Nutrition for Stress Management

Stress is an issue that has come up with a lot of my clients lately. Whether it’s causing obvious symptoms like sleep disruption and weight gain or internal issues with the digestive and nervous systems – it can take a toll on us if we don’t manage it properly.  It is really important to understand stress, how are body reacts to it, and the harmful long-term effects it causes.

Let’s face it  – with everything going on in our lives it is hard not to experience stress in some form. Even if we aren’t physically or emotionally feeling stressed, our bodies may be experiencing it internally. I wanted to touch on nutrients that are crucial for reversing the bad effects stress has and also explain a little what is actually happening when we experience it.

When the body is under stress, vitamins and minerals are quickly utilized to try and achieve balance within. Overtime this causes us to be depleted of crucial vitamins needed to function, specifically magnesium, potassium, and calcium. Zinc, omega-3 fatty acids, and proteins are also used more rapidly during the stress response. It is important that we eat foods rich in these vitamins and minerals to help our body cope with and also eliminate excess stress and avoid the harmful long term effects of stress (weight gain, cardiovascular disease, diabetes).

B Vitamins are also crucial for our bodies to both deal with and prevent feelings of stress and anxiety. They help support the nervous system and are used at a higher rate during periods of stress.  Vitamins A and E are great antioxidants that protect the body against free radical damage, which stress increases. A high amount of antioxidants in our diet can help the body better manage in high stress situations.

By incorporating the proper foods, we can help our body to manage stress, which will also help with digestive issues, heart disease, anxiety, and weight gain (our bodies hold on to food and store as fat, specifically shown in the mid-section when stressed).

 

Therapeutic Benefits of Food

There are a wide variety of foods that contain therapeutic benefits which help to keep stress levels at a minimum. As I mentioned, when the human body is experiencing high levels of stress, the adrenals are producing too much cortisol and adrenaline. During this process crucial vitamins and minerals are depleted from the body, along with other negative physiological side effects. It is important to make sure there are sufficient amounts of potassium, calcium and magnesium in the foods we eat, to not only replenish but also to maintain an adequate amount for when we experience stress.

Protein, vegetables, healthy fats and fruits are the most important food categories needed in a diet to enhance mood and eliminate stress. Also, complex carbohydrates are beneficial due to the slow absorption of sugar into our blood and the release of the hormone serotonin.

Protein is crucial in maintaining and building neurotransmitters, which are located in the brain and send out positive feelings. The neurotransmitters can only be made out of a few of the twenty-two amino acids. It is recommended that a person has 20-30 grams of protein in each meal. Out of all proteins, fish is considered one of the best sources. This is because most contain all twenty-two amino acids, are easy to digest, and contain many crucial vitamins.

imagesIt is important to eat a lot of fatty fish, nuts and seeds that contain Omega 3 fatty acids , which suppress the cortisol and adrenaline levels. Fish also contain minerals such as calcium, magnesium and potassium, which are all lost during times of high-stress.  I try and incorporate fish often because of the high amounts of EPA and DHA combined, which is not found in plant sources of Omega 3 (where ALA is more apparent). However, in both plant and marine sources, omega 3s play a significant role in reducing stress. The fatty acid is extremely supportive in a healthy cardiovascular system, has cancer-fighting properties, and supports the immune system.

Stress also causes our bodies to become too acidic. A diet high in alkalinizing vegetables and fruits will help maintain balance and keep the body at optimal functioning level. Many vitamins and minerals that are important in fighting and correcting stress-induced disease and health issues are found in vegetables and fruits.

Vitamin E and C are important antioxidants needed to combat the possible diseases brought on by stress, such as cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure and a hindered immune system. B vitamins are essential in fighting stress, they also help convert L-tryptophan to serotonin “the feel good hormone.” A biochemical effect of stress is a depleted stock of serotonin, the hormone that makes you feel relaxed and in control. Another way to boost serotonin levels is to increase your intake of complex carbohydrates. Great examples of complex carbohydrates are quinoa, millet, amaranth, oatmeal and barley. The slower your body absorbs carbohydrates, the more steadily the flow of serotonin. Folic acid (helps to stabilize mood) and zinc are important to reduce stress.

What to incorporate:

  • Seeds/nuts : pistachios, pumpkin seeds, walnuts, and almonds are a great snack to travel with on the go (high amounts of healthy fats, potassium, magnesium and iron)
  • Raw veggies such as celery, carrots, and red pepper are always a good option with a lot of stress reducing properties. Eat them with any nut butter, tahini or hummus for protein source
  • Foods high in omega 3s such as flaxseed, fish, avocado
  • Foods high in B vitamins
  • Foods high in vitamins A and C, folic acid, magnesium
  • Calcium rich foods : sesame seeds, yogurt, spinach, dark leafy greens
  • Anti-inflammatory foods/herbs such as ginger and turmeric

Best food choices: avocados, dark leafy greens, flaxseeds, sesame seeds, red pepper, sweet potatoes, fish, lean beef, pumpkin seeds, nuts, bananas, blueberries, rolled oats, quinoa, barley, millet, amaranth

Aside from incorporating these healthy foods into your daily diet, it’s also a good idea to do yoga, meditate, and get adequate amounts of sleep each night. Herbal teas are great too, try stress relieving teas such as chamomile, kava kava, st. john’s wort, and lavender. Start small and make little changes each day. Your body will thank you 🙂

hydrate, cleanse and debloat: simple flavored water

We all know drinking lots of water throughout the day is important for so many reasons – to hydrate, flush out toxins, regulate digestion, for heathy skin… the list goes on.

However, sometimes sipping plain old H2O can get a little boring. By using these simple ingredients you can add loads of flavor without additional sugars and calories of store bought flavored water. My favorite combination is cucumber, lemon, ginger and mint.  Not only do these ingredients add delicious flavor- they offer so many health benefits.images-1

Lemon- lemon is a powerful cleanser and also helps to alkalize your body. Lemon also contains Vitamin C, which will help boost immunity.

Ginger – ginger contains many anti-inflammatory properties. It also helps aid in digestion, settle your stomach, and helps with flushing out toxins.

Mint – mint is a natural stimulant, which helps soothe the digestive tract. It also stimulates the digestive enzymes that absorb nutrients from food and consume fat and convert it into energy. Therefore, it is helping you convert the food you consume to energy rather than storing it as fat. As a natural stimulant, mint is known to naturally combat fatigue and help to recharge your batteries.

Cucumber- cucumber has many detoxifying, antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory properties. It also adds a refreshing taste and leaves you feeling refreshed and hydrated.

Thinly slice 1/2 a the cucumber, ginger (as much as you desire) and a lemon or two. Add in a few sprigs of mint and add all ingredients to a pitcher of water and let sit overnight. Sip throughout the day.

Summer’s Bounty

Did you know some of our staple summer produce holds some of the most nutritious vitamins? Here they are right in front of us, in bulk, at our grocery stores and farm stands! They are as fresh as can be and less expensive compared to the colder months. Now that we have all of these fresh and nutritious options at our finger tips lets gobble them in before it’s too late! Some things to keep in mind when buying produce is to consider organic. We can understand that buying 100% organic can be expensive. The “Dirty Dozen List” is a list of fruits and vegetables that are at the top 12 pesticide infested fruits and vegetables, and therefore should be priority when choosing which foods to purchase organic.  Going organic for these 12 are definitely worth your pretty penny!

The Dirty Dozen

Apples Strawberries Grapes Celery Peaches

Spinach

Sweet bell peppers Nectarines Cucumbers Potatoes Cherry tomatoes

Hot peppers

If there is produce available that is organic and locally grown, that’s a double whammy! Buying local doesn’t only benefit you, but the people around you. Your produce will taste better if it is locally grown because it doesn’t have to go through being picked before being ripe and shipping. Local food also promotes energy conservation by decreasing our carbon foot print by traveling miles to grocery stores. Buying local helps local farmers and builds the community as a whole.

One of my favorite summer fruits are BLUEBERRIES. I could go through a carton all by myself, no shame. Blueberries are low in fat with only 80 calories per serving. They are also full of dietary fiber, which helps keep your body regular during digestion, keeps our heart healthy and keeps our cholesterol in check. Blueberries are packed with antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties that help with cardiovascular disease, cancer and other age related diseases. These small little blueberries carry a lot of Vitamin C on their shoulders; Vitamin C helps with collagen formation, maintains healthy gums and capillaries and boosts that immune system. Manganese can also be found in blueberries which aids with bone development and with converting proteins, carbs and fats into energy. Who would have thought blueberries came with such a punch?!

Nothing says summer like a juicy peach. Taking the first bite of a perfectly ripened peach is a force to be reckoned with. You are bound to get peach juice all over your cheeks and then it starts to drip down your hand and then it somehow ends up on your lap, but…it’s all worth it. When there is nothing but the pit left you could go in for another peach. Not only are they delicious this time of year, they benefit our bodies. Peaches contribute to our eye health because they have beta carotene in them which improves eye vision by increasing circulation of blood. Peaches can make our skin glow! They are packed with Vitamin C, which can help with dark circles and wrinkles. Hallelujah. Peaches are a rich source of antioxidants and fiber. Antioxidants help with the immune system and fiber keeping our digestion regular.

watermelonA slice of watermelon is always a special treat during the summer because we all know winter watermelon and summer watermelon don’t even compare. Watermelon helps with cardiovascular and bone health because it improves blood flow and  it’s also rich in potassium which holds onto calcium in the body, therefore promotes healthy strong bones. Watermelon is known to reduce body fat with its partner citrulline that reduces the accumulation of fat in our fat cells. Along with the other fruits, watermelon contains anti-inflammatory and antioxidant support.

 These are just a few of summer’s special treats to us. Whenever you feel a sweet tooth craving come in, give in with fresh fruit! Looking for something a little more complex on your tastebuds? Check out some simple healthy recipes using our favorite summer treasures!

 

Blueberry Peach Cobbler 

Ingredients

  • 5 lb peaches, pitted and sliced
  • 2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1 cup organic cane  sugar or coconut sugar, divided
  • 3/8 tsp salt, divided
  • 6 3/4 oz plus 2 tbsp 100% whole wheat flour, divided (or brown rice flour for GF + 1/4 tsp xantham gum)peach
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 cup organic butter or EarthBalance soy-free vegan butter, softened
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup lowfat buttermilk (or dairy free with 1/2 tsp lemon juice)
  • 2 cups fresh blueberries
  • 2 tbsp turbinado sugar

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 375.
  2. In a large bowl, toss peaches with lemon juice, 3/4 cup sugar, 1/8 tsp salt and 2 tbsp flour.  Arrange peaches in a 9×13-inch baking pan coated with cooking spray.
  3. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and remaining 1/4 tsp salt.  Place the butter and remaining 1/4 cup sugar in a the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and cream together until light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes on medium-high speed.  Add in the eggs, one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl after each addition.  Mix in the vanilla extract.  Add the flour and buttermilk, alternating between the two, starting and ending with the flour.  Stir in the blueberries.  Pour the batter over the peaches and spread evenly.  Sprinkle the top with the turbinado sugar.
  4. Place pan on a foil-lined baking sheet and bake for 1 hour or until topping is golden and filling is bubbly.

 

Watermelon Blueberry- Mint Popsicle 

Ingredients

  • 6 heaping cups diced seedless watermelon (or remove the seeds)
  • 3 tablespoons agave or honey
  • ½ tablespoon lime juice
  • ⅛ teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon minced mint leaves
  • ½ cup fresh blueberries

Instructions

  1. In a blender, puree watermelon along with sugar, lime juice, and salt until smooth.
  2. Add mint and blend briefly to finely mince the mint and get it mixed in.
  3. Pour puree into popsicle molds. (You should be able to make at least 10, but it will depend on the size of your molds.)
  4. Freeze until hard.

 

 

Can’t cool down this summer? Check out these Ayurvedic Cooling Foods + Recipes

It’s a hot one this summer!  The high temperatures are  really making up for this frigid winter we had here  in Philadelphia. Looking for some other ways to beat the heat besides hogging the closest AC units? We have some helpful tips and recipes to help keep you feeling cool from the inside out.

First, if you are filling up your glasses with more ice cubes than water, stop there!  Although it’s tempting, consuming ice cold drinks will make your body work harder in the digestion process. Working harder = more heat.  Room temperature water is the best choice for cooling yourself down while hydrating (add cucumbers and fresh mint for extra benefits and cooling properties!)

There are many foods that can help cool our bodies down through the summer months. You may or may not be familiar with Ayurvedic practices –  in short Ayurveda focuses on balancing the body’s systems through diet, herbs, yoga and breathing techniques. The dosha Pitta is associated with heat (among other properties) and its effects are greatly felt throughout the hot summer months. If you tend to experience heartburn, excess stomach acid, irritableness and/or skin breakouts you may be experiencing an aggravated Pitta. Be sure to incorporate the cooling foods listed below to help balance and cool your body from within.

SPOSTeasons play a large role in Ayuvedic practices as well, during which the foods we consume help to balance our doshas through out the year.  The following Ayurvedic cooling foods will help to lower our body temperature and help correct any Pitta related discomforts.

 

Ayurvedic Cooling Foods

Avocado         Cherries        Plums        Grapes       Pineapples      Peaches      Mangoes      Cilantro           Mint              Asparagus       Cucumbers          Sweet potatoes    Broccoli           Green leafy vegetables       Zucchini          Green beans          Almonds             Sunflower seeds  Coconut       Melons          Pomegranate     Apples          Pears          Dates      Figs

All of these foods are perfect for snacking alone or get creative and try them in a fun summer recipe. We provided a few of our favorites below. Enjoy 🙂

Hibiscus Tea with Lime
Ingredients
• 1 tablespoon dried hibiscus flowers
• 1 1/2 tablespoons honey
• 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
• Lime slices, for serving

Directions
Bring 2 cups water and the hibiscus to a boil in a small saucepan. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, 5 minutes. Strain and discard flowers. Let cool to room temperature. Before serving, stir in honey and lime juice and garnish with lime.

cool-drinks-mbd108831_vert

Melon, Mint + Cucumber Smoothie
Ingredients
• 1 cucumber, peeled and seeded
• 2 cups cantaloupe chunks (from about 1/4 large cantaloupe)
• 1 cup finely chopped kale or baby spinach leaves
• 1/4 cup fresh basil leaves
• 1/4 cup fresh mint leaves
• 3/4 cup plain unsweetened almondmilk
• 1 teaspoon honey (optional)
Blend until smooth.

Cool As A Cucumber Raita
Ingredients
• 1 cup fresh yogurt or coconut milk yogurt for dairy free version
• 1/4 cup cucumber, peeled and finely diced
• 1 tablespoon fresh ginger root, peeled and finely grated
• 1/8 teaspoon turmeric
• 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
• Salt to taste
• 1/4 cup fresh chopped coriander leaves
Simply combine all ingredients in a medium mixing bowl.

Sinfully Delicious Rice Pudding
Ingredients
• ¾ cup basmati rice, uncooked
• 3 cups cow’s milk
• 1/8 teaspoon saffron
• 15 cardamom seeds
• 3-5 tablespoons brown rice syrup, honey or maple syrup  (adjust for sweetness)
• Garnish: 2 teaspoons organic lemon peel, grated and 2 tablespoons toasted unsweetened shredded coconut

Directions
Wash the rice until the water is clear. Combine the rice, milk, saffron, and cardamom seeds in the top of a double boiler. Cover and cook (with water in the bottom or your double boiler) over low heat for 1 hour. While it is simmering, you can toast the coconut in a dry skillet if you like, unless you have happened upon a source of pre-toasted unsweetened coconut. It just takes a few minutes, stirring occasionally so it does not get too brown. Let it cool. When the rice is done, stir in the sweetener and top with lemon and coconut. Serve hot or cold.

Cantaloupe Smoothie
Ingredients
• 1/2 fresh ripe cantaloupe (feel free to add or combine any of your favorite melons)
• 1/2 cup water or almond milk
• 1/4 teaspoon coriander powder
Blend all ingredients together well in a blender.

Sivananda Yoga Cookie Recipe
Ingredients
• 2 cups rolled oats
• 1 cup  wholewheat (or spelt flour)
• 1/3 c brown sugar
• 1/3 c raisins
• 1/3 c nuts/ seeds/ dessicated coconut
• 1 1/2 tsp each of ground cinnamon and ginger
• 1/2 tsp nutmeg grated
• 1/2 tsp baking powder
• 6 oz oil or ghee
• 6 oz water

Directions
Preheat oven to 400F. Oil 2 baking sheets or use greaseproof paper. Combine dry ingredients in a bowl, add oil and mix. stir in enough water to make a firm texture. Take a ping pong ball sized amount and shape into cookie shape (about 10cm in diameter). Repeate with rest. Bake in oven for around 15 minutes until golden at edges. Cool on a wire rack. Try experimenting with adding goji berries, raw cocoa nibs etc.

Re-New Week Day 2: Cayenne and L-Glutamine

With processed foods, chemical & artificial additives, over use of antibiotics, and stress  no wonder our gut lining is increasingly weakened. Digestive discomfort and disorders are more prevalent today than ever before. The first and foremost preventative or corrective measure is a healthy diet –  lots of vegetables, super foods, fish and lean meat (best to avoid processed foods, sugars, excess dairy, limit OTC drugs and antibiotics).

However, aside from a clean diet it is also a good idea to introduce a daily probiotic.  A probiotic is mostly healthy bacterium that reduces harmful bacteria and helps prevent infections in the digestive tract as well as reducing inflammation. It is crucial to have a healthy digestive system, as 80% percent of your immune system is located in your gut. Symptoms of digestive disorders vary, from indigestion, bloat, constipation, candida, even depression and mood swings.

Seeing how important is to keep your digestion in top shape, there are other natural aids to help support gut health. The amino acid L- Glutamine is a wonderful supplement for a healthy stomach and digestive system.  It is one of my favorites to add to smoothies for all of its wide range of health benefits.

First, L-glutamine is known to dramatically strengthen the stomach lining. It provides cells in the digestive tract with a crucial source of energy which aids in development of new cells, as well as increases the absorption capability of existing cells.  L-Glutamine helps with water absorption in the gut, which in turn aids in hydrating the entire body. Always a plus!

Aside from assisting in healthy digestion and gut repair, L-Glutamine works as an inherent neurotransmitter, aiding in healthy brain function and memory recollection. It is greatly used by athletes, as it helps to rebuild muscle while simultaneously breaks down fat.  In addition L-glutamine is known to help regulate blood sugar levels, enhance immune performance and fight infection, speed metabolism and may even decrease sugar and alcohol cravings.

The best way to take L-Glutamine is in powder form, making it readily digested. Add recommended dosage in your morning smoothie or juice and enjoy all of the wonderful health benefits it has to offer!

In addition to the daily probiotic, I added L-Glutamine to our smoothie today. I also added a serving of Spirulina, one of my favorite superfoods.    It is a micro-alga that has a high concentrate of protein, specifically made of essential amino acids.  Spirulina is great to add during our digestive restoration week, as it helps produce healthy stomach flora and  that repromote digestion. It is also has a high content of calcium, vitamins, nutrients and trace minerals, as well as iron and beta-carotene. Spirulina stimulates and boosts the immune system and detoxifies the body of pollutants and heavy metals. It is high in Chlorophyll, which purifies the blood, removing toxins from your system. Last but not least, it contains anti-inflammatory properties, may lower cholesterol, and even fight off allergies due to its histamine blocking effects.

Today’s Cucumber Melon Cayenne Smoothie contains loads of alkalizing vegetables and fruits, as well as the therapeutic spice- cayenne.    Cayenne is well-known for its digestive aid properties, among many other health benefits. It stimulates the digestive tract, which increases the flow of enzyme production, aiding is metabolizing food. It also reduces acid (very alkaline forming!), relieves gas and bloat, and helps digestion with absorption and elimination. It also aids in the digestive process by stimulating saliva. Cayenne also supports cardiovascular healthy, weight loss, natural detox, relieves joint pain and migraines, and has many anti-inflammatory, anti-allergen and ant-fungal properties. Cayenne is a great ant-flu and anti-cold agent as well, as it breaks down mucus and flushes from the body.

pepper

 

The importance of pH balance

All of our bodies have a pH level that determines the amount of acidity and alkalinity present in our system (pH balance refers to the levels in our body fluids and tissues). The acidity of foods, beverages, herbs, and spices are measured on a 14 point scale, zero being the highest amount of acidity, fourteen being the lowest, or alkaline.

Originally, alkaline is the body’s natural and pure state. However, many factors in today’s society contribute to an over acidic environment. These factors range from the abundance of processed foods, the overuse of antibiotics, the natural process of aging, and even stress. It is important for us to assist our body in creating and maintaining a healthy pH ratio of 70:30, alkaline to acid.

Most diseases, illnesses, and bad bacteria thrive in an over acidic environment. When pH levels are unbalanced, it is mostly in the case of being too acidic. This causes the body to borrow crucial minerals from organs, bones, and tissue to try and neutralize the acid and remove it from the body. Over acidity weakens all systems and can be seen in acute symptoms such as yeast/fungi overgrowth (candida among others), chronic fatigue, slow elimination, hormonal concerns, premature aging, free radical damage (may lead to cancerous mutations), weight gain, bladder and kidney damage such as kidney stones, diabetes, joint pain, and lactic acid build up.

Luckily for most of us, it is not too late to take measures and start making lifestyle changes to reduce the amount of acidity and create and maintain healthy pH levels. Even if we have a healthy ratio right now, it is just as important to maintain it through proper diet and lifestyle. Remember, preventative medicine is the best cure for all diseases!

The first step begins with diet. Below is a list of the levels of alkaline/acid foods. When in doubt about basic acid/alkaline properties of food remember that most vegetables, fruits, and herbs are alkaline forming. The most acidic foods (should be avoided) are processed flours and sugars, most dairy, soda, sugars, coffee, alcohol and harmful external toxins such as tobacco and over the counter medicine and drugs.
Refer to the charts below and use them as basic dietary guidelines.

acid-alkaline-food-chart1

“Note that a food’s acid or alkaline-forming tendency in the body has nothing to do with the actual pH of the food itself. For example, lemons are very acidic, however the end-products they produce after digestion and assimilation are very alkaline so lemons are alkaline-forming in the body. Likewise, meat
will test alkaline before digestion but it leaves very acidic residue in the body so, like nearly all animal products, meat is very acid-forming.” – http://www.naturalhealthschool.com

food_ph_chart600x643