When the body is under stress for long periods of time (chronic stress), certain nutrients are depleted. This happens because the use of these nutrients are increased to aid the body in response to the prolonged stress response. The body is reacting to the idea that stress is the new normal, and it must work harder to keep things going. The body must keep the adrenal glands working overtime to keep producing the hormones that keep us in the flight or fight state. It is also working to keep all of the flight or fight responses running like increased heart rate and blood pressure. There are more free radicals produced; the immune, reproductive, and digestive systems are suppressed; and the cardiovascular stimulants that are released when no physical danger is present can cause problems with our physiology, organs, and even our emotions and our minds.
To read more about stress, check out these posts:
Foods and Nutrients For an Anti-Stress Life
Below are a list of nutrients you will want to concentrate on when working through your anti-stress lifestyle and diet transition. The food we eat is what becomes the energy that keeps us going all day as well as the building blocks of our body and mind. What we eat is what we are, so it is very important to look for quality over quantity. To start, I want to say that nutritional stress is something our bodies can go through and it can go undetected. This can be eating foods that contain things our body is not used to like chemicals (pesticides, herbicides, GMOs, preservatives, etc.), missing certain nutrients leading to nutritional deficiencies, eating too much or too little food in general, too much or too little water, and also food allergies or sensitivities. Stress comes at us from many directions, so be aware of this one as well. To read about all the other categories of stress, check out this post.
Foods To Add:
- Eat foods that are nutrient rich. This allows you to get the most goodness out of your food. This includes: vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, whole grains, beans.
- Work on eating 70-80% of the above foods raw – the ones that make sense! There are amazing parts of plants called phytonutrients and many of them work to neutralize free radicals. Note – There are people that may have problems digesting a lot of raw veggies. If this is you, don’t feel bad cooking your food. You can slowly add in more raw food as you get used to them.
- Drink more water. This will aid the body with elimination and keeps you from getting dehydrated which can cause headaches and fatigue.
- Eat small meals more often. Ensure that they include a good balance of all the macronutrients. This will help with blood glucose levels. The more even we can keep these, the less stress on the body.
- Choose complex carbohydrates. This is for the same reason as above: balanced blood glucose levels. They include whole grains like brown rice, quinoa, and wheat berries; starchy veggies like sweet potato, potato, and carrot; and beans (these are also a good source of protein).
- Add more foods that are antioxidant rich. When the body is under stress, it creates more free radicals. Antioxidants are the substances that neutralize these. Some examples are berries, bell pepper, carrots, sprouts, sweet potato.
Individual Nutrients To Add:
- B vitamins – They are greatly depleted by stress. Some foods to try are whole grains, green leafy veggies, beans, peas, nuts, nutritional yeast, etc.
- Vitamin C – Also greatly depleted by stress. Add citrus fruits, rose hips, strawberries, bell peppers, dark leafy greens, tomatoes, cabbage, etc,
- Vitamins A and E and selenium – are antioxidants and will help with free radicals. Some foods to try are Brazil nuts, yellow- and orange-coloured veggies like carrots and sweet potato, dark leafy greens, raw cold-pressed vegetable oils, wheat germ oil, brewer’s yeast, wheat germ, molasses, etc.
- Potassium – dark leafy greens, peas, tomatoes, potatoes with skins, citrus fruits, apples, etc.
- Calcium – dark leafy greens, sesame seeds, nuts, molasses, citrus fruit, figs, dried apricots, cauliflower, etc.
- Magnesium – dark leafy greens, nuts, seeds, legumes, almonds, pecans, Brazil nuts, whole grains. Epson salt baths or a magnesium powder supplement are other great ways to get more magnesium into the body.
Foods To Avoid:
- Caffeine, alcohol, nicotine, and mood-altering drugs can all cause stress on the body as well as deplete needed nutrients.
- Processed foods and foods that contain artificial sweeteners, refined sugar, white flour, preservatives. These all cause stress on our system and can trigger anxiety and mood swings. They also give us nothing in nutritional value.
- Refined sugar/high sugar foods. These will cause blood sugar fluctuations which is stress on the body. Work on keeping a fairly even blood sugar level throughout the day.
- Any foods to which you may be reacting. Food allergies/sensitivities add to the stress in our system, so while you are working on reducing stress, it is best to leave these out. Add them in slowly as you start to feel better to see how you react.
Another important point related to food and stress is how we eat our food. Where you do have your meals? What state of mind are you in? Who do you eat with?All of these questions are worth looking into before you start your next meal. Eating in a relaxed state is necessary for optimal digestion to occur.
- pick a calm environment to eat,
- sit down,
- share a meal with loved ones,
- have conversations surrounding happy, uplifting topics,
- take a few long, deep breaths before starting your meal, and
- eat slowly and mindfully.
All of these tips will get you out of the stressed state and into the rest and digest mindset to make it easier on your body. You will also get more nutrients out of your food this way – but this is a whole other topic!Food makes up every cell in our body, gives us energy, and feeds our gut bacteria as it moves through us. It is so important to eat good food for this and many more reasons. Stress wreaks havoc on our body, mind, and spirit, so if you think you are suffering from chronic stress – make a change now to save yourself from years of suffering as you age. I hope you have found some of the above suggestions helpful and you add them into your diet today. If you feel like sharing your progress with me and a great community of vegan women, please join me in the Facebook group – Vivacious Vegan Women. I cannot wait to meet you! Yours in plant love, Carly