeds, meat, fish and dairy products - these provide the body with energy after a period of stress.
  • Vitamin C - The largest store of vitamin C lies in the adrenal glands, which are responsible for the production of stress hormones. Keep these healthy by eating plenty of vitamin C rich foods such as oranges, tomatoes, peppers, leafy greens and broccoli.
  • Magnesium - This mineral can help to relax muscles and reduce anxiety, while also playing an essential role in hormone and energy production. Nuts - particularly Brazil nuts - are high in magnesium, as are beans and lentils, wholegrains and leafy greens.

I have previously spoken about a really informative book called ‘How to eat Better’ by James Wong. If you haven’t already bought it, I really recommend that you do. It is very easy to follow, giving top tips on how to super boost the nutrient content of the fruits and vegetables you eat, even if you would struggle to increase the amount you are eating. By simply changing the season you are eating produce or the variety of what you are eating, you can dramatically change your intake of essential nutrients. This can make a huge difference to your body at cellular level.

When you are caring for someone with ill health, it can be a struggle to try and find time to eat a balanced diet yourself. Over the years, people I work with have found different ways to do this. Some find making a smoothie in the morning helpful as it takes seconds to do and is then something then can sip on throughout the morning – You could make a smoothie using blueberries, avocado, Oatley (milk alternative), Tahini (sesame seed paste), and a small amount of xyitol for some sweetness. This will provide you with all the essential nutrients you need in one meal.

Other people find that batch cooking food can be really helpful, spending maybe one day a month cooking 5 or 6 different meals and then freezing individual portions in foil trays. This means for the following month they can simply take the frozen meal out of the freezer and just cook some vegetables with it, nourishing the body with little effort or preparation each day. Slow cooking soups and stews are also great cooking methods to add into your routine – these can be put on at a time of day that is convenient for you and cook slowly throughout the day – any surplus can then be frozen at the end of the day, ready for another meal.

Blog originally written by Caroline April 2018 

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