Week 2: The Importance Of Good Nutrition In Managing Stress

Food influences your mental and physical state in a huge way. It drives your hormones, your brain chemicals, your metabolism, and it affects your energy and your mood. Ever heard of the term “hangry” (hungry/angry)? So true.

When you experience stress, your body’s natural reaction is to release the hormone cortisol. In small doses, cortisol isn’t harmful to your health. But if you experience chronic stress, those elevated cortisol levels over time may add up to sleep issues, as well as mood and memory problems. All of that could lead to poor eating habits, super-late-night dinners, and emotional eating. And the combo of bad food and stress? Tummy fat. Add to that the lack of energy that comes from a poor diet, and you’ve got a major stress disaster on your shoulders.

What you eat every day matters. Habits add up—and the bad ones can definitely take their toll. So if you want to de-stress, ramp up your energy, clear your mind, and lighten the toxic load on your body, cleaning up your diet is crucial.

I want you to consider changing some of your food habits. Think of it as a mini detox, only I want these changes to stick. Small changes make a difference, especially if implemented gradually.

The Do Not Eat List

Avoid gluten, dairy, soy, caffeine, alcohol, added sugars, and factory-farmed meat. For the purposes of detox, removing (or greatly limiting) these common digestive irritants can be an eye-opening experience. You will feel better physically, which can help improve your mood.

What You Can Eat

Tons of greens (think kale, spinach, arugula), vegetables, beans, avocados, pumpkin seeds, chick peas, bison, grass-fed beef, free-range chicken, and turkey. If you don’t eat meat, introduce all sorts of healthy fish (think salmon, sardines, trout, albacore tuna), and plant-based proteins, like lentils, tempeh, chia, and quinoa. Also choose liver-supporting foods like bitter greens, lemons, artichokes, and beets.

Terms To Look For On Labels

Organic, grass-fed, free-range, antibiotic-free, pasture-raised, hormone-free, gluten-, soy- and dairy-free.

Tip: Use almond or coconut milk instead of cow’s milk for a delicious, smooth, dairy- and soy-free substitute if you have a sensitive tummy.

Plants, Not Packages

Skip pre-packaged snack foods and opt for veggies and real foods instead.

Daily Probiotic 

Add one to your regimen! By repopulating your gut with healthy bacteria, you help your body more easily digest the foods you eat. Look for a dairy-free probiotic. As far as dosage, around 10-15 billion units is a good starting point. That sounds like a lot, but there are over 100 trillion bacteria in your gut already!

Meals Throughout The Day

Breakfast is so important! Your body digests overnight, so it is important to gently reintroduce clean, simple, and familiar foods into your system in the morning. I typically blend up a mix of non-dairy milk, blueberries (which are antioxidant-rich), banana, and avocado. You can also go with 100 percent fruit juice, or fruits and plain Greek yogurt.

For lunch, I eat lots of healthy carbs, like red potatoes, brown rice, lentils, and as many greens as I can get my hands on. Complex carbs like these won’t drag your energy down unlike processed carbs (like white or bleached bread).

If you’re hungry in between meals you can munch on almonds, sunflower seeds, and pumpkin seeds (my favorite, which also happen to be really good for prostate health).

I tend to eat dinner the way I eat lunch, with an emphasis on sautéed or grilled vegetables and healthy fats (like olive oil). I never go too heavy. Eating anything after 8 p.m. is not recommended due to the length of time it takes to digest your food.

As you go forward in your week, be mindful of your food choices and how they will benefit your body. Slowly make introductions into your diet, and gently stop eating problem-causing foods.