I must admit that over the past few weeks and with the recently completed U.S presidential elections I have been just a little stressed. When I am stressed out, I tend to crave foods such as sweets and salty nuts. Whether it is from long work hours or the unpredictability of social events, the body perceives stress as a threat.
When we are under any kind of stress emotional or physical, the body releases a hormone called cortisol. Cortisol is responsible for our fight or flight response. In order to fight or flee from the danger, real or perceived, our body needs energy. The source of that energy is glucose.
The pancreas receives a signal to release insulin into the bloodstream. Insulin gets taken up into the cells of the body and there causes the release of glucose. The more ‘stressed’ we become, the more cortisol is released and the more insulin to release glucose into the bloodstream for the body to use as fuel. This is why some of us like me may crave sweets when we are under stress. This is an easy source of the glucose that our cells perceive they need.
So knowing that I have this predictable pattern, I’ve come up with some power snacks. I call them superfoods, because they not only help boost my energy but also support my stress levels.
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Antioxidants are commonly found in fruits and vegetables. They help to reduce what is called oxidative stress on the cells in the body. The ORAC stands for Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity. The score measures the strength of antioxidants.
The higher the ORAC the more potent the antioxidant capacity.
Blueberries, mulberries and goji berries are power fruits that pack high ORAC score ounce for ounce. Dr. James Joseph a lead scientist at Tufts University conducted an experiment in which he fed lab animals with extracts from blueberries. Their motor coordination improved as well as their memory. Blueberries contain powerful compounds known as anthocyanins that are powerful antioxidants and anti-inflammatory agents.
An intact memory and slowing down the aging process this is bound to improve emotional wellbeing.
Blueberries also contain other compounds called Pterostilbene. You may not have heard about this compound, but perhaps you may have heard about reservatrol which is an anti aging compound that is found in grapes and hence makes drinking wine associated with healthy benefits. Well pterostilbene is more potent than reservatrol and helps to fight the buildup of fat deposits (called plaque) in the arteries.
In addition to containing antioxidants, mulberries also contain alkaloids that help to support the immune system by stimulating macrophages. They also help with a blood sugar control.
Goji berry also has a myriad of health benefits. In addition to having an antioxidant benefits, it has been known to boost energy levels.
I mix of the super fruits that in a bag and add this to a yoghurt or some quinoa as a hot cereal.
The Walnut Connection
Walnuts contain the highest amount of omega 3 fatty acids than any other nuts. These help support the brain function. They also contain protein, fiber, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus potassium plus trace mineral called manganese that is important for peak brain function among other things. According to Rebecca Woods a natural foods expert, it is best to purchase walnuts in the shell and crack them prior to eating. Due to time constraints, I purchase shelled whole walnut halves.
A burst of Vitamin B
The two B vitamins, which help enhance emotional health, are Vitamin B12 and also Vitamin B9 also known as folic acid. The B vitamins are one of the most widely used nutritional supplements for the simple fact that they are believed to boost energy. Common food sources are liver, egg yolk, milk and poultry for vitamin B 12. For folic acid, yeast, liver, leafy vegetables and whole grain cereals.
Omega 3 Fatty Acids
Omega 3 fatty oils have a variety of benefits. A diet high in omega 3 helps to control inflammation, improve lipid levels as well the brain development of babies.
Omega 3 fatty acids are commonly called ‘fish oils’. They are present in small concentrations in leafy vegetables and seeds such as walnuts, flax seed and hemp. They are more commonly found in fish such as wild Alaskan salmon, sardines, tuna and mackerel.
Omega 3 fatty acids can also be taken as a pill.
So there’s a snippet of my ‘stress reducing food kit’ that I intentionally put together.
Here are some things to think about the next time you reach for a snack:
- What kind of foods do you crave when you are under stress?
- What’s your relationship to food when you are under stress?
- Can you come up with certain foods you can use foods to reduce your stress levels?
I’d love to read your comments. As always thank you for sharing.
To your health and wellbeing,
Reference: The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth, Jonny Bowden, PhD,C.N.S