Feeling Stressed? Try Eating These Foods
We all get stressed. Whether it’s because of our jobs, our relationships, money, body image, weight or health, stress affects everyone. The problem with stress is that it doesn’t simply affect one area of the body, it affects our immune system, energy, vitality, digestion and overall happiness and mood. The adrenal glands are our stress organs that sit on top of the kidneys and release stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline. Our adrenal glands release stress hormones in dangerous situations that allow us to properly fight or run or be slightly superhuman to survive these scary situations. As we've evolved, so has our stress, and now our adrenal glands are on overdrive, constantly releasing stress hormones leading to adrenal fatigue.
Common symptoms of overworked adrenal glands are intense cravings for sugar or salt; weight gain around the belly and thighs; feeling very overwhelmed; lacking focus and feeling foggy; frequent bouts of colds and illnesses; or feeling tired throughout the day yet feeling wide awake before bed. Usually when we’re stressed we make poor food choices that do not help the situation, so here are five foods you should turn to the next time your stress levels are at an all-time high.
1. Maca Powder
Maca is a South American root and is also known as a superfood. Found on most health food store shelves in powdered form, maca is a powerful adaptogen. This means that is nourishes the adrenal glands, balances hormones and helps the body process stress. Maca is also rich in B vitamins which support energy production in the body. Throw it into smoothies or toss it on top of cereal, maca will not only help balance your stress hormones but it will also help increase your libido!
2. Raw Cacao
Raw cacao is simply chocolate. That’s right, one of the best stress-busting foods is the raw, unprocessed form of chocolate. Unlike milk chocolate, raw cacao is quite bitter so you may want to pair it with a sweetener like honey, dates or maple syrup to sweeten it up. The raw form of chocolate contains antioxidants and magnesium. Magnesium is a really important mineral for stress because it calms muscular tension and the central nervous system. It also contains serotonin, which is known as the happy chemical.
This delicious, creamy fruit is another potent stress-buster. Avocado is rich in B vitamins which help create and maintain energy in the body. The Bs are also known to improve memory, get rid of mental fog, reduce depression and anxiety and improve mood. Next time you’re feeling stressed, eat a spoonful of guacamole to put you at ease.
Walnuts are one the healthiest and most popular nuts out there. Like avocados, they are rich in B vitamins which help with energy production. Walnuts contain healthy fats like omega-3s and according to research from Penn State, walnuts actually reduce blood pressure during stress; showing that these special nuts can have a major impact on the body during stressful times. Walnuts also contain melatonin which helps to regulate the sleep cycle and sleep is especially needed when we’re stressed to regenerate and rejuvenate the body.
Flaxseeds have been the "it" food for a while and they offer the body good fibre and omega-3 fatty acids. Similar to walnuts, the alpha linolenic acid found in flaxseeds and walnuts help the body process stress by reducing blood pressure, LDL cholesterol and other markers of inflammation. In order to reap the benefits of flaxseeds, they must be ground.
While we all might be stressed out, that doesn’t mean we can’t do anything about it. Eating the five foods listed above will nourish the adrenal glands, relax the nervous system and lower blood pressure. And they all happen to go really well together in a delicious, stress-busting chocolate smoothie. So drink up and relax.
Tamara Green is co-founder of The Living Kitchen, and a Certified Nutritional Practitioner and Natural Cook. She combines her knowledge of nutrition and passion for cooking good food to work with clients to create lasting changes in their lives.