This article originally appeared in the Kansas City Wellness Magazine.
Holidays are here! Will it be a joyful time of gratitude and affirmed relationships or one of anxiety, overwhelm and distress? The wrong food can be a stressor in itself making or breaking your ability to handle stress with ease and grace. The solution, then, is to avoid high stress foods, replacing them with foods that make you more resilient no matter what life hands you.
In a hurry? Keep healthy options around such as fresh or dried fruit, raw nuts. The worst thing you can do is to reach for fast foods and packaged snacks. Most are full of salt, poor quality fats and refined flour and sugar that actually put your body in a state of alarm. Here’s an easy raw nut trail mix. Why raw? Because roasting the nuts denatures the fat and creates advanced glycation end products (AGEs), fierce free radicals that damage your cells.
Raw Nut Trail Mix
¼ cup each of walnuts, Brazil nuts, cashews, almonds or other nuts or seeds
¼ cup raisins
¼ cup other dried fruit such as cherries or blueberries
½ tsp salt
Place in bag and shake to mix. Put in sandwich bags for grab-and-go snacks. Serves 6.
Watch caffeine and alcohol. Both cause blood sugar to rise, and then suddenly fall. Add sugar—yes, alcohol mixers contain sugar, too—and the effect is magnified. These wild swings in blood sugar keep you in a cycle of adrenaline release that makes you jittery and causes you to crave caffeine, alcohol, fat, salt and sugar. It also disrupts your sleep, the time your body repairs and restores itself. Enjoy caffeine and alcohol with a balanced meal and limit your intake to one cup or glass daily.
Eat stress reducing foods. Whole grains increase the calming brain hormone serotonin, keep blood sugar even and contain adrenal nourishing B vitamins. Dark green leafy vegetables are high in magnesium—remember it magnesium that makes chlorophyll green. Magnesium is a natural relaxant that promotes sleep. It is also necessary to produce the anxiety reducing brain chemical GABA. Good quality fats such as those from salmon, avocado and raw almond butter are fuel for the adrenal glands and help repair damage caused by stress. The blood sugar highs that occur under stress reduce your vitamin C level setting you up for colds and flu. A smoothie with frozen berries and orange juice is a great vitamin C rich snack. A smoothie is simply frozen fruit and juice mixed in a blender. Here’s a recipe, but you’ll soon get the knack and start improvising. Frozen wheatgrass shots are rich is vital antioxidants and are found near the frozen fruit at your health food store. Always stir in flax oil at the end. Blending it disrupts the omega-3 fatty acids.
Stress Buster Smoothie
½ cup frozen blueberries
½ cup frozen strawberries
1 frozen banana
1 frozen wheat grass shot (optional)
1 TBSP raw almond butter
1 – 1 ½ cups orange juice
1 TBSP flax oil
Add the first 5 ingredients to a blender. Add ½ cup of the orange juice and blend. Add more orange juice until desired consistency is reached. Pour the flax oil in your glass then add the smoothie. Stir until the flax oil is well mixed and enjoy. Serves 2.
Eat Slowly and Mindfully. Mindfulness is a natural stress reducer. Sit down and be aware of each bite. Chew slowly with awareness of how the food tastes and how you feel about it. Put your fork down between bites if you need to. You will eat less and can transform your meals into a moment of peace and joy. That’s what the holidays are all about, right?