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I send out a lot of info on my Twitter feed, from nutrition news to management tips. I get the most passionate reaction—and the most
retweets—when I talk about stress. In fact, a friend of mine recently
told me that stress was her biggest dietary villain. “I eat when I’m
stressed,” she said.
To which I reacted, “Good!” You should eat when you’re stressed—it’s our
bodies’ natural reaction to want to store calories to face whatever
challenge is causing the stress in the first place. The key, however, is
to eat what your body wants—the foods that actually counteract the
effects of stress, and make you stronger (and leaner) when the tough
times pass. So next time anxiety runs high, be sure to grab one of these
seven stress-fighting foods.
Wouldn’t it be awesome if there was a magic nutrient that could stop the flow of
stress hormones—the very hormones that make your body superefficient at
storing fat calories? Wouldn’t you want to gobble that food up like
crazy, especially if it tasted great? Half a medium papaya carries
nearly 75 percent more vitamin C
than an orange, and provides potent protection against stress.
Researchers at the University of Alabama found 200 milligrams of vitamin
C—about as much as you’ll find in one large papaya—twice a day nearly
stopped the flow of stress hormones in rats. It should work for you,
Other smart sources of vitamin C: Red bell peppers, broccoli, oranges
Bonus Tip: The closer an ingredient is to its original form, the healthier it is
for you. Avoid the worst side of the nutritional spectrum by
familiarizing yourself with this shocking list of The 15 Worst Food Creations of 2010.
The mere scent of peppermint helps you focus and boosts performance,
according to researchers. Another study discovered that peppermint tea
makes drivers more alert and less anxious.
Other smart sources of peppermint: Peppermint candy and peppermint oil
Bonus Tip: Beware of disastrous drinks that only pretend to be healthy. Avoid 2,000-calorie shakes, 1,500-calorie smoothies, and other big offenders in this eye-popping list of The 20 Worst Drinks in America in 2010.
Pumpkin seeds are loaded with stress-busting potential thanks to high levels of
magnesium. Only about 30 percent of us meet our daily magnesium
requirements, placing the rest of us at a higher risk for stress
symptoms such as headaches, anxiety, tension, fatigue, insomnia,
nervousness and high blood pressure. (Basically we’re frayed wires, and
magnesium is the electrical tape that can pull us back together.) A
quarter cup of pumpkin seeds gives you half your day’s magnesium
Other smart sources of magnesium: Spinach, Swiss chard, black beans, soybeans, salmon
The healthy fats buried in the avocado’s flesh make it an ideal choice when
you’re craving something rich and creamy. The reasons? Monounsaturated
(healthy) fatty acids, and potassium--both of which help combat high
blood pressure. Avocado fat is 66 percent monounsaturated, and
gram-for-gram, the green fruit has about 35 percent more potassium than a
banana. Whip up a fresh guacamole or slice a few slivers over toast and
top with fresh ground pepper.
Other smart sources of potassium: Squash, papaya, spinach, bananas, lentils
Bonus Tip: Learn how to put these and other health-promoting foods to work in your daily diet to lose weight fast and look and feel better. Sign up for the free Cook This, Not That! newsletter. You’ll have quick and delicious recipes delivered right to you inbox.
Not only does omega-3 fat protect against heart disease and cognitive decline, but according to a study from Diabetes & Metabolism, the wonder fat is also responsible for maintaining healthy levels of
cortisol. And what’s the world’s best source of omega-3s? Salmon. But
there’s another trick in salmon’s arsenal—a sleep-promoting amino acid
called tryptophan. One salmon filet has as much tryptophan as you need
in an entire day, and if there’s one remedy for stress, it’s a good
night of blissful Zs.
Other smart sources of omega-3 fats: Flaxseeds, walnuts, sardines, halibut
Other smart sources of tryptophan: Chicken, tuna, beef, soybeans
Bonus Tip: The favorite trick of your friendly neighborhood restaurant? Substituting salt for flavor. Studies have linked high-salt foods to increased risk of
high blood pressure, stroke, and even heart disease--and experts
recommend getting no more than 2,300 milligrams of sodium
in your diet each day. Keep your salt intake in check by cooking with
high-quality, locally sourced ingredients—and by dodging the salty
disasters in this list of the 30 Saltiest Foods in America.
The almond's first stress-buster is the aforementioned monounsaturated
fats, but at risk of belaboring that point, let’s look at another
almond-centered, mind-calming nutrient: vitamin E. In one study, Belgium
researchers treated pigs with a variety of nutrients just before
sticking them in a transportation simulator (basically a vibrating
crate). After 2 hours of simulation, only those pigs treated with
tryptophan and vitamin E had non-elevated levels of stress hormones.
Almonds, thankfully, are loaded with vitamin E. To reach your day’s
requirement from almonds alone, you need to eat about 40 to 50 nuts. Or
you can mix them with other vitamin-E rich foods to save calories and
add more dietary variety.
Other smart sources of vitamin E: Sunflower seeds, olives, spinach, papaya
A biochemical effect of stress is a depleted stock of serotonin, the
hormone that makes you feel cool, calm, and in control. One reliable
strategy for boosting serotonin back to healthy levels is to increase
your intake of carbohydrates. That said, scarfing down Ding Dongs and
doughnuts isn’t a sustainable solution. Rather, to induce a steady flow
of serotonin, aim to eat fiber-rich, whole-grain carbohydrates. The
slower rate of digestion will keep seratonin production steady and
prevent the blood sugar rollar-coaster that leads to mood swings and
Other sources of fiber-rich carbohydrates: Quinoa, barley, whole-wheat bread, Triscuits
Bonus Secrets: Extra flab fueling your stress? Check out the fitness secrets from Hollywood's hottest celebrities. The best part: No trainer required!
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