11 Foods that fight Stress

    As physicians, many of us know all too well that stress is a common feature in the lives of American citizens. This is often due to their career, financial situation or family life. The 3 out of 4 Americans experiencing stress at levels that cause a wide range of stress-related physical symptoms, experience problems such as upset stomachs, insomnia, headaches, elevations in blood pressure, changes in appetite, muscle tension and pain. We see stress in patients every day, but how often do we take a look in the mirror and identify stress in our own lives? When we are feeling run down, do we identify the cause and take our own advice to treat ourselves?

    Many people turn to food to comfort themselves from the emotional burden of stress, which can be correlated to rising obesity rates in America. While foods can be comforting in overwhelming times, many of the foods that are typically chosen are detrimental to health. Even though we know better, high sugar foods with excess fats are convenient and sometimes hard to resist. Unfortunately, when we give into temptation, we hurt the body by increasing inflammation, depressing the immune system and increasing the risk for diseases such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure and diabetes. We need to keep in mind that there are foods that are both healthy, nourishing and comforting at the same time. Although they won’t be advertised through commercials often, they are sure to do the trick. Keep these foods in mind which can improve help improve your mood, calm the mind and decrease stress, all without compromising well-being. By stimulating the release of endorphins, supporting the immune system and harmonizing neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine for optimal brain function, you can be nourished and energized to give your best to your family, coworkers and patients. Next time you’re feeling stressed or overwhelmed, skip the usual comfort foods like hamburgers or candy bars, and try these healthy options: 1. Avocados If you are craving something rich and creamy like ice cream, pudding or pie, whip up a smooth avocado. They contain healthy oils comprised of monounsaturated fats which are good for keeping the heart, skin and hair healthy. Plus, they satisfy those creamy cravings. 2. Berries All berries, including strawberries, raspberries, and blackberries, are rich in vitamin C which has shown to be helpful in combating stress. However, blueberries have some of the highest levels of an antioxidant known as anthocyanin and they've been linked to all kinds of positive health outcomes including sharper cognition. Recommend adding berries to yogurt, cereals or smoothies. They can even freeze them and have them for a tasty and cool summer snack. 3. Turkey Turkey is a great food to calm the mood, and alleviate stress. Turkey contains tryptophan, an amino acid that boosts serotonin production in the brain. Try turkey as a main source of protein in meals or added to soup or salad. Turkey is great in sandwiches, and of course should be included in meals during the holiday season (since it is typically a stressful time for many people). 4. Spinach This dark green vegetable is great source of magnesium and fiber, and it helps to boost energy levels. Magnesium is a mineral that helps relax muscles and promote a sense of calming. Spinach is a great base for a leafy salad and can be prepared in a variety of great tasting combinations. Spinach is relatively tasteless, which makes it great for green smoothies. Combine spinach, bananas, strawberries and almonds with ice, a little cocoa and raw honey for a delicious "anytime" stress busting smoothie. 5. Salmon Not only does this fish, full of Omega 3 essential fatty acids and DHA (docosahexanoic acid), help to boost serotonin production, it also helps to nourish the brain while mitigating stress hormones. As you may know, the Omega 3 in salmon reduces inflammation and promotes healthy blood flow, both of which are decreased during times of high stress. To avoid high levels of mercury, choose wild Alaskan salmon. Try adding salmon to the diet up to three times a week in salads, grilled, blackened or lightly pan-seared. Sushi (sashimi or nigiri) is another alternative to traditionally prepared versions that is very delicious with a bit of fresh lemon juice and soy sauce. 6. Nuts and seeds When you are looking for a healthy snack to take on the go, nuts and seeds are a great option to take the edge off of a stressful day. They are a rich source of Omega 3 and Omega 6 essential fatty acids, both which help reduce stress. Selenium deficiency is associated with depression, fatigue and anxiety. Almonds are an excellent source of selenium, magnesium, zinc and Vitamin E, which all help boost the immune system. Walnuts are one of the best sources of Omega 3s, and cashews and sunflower seeds contain tryptophan, which boosts serotonin production. Add walnuts or cashews to a smoothie or create a healthy trail-mix with almonds, cashews, walnuts, dried berries and dark chocolate for a tasty on the go stress relieving snack. 7. Oatmeal Start your day off stress-free with this healthy carbohydrate that boosts serotonin. Oats are a rich source of magnesium and potassium, which calm the mind, and lower blood pressure. Having a bowl of rolled or steel cut oats in the morning, and adding blueberries, strawberries or even walnuts, is a delicious and nutritious start to the day. They can add a little cinnamon to the mix for a kick and get the added benefit of stabilizing their blood sugar. 8. Citrus fruit Oranges, grapefruit, and other citrus fruits are a great way to get vitamin C, which studies show reduce stress levels. Plus, vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that boosts the immune system. Try an orange in the afternoon for a calming and nourishing snack. 9. Sweet potatoes and carrots Root vegetables are a good source of fiber and carbohydrates, which can help to boost serotonin production. Plus, because they are subtly sweet, they can offset cravings for sugar. Sweet potatoes and carrots are also a great source of vitamins and minerals that are good for blood pressure and the heart. Try having a handful of baby carrots with some almond butter in the afternoon, or a sweet potato with dinner a couple of times a week. 10. Broccoli This vegetable is packed with a lot of vitamins including stress-fighting B vitamins and folic acid (a member of the B vitamin family). The B vitamins are great for relieving stress, anxiety and depression. You can steam, sauté or add broccoli to casseroles and salads. For on the go health and stress relief, try a few crowns of broccoli in a sandwich bag with a little light Caesar or ranch dressing. 11. Dairy Low-fat milk and cottage cheese are loaded with protein and calcium which can soothe anxiety and calm the mood. Cottage cheese is both low in fat and sugar. The calcium in milk helps strengthen and relax the nervous system, which can help the body manage stress. Waistline tip: Try a brand of cottage cheese that doesn’t compensate for the low fat level by adding starches, fillers and sugars, as these can be bad for stress and the waistline. Add berries and other stress reducing fruits to cottage cheese. Also, try warm milk just before bedtime as a soothing way to help the body relax before sleep. You may recommend healthy food choices to patients regularly, but be sure you practice what you preach and you will be glad you did. Comfort foods don’t have to leave you feeling guilty and bloated, try these yourself and don’t be afraid to mix and match foods to come up with some of your own recipes. These delicious whole foods will help to nourish your body and keep your mood and body stable throughout your day. With the high demands physicians must meet each day, staying at our best must be a priority. With these tips you will be in an better state of mind and well-being, all while enjoying delicious foods!

    Read 488163 times Last modified on November 14, 2014
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