Stress & Food
On a scale of one to having a complete meltdown how stressed are you right now? Hopefully you don’t spend too much time on the complete meltdown end of the scale and are closer to a one, but the reality is, in our current fast paced lives stress is inevitable.
So what actually happens when our body is stressed? Do you feel your heart rate increasing, do you feel tension build in your shoulders, do you get a bit hot and bothered, or does your tummy play up? All of these reactions are the perfect response to stress. Stress in the sense that we need to run, and fast, away from something chasing us or run after something to kill it for food. It is our inbuilt survival mechanism. Our blood flow goes to those areas we need in order to live, our muscles, heart and organs. Great for when we were hunter-gatherers but not so great for our modern lives. So what can we do to help bust stress and what does food have to do with stress reduction?
Picture this, you’re at work, you’ve just been handed a mountain of work that needs to get done by the end of the day, its URGENT. Immediately our stress levels increase and you reach for something to boost your energy to get through it all. Coffee is the first culprit, second is sugar and/or fat. Rather than craving a well balanced meal that would give you a slow and steady release of energy and assist mental clarity we want something to give us a quick boost and hello 3pm chocolate bar. Why is that? Many studies have shown that when we are under physical or emotional distress our insulin and cortisol increases affect our food preferences and make us reach for that choc chip muffin or bag of chips.
There are foods we can eat which reduce the impact that stress has on our body by calming the nervous system and reducing the levels of cortisol and adrenaline. So what are they?
1. Whole grain carbohydrates – these take longer to digest and allow for a slow release of energy into our blood stream. Great for brain food.
2. Leafy greens – rich in folate helping the body to produce hormones which assist in regulating our mood
3. Oily fish – think salmon and tuna, these fish are bursting with omega-3s which are known to reduce the experience of anxiety and depression
4. Pistachios – as well as other nuts and seeds are a fantastic source of healthy fats and a perfect go to when feeling stressed see below for a recipe you can whip up and have on hand for your 3pm fix
5. Blueberries – high in antioxidants which assist your brain in producing dopamine. Dopamine is critical for memory, mood and coordination.
6. Dark chocolate – magnesium is great for relaxing muscles which get tense when we are stressed.
So next time you are stressed make sure you reach for those things which are going to minimise the impact that stress has on your body, not enhance it. The first step is having these foods readily available, in your draw at work, in your bag or even in your car. Nuts are a perfect go to so this week I challenge you to go out buy a bag of nuts and keep them in your drawer or bag or whip up the below recipe.
Stress boosting raw balls
1 cup almonds
1 cup cashews
12 medjool dates
3 tbsp cacao powder
1. Blitz almonds and cashews in food processor until they form a powder/meal
2. Add medjool dates and cacao and blitz until large mass forms, add a little water if needed
3. Roll into balls and enjoy!