Nutrients for Stress Resilience

Stress releases 2x main hormones, adrenalin and cortisol. Both are very important in moderate amounts to help us deal with stressful situations. However, when stressful situations become ongoing, our bodies start reducing adrenalin output to try and slow the body down causing excessive tiredness, can’t get out of bed in the mornings, fuzzy memory or what we commonly know it as adrenal fatigue. Cortisol on the other hand, can start to increase its production and cause metabolic changes in the body to try and cope with stress. This includes weight gain around central tummy area, muscle wasting, low libido, sleep issues (too much cortisol at night), nutrient depletion, suppressed immunity, increased cholesterol and blood pressure, tiredness and more. Infact most of our common city ailments can be linked to stress and cortisol. This can happen at any age.

So How to Minimise Environment Stress?
·         Exercise including Yoga, thai chi, pilates, stretching
·         Proper deep breathing
·         Sleep enough hours
·         Meditation
·         Taking a bath
·         Listening to calming music
·         Reading a book
·         Delegating tasks

Eat in a calm relaxed state and chew food properly. (If you eat while stressed you are likely to not digest food properly and therefore bring on  reflux/ heartburn or Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) or constipation. Avoid eating on the run, at your computer or eating fast. Being in a relaxed state means you switch on your parasympathetic nervous system which allows the body to digest food properly.

·         Writing a list and delegating or putting a time frame with it so you know that ‘not everything has to be done at once’
You may not be able to change work or family commitments but you can change dietary habits

How to reduce internal stress? (e.g. what foods to avoid)

·  Reduce sugar intake, in unhealthy and watch out of ‘healthy foods’ such as muesli bars, baked goods, cereals etc. Always check the nutritional panel and ingredients list.

·  Reduce alcohol intake, keep to at least 3 alcohol free nights per week.
·  Reduce caffeine- (the more stressed you are, the less you should drink), keep to no more to 2 cups per day.

·  Reduce carbohydrates like pastries, white rice, pasta, breads. This will still convert to sugar once in the body. Limit carbohydrates to 2 serves per day.
How to support stress with nutrients

- Cinnamon; Cinnamon is very good at balancing blood sugar levels and helping sugar (from foods and excess adrenalin released from muscles) be absorbed into the cells to be used for energy. Cinnamon being a sweet spice can help prevent sugar cravings.
Add cinnamon to your porridge, smoothies, drinks, fruit salad, plain yoghurt.

-Cocoa/cacao powder: Very helpful in reducing fat synthesis in the liver to help reduce visceral fat, however this doesn’t include chocolate. Cocoa powder helps reduce LDL cholesterol (Bad cholesterol) from oxidising so less chance of sticking to the arteries and causing heart attacks. Cocoa also helps in the production of serotonin, which is our ‘happy ‘hormone so can help reduce ‘blue’ feelings associated with stressful situations.
            Add cocoa or cacao powder or cacao nibs to your porridge, smoothies, yoghurt, snacks, hot drinks. See recipes for more info.

-Antioxidants from vegetables and fruit; Antioxidants combat free radicles which are produced from stress (like smoking) which are unstable molecules that cause damage to the cells. Not only do your fruit and vegetables contain a multitude of enzymes, vitamins and minerals, there anti-oxidants are important in neutralising free radicle activity to prevent cellular damage. Berries in particular are important for their antioxidant activity.

Aim for 2 pieces of fruit per day and at least 4-5 handfuls of vegetables when stressed. A range of colours is also important. Try get vegetables in each meal of the day as their enzymes help with digestion too. Add to smoothies, omelettes, salads for lunch, sliced veges and dip for snacks and of course for dinner.

-Green Tea; with its high antioxidant levels again helps reduce free radical activity caused by stress. Research on green can help reduce cholesterol and blood pressure and visceral fat in high amounts (around 5 cups or more per day). Green tea also has small amounts of caffeine in it so can give you much better pick me up during the day than coffee (which can over stimulate the adrenal glands and cause fatigue or lack of sleep during the night). Remember caffeine stays in your system for 6 hours!

-B vitamins; especially B-5 are essential for helping our nervous system and our adrenal glands cope with anxiety, these along with magnesium and vitamin C work together to produce anti-stress hormones. 
We get B5 from chicken livers, chicken, salmon, tuna, avocado, eggs, sunflower seeds
B-6 Vitamin B-6 (pyridoxine, pyridoxal, pyridoxamine) is a water soluble vitamin necessary for the proper maintenance of red blood cell metabolism, the nervous system, the immune system, and many other bodily functions. Over time, a deficiency in vitamin B-6 can lead to skin inflammation (dermatitis) depression, confusion and even anemia.  Foods high in vitamin B6 include sunflower seeds, pistachios, fish, turkey, chicken, lean pork, dried fruit, lean beef, bananas, avocados, and spinach.

Vitamin B-12, or Cobalamin, is one of the most important vitamins as it has such a massive role in cognitive performance.  A slight deficiency of vitamin B-12 can lead to poor memory, fatigue, and depression, while a long term deficiency can cause permanent damage to the brain and central nervous system. B-12 can only be found in animal products or else supplements. Foods high in B12 include seafood such as clams, fish, crab, mussels, red meat (lamb, beef, pork) chicken, fortified cereal, low-fat dairy, cheese, and eggs.

-Foods high in zinc and protein eg quality proteins; We know that cortisol causes catabolism, meaning muscle breakdown to use protein as a fuel source. So it is important to not only reduce or eliminate stresses but also plan meals and snacks so that you are meeting your zinc and protein needs. Many people tend to grab foods ‘on the run’ or skip meals which makes the situation worse. Try to aim for 1-1.2g of protein per kilo of body weight. So if you weigh 70kgs, aim for between 70g to 84g of protein per day. However if you are trying to reduce your weight, base it on the desired weight goal. 
For an example:
Breakfast: 2x scrambled eggs with a tomato, spinach, onion and mushrooms Total: 12g
Lunch: Tuna salad with 95g tin of tuna, spinach, tomato, cucumber, feta cheese, spring onion, sprinkle of pumpkin and sunflower seeds, ½ cup roast pumpkin or cooked chickpeas, grated carrot, olives, etc with 1tsp olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Total: 20g protein
Afternoon snack: ½ cup plain Greek yoghurt with 1-2 Tb walnuts/ almonds/ cashews and ½ cup berries. Total: around (depending on yoghurt type) 8g protein.
Dinner: 150g cooked chicken breast with stirfry vegetables with 1-2 Tb peanuts on top. Total: 30g.
Many of our protein sources also contain Zinc along with seeds, nuts such as peanuts, squash, lentils, milk, cheese, seafood (especially oysters). Try to include these into your daily food intake too such as adding ½ cup chickpeas to your salad or pumpkin seeds. Making the banana coconut clusters with peanut butter. Zinc is needed and an important factor to keep a healthy immune system.

Magnesium-rich foods are essential for cellular health and over 600 biochemical functions in the body from brain to body health. Such as
·         Protein synthesis
·         Nerve function
·         Blood sugar control
·         Neurotransmitter release
·         Blood pressure regulation
·         Energy metabolism
Stress and skipping meals can deplete magnesium levels leading you susceptible to fatigue, muscle tiredness and cramp, foggy brain. High magnesium foods include dark leafy greens, nuts, seeds, fish, beans, whole grains, avocados, yogurt, bananas, dried fruit, cocoa powder. IF choosing a supplement, choose quality and a magnesium citrate.

-VITAMIN D is hugely important to reduce effects of low mood and depression which stress can cause and one of your best antioxidants at preventing cancer. The best source of Vitamin D is sunlight so best to aim for those mini walks throughout the day or eating lunch outside to expose skin to sunlight for even 10minutes can help increase levels. Many kiwis are vitamin D deficient. Small amounts of vitamin D are found in egg yolks and fatty fish like salmon, tuna, mackerel, sardines.

-OMEGA 3 polyunsaturated fats. There are types- EPA and DHA -- are primarily found in certain fish. ALA (alpha-linolenic acid), another omega-3 fatty acid, is found in plant sources such as walnuts and linseed. Not only does your body need these fatty acids to function to keep the cell structure secure, but also they deliver some big health benefits including reducing symptoms of depression or low mood, lower triglyceride levels (fat found in blood- too much sugar), increase healthy cholesterol levels (which help remove unwanted bad cholesterol), and reduce stiffness and pain in joints also activing as a powerful anti-inflammatory.

-Vitamin C.
Cortisol suppresses the immune system so like zinc, it is really important to get enough though out the day to reduce incidences of getting sick when stressed. Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin, which means your body doesn’t store it. Unlike most other mammals, humans do not have the ability to make vitamin C, which means you need to consume it via your diet.
Vitamin C has numerous functions in the human body, including acting as an essential cofactor in enzymatic reactions. In this way, it plays a role in your body’s production of collagen, carnitine (which helps your body turn fat into energy), and catecholamines (hormones made by your adrenal glands).
Vitamin C is also used by your body for wound healing, repairing, and maintaining the health of your bones and teeth, and plays a role in helping your body absorb iron.
However, it’s vitamin C’s role as an antioxidant that it is most well known for.
As a powerful antioxidant, vitamin C is known to block some of the damage caused by DNA-damaging free radicals. Over time, free radical damage may accelerate aging and contribute to the development of heart disease and other health conditions. It’s through this antioxidant effect that it’s thought vitamin C may play a role in protecting heart health – perhaps as much as exercise.

Main takeaway points are plan healthy meals in stressful situations to help the body and brain cope otherwise everything feels alot harder when you are fatigued.

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