Those that know me would probably describe me as being highly strung, driven, a workaholic, anxious, creative and always on move. I guess it's just been part of my nature from when I was growing up, I even remember asking my aunt to knit me a jumper with the words 'JUST RELAX' on the front.
When I feel like I’m working myself to the ground, my immune system weakens, energy levels plummet and my digestive health just doesn’t function properly. My cortisol levels also go through the roof, meaning that my body runs on "fight or flight' mode where it always feels like it's under constant attack. I start craving sugary or starchy foods that are no good for my health and really have an impact on my insulin levels and how I feel. I'm lucky enough that I know my body well and can read the symptoms early on so that a management plan is put into place before things go out of control.
Overtime... stress can lead to a suppressed immune response, sleep problems, unwanted weight gain and blood sugar abnormalities. My advice is to ensure you’re eating the right wholefoods that are high in health-promoting benefits. I'm mindful about what I eat every day and always make a conscious effort to feed my body the proper nourishment to support my adrenals and to stabilise my energy levels and mood.
Check out my top foods to power you though those stressful times.
These creamy satisfying nuts are always in my pantry. Cashews contains the amino acid L-tryptophan which converts to serotonin in the body – a feel good chemical responsible for overall wellbeing and feeling great! Serotonin is also crucial for the proper development of the enteric nervous system (ENS) to support digestion. Cashews are also a good source of magnesium - the relaxation mineral and essential for good health and optimal nerve function. Not only do I enjoy them on their own, but I adore making a creamy banana protein shake that helps boost tryptophan or a nourishing hot chocolate made with cashew milk that helps me unwind before bedtime. Other great sources of tryptophan are protein rich foods such as sesame seeds or tahini, pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, natural protein powder and flaxseeds.
Not only does it contain magnesium to help relax blood vessels, improve circulation and blood flow, but the flavonoids in cocoa can help to increase nitric oxide production that allows more oxygen flow, as well as help lower blood pressure.Chocolate has even been referred to as the new anti-anxiety solution when a study in the Journal of Psychopharmacology revealed that those who were drinking an antioxidant-rich chocolate drink felt calmer than those who did not.
Cocoa is also rich in a compound called resveratrol, the same that’s found in red wine. Resveretrol helps to control inflammation and protects your brain as well as calm the nervous system. Research also suggests that resveratrol can support mental health by increasing the brain’s production of feel-good endorphins and serotonin. For me personally, I'm a huge chocoholic so to satisfy my cravings, I'm constantly creating guilt-free chocolate desserts and snacks with Naked Chocolat as part of my stress therapy which help satisfy my cravings.
3. PROTEIN-RICH FOODS
Protein is an essential nutrient to help your body cope with high stress levels by stabilising blood sugar spikes, reducing mood swings, jitteriness and improving sleep. It can also support proper hormone production that is essential to your overall wellbeing. I often have a warm mug of hot chocolate, cultured yoghurt mixed with my Healthy Chef Naked Chocolat or even a glass of almond milk mixed with a little Healthy Chef protein.
4. FERMENTED FOODS
The secret to improving your mental health is all in your digestive system. Unbalanced gut flora can have a detrimental impact your brain health, leading to issues like anxiety, depression, IBS and skin disorders. I regularly make my Polish Sauerkraut and enjoy other fermented vegetables such as kimchi or home made yoghurts to help nourish and restore beneficial bacteria in my gut. Supporting your digestive health is probably one of the most important thing you can do for your overall wellbeing
Low levels of vitamin D has been associated with panic disorders according to a study in the Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Vitamin D is essential for calcium and bone mineralisation, healthy immune function and may have a role in the prevention of obesity according to a study found in The International Journal of Preventative Medicine. When I'm feeling stressed or rundown you'll often find me taking a few minutes outside in the sun or going for a light stroll in the sunshine that instantly makes me feel calm and relaxed. I also supplement with Natural Immune Support that gives my body the full recommended daily intake of Vitamin D (1000 IU) as well as 10 X the recommended daily intake of Vitamin C (>450 mg) for nourishing my body during periods and adrenals with the nutrients it needs.
6. GREEN FOODS
Plant based superfoods such as broccoli, kale, cabbage, cauliflower and brussel sprouts are rich in a compound called sulforaphane. Sulphur is required for the synthesis of glutathione which is our most significant antioxidant that's needed for optimum immune function. It is also a powerful anti-inflammatory that can help reduce oxidative stress.
Drinking Matcha Green Tea regularly helps to stabilise blood sugar as it contains l-theanine, which is the amino acid that promotes a state of relaxation, supports the adrenal system and the way your body reacts to stress. Studies published in The American Journal Of Clinical Nutrition show that green tea consumption is associated with lower psychological distress. You can find out more info here. The aim is to incorporate a variety of these green foods into our diet and combine this with some exercise and quality sleep, to prevent you from feeling stressed out, exhausted and overwhelmed.
Bananas are high in tryptophan which helps make serotonin - the feel good hormone responsible for making us feel great. Serotonin is also needed for proper gut function and peristalsis - which pretty much explains that when you're stressed, your digestion can go a little haywire and you can often feel slow and sluggish. Bananas are also high in the mineral potassium. Studies show that potassium rich foods can help to lower blood pressure that can help support cardiovascular health. Bananas are also a great source of chromium, a trace element your body needs to help regulate blood sugar.