High levels of stress can negatively impact virtually every body system! Long term stress increases the levels of cortisol and adrenaline, two stress hormines that can be detrimental to health when not properly regulated. Elevated cortisol levels remove bloodflow from the digestive system and other organs to react to a threat. Having high levels of cortisol over time can weaken bones, damage nerve cells, reduce sex drive, and inhibit the immune system. Research continues to show that diet, along with a healthy lifestyle is a crucial part of regulating mood and preventing anxiety. The foods listed below are helpful for improving mood and reducing stress.
1. Lemon Balm. Studies suggest lemon balm can reduce anxiety and induce calmness, and potentially improve mathematical processing. You can use the fresh leaves in salads and tea or take a tincture of lemon balm.
2. Grape extract. Eating grapes or taking grape extract could be an effective way to reduce ocular stress according to various studies. Grapes are also high in Vitamin C, which has been shown in some studies to boost mood and reduce anxiety.
3. Beans are high in amino acids needed to produce mood regulating neurotransmitters. The amino acids in proteins are essential in the production of dopamine and norepinephrine, our "happy chemicals." Include protein at every meal to ensure you are producing enough of these neurotransmitters. You can get enough protein by eating a variety of vegetable protein sources such as beans, legumes, nuts, seeds, grains and vegetables. When choosing animal sources of protein, look for sustainable fish, organic eggs, organic yogurt and grassfed or "certified humane" meats.
4. Oats. Carbohydrates like oats are needed to produce seratonin, a neurotransmitter involved in postive mood. Choose whole grains over simple carbohydrates like white rice, white bread, baked goods, candy, soda, flavored yogurts, etc. These tend to make your blood sugar spike and then quickly drop, leading you to feel tired and irritable until you get the same rush of sugar again. Instead go for oats, amaranth, quinoa, millet, buckwheat, barley, teff, sorghum, and brown or wild rice. Eating small portions of these whole grains with higher fiber help stabalize your blood sugar and keep your mood regulated. Also make sure to eat carbohydrates with a high quality fat (avocado, olive oil, nuts, fatty fish), as it slows down absorption and helps regulate your blood sugar.
5. B Vitamins: Research shows B vitamins including thiamin (B1), folic acid and B12 are essential to regulating mood and preventing depression. Add leafy greens, legumes, citrus fruits, nuts, eggs and rice into your diet to increase your intake of these vitamins. You can also take a high quality B vitamin complex with methylated forms- this ensures adequate absorption and metabolism.
6. Pomegranate: Studies show that pomegranates may lower the stress hormone cortisol. Furthermore, pomegranates have been shown to reduce blood pressure and increase insulin sensitivity- both of which are crucial to reducing the impact of stress.
7. Cacao: Although chocolate may be a source of guilt for some people, studies show eating dark chocolate can reduce tension and improve mood. One of the reasons may be the chemical substances in chocolate. Chocolate contains anandamines, chemicals shown to have psychoactive effects similar to cannabis! Chocolate also has theobromine, a compound that mimics the uplifting effect of caffeine. However, these compounds are in small concentrations, so don't worry about it having a psychoactive effect. The mood boosting effects are perfectly safe when eaten in moderation. One serving of chocolate is typically 1-2 squares. Enjoy mindfully by setting aside distractions and sinking into your bite of dark chocolate slowly to fully enjoy it. When purchasing chocolate, choose fair trade and organic dark chocolate (70% and above) with minimal added sugar (Less than 15g per serving).
8. Pumpkin Seeds are rich in magnesium, a mineral important in regulating the nervous system. The also have high amounts of B vitamins, which are critical to mood regulation and reducing anxiety. Make sure to toast pumpkin seeds to inhibit the anti nutrient phytic acid.
A balanced lifestyle that includes healthy coping mechanisms can also reduce stress. Activities can include exercise, dance, meditation, yoga, breathing exercises, massage, improving sleep, or taking a hot bath. In addition to maintaining a healthy, whole foods based diet rich in the foods discussed, try including at least one of these stress relieving activity every day. For a more personalized stress reduction plan, sign up for our Seeding Health and Happiness Program or book a stress coaching appointment.
Wishing you lots of calmness and relaxation!
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