Stress - Is Food The Answer?

Jun 17, 2021

Ah stress, the friend that wasn’t invited. Let’s try it in a sentence: ‘I was so stressed that I ate a whole tub of ice cream for breakfast, I don’t know how it happened…👀 ’ No judgements here, we’ve all been there.

What happens to the body when we’re stressed?

Let's start with what stress is: ‘A state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or demanding circumstances’. In a nutshell, stress is our body's response to pressure. Everyone will deal with stress differently and like all good things, it’s not a one size fits all.

But we have two responses right? The emotional - anxious, afraid, sad, irritable (us when the gyms were closed AGAIN / the thought of Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds breaking up 😳). And then you have the body's reaction, our physiological response. This might include:

  1. Increased blood sugar
  2. A rise in blood pressure
  3. Increase in heart rate
  4. The release of stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline

In other words, fight or flight. Picture this, you’re walking down the street looking absolute 🔥 and out of nowhere, a lion starts chasing you… your body will kick into fight or flight mode to ensure your survival.

Okay, crisis averted - We’re not stressed anymore

In an ideal world, the stress hormones will go back to normal and you can carry on as you were. However, over time the adrenal glands (the glands that release the stress hormones, cortisol and adrenaline) may become overworked and could find it hard to produce the right amount of hormones.

Now there are several strategies that can help overcome stress - yoga, meditation, fresh air, regular exercise and practising mindfulness. Another one could be the food choices we make. Research shows that there could be a relationship between nutrition and the physiological changes caused by stress.

We’ve linked some further research at the end of this blog, but here are a few key considerations that scientists seem to agree on:

AVOID: Caffeine

Remember our stress hormone, cortisol. Caffeine acts as a stimulant and encourages a higher production of cortisol - not ideal when you’re already stressed and possibly producing higher levels than normal. Why not switch your coffee for a soothing chamomile next time you’re feeling the pressure 🫖

AVOID: Foods high in sugar

Some studies have suggested that stress can cause your blood sugar to rise. So the last thing you want to do is add to it. One word (well actually two), S U G A R C R A S H!  You want to avoid highly refined foods such as bread, chocolate and biscuits; and instead, opt for unrefined carbs (basically carbs that haven’t been altered) such as brown bread, brown rice and oats.

GO FOR IT: Seeds

Seeds contain magnesium, and magnesium is our friend. It’s been shown to alleviate depression, fatigue and irritability. What a winner.

GO FOR IT: High protein

Not just for the gym hey….😜? When we’re chronically stressed, the body has an increased demand for protein. Go for lean cuts of meat, lentils, nuts and seeds.

GO FOR IT: Vitamin C

What do you think of when you hear Vitamin C… oranges! But did you know that peppers have roughly twice the amount of vitamin C than a serving of oranges? Research suggests that Vitamin C may reduce the levels of stress hormones and help fight the physiological signs of stress.

GO FOR IT: Dark chocolate

Well this is fun, chocolate for stress relief? YES PLEASE. Some research suggests that dark chocolate can help lower the levels of cortisol in the body. This does come with a warning though… be considerate of your serving size and the type of chocolate you’re opting for (go for at least 70% cocoa). It’s still chocolate after all… 👀

GO FOR IT: Green tea

Green tea contains an amino acid called theanine, which may increase the production of a happy hormone, serotonin.

So there you have it… stress and nutrition. Whilst we can’t completely eliminate stress from our lives, research shows that our food choices may have a positive impact on our response to stress.  

But let’s not forget, stress isn’t just about the biological response, it's emotional too. If stress is getting in the way of you living your best life, always seek advice from a professional.

STRESS LESS SALAD

A stressful day can be challenging both mentally and physically. Try this quick and easy salad, which prioritises those all important stress-busting foods. With a hearty injection of vitamin C,  protein and a sprinkling of seeds, you’ll be feeling your best in no time.

P.S. Remember, your dark chocolate and green tea for pudding 😍

SHREDDY's stress busting salad packed with nutrients

Ingredients (serves 2)

160g - Broccoli florets

2 handfuls - Curly kale

1 handful - Spinach

2 - Sweet yellow peppers, chopped

1 - Red onion, chopped

100g (dry) - Wholewheat fusilli

1 - Lemon (juice)

1 tsp. - Extra virgin olive oil

As needed - Protein (chicken, egg or tofu)

As needed - Fresh basil, chopped

As needed - Sunflower seeds

Dressing:

1 tbsp. - Extra virgin olive oil

½ tsp. - Mustard

½ tsp. - Honey

1 tsp. - White wine vinegar

½ lemon - Lemon zest

Method:

  1. Cook the pasta as directed. For the final 4-5 minutes, add the broccoli (saves on washing up 👀)
  2. Add the kale to a mixing bowl, and squeeze over the fresh lemon juice with the oil. Using you hands, massage the kale until it softens and is fully coated
  3. Add the cooked broccoli, cooked pasta, yellow pepper, spinach and red onion
  4. To make the dressing, combine all ingredients together and pour over the salad
  5. Toss to coat
  6. Top with your protein of choice, fresh basil and those all important seeds!

If you’re interested in learning more about these topics, we encourage you to do your own research. Remember, it's a jungle out there! Always check the source and credibility of what you’re reading. And if in doubt, talk to a professional 💕

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