The food we eat either creates wellness or contributes to unwellness. By choosing foods that decrease inflammation and stress, we can reset the effects of stress in our bodies. That’s what I call clean eating – the topic of today’s post.
When you think about it, this isn’t complicated. Instead, it’s really a simple equation: Better food choices equal less stress.
Certain foods are more likely to increase our stress, and in turn, increase our health issues. Everything from digestive issues (reflux, bloating, etc), to autoimmunity, anxiety, depression, skin issues, weight gain, menstrual irregularities, chronic virus infections, and many other conditions are associated with eating stress-filled food.
These include high sugar, highly processed foods. Also any foods that trigger an inflammatory response in your body that require more antioxidants than they provide.
Before we review my favorite stress-busting foods and two amazing recipes that you are going to want to make (and eat) right away, let’s review some SelfC.A.R.E. clean eating tips found in my book, Master Your Stress, Reset Your Health.
Clean Eating: Part of Good SelfC.A.R.E.
Decrease sugar intake. Cane sugar and corn syrups raise blood sugar levels, overwhelm insulin function, increase cholesterol levels and raise inflammation, while decreasing immune function. Bleh!
Instead of reaching for the chocolates, cookies, and candy, I want you to explore foods and recipes that include coconut palm sugar, monk fruit sweeteners, and stevia alternatives because they are less likely to trigger a rise in blood sugar levels.
Add protein. When cortisol levels are elevated for long periods of time from chronic infection, and for Stress Magnet and Sluggish and Stressed types, blood sugar varies along with energy levels, mood, and sleep. So, consider adding good quality fish/animal and plant-based protein at each meal throughout the day for all stress types in order to help balance your blood sugar levels.
Choose healthy fats. It is important to eat the right types of fats like olive oil and flaxseed oil because they help our bodies to make critical hormones and build cell walls. Plus, those good fats will signal the brain that you feel full.
Eat mindfully. When we choose to slow down and devote our full attention to the food we are eating, our bodies’ digestive, hormone, inflammation, and stress signals are calm, collected, and operating at optimal levels.
Explore intermittent fasting. Taking a break from eating overnight is a good way to reset your metabolism and your digestion. How long to fast overnight is a very individual choice. I need to clarify something about IF. It’s important that you listen to your body and know your stress type.
TAKE THE FREE STRESS QUIZ TO FIND OUT YOUR STRESS TYPE:
Pushing through or going too far in any practice (competitiveness, perfectionism, impressing others, and constantly trying to exceed expectations) leads us into unhealthy levels of stress. I have a whole podcast episode about how to successfully add intermittent fasting to your life.
When it comes to choosing foods that decrease stress, here are the criteria I take into account:
- Decreases inflammation
- Balances blood sugar
- Increases antioxidants
- Provides nutrients
- Is good for feeding gut bacteria
Clean Eating: My 5 Favorite Stress-Busting Foods
These five stress-busting foods are scientifically proven to help you feel better and less frazzled.
- Adding more leafy green vegetables and even onions, which are an anti-inflammatory and antioxidants with a lot of good bacteria is always a good decision. I also like tossing into my food fresh rosemary and oregano for their antimicrobial and antioxidant properties.
- Avocados and their stress-relieving healthy fats, B vitamins, and minerals promotes healthier sleep (thank you magnesium) and can reduce anxiety while improving mood. Magnesium assists with the metabolism of adrenaline, which is perfect for stress magnets and tired and wired Stress Types.
- Berries, such as blueberries, raspberries and blackberries, are filled with antioxidants and they act as gut-friendly fiber-rich foods that can also reduce anxiety, depression, and stress. What we eat feeds the bacteria in our intestines. We need to feed the healthy bacteria (and not the toxic bacteria) just enough and not too much. How to do that? Choose ¼-½ cup of organic berries; I prefer them frozen for even more antioxidants.
- Nuts and seeds (like sunflower and pumpkin) are high in magnesium and and healthy fats, and have been linked to benefiting people with mild to moderate levels of anxiety. So, next time you’re feeling your stress levels increasing, munch on some almonds, walnuts, cashews, or sunflower seeds. Choose organic, raw nuts and seeds.
- Fatty fish is an omega-3 powerhouse. Omega 3 fats decrease inflammation and in fact increase “anti-inflammation.” Healthy fats are essential for the brain and nervous system. Not only is salmon, mackerel, and lake trout known for preventing heart disease, fatty fish can also ease stress, anxiety, and depression. Be sure to choose wild fish versus farm raised whenever possible.
Stress-Busting Recipes You’ll Love
Recipe 1: Colorful Start To The Day
Breakfast potatoes with onion, peppers, zucchini, mushrooms, greens, and fresh herbs are an amazing way to start a busy day. Add turkey sausage or bacon for protein.
- ½ chopped spinach or kale
- 1 teaspoon plus 1 pinch of sea salt
- 1-2 tablespoons avocado or grapeseed oil
- ½ medium yellow or red onion, diced
- 1 cup chopped sweet bell peppers (any color)
- 1 medium zucchini, chopped or diced
- ½ cup chopped or sliced mushrooms (shitake, cremini, or baby bella)
- 1 tablespoon chopped, fresh rosemary (or 1 teaspoon, dried)
- 2 cups chopped and roasted brown or red potatoes (or leftover roasted vegetables)
- 1 cup cooked and crumbled turkey sausage
- Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add the spinach or kale, a small amount of water, and 1 pinch of sea salt. Sauté until the greens are just wilted. Remove from pan and set aside.
- Heat the oil in the same skillet. Add the onion and cook, stirring, until softened, about 2 minutes.
- Add the bell peppers, zucchini, mushrooms, and remaining 1 teaspoon of sea salt and the rosemary. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are tender and starting to brown, about 10-12 minutes.
- Add potatoes or roasted vegetables, turkey sausage or bacon, and wilted greens. Cook for another 2-4 minutes, until slightly browned and warmed through. Transfer to a warm platter or 4 plates and served immediately.
Recipe 2: When In Doubt, Arugula!
Arugula salad with beets, avocado, pumpkin seeds, and olives is my go-to for lunch, for dinner – heck, even for breakfast some days. This vibrant salad is also perfect for any holiday potluck or party – just double the recipe. I like to keep these ingredients on hand so I can whip up this salad in no time.
- 4 cups arugula
- 1 cup chopped or thinly sliced, cooked beets
- 1 avocado, diced in small cubes
- 8 ounces skinless, boneless roasted or grilled chicken breast (turkey works too)
- 12-14 pitted green or Kalamata olives
- ½ cup pumpkin or sunflower seeds
- ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- ¼ cup balsamic vinegar
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- Divide the arugula among four individual serving bowls, Set the beets on the arugula in one area of each bowl. Then place the avocado in another area. Put the chicken or turkey in another area of the bowl. Then evenly space out the olives and sprinkle the seeds over the top of each salad.
- For the vinaigrette, whisk together in a small bowl the oil, vinegar, and mustard for 1 minute, or until combined and smooth. Drizzle over each salad and serve.
I keep the ingredients for these recipes in my fridge and kitchen at all times. This way I know I can always whip up a stress-less meal to help me through the day and to be ready for what’s coming next.
More Stress-Busting Resources
If you are on a mission to decrease the stress coming into your body by changing the foods you eat, then the next important step to take is to do a food sensitivity panel. Here’s my preferred test from the lab I approve and recommend.
Keep in mind, it’s possible that you might be having inflammatory reactions to even the healthy foods you are eating. When that is the case, it is a result of leaky gut. Learn about leaky gut, and how to heal it, in my free masterclass.
By healing leaky gut, you’ll be better able to get the most nutrients from your foods, without the inflammation.
And if you are noticing blood sugar fluctuations and weight gain, even though you’re trying to eat well, then it’s time to find out your cortisol levels. Then I can guide you to optimize your cortisol, which then helps to stabilize your blood sugar, metabolism, digestion, and more.
Remember, our bodies are interconnected. When we can address the underlying imbalances, we can reset in a major way. Feeding yourself in a way that maintains balance and doesn’t add to the stress will help you stay feeling good over the long term. It’s worth it to feel good and be well. That’s what I call being a Stress Warrior.
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More Resources from Dr. Doni:
- Stress Type Quiz: Assess your adrenal function
- Dr. Doni’s Book: Master Your Stress, Reset Your Health
- Dr. Doni’s Facebook Group: Stress Warrior Stress Resiliency
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