With our ever increasing stress levels and the long list of diseases linked to too much stress, there is little wonder as to why slowing down and focusing on our health is a hot topic right now.
We hear it all the time: Exercise, eat well, meditate, be sure to get enough sleep, sunshine, air, water and SLOW DOWN... this has become the mantra of our time, and for good reason. One of the best things we can do for our bodies, our relationships, our mental health and our lives in general is to just STOP. Stop and breathe. Stop, and consider this: What we put into our bodies can play a huge roll in the way we combat stress not just externally but how our bodies cope physiologically because after all, we literally are what we eat - on a molecular level, what we ingest turns into the cells that make up our body.
So, just like on a plane where we are told to fit our own oxygen mask before assisting others, so to do we need to give a little back to ourselves in order to have something to give.
Next time you find yourself racing around the supermarket snatching up pre-packaged easily accessible foods then racing off to work, picking up the kids, darting to after school activities, appointments, housework, a workout and everything else we try to squeeze into our busy lives, take a look at our list of 12 Stress Busting Foods and easy to make recipe ideas that can help you reduce stress and rejuvenate both body and mind.
1. Greens - Dark leafy greens (spinach and kale) in particular contain folates which produce Dopamine - a pleasure inducing chemical released in the brain helping you stay calm and feel good.
2. Avocado - Rich in Vitamin B & potassium as well as high in monounsaturated fats, avocado’s can not only help to reduce stress (a lack of vitamin B has been linked to anxiety and depression), but will also keep you fuller for longer making it less likely that you will reach for that “on-the-go” packaged snack that can be full of s&*%!
3. Blueberries - Extremely high in antioxidants & phytonutrients as well as vitamin C, blueberries are immune boosting and can repair and protect cells as well as fight free radicals in the body.
4. Milk - We all know sunshine gives us our much need vitamin D but did you know that milk is also rich in D vitamins? Because it is fat soluble, our bodies are able to store vitamin D in the liver and fat cells which promotes absorption of calcium and supports the immune system. Studies have also proved that milk served warm before bed can help you get to sleep - another great way to reduce stress!
5. Almonds - (pistachios, walnuts & hazelnuts are also great.) If you aren’t keen on milk never fear - almonds are next on our list of stress busting foods and almond milk, particularly home made using organic or pesticide free almonds, because of their natural calming properties, is a great substitute. High in Vitamins B2 & E as well as magnesium and zinc, almonds give your immune system a boost and help fight free radicals.
6. Citrus fruits - High in vitamin C, citrus fruits like oranges, grapefruit and lemons are a powerful antioxidant that can lower stress and boost the immune system as well as lower blood pressure. An orange makes a perfect snack too with natural sugars that are actually good for you!
7. Wild caught salmon - As one of the very best sources of Omega-3 fatty acids, salmon can keep your cortisol and adrenaline levels from spiking keeping you cool calm and collected in times of anxiety and stress. Omega-3 is also extremely good for your skin, eyes and hair (ladies!)
8. Oats - As a complex carbohydrate, oats won’t contribute to a spike in blood sugar levels like other carbs can and in fact will help the brain to make serotonin - the feel good hormone. Whole oats as opposed to quick oats are full of fibre making you feel fuller for longer as they take longer to digest which will also draw out the calming effects.
9. Dark chocolate - Yeuss!! I hear you say and yes, it is true. Dark chocolate can regulate stress levels and reduce your stress hormones. The antioxidants in cocoa have been proven to lower blood pressure and improve circulation as well as improving mood by increasing serotonin and endorphin levels in the brain. Oh and, it also creates a unique natural substance that can give a sense of euphoria similar to that of falling in love. We knew there was a good reason to eat chocolate.
10. Turkey - it’s not a hugely popular or common meat here in Australia but it’s benefits are without doubt. Rich in tryptophan, an amino acid that the body converts into serotonin, there’s little wonder why turkey has been labelled ‘the feel good meat’ inducing feelings of happiness and well being as well as creating a sense of calm and even tiredness. Gimme some of that!
11. Fermented foods & drinks - It has been said that the secret to improving your mental health is in your gut. Unhealthy gut flora can have a detrimental impact on your brain health, leading to issues like anxiety and depression. Beneficial bacteria however, can have a direct effect on brain chemistry and can even improve brain function. Foods like yoghurt (of course the closer to nature the better), kombucha and keffir drinks as well as fermented vegetables are all wonderful natural probiotics.
12. Nutritional yeast - a high quality source of protein that is easily digested and high in B vitamins, amino acids, vitamins and minerals which work together to support the adrenal glands and help to reduce stress and anxiety levels that can balance out depressive moods. It also has antiviral and antibacterial properties. Oh and, it’s delicious with a natural cheese flavour that’s entirely vegan.