You already know that the stress you experience can be caused by both internal as well as external influences. And you probably have found different ways of dealing with it, sometimes even mildly successfully! However, did you know that there is a natural way to manage it? It begins with your diet and knowing what you are putting in your body on a daily basis.
You may be skeptical at first. You may be wondering, can food really impact your mood in a meaningful way? According to Klara Mudge, functional medicine expert, the answer is yes. The secret lies in balancing your blood sugar effectively. This dietary strategy is simple: eat reasonable portions of fats and proteins at each meal, while avoiding excessive sugar consumption as much as you can. This way, not only will you lose the extra pounds and manage your weight better, but you will also keep your stress levels in check.
Why It Works
Your brain responds to situations it deems threatening by creating anxiety. This stress or anxiety is your body’s way of warning you that something is wrong and that you need to monitor and help rectify the problem. Excessively high or low blood sugar levels are deemed a threat by your brain, triggering it to create anxiety for you. By balancing blood sugar levels in the blood, you are protecting yourself from the stress associated with this trigger.
Unfortunately, when most of us are feeling stressed, we go straight for ‘comfort foods’ that typically lead to spikes in blood sugar levels followed by equally abrupt crashes. This rollercoaster puts your health at risk, both physically (renal deficiency, diabetes) and mentally (dementia, Alzheimer’s Disease). By threatening your health, the most valuable thing you have, you are initiating the stress response inside your body and increasing anxiety levels. So, in effect, your comfort food is actually your stressful food. Understanding and accepting this is key, but no small task.
Choosing to make healthier choices and reduce stress levels is very difficult when you have built a psychological relationship with certain foods over the years. Remember it’s important to pick your battles so that you can win the war. For example, my go-to comfort food choices have always been mac-n-cheese and ice cream. I have been able to replace mac-n-cheese with an alternative (whole wheat spaghetti with olive oil, generously sprinkled with feta) that now provides me the same comfort without many of the negative side effects associated with consuming white pasta, butter, and processed cheese. However, I will never try to replace ice cream! It simply can’t be done because I don’t want it to be done.
Check out the following ten foods to see which ones you can incorporate into your comfort foods menu. You will see an immediate difference in your stress levels simply by adding these to your diet for a week.
Coconut oil has been shown to improve and enhance cognitive function by nourishing your brain with the necessary elements it thirsts for: medium chain triglycerides. In general, consuming good fat is crucial to maintaining the balance in your system required to calm your appetite as well as your anxiety.
Sweet potatoes, brown rice, quinoa, beans, and lentils are also called “natural fast food” because they are high in fiber and carbohydrates that our body recognizes and knows how to metabolize. These carbs are full of minerals and nutrients such as B complex vitamins that help your body metabolize food easier giving you energy. Combining these carbs with some good fat and a little protein is even more effective.
Eggs are not only a source of full protein, but they also contain lecithin and choline, which are essential to the optimal function of the nervous system while also enhancing your memory. Choline, in particular, is a nutrient of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, which is constantly used for the motor and cognitive functions of the nervous system. Patients with Alzheimer’s disease all have decreased concentrations of acetylcholine in their bodies.
Walnuts and fish
Foods that are rich in omega 3 fatty acids, such as nuts, grains, salmon, and sardines, have been proven to naturally reduce stress levels.
Tea has been found to have powerful anti-anxiety properties. Tea contains theanine (L-theanine), an anti-stress compound, which adheres to GABA neurotransmitter receptors, causing changes in brain waves leading to relaxation. By replacing coffee with chamomile or green tea, you will not only be benefitting from tea’s anxiolytic properties, but you will also be avoiding a stimulant that wreaks havoc on your blood sugar levels and exacerbates the hormones of anxiety in the body.
Oysters and lentils
Zinc plays a major role in both the immune system and the nervous system. It is no coincidence that people suffering from stress and anxiety tend to have lower levels of zinc and higher copper levels. Foods that fight against the loss of zinc that causes stress are oysters, tahini, beef, and lentils.
Turkey meat is lean, but also full of tryptophan, an amino acid that relaxes us and helps us sleep easier.
Green leafy vegetables and chocolate
Our body uses magnesium in over 300 different biochemical reactions including neurotransmitter release and nerve function, while magnesium deficiency has been shown to enhance stress. Foods high in the magnesium required for your body to protect itself from stress include green vegetables, pumpkin seeds, almonds, avocado and dark chocolate.
Oats and linseed
This is just of the many benefits of eating oats. Oats are full of B-vitamins and high in fiber. You can effectively control blood sugar levels in your body by combining them with good fat and protein, such as almonds, walnuts, and flaxseeds.
Research proves that mental health is drastically improved when your gut is operating at its best. If it’s not, you risk developing a variety of mental health issues including stress and depression. Specifically, the probiotic Lactobacillus rhamnosus found in fermented foods and vegetables has been found to have a significant effect on GABA levels in certain brain regions and to lower the hormone corticosterone, resulting in reduced stress and anxiety.
Every bite either fights disease or causes it. Interested in learning how to use detox drinks and diets to shed excess weight and flush harmful toxins from your body? Check out whatdetox.com.