When speaking to clients about their concerns, one of the first questions I ask is “What stresses you out?” It is amazing how many people come up with three primary answers. Money, job and caring for children and/or elderly parents or sick loved one. Very few people stop to consider the effects of this stress on their own health until symptoms occur.
Stress is a contributing factor in many illnesses from headaches to heart disease, immune deficiencies, anxiety disorders and digestive problems.
I run a very demanding business that involves long hours and a large energy output. This type of lifestyle can push my adrenals to produce stress hormones. Before I was a nutritionist, I would have devoured a pint of ice cream and a row of cookies to cope, but now I have an amazing arsenal of relaxing and healing foods to help me to get through any challenge.
Eating refined sugars and flours can inhibit the production of your brain’s natural pleasure chemicals, but healthy whole foods are packed with the nutrition your brain needs to produce a positive, calm and more alert state that leads to a happier and less stressful life.
Foods That Fight Stress:
1. Add carob for a chocolate flavour and extra minerals: Carob contains high amounts of essential minerals like calcium and magnesium, both of which are required for the proper contraction and subsequent relaxation of muscles. Magnesium also supports adrenal function and inhibits the release of adrenalin, the hormone that contributes to the feelings associated with stress. (1)
2. Boost your vitamin B6 with an avocado: Vitamin B6 is necessary for the creation of steroid hormones, including those that are released during periods of stress. (2) States of excess stress could cause a depletion of vitamin B6 stores, which could cause other hormonal imbalances and additional internal stressors.
3. Crunch on raw red bell peppers to boost immunity and fight stress: Red bell peppers are packed full of vitamin C, which can reduce cortisol (stress hormone) levels in the blood. The benefit of vitamin C is two-fold because it also improves your ability to fight infections, which people tend to be more susceptible to during periods of high stress. (3)
4. Decrease anxiety by increasing your fish intake: EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) are two major components of the omega fats found in fish oils. (4) Including adequate amounts of these fats in the diet has been shown to decrease episodes of anxiety and even anger in adults. Just remember to choose sardines, anchovies and other fish that are low on the food chain to avoid pollutants like mercury.
5. Eat turkey to take the edge off: Tryptophan is the amino acid that is often blamed for the “Thanksgiving coma,” but it’s also present in high levels in beef, poultry, salmon and shrimp. (5) When tryptophan is transported to the brain, it has the ability to convert into serotonin to reduce anxiety and stress, as well as into melatonin, which aids in stress-related insomnia.