Life tends to pull us in all directions, from a hectic work schedule to maintaining professional and personal relationships. Regardless of our responsibilities, the stress of daily life can add up and take an enormous physical and mental toll. In these moments of strain, we all react differently, but our choices may add to the underlying problem. Many turn to short-term solutions, such as comfort foods, which provide immediate satisfaction but ultimately hurt our overall well-being and health.
Jolene Cherry, a personal trainer and yoga instructor, stresses the importance of creating healthy habits, especially in the kitchen. With a little research and calculated grocery shopping, it’s possible to revamp your nutritional goals and reduce stress in the process.
Below, Jolene Cherry provides several food options worth integrating into your food regimen to reduce anxiety and manage stress.
First and foremost, if you suffer from anxiety and stress, remember that you’re not alone. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), anxiety disorders are the most common disorders in the United States and affect approximately 18% of the population every year. Furthermore, the American Institute of Stress reports that 33% of people experience extreme stress, and 77% report changes to their physical health as a result of stress.
If you suffer from generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) or severe stress, you may be familiar with or develop the following symptoms: fear, tension, excessive worry, irritability, difficulty concentrating, heart palpitations, elevated heart rate, muscle tension, high blood pressure, and chest tightness. Left unchecked, the symptoms above could escalate, so you should consult your primary care provider to discuss an appropriate action plan.
In the interim, it’s possible to manage the fight-or-flight stress response with simple lifestyle changes, such as exercise and nutrient-rich foods. Particularly a healthy gut or enteric nervous system (ENS) is essential to feeling well. The human gut is lined with more than 100 million nerve cells and is known as a “second brain.” It’s well known that deficient serotonin levels may cause depression, but most don’t realize that 90% of the body’s serotonin is made in the digestive tract.
Nuts & Seeds
What seeds and nuts lack in size, they make up for in health benefits. Pumpkin seeds provide potassium, which in turn helps balance electrolytes and manage blood pressure. Chia and flax seeds are an excellent source of healthy omega-3s (fatty acids that are known to promote brain health and fight depression). Brazil nuts contain selenium, an antioxidant that reduces inflammation and prevents cell damage.
Fatty fish, such as trout, sardines, and especially salmon, are excellent sources of omega-3 fats. Omega-3s in fish battle anxiety and depression by regulating cortisol and providing eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), two essential fatty acids for regulating neurotransmitters.
Not only are blueberries delicious and relatively affordable, but they also help your body produce the “feel good” chemical dopamine. Add them to oatmeal for an extra health boost. Oatmeal can reduce levels of stress hormones and is another supplier of serotonin.
Waking up to a black cup of java may be a terrific way to start your day, but be careful of your caffeine intake. Too many stimulants like coffee can elevate your heart rate and deplete your energy levels. Instead, enjoy a lovely cup of herbal tea. Chamomile can relieve stress-induced symptoms, green tea is a potent antioxidant, and mint contains relaxation-promoting properties.
Your taste buds may be more accustomed to sugary milk chocolate, but it has nothing on its counterpart: dark chocolate. High in tryptophan, dark chocolate helps the body create serotonin and is also a good source of magnesium, which helps the heart maintain a healthy rhythm. Next time you want to treat yourself, indulge in a small serving of dark chocolate that’s 70% pure chocolate or more.
About Jolene Cherry: Jolene Cherry is the go-to yoga instructor and personal trainer in Portland, Oregon, for those looking to reach physical fitness and harmony in life. Combining her passion for travel, physical fitness, and meditation, she studied with renowned yoga instructors in Thailand as well as Hawaii. Jolene also offers guidance for healthy nutrition to strike a perfect balance in your life.