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 🙂

Tea : Powerful Health Benefits + Recipes for Energy, Stress-relief and Detox

Next to our number one hydration buddy, water, tea is the runner up on the most consumed beverage in the world. I love this statistic! Whether you like it for the taste, the endless health benefits, the comforting warmth or just the sophistication of having a cup of tea, there are plenty of health benefits as to why we should up our tea consumption. Eastern medicine has looked towards teas and herbs for centuries, and there are proven studies to show just how powerful these plants can be in health and longevity. The 5 most common teas are black, white, green, herbal and oolong. Each tea has its own special powers  – all benefitting our body in different and powerful ways.

Tea_in_different_grade_of_fermentation

Below we give a brief summary of the main benefits of the different popular types.

Looking and feeling younger is something that we all aspire  – white tea can give us a lift here. The properties of white tea can help inhibit the wrinkle process with its power of strengthening elastin and collagen. Goodbye crow’s feet and forehead wrinkles!

Black tea is shown to lower our blood pressure, decreasing out risk for a heart attack or stroke.

Green tea is our saving grace with its ability to increase the body’s ability to burn fat. Also, with weight loss, green tea is shown to increase our metabolisms, therefore making it easier to burn off calories faster. The antioxidants in green tea help our immune system put those free radicals to rest – fighting off cancer and other harmful disease. Green tea can also strengthen our bones.

Oolong tea is fragrant with a fruity hint that includes multiple benefits to our bodies. Oolong tea can help reduce heart disease, inflammatory issues and aids with high cholesterol levels. Many Eastern practices use this for weight loss as well.

Herbal teas have endless amounts of health properties and medicinal purposes.  Depending on what you need (stress relief, sleeping aid, energy booster) specific herbs blends in can be your cure-all in a cup. From detoxing, energy boosting, nausea reducing, skin healing, constipation, even helping mother with lactation and women with menstrual cycles, different herbal teas and blends can work wonders. Do some research on what you are looking for and go to your local loose leaf supplier for the cure  (instead of your pharmacy!) Make sure to contact your physician or an experienced herbalist when consuming large amounts or different herbals teas/blends (especially when pregnant).

Also, make sure you aren’t overdoing teas that contain caffeine (green, black, white and red). Caffeine is good in moderation but can also cause added anxiety, sleep disturbances and dehydration. Feel free to sip on most herbal teas all day though!

Now let’s get specific. What do we need? What does our body crave? Check out these 3 tea recipes: one for detox, energy and last but not least a stress reliever tea!

Ginger Turmeric Detox Tea Recipe
Ingredients:
• 2 inch knob of ginger
• 2-3 inch piece of turmeric root or substitute 2 tsp turmeric powder
• 1-2 dashes of cayenne (or you could juice 1/2 a habanero or jalapeño pepper)
o Circulatory stimulant: increases pulse of lymphatic and digestive rhythms
• 4 lemons (3 for juicing and 1 for slicing as a garnish)
• 3 droppers vanilla stevia
• 2 quarts waterginger_tea

1. In a juicer, juice your ginger root, turmeric, and 3 lemons
2. In a large pitcher add your juice to about 2 quarts of water, a couple droppers of vanilla stevia to taste, a couple dashes of cayenne and your thinly cut lemon slices.
3.  Mix well with a wooden spoon and adjust flavors to taste.
4. Let sit for about 10 mins before serving to let the flavors blend. Will last about 5 days in the fridge.

Heath Benefits

Ginger:
Colon Cancer Prevention
Reduces Pain and Inflammation
Cold and Flu Prevention Treatment
Turmeric:
Natural Antiseptic and Antibacterial agent
Natural liver detoxifier
Assists in healing of damaged skin
Cayenne
Anti-Cold and Flu Agent
Anti-fungal Properties
Digestive Aid

Give Me Energy Tea
Ingredients:
• A clean glass bottle or container
• 1 kaffir lime leaf
• Organic yerba mate – about 3 tablespoons per cup of water
• A few slices of fresh ginger
• Water

1)Combine all ingredients, stick’em in the bottle.
2)Let it sit overnight.
3) Bottle up and enjoy!
Yerba mate is full of antioxidants, aids digestion, and has a natural caffeherbal_lavender_flower_tea_1ine

Stress Relief Tea
Ingredients:
• 1 Tbsp St John’s Wort (suggestion)
• 1 Tbsp Oatstraw
• 1/3 c Chamomile
• 1 Tbsp Lavender
• 2 Tbsp Lemon Balm
• 2 tsp Catnip
• 1 Tbsp Orange or lemon rind.

1. Heat 2 quarts water until almost boiling.
2. Add the St. John’s wort and oatstraw and steep for 6 minutes.
3. Add the rest of the herbs and steep for an additional 3-4 minutes.
4. Strain herbs and sweeten with honey if desired.

I love purchasing loose tea in bulk- it cuts down on price and more importantly – wasteful packaging materials. If you do prefer buying packaged bags that are conveniently prepared, make sure the tea is organic. Many commercial tea bags can contain harmful toxins and chemicals that will end up counter acting the health benefits from the teas. My two favorite brands for herbal and medicinal teas are organic Alvita and Traditional Medicinals.