Feeling Stressed Out?
Summer is often portrayed as a relaxing break for us, and maybe in fairytale land, it is. But let's get real! If you are anything like our family, it can leave you feeling extremely overwhelmed, stressed out and exhausted. After all, the kids are out of school and your daily routine is suddenly turned upside down. The schedule you followed all school year is now long forgotten and you are trying to keep the kids busy and happy in between your career and other responsibilities. Often you are left feeling like the maid and the taxi driver, not to mention the travel planner. Don't forget your duties of juggling several different camp schedules and play dates. So much for summer fun...right?
Maybe not, when you feel stress kick in, besides taking a few minutes to breathe deep and remove yourself from the situation, there are specific foods that you can eat to help you overcome the effects of mental and physical stress on the body and feel a bit calmer.
Under situations of high stress, our body releases the hormone, cortisol, which is known to cause a wide array of health challenges including weight gain, high blood pressure, cholesterol, lower immune function and bone density and also interfere with learning and memory. It is critical to the long-term health of our body to keep cortisol levels under control. Foods high in Vitamin C, such as bell peppers, are a great way to add extra vitamin C to help combat the effects of cortisol on the body.
Other great additions to your diet are lemons, limes, oranges, and grapefruits.
Another effect of stress on our body is a depletion of magnesium, which is critical to more than 300 biochemical reactions in the body. Replacing that additional loss of magnesium is vitally important to our body to support our nerve and muscle function, immune system, heart, blood sugar levels and energy. Spinach is a great way to do this as it is high in magnesium.
As an addedWal bonus, it is high in folate which helps the body to produce serotonin and dopamine which are feel good hormones in the body and assist in regulating your mood.
Fluctuating blood sugar can wreak havoc on your mood and stress levels leaving you feeling cranky and out of sorts. It is important to keep blood sugar stable throughout the day for mood stability and also to kick cravings to the curb. Avocado is a powerhouse for both of these given its high-fat content leaving your feeling satiated.
Not only can this powerhouse help reduce cortisol levels, it has a key ingredient that is proven to help reduce depressive symptoms. Lycopene which is highest when tomatoes are cooked helps with depressive symptoms and inflammation. Eat up!
Walnuts and Oily Fish
You've likely heard of Omega-3's before and both of these foods are high in them. Omega-3's can help regulate your hormones and your mood. Make sure you are getting your daily dose. Salmon (wild caught) is our favorite fish and is easy to prepare and very versatile. As an added bonus, salmon is high in zinc which also becomes depleted during stress. Zinc is important for proper function of the immune and nervous systems.
High in both Magnesium and Zinc, a few bites of dark chocolate can help replace what is lost during times of stress. But, don't over do it! Chocolate is not a health food and should not be consumed on a regular basis or in large quantities. It is still candy!
Sesame Seeds & Tahini
Sesame seeds and tahini (ground sesame paste) are also high in Zinc. You can eat them raw, toasted or ground into tahini and still receive the benefits.
Fitting These Foods Into Your Day
- Pack sliced bell peppers and hummus (which includes tahini) for lunch or a snack
- Make roasted bell peppers stuffed with quinoa and spinach for dinner and top with some tomato sauce
- Add spinach, avocado, walnuts &/or cocoa powder to your morning smoothie
- Add citrus fruits to your morning smoothie
- Replace cheese in your omelet with avocado
- Add spinach and bell pepper to your omelet
- Top your salad with some walnuts, avocado and orange slices
- Grill some fresh salmon or put in a foil packet to cook with a squeeze of lemon juice
Life can be stressful and it is okay to feel anxious and overwhelmed. That is just a natural part of the world we live in. The trick is knowing what to do about it and the foods we consume can play a critical role in protecting and healing our body from the effects of chronic stress.
Take it from someone whose normal lifestyle was taken away for 18 months due to the severe effects of chronic stress on my body. Food was a critical component to heal the damage that had been done. Do your best to breathe deep and eat well! Your body will thank you with improved health and well being.