Nutrition | Super foods that fight stress

30/08/2015

Camille Christensen in Shalom / Eurowoman June 2014 (photography: Jonas Bie, styling: Bea Fagerholt) / nutrition & diet tips and advice on what foods to eat to beat stress and when stressed / via fashionedbylove.co.uk british fashion blog
Stress is a necessity, stress is a curse, stress is what causes approximately 95% of health problems whether you like it or not. It is how our body responds to the environment - the survival mechanism invented by nature also known as "fight or flight": our blood pressure and heart rate go up, pupils dilate, the adrenal hormones divert the energy supplies away from "unnecessary" activities such as digestion to the vital organs including the heart, brain, muscles and lungs and ensure that insulin is there to support this increased need for instant supplies of glucose (or blood sugar).

Since I was a kid I remember my mum (who has a medical degree) saying that there's no point of getting worried over simple things because "neurons do not regenerate". Later, while studying nutrition, I leant that stress can, indeed, cause long-term and sometimes irreversible changes to the brain leading to all kinds of problems from depression, insomnia and compromised emotional stability to more serious issues including burnout, PTSD, anxiety, suicidal thoughts, MS and Alzheimer, just to name a few.

Stress can be both physical and emotional, short, long-term and chronic - all involving several body systems and organs.  And since I've been through one of these incredibly stressful moments recently I decided to "turn lemons into lemonade" and talk about nutrition for managing stress and making sure that you recover from it as quickly as possible without any long-term side-effects.

First of all, remember that you need to support your hormones that manage stress as well as the ones affected by it. Then you'll need to maintain levels of vitamins and minerals particularly important during this period and look after the systems that get involved, voluntarily or not. And last, but not least, remember to deal with inflammation and free radicals caused by the changes in body's biochemistry.

Naturally, this list of stress-fighting foods is very basic - it can help you during different levels of stress that range from being wired to experiencing a state of an absolute physical and emotional exhaustion, but if you feel that you are falling apart or keep getting all sort of illnesses without any particular cause (unexplained food allergies, digestive issues, skin concerns, hormonal problems, depression, odd weight loss or gain, especially around the middle, tiredness, etc. etc. etc), do see a nutritional therapist and a doctor.

Now, the foods I personally rely on and also recommend to my clients.

Himalayan pink salt is one of my favourite natural remedies for stress and the quickest way to replenish sodium often lost during periods of extreme stress and fatigue due to reduced production of aldosterone, a hormone that normally maintains sodium balance.

Pink salt is the best and only salt I use, both when preparing my meals and when having a bath. It is the purest and most natural unprocessed salt that contains 84 minerals, all of which are found naturally in the body. It is rich in sulfur to reduce stress-related fatigue, magnesium - to regulate blood pressure and muscle contractions. In addition, it supports healthy brain pH, blood sugar balance and may help to improve sleep pattern.

Tip: use to add flavour to your food following your body's craving for salty taste (absolutely normal during stress!), add a tiny pinch to a glass of water first thing in the morning, add a handful of salts to your bath and let the skin absorb the minerals.

Nutrition & diet tips and advice on what foods to eat to beat stress and when stressed / via fashionedbylove.co.uk british fashion blog
Walnuts are a source of fatty acids, including an Omega-3 ALA, as well as fibre, magnesium and antioxidants that can reduce effects of stress on the brain and blood pressure as was reported in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition in 2010.

Tip: include 20-30g of raw organic walnuts to your daily diet, either as a snack or addition to salads or breakfast. You can also use walnut oil on your salad if you like.

Nutrition & diet tips and advice on what foods to eat to beat stress and when stressed / via fashionedbylove.co.uk british fashion blog
Avocado gives you vitamin E and vitamin E is one of the best antioxidants to reduce free radicals  produced during the synthesis of adrenal hormones, improve immune health and mental function . In addition it's a source of stress-reducing magnesium, B vitamins and folate.

Tip: Add to salads, make an avocado mousse, guacamole, sandwich spread or add to smoothies.

Nutrition & diet tips and advice on what foods to eat to beat stress and when stressed / via fashionedbylove.co.uk british fashion blog
Buckwheat is a grain that is not really a grain, but rather a seed, so it is gluten-free. It is one of the staple foods in Russia, so particularly special to me. What makes it even better, is the amount of B-vitamins (including B5 and folic acid), magnesium, potassium, amino acids, antioxidants and iron to keep you going whilst also maintaining steady blood sugar levels. Buckwheat is also a fantastic source of rutin - a bioflavonoid that maintains healthy blood vessels (say hello to healthy heart and good-bye - to varicose veins!) and memory function.

Tip: Never skip on carbs - they are essential for stress management! Make buckwheat porridge (1 cup of dry grain + 2 cups of water, bring to the boil in a cast iron pan (Le Creuset is best), cover and simmer until ready) - eat as is, use as a side dish with fish or poultry, mix into sautéed grated carrots and onion, or add to salads. You can also make buckwheat pancakes using buckwheat flour.

Nutrition & diet tips and advice on what foods to eat to beat stress and when stressed / via fashionedbylove.co.uk british fashion blog
Yoghurt is not only a source of protein that will support healthy blood sugar balance, but also provides friendly bacteria for better digestion (that is often compromised due to stress), amino acid tryptophan essential for production of "happy hormone" serotonin, B vitamins for production of stress hormones, zinc for the strong immune system, magnesium to ensure proper muscle relaxation, calming the nervous system and steady blood pressure and calcium to aid sleep and support bone health.

Tip: stick with natural organic goats, sheep or buffalo milk yoghurt, have them for breakfast, as a snack, or after dinner, add to smoothies or use to make salad dressings and dips.

Nutrition & diet tips and advice on what foods to eat to beat stress and when stressed / via fashionedbylove.co.uk british fashion blog
Whey protein is one of my favourite foods because it's one of the most pure forms of protein that the body can easily absorb. Just a scoop or two a day will work as a reliable source of amino acids, vitamins and immunoglobulins to support healthy blood sugar balance, hormone production and strong immune system.

Tip: I am incredibly fussy when it comes to my perfect whey, hence only buy Pulsin organic whey protein or Solgar. I would not ever recommend buying anything advertised in fitness magazines or certain websites or using formulas containing anything more than whey (and possibly powered fruit or cacao - I know Solgar has a touch of soy, but I trust their quality). Frankly, protein powers really need an article of their own, so I'll write one at some point.

Nutrition & diet tips and advice on what foods to eat to beat stress and when stressed / via fashionedbylove.co.uk british fashion blog
Oily fish will give you plenty of protein plus Omega-3 fatty acids to support the brain, nervous system and integrity of the myelin sheath - a kind of coating that protects the core of the nerve fibres. It is also one of the best sources of tryptophan that calms the brain, helps to reduce fatigue and improves sleep.

Tip: stick with wild or organic fish - anything farmed or non-organic is likely to contain traces of mercury and heavy metals or pesticides. To get the most out of your meal, serve fish for dinner with plenty of vegetables following a carbohydrate-rich lunch - a little trick to get that tryptophan across the blood-brain barrier as quickly and efficiently as possible

Nutrition & diet tips and advice on what foods to eat to beat stress and when stressed / via fashionedbylove.co.uk british fashion blog
Eggs are also a source of tryptophan (in case you are a vegetarian like me) as well as zinc, magnesium, iron, B-vitamins, vitamin A, E and D. According to a study published in the Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2010 eating eggs helped to improve stress response and strengthen the endocrine system in people suffering from chronic stress.

Tip: add 1-2 eggs daily, always organic, best - at breakfast as it will also help you maintain blood sugar throughout the day, avoid unnecessary cravings and even lose a few lbs.

Nutrition & diet tips and advice on what foods to eat to beat stress and when stressed / via fashionedbylove.co.uk british fashion blog
Kiwi is high in vitamin C, which may help support the body during stress by reducing excess levels of stress hormones in the blood whilst stimulating production of cortisol when needed, maintaining healthy adrenal glands and strengthening the immune system according to a study presented by the University of Alabama at the American Chemical Society meeting in 1999.

Tip: chop a couple of fruits into your morning yoghurt, add kiwi to salads or enjoy the fruit as is.

Nutrition & diet tips and advice on what foods to eat to beat stress and when stressed / via fashionedbylove.co.uk british fashion blog
Blueberries are for those who aren't a fan or kiwis. They are also high in vitamin C as well as anthocyanins, a type of antioxidant that gives the berries their rich colour. The substances are known to boost production of mood and memory enhancing dopamine in the brain as well playing an important role in synthesis of white blood cells important for the healthy immunity.

Tip: buy them fresh when the berries are in season, and frozen - for the rest of the year. They make gorgeous smoothies, taste wonderful as a snack, pancakes or in porridge.

Nutrition & diet tips and advice on what foods to eat to beat stress and when stressed / via fashionedbylove.co.uk british fashion blog
Broccoli (just like any kind of leafy greens) is another wonderful source of vitamin C as well as powerful antioxidants, vitamin A and group B, magnesium and calcium.

Tip: eat raw as a snack, add to salads, make a broccoli soup or simply steam to eat as a side dish. White cabbage, especially fermented one is another reliable, very affordable and delicious option.

Nutrition & diet tips and advice on what foods to eat to beat stress and when stressed / via fashionedbylove.co.uk british fashion blog
Dark chocolate is not a treat but a daily must-have, especially when you are stressed. Chocolate is a source of magnesium as well as substances that stimulate production of "feel good" neurotransmitter anandamide in the brain.

Tip: if you are suffering from long-term stress and insomnia, you may need to go easy on chocolate as it contains caffeine. Always choose organic dark chocolate or even better - make your own raw nut&seed bars and hot drinks (with home-made almond milk, cinnamon and raw cacao - pure bliss!)

Nutrition & diet tips and advice on what foods to eat to beat stress and when stressed / via fashionedbylove.co.uk british fashion blog
Green tea contains L-Theanine, an amino acid that has a calming effect on the brain. In addition, it is also a reliable source of antioxidants to reduce inflammation and risk of free radical damage. It's important to remember that green tea contains caffeine and needs to be enjoyed in moderation, a cup or two daily.

Tip: if green tea is a bit much for the body, swap it to white tea - it will give you L-theanine and anti-oxidants without excess caffeine.

Nutrition & diet tips and advice on what foods to eat to beat stress and when stressed / via fashionedbylove.co.uk british fashion blog
Tulsi tea is another wonderful option as it has adaptogenic effect on the brain, hormonal and nervous systems meaning that it fills the gaps that require attention without "overdoing" it - it calms the nerves and may even ease a stress-related headache. 

Tip: always buy organic and from a reputable brand (I like Pukka Three Tulsi tea), limit to a couple of cups daily, and enjoy before bed time.

Nutrition & diet tips and advice on what foods to eat to beat stress and when stressed / via fashionedbylove.co.uk british fashion blog
Photo source: Camille Christensen in Shalom / Eurowoman June 2014 (photography: Jonas Bie, styling: Bea Fagerholt)

5 comments:

  1. Such an absolutely useful,great post!
    Oh....so much good advices for all my favs here:)
    I know that buckwheat is good for you,I like buckwheat since my childhood:) I do use buckwheat raw with yogurt: in the evening adding in a bowl +yogurt over it= tasty and healthy breakfast!
    THANKYOU so much for this post,Natashen'ka!
    Have a good new week ahead:)

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  2. This post made me feel good because some of these like walnuts, avocados, broccoli and kiwis are some of my favorite foods. I've been using a mix of himalayan pink slat and epsom salt in my weekly detox bath and I always come out super relaxed.

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  3. Generally speaking I think I am relatively well-versed in nutrition for a non-professional, although I admit that at times I adhere to a clean diet with more discipline. But tulsi tea is entirely new to me, and I am going to do some more research about it now - thanks for the tip :)
    xox,
    Cee

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  4. Dear Natalia, i appreciate this post, especially at this time of year. I didn't know about hymalaian salt properties and I need to look up "whey" on the dictionary. Otherwise, my diet is stress-proof :-) always a pleasure reading you!! Baci,
    Coco et La vie en rose fashion blog - Valeria Arizzi

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  5. I always learn so much from these posts Natalia! I've always known how stress affects the body, but never knew the nutritional ways to deal with it. This is so good to know.
    http://www.averysweetblog.com/

    ReplyDelete