How to (Healthfully) Eat Your Way to Calm: STRESS LESS PART II

Welcome back to the Stress Less Series. Last post we talked all about stress — what it is, what happens to your body when you experience stress, and the two main ways to treat stress. Need a refresher? Check out the post here.

Now we’re moving into the real nitty-gritty of the stress series. This is the part that gets me most excited. And giddy! Because I love putting theory and thought into action — I want you to experience the life-changing way to feed yourself calmness in a healthy and sustainable way.

CAN YOU REALLY EAT YOUR WAY TO CALM?

Let’s play a game. I’ll give you two words and you tell me what it makes you think of.

Ready?

The words are: stress and food.

Let me guess. Cookies, cake, chips, fries, macaroni and cheese, and other “comfort” food comes to mind.

While these often carbohydrate laden snacks seem comforting, they actually don’t help your stress levels. In fact, they actually make you feel worse. They can leave you feeling bloated, with an angry stomach, and extra inflammation. In other words, they may temporarily give you a boost, but actually do more harm than good.

Yikes! That is not what I want for myself OR for you. Because, darling readers, there is a better way.

A way you can eat that prevents stress. A way that negates the effects of stress. A way that makes you authentically, really, and truly better.

And I’ve got all the details for you below. I’m giving you the what, the why, and the how.

GREEN LEAFY VEGETABLES

Do you remember the charming movie My Big Fat Greek Wedding? The father character has a “fix all” for every ailment — from swollen toes to acne to rashes. The “fix all” is Windex, which he (endearingly?) sprays on anything and everything (and anyone).

Green leafy vegetables are to wellness as Windex is to the father in My Big Fat Greek Wedding. Basically, they are everything.

I could wax lyrical on the amazing and health boosting effects of these wonderful green vegetables.

But I’ll keep it focused for your sake.

THE RATIONALE & EVIDENCE

Dark green leafy vegetables contain folate. Folate is integral in synthesis of the hormones serotonin and dopamine that help prevent stress and promote feeling of wellbeing.     

Multiple studies correlate consumption of vegetables with decreased stress and better mental health. Articles such as this and this are examples.

EASY WAYS TO ADD MORE DARK GREEN VEGETABLES TO YOUR LIFE

Green smoothies! This is an easy and tasty way to get your green leafy vegetable fix. Need some inspiration? Check out this post and this post.

Another way is to add a handful of spinach to your meals. I do this with stir-fry, soup, and casseroles. Fresh spinach is a relatively mild tasting green that can be easily added to many dishes.

FRUIT

Sometime in the last decade, fruit has gotten a bad rap. Perhaps it’s residual from the popular calorie counting and carbohydrate-hating diets. I’m not really sure. But for some reason we are turning away from fruit.

And we shouldn’t!

Fruit is nature’s dessert.

Not only does it taste amazing, but fruit is full of essential nutrients that are typically under consumed — nutrients like potassium, dietary fiber, vitamin C, and folate.

THE RATIONALE & EVIDENCE

Different fruits have different benefits. Berries, for example, are full of antioxidants and phytonutrients — both of which improve your body’s response to stress.

There is a wealth of evidence to support fruit’s role in stress and mental health. See this article for details.

EASY WAYS TO ADD MORE FRUIT TO YOUR LIFE

Make fruit your dessert. After your lunch or dinner, have a piece of fresh fruit. Apples, pears, and blueberries are sweet ways to end your meal.

Or get a twofer with the dark green vegetables and make one of my smoothies.

OMEGA-3 FATTY ACIDS

Omega-3 fatty acids are essential fats found throughout our diet. There are multiple benefits to omega-3 fatty acids. In fact, every year I teach University of Washington students all about this.

But today I’ll stick just to the stress reduction benefits. You may be hearing more about omega-3s from me in the future. :) I just can’t help myself.

Omega-3 fatty acids are known to be anti-inflammatory.

THE RATIONALE & EVIDENCE

Omega-3 fatty acids are known to be anti-inflammatory. They reduce surges of stress hormones and protect against depression and premenstrual syndrome.

See this article, this one, and this for the evidence.


EASY WAYS TO ADD MORE OMEGA-3 FATTY ACIDS TO YOUR LIFE

The good news is there are many sources of omega-3 fatty acids. Fish is an obvious choice — salmon, mackerel, tuna, and herring are all rich sources. Walnuts, chia seeds, flaxseeds, hemp seeds, and egg yolks are options if you’re not a fish lover.

You can also supplement omega-3 fatty acids. The most common way is by taking fish oil. If you just gagged a little, consider this. Fish oil products have come a LONG way. Many are blended with essential oils (like lemon or orange) while others are whipped into a smoothie-like consistency with a fruity flavor. Just beware that (like most things) not all fish oil is created equally. Potency, purity, and price can vary dramatically.

If you’re vegan, you can still get your omega-3 fatty acid fix. Marine algae is full of omega-3 fatty acids. While less potent, flaxseed is another option. Flaxseed adds a hearty and nutty flavor to foods. Try flaxseed sprinkled on smoothie bowls or use it as an egg substitute when baking or cooking.

DARK CHOCOLATE

If you know me, you know I adore dark chocolate. It’s a win-win-win in my book. Dark chocolate tastes delicious and satisfying, it is full of amazing antioxidants, and has proven health benefits.

THE RATIONALE & EVIDENCE

Dark chocolate keeps your taste buds and stress molecules happy. Additionally, it can improve cognitive function and mood.

This article and this one give you more of the nitty gritty on dark chocolate.

EASY WAYS TO ADD MORE DARK CHOCOLATE TO YOUR LIFE

Hmmm. I probably don’t need to give you much guidance here. It doesn’t take much imagination to conjure ways to add more dark chocolate to your life.

A word to the wise (so you!), not all dark chocolate is created equally. The majority of dark chocolate on the market has additives that TAKE AWAY from it’s health benefits. So if you want to get the absolute most from your dark chocolate (and you know you do), please make sure you follow my tips from this post. Bottom line: the fewer ingredients the better and avoid dairy/milk solids in your dark chocolate.

TAKE THE STRESS LESS CHALLENGE

Do you want to see if you really can eat your way to less stress?

I dare you!

Over the next week incorporate green leafy vegetables, fruit, omega-3 fatty acids, and dark chocolate into your diet every single day. Be mindful of how eating these foods makes you feel. Inside and out — what has changed?  What feels the same? How is your stress level?

What do you have to lose? At the very least, you’ll be filling yourself with nutrient dense and yummy treats.

I’d love to hear all about your Stress Less Challenge. Please comment below or send me a message. It makes my day when I hear from you!

Thank you so very much for reading and stay tuned for next week — Part III of the Stress Less series.

Sending you love & peaceful energy,
Skye
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