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My name is Kristen Pardue, and I am a small town girl from southern Illinois who grew up in a farming community. I obtained my bachelors degree in dietetics and nutrition from the University of Mississippi. The month after I graduated from college, I married a southern gentleman from Birmingham, Alabama and moved to Nashville to continue pursuing my career as a dietitian. Nashville is an amazing city, and I couldn't think of a better place to live!

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H ealthy Table*

Managing Food and Mood
By Kristen Pardue - The Dietetic Internship Program at Vanderbilt

How do you respond to a bad mood or a stressful situation? If you responded "grab something to eat," then we have something in common! My name is Kristen and I'm a twenty something health professional who is newly married and starting a career as a dietitian. Staying healthy means taking care of myself every day: being active and making smart food choices. I look for ways to respond to stress that won't make me feel guilty the next day! Enjoy these tips for managing food and mood!

* "Stress hormones have an arch enemy: omega-3 fatty acids, which are found in salmon, tuna, and mackerel. They also protect against heart disease."

The key to managing food and mood is putting the right foods in your mouth, which can actually calm you down. Over time stress can increase your risk for high blood pressure, heart disease, and obesity. Check out these FIVE smart foods to decrease stress and reduce the damage that chronic pressure puts on your body.

Photo Oatmeal: A bowl of warm oatmeal is a comfort food that causes your brain to produce more serotonin, a calming brain chemical. "Because thick, hearty oatmeal is high in fiber, few things take longer for your stomach to digest," says Elizabeth Somer, M.A., R.D., author of Food & Mood. Other complex carbohydrates such as whole-grain breakfast cereals, breads, and pastas can help you feel balanced by stabilizing blood sugar levels.

Photo Fatty Fish: Stress hormones have an arch enemy: omega-3 fatty acids, which are found in salmon, tuna, and mackerel. They also protect against heart disease.

Photo Avocados are packed full of potassium; half of one contains more potassium than a banana! According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, one of the best ways to reduce high blood pressure is to get enough potassium.

Photo Spinach contains magnesium, which also lowers your stress levels. According to studies performed by Harvard Medical School and USDA's Agricultural Research Service, the lack of magnesium can cause migraine headaches and make you feel tired. One cup of spinach provides 40% of your recommended daily value.

Photo Almonds, pistachios, and walnuts are loaded with vitamin E, an antioxidant that helps the immune system. Almonds also contain B vitamins, which help your body during unpleasant events. A 2007 Penn State study led by Dr. West found that eating one and a half ounces (about a handful) of pistachios a day lowers blood pressure so your heart doesn't have to work overtime. "Walnuts have also been found to lower blood pressure, both at rest and under stress," West says. Start today by adding a handful of these nuts to oatmeal, salads, or cereal.

With these stress-fighting foods, you can knock out that winter stress. Keep these foods in your kitchen so that when the tension rises, you can eat instead of freak.

References: www.webmd.com and www.womenshealth.com