WHAT IS AN ANTI-STRESS DIET?
An anti-stress diet is a daily intake of a variety of whole foods rich in B complex vitamins. Need a serious boost i energy levels, improved memory and concentration and a lift in mood? If the answer is "yes" then it's time to look at the foods designed to do just that.
Even under optimal conditions, it takes a lot of energy to navigate through life. It takes even more energy during a period of prolonged stress. When we are under prolonged or chronic stress, it's important to incorporate foods containing B complex vitamins. Not only are foods rich in B complex vitamins needed to assist all the food we eat turn into energy, but they also play an essential role in regulating brain functions, including mood.
HOW DOES AN ANTI-STRESS DIET WORK?
All whole foods contain an array of compounds our body need - which is the reason we often hear the need for a "balanced diet". By making sure we routinely eat a variety of foods we are getting the various nutrients we need for overall health.
Some nutrients are stored in our body for extended periods of time so we can benefit from those nutrients without necessarily having to consume them on a daily basis. But, with the exception of B12, our body does not store B complex vitamins. We pretty much take what we need, use it, and the excess is eliminated.
SUPPLEMENTS VS FOOD
Millions of us take a multivitamin every day containing B-complex vitamins - but many of us are still walking around feeling fatigued and out of gas. So, what's the deal? Aren't B complex vitamins supposed to be the powerhouse of energy supplying vitamins?
Yes - and no.
One the one hand B vitamins are responsible for assisting our body to convert food into fuel. If we are concentrating on fighting fatigue and improving our energy balance, B complex vitamins are essential.
But, despite the claims of folks who want to sell us their products, vitamin supplements are just a small part of our energy needs. Getting nutrients from a supplement is simply not the same as getting nutrients from whole food.
The nutrients in food, unlike the nutrients in supplements, don't just come to the party alone - they bring along friends like fiber and phytochemicals and protein and antioxidants. It's the combination of nutrients in whole foods, rather than the isolated nutrients, that our bodies are designed to use for optimal health and energy.
While a daily multivitamin with B complex is great for filling in the chinks in our diet - especially if we have certain medical conditions - it is not a substitute for the real deal.
And the real deal is food.
ANTI-STRESS DIET BREAKFAST
Forget the breakfast comprised of pastries, McMuffins, and over-processed sugary cereals. And, definitely, don't skip it!
Instead, think about starting the day with a food naturally high in B1 (Thiamine) - the "anti-stress" nutrient. Not only does B1 help strengthen our immune system and bolster our body's ability to withstand stressful situations, it is essential for a properly functioning brain and nervous system.
The importance of B1 for energy cannot be overstated - it is used by every cell of our body.
Have a bowl of oatmeal.
Not only are oats incredibly high in thiamin, but they are also a gluten-free source of other important nutrients - including ones that have a positive effect on our mood. Although most processed breakfast cereals are enhanced with thiamine, plain old fashioned oatmeal is still a better choice. Oats are unique because they contain Avenanthramides - powerful antioxidants. So, grab a bowl of oatmeal, toss in some blueberries or strawberries for natural memory boosters, add a little honey to assist with concentration and you have a perfect energy boosting anti-stress breakfast.
ANTI-STRESS DIET SNACKS
Selecting a few between meal snacks from foods rich in riboflavin is important for keeping our energy level high through the day.
Riboflavin is a natural metabolism booster and, when we are eating a balanced diet, we generally have plenty available for our body to use. But, it only takes about a week of poor eating habits to deplete our bodies of riboflavin - and healthy eating habits are usually the first casualty of war in chronic stress.
Greek yogurt, almonds, mushrooms, a small spinach salad, soybeans or a boiled egg are some good snack choices.
ANTI-STRESS DIET LUNCH
Niacin is important because it helps our body actually absorb the nutrients - proteins, carbs, and fats - we need for health and energy. Eating an otherwise healthy diet without sufficient niacin is like having a tank full of gas - but no car keys.
And, since we're now feeling a bit more energetic, we'll throw in the fact that niacin regulates sex hormones and has been shown to help with erectile dysfunction!
How much niacin will do a body good? If you are eating a varied, balanced diet, you are probably getting enough B3 (niacin) - a single serving of chicken is about half your daily need. For vegetarians, mushrooms. asparagus and broccoli are good non-meat sources. A single cup of coffee or a serving of peanuts contain a full supply of our daily requirement. Seriously - how easy is that?
Another B vitamin that plays a role in the production and maintenance of sex hormones is B5 (Pantothenic acid). A colorful lunch salad containing cauliflower, kale, broccoli, and tomatoes is rich in B5 vitamins.
You may have heard the idea that lack of B5 is responsible for grey hair - sorry, but not true. While a lack of sufficient B5 may cause symptoms of fatigue and insomnia - it won't turn your hair grey!
Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine) is found in pepper, chives, shallots, onions, parsley, paprika, chili powder, sage, spearmint, tarragon, basil, rosemary, and turmeric. So let's get spicy!
Vitamin B6 not only helps our bodies make serotonin, but it also aids in the production of melatonin. Melatonin aids in sleep and helps regulate our body clock - two key factors in raising physical energy and preventing mental fatigue. B-6 may also improve your memory.
In addition to spices, we can get our B6 from spinach, bananas, sweet potatoes, tuna, turkey, beef, chicken, salmon and sunflower seeds.
ANTI-STRESS DIET LIMITS PROCESSED FOOD
We are probably NOT getting enough B6 unless we avoid not only junk food but limit many commercially processed/prepared foods as well. That's because there is a substance added to these products called (tartrazine) which interferes with our body's absorption of B6. Tartrazine is also called Yellow Dye #5 and guess what?
Yellow Dye #5 is everywhere!
QUICK GUIDE TO EASY TO PREPARE AND AFFORDABLE FOODS FOR AN ANTI-STRESS DIET:
WHAT'S THE BOTTOM LINE?
Being chronically stressed can feel like swimming with boots on - it's mentally and physically exhausting!
The key is understanding that managing chronic stress requires a dual strategy: practicing good stress management techniques AND eating a nutrient dense, energy boosting anti-stress diet.