Friday, March 15, 2013

Stress-Calming Foods - Naturally

Yes, food effects the way you feel!  This is especially true when it comes to managing stress and mood.  Refined sugars and carbohydrates will give a short-term high and then bring the inevitable long-term low in a matter of hours. This blood sugar roller coaster can influence so many aspects of performance including concentration, mood, energy and sleep.

When it comes to stress and mood, sugar metabolism is not the only factor at-play.  Nutrients, including vitamins and minerals, are essential for adapting to stress.  These nutrients are best absorbed through food sources - taken in the way that we were meant to absorb them.  Here are some great stress-lowering food choices:

Spinach contains plenty of Magnesium which helps to relax nerves and muscles.  Magnesium, along with hydration, also helps prevent muscle tension, muscle cramping and fatigue. Spinach is a magnesium powerhouse, and also a good source of Vitamins A, C, Iron and Folate (B9). Buy organic spinach because the conventionally grown version is relatively high in pesticides.
* Other foods high in Magnesium: halibut, basil, pumpkin seeds and peppermint.

Basil contains anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties that are beneficial for a variety of inflammatory conditions - from tendonitis to IBS. Boost the taste of your food by adding fresh basil leaves and you get a dose of iron, magnesium, calcium, potassium and vitamin C.  Add basil near the end of the cooking to preserve most of its natural flavor.
* Other herbs that reduce stress: Lemon balm and chamomile.

Dark chocolate contains Tryptophan - an essential amino acid which is used by the body to create serotonin, a neuro-chemical that relaxes the brain and make you feel at-ease.  In addition, dark chocolate, contains heart-boosting antioxidants.  Choose a chocolate that is high in cocoa solid but low in sugar to get the maximum health benefit.
* Other foods high in Tryptophan: almonds, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, nuts, oats and red meat.

Brazil nuts are high in Selenium.  A deficiency in selenium has been linked to higher rates of anxiety, depression and generalized fatigue. Selenium is only needed in small quantities.  Just a handful of mixed nuts, or 2 Brazil nuts each day will be enough to keep you feeling good.
* Other foods high in selenium: shitake mushrooms, tuna, cod, salmon.

Broccoli has a good dose of potassium.  Lower potassium levels in the blood can cause muscle fatigue and generalized fatigue can make you feel irritable and anxious. Broccoli is also high in beta-carotene, vitamin C and E which all work together to strengthen immune system.
* Other sources of potassium include: avocado, beet greens, banana, kale, cabbage, winter squash, and tomatoes.

Green Tea is a great source of L-theanine.  L-theanine is a naturally occuring amino acid mainly found in tea leaves.  Recent research has shown that this substance reduces stress, promotes relaxation and enhances mood by stimulating alpha brain waves (a calmer and more relaxed state).  In addition, green tea has been shown to lower the risk of cardiovascular disease and cancer, reduces blood pressure and promotes weight loss.
* Black tea and oolong tea also contain L-theanine and some of the anti-oxidizing properties found in green tea.

Kiwi and other fruits contain Vitamin C.  The human brain needs adequate amounts of vitamin C to convert tryptophan into serotonin. In fact, the brain has a specialized Vitamin C pump that pulls this vitamin out of the blood and pushes it into the brain.
* Other vitamin C-rich fruits include: strawberries, papaya, orange, grapefruit and guava.

Lastly, be sure to stay clear from moldy grains and legumes which contain some highly toxic, cancer-causing fungi.  Mold and fungus from grains and other improperly stored foods can quickly make you feel bad, causing symptoms like headaches, fatigue, poor concentration, etc.

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