Do you think nutrition plays a role in stress management? Maybe you take the approach that as long as you eat a certain percentage of protein, a certain percentage of carbs, and a certain percentage of fat than you will be golden. That’s equivalent of driving your car in first gear at freeway speeds. Yeah, you may be able to do it, but it is only a matter of time before the engine burns out.
As the saying goes, “you are what you eat ate [or grew in]”.
Now back to the food and stress question which is a continuation of the last two posts.
What is stress?
“Stress can be defined as the brain’s response to any demand. Many things can trigger this response, including change. Changes can be positive or negative, as well as real or perceived. They may be recurring, short-term, or long-term” ~ National Institute of Mental Health
Or more simply, think of it as a catch all phrase, because daily living causes a stress response which is signaled by hormones. Hormones are made up of short chains of amino acids. Amino acids come from…protein.
Now, don’t go getting lost down the “food is fuel” rabbit hole. Read John Berardi’s article to see the danger in the food is fuel thinking because we are not simple machines, but rather “complex, dynamic, organic, and infinitely sensitive systems”.
“Every food decision we make sends a message to our body.
Every food choice is an opportunity to direct, shape, and remake our health. Our body composition. Our performance. Our well-being.”
The main thing to understand is that food not only provides the building blocks for your body, but also its responses. You can use food to help you better respond to stress.
Tips to improve your stress response with nutrition
Really I want you to focus on quality, nutrient dense sources of food.
- Eat a Variety of Whole Foods – Variety is the spice of life…follow nutritionists’ advice to “eat the rainbow.” The idea is to eat vegetables and fruits in all different colors. Veggies and fruits are loaded with a whole host of beneficial compounds.
- Eat Citrus Fruits – Citrus is high in folic acid. Lack of folic acid can reduce the levels of serotonin in the body, this can contribute to depression, anxiety, and even excess anger.
- Eat Complex Carbohydrates – Not only do complex and whole grain carbohydrates provide fiber and energy, they also help create that relaxing neurotransmitter serotonin during the digestion process. Look for whole grains such as brown rice, bulgur, barley, quinoa, and millet.
- Eat Protein – When protein is broken down, the amino acid tyrosine contributes to the chemicals dopamine and epinephrine, which have the capacity to give the body more energy. This is important if you’re feeling exhausted from the effects of stress. Remember to focus on quality, because you are “what you eat ate”
- Eat More Nuts – Nuts are loaded with vitamin E and contain B vitamins as well. These can help your body hold up during unpleasant events. Try snacking on almonds, pistachios, or walnuts.
- Eat Avocado – It’s combo punch of monounsaturated fat and potassium can help lower blood pressure.
- Use herbs for cooking or teas. Adaptogenic herbs are fantastic for helping the body deal with stress. My favorites include ginseng, rhodiola, holy basil, ashwaganda, to name a few.
- Add in a nutrient-dense boost of superfoods like found in Shakeology (or at least take a high quality multivitamin) – This can help fill the gaps in your diet.
Are you already using nutrition to deal with stress? If not, which of the above tips are you going to add today?
p.s. Do me a favor and share this with someone you care about that is under a ton of stress.
p.p.s. I want you as part of the crew, join here to grab my list of 5 kitchen tools to make healthy eating easier: I want to be part of the crew!