Under stress we naturally crave sweet things but the problem is that nine out of ten times, the sweets we’re craving are calorie laden.
By: Roberta Lee M.D.
The holidays are fast approaching, and with them the promise of festivities, feasts . . . and fat! But our ballooning girth will do more than stress our belt buckles. Most of us will feel the literal stress of over-eating and also suffer more from the guilt of gluttony than we would care to admit. It doesn’t have to be this way. In addition to trying to keep up with your exercise routine, getting enough sleep, and having a snack before you head to a party (you won’t overeat if you’re already a little full!), try to avoid junk food/fast food, sugar-laden foods, too much caffeine and alcohol, and excessive amounts of high fat red meat. These foods and beverages tax your system and will actually make you feel more stressed, more lethargic, and less able to cope with the stresses of daily life causing SuperStress.
But holidays and parties shouldn’t be about deprivation! Consider this: there are actually a handful of foods that can help reduce stress (and help you stay trim, too). Aim to keep these five easy to find and delicious foods in your diet through the holiday season, and beyond:
Dark chocolate. Chocolate has a lot going for it in addition to its divine taste. It is plump full of flavanoids â€” a powerful class of antioxidants â€” which have been shown to lower high blood pressure and reduce the risk of heart disease and strokes. Other compounds found in chocolate seem to lower the “bad” component of cholesterol (LDL) while leaving the “good” (HDL) component unchanged. Dark chocolate also contains several psychoactive chemicals that promote alertness and even euphoria. The latest scientific literature even shows it has some blood pressure lowering properties.
To me, though, that’s not what’s so beautiful about chocolate. What I think is beautiful about chocolate is its ability to enhance sensory recruitment in every way. It’s so inexpensive to have a piece of chocolate and it’s so pleasurable, that if that’s something you like and that’s part of what living well is about, I say: go for it. Once a day, treat yourself to a guilt-freeâ…“ of a typical dark chocolate bar or 1 ounce of chocolate roughly the size of the palm of a woman’s hand. Doctor’s orders!
Tea. Although caffeine has been shown to lead to a more positive mood and improved performance, there’s a fine line between just enough and too much. Too much caffeine can make you dependent and make you nervous, irritable, and hypersensitive or bring on headaches. Because brewed tea is lower in caffeine per cup than coffee, you can drink more tea than coffee before experiencing these effects. Tea also provides a little L-theanine, a calming amino acid.
Magnesium rich foods. Magnesium is an essential mineral for human nutrition. Magnesium in the body serves several important metabolic functions. It plays a role in the production and transport of energy. It is also important for the contraction and relaxation of muscles and has been shown to reduce blood pressure. Green vegetables such as spinach are good sources of magnesium, as are black beans, peas, nuts (peanuts), seeds (pumpkin and squash), tofu, broccoli and whole, unrefined grains.
Berries. Under stress we naturally crave sweet things but the problem is that nine out of ten times, the sweets we’re craving are calorie laden. Berries are naturally sweet and they have vitamin C which tends to be helpful in combating stress. Furthermore, berries have some fiber â€” which will decrease cravings by building up bulk in your GI track.
Avocados. When you’re under stress, your body tends to use B vitamins at a faster than normal rate. In order to replenish that supply, eat Â¼ of an avocado when you’re stressed â€” on a sandwich, in a salad, or all by itself â€” to boost B vitamin levels. In addition to B, avocados are also rich in vitamin K, vitamin C, potassium and a fatty acid known as oleic acid â€” this fat has been shown to have a mild influence in lowering cholesterol.
To reduce stress, and avoid SuperStress, try this today:
Simple as it sounds; focused breathing â€” during which you think about your breath as you inhale and exhale â€” is a very effective stress-management technique. A slow, full breath triggers physical and cognitive changes that promote relaxation. Deep breathing helps release tension and anxiety and is a great energizer because the deeper the breath, the more your body is flooded with life-fueling oxygen. A full breath begins with the diaphragm pushing downward so that the stomach extends out. As your lungs fill with air, your chest expands. When you exhale, the reverse occurs â€” your chest settles first and then your stomach.
* When anxiety strikes or you find yourself focusing on negative thoughts, immediately exhale through your mouth.
* Now, open your lungs, and breathe in through your nose, drawing in a fresh, cleansing air to the count of four.
* Exhale again slowly to the count of five.
* Repeat four times.
Copyright Â© 2009 Roberta Lee M.D., author of The SuperStress Solution
About the Author:
Roberta Lee, M.D., author of The SuperStress Solution, is vice chair of the Department of Integrative Medicine, director of Continuing Medical Education, and co-director of the Fellowship in Integrative Medicine at Beth Israel’s Continuum Center for Health and Healing at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York City. Dr. Lee attended George Washington University Medical School and is one of the four graduates in the first class from the Program of Integrative Medicine at the University of Arizona conducted by Andrew Weil, M.D.
For more information please visit www.superstresssolution.com
Photo: y Darwin Bell