Stress is sneaky.
Sometimes you don’t even know that you’re feeling it until you turn your head and your neck hurts, or maybe you feel a constant pit in your stomach, or you notice your heart is beating faster than normal.
The truth is, some stress is normal, but chronic stress can do a real number on your body.
It can wreak havoc on your hormones, making you gain weight (especially unhealthy belly fat).
It can also take a significant toll on your health, paving the way for illness and disease.
Scientists are learning more all the time about how stress can impact your health.
It’s never been a big secret that stress causes illness, but it was never clear HOW it played a role until recently.
But now, it seems pretty clear that “chronic psychological stress” can affect your body’s ability to regulate its inflammatory response. That’s because one of your body’s key stress hormones – cortisol – also plays a role in controlling inflammation, which is associated with practically every disease process affecting our bodies!
The real puppet master
Cortisol is called the “stress” or “fight or flight” hormone and is released when we anticipate pain.
Cortisol is not released during that pain, but when we anticipate it, the pain may never come.
However, in the modern-day, most of our stressors are emotional, psychological, or philosophical. Most of our stress is not caused by a pressing, imminent physical danger.
We initiate this “fight or flight” response to our ongoing, daily stressors, which means that we are elevating our heart rates for prolonged periods as we experience the constant stress of our day. Left unchecked, this chronic elevation can result in high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, and diabetes.
When we carry our emotional stress for weeks or months without addressing it and finding ways to de-stress, we also put ourselves at risk for fatigue, increased anxiety, and depression.
Additionally, large amounts of stress hormones can also create toxins that limit your liver’s ability to do its job, which means that much of the cortisol that we create and release may actually be for a false pain.
Effects of Excess Stress
For example, you may feel that there is a threat and experience stress over it because of a cortisol release… but that threat may never come. The stressor may not come to fruition. Yet you will still experience the effect of cortisol being released and feel stress.
The “pain” our brain thinks may happen can be life or death pain, but most of the time, it is “pain” from a failure at work, weight loss, in a social setting, etc.
Suppose going to the gym is uncomfortable, and the idea of going gives you anxiety. In that case, your body may release cortisol because you think that you will experience the pain of being uncomfortable at the gym.
If you can recognize that your brain is releasing cortisol because it feels a threat AND that this threat will not kill you, you can move past it. You are just going to the gym with other people doing the same things that other people do.
We can’t always control the stressors or our bodies’ reactions – but interestingly enough – there are actually foods that can aid our body in handling and reducing stress!
Tahini is a Middle Eastern butter made from ground, toasted sesame seeds. Sesame seeds have a powerful effect on heart health by decreasing risk factors, such as high blood pressure, triglycerides, and LDL (bad) cholesterol. Tahini is also a great source of phosphorus and manganese, both of which play vital roles in bone health. It’s also high in thiamine (vitamin B1) and vitamin B6, essential for energy production. Lastly, tahini is rich in amino acids – including L-tryptophan. Your body converts L-tryptophan into serotonin, which increases your feelings of happiness and wellbeing, and can relieve stress and boost your mood.
You can find tahini in hummus, but it also makes an excellent stand-alone spread or dip for pita bread, meat, and vegetables. You can also add it to dips, salad dressings, and baked goods.
A type of legume, they are also high in protein and fiber, making them a filling food that may help lower appetite and reduce calorie intake at meals.
Chickpeas are also an excellent source of protein, which has various health benefits, ranging from weight management to bone health. As a result, they are a perfect choice for individuals who avoid animal products.
Chickpeas have a low GI and are also a great source of fiber and protein, all properties that support healthy blood sugar control. Lastly, chickpeas are rich in L-tryptophan. They also have a high level of magnesium – a mineral that our bodies need to combat stress. Chronic stress can result in depleted levels of magnesium.
Chickpeas are the main ingredient in hummus, so you can buy hummus from the store or make it yourself. Another way to enjoy chickpeas is to roast them, which makes for a delicious and crunchy snack. You can also incorporate them into veggie burgers or tacos.
Blueberries are a low-calorie, vitamin-packed fruit. Antioxidants found in blueberries can reduce the negative impact that stress can have on our bodies (inflammation, cell damage) and are believed to boost your mood.
Not only that, but they have an impressive array of fiber, vitamins, and minerals. They may reduce the risk of DNA damage, protecting against cancer and aging, and help fight diabetes. In addition, blueberries may stop cholesterol from oxidizing (important for heart health) and lower blood pressure. They also contain compounds that are good for brain function and memory.
Plus, evidence suggests they help prevent urinary tract infections and assist with post-workout recovery.
Eat blueberries as-is for a snack – stir them into oatmeal, yogurt, or salad – or add them to smoothies.
Avocados are packed with nutrients that most of us struggle to get enough. Avocados contain fiber, magnesium, and potassium, among many other things. When we are stressed, the release of stress hormones often increases our blood pressure. Potassium, which avocados are rich in, can lower blood pressure.
Plus, avocados may help lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels, fight age-related vision problems, and improve nutrient absorption from other foods.
Add them to smoothies, salads, or add a dollop of avocado crema to your plant-based burgers! They are also delicious (obviously) in guacamole.
Let’s give “stress-eating” a whole new definition! If you’re ready to make a change, I’m here to help you learn and implement healing, nutrient-dense food! For more information on being healthy at every age, grab my FREE “Healthy at Every Age” ebook. Can’t wait for more health and wellness tips? Why not join my VIP Membership. If you’re interested in working with me one-on-one, you can always book a call with me or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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