In this day and age with all the hustle and bustle of work, school, kids, soccer practice, laundry, dinner and the like, it can be difficult to find balance. As each day goes by, you may find yourself stressed, craving the worst kinds of food and staring at a reflection that is anything, but radiant. Stress raises levels of cortisol – lowering immunity, exacerbating fatigue, inducing cravings for fatty foods and sugar and inhibiting production of other essential hormones. Limited levels of these hormones and too much cortisol can lead to low libido, poor sleep, irritability, weight gain and a sullen appearance. Making changes to your diet is just one way that you can combat the effects of stress. The addition of just a few simple foods to your weekly menu will curb cravings, evoke calm and make your skin shine.
Foods for Calm:
- Walnuts. Omega-3 and B vitamins in walnuts not only lower stress hormones, they can help prevent a potentially stressful situation – memory loss. Walnuts have also been proven to reduce blood pressure when levels peak in the midst of a stressful situation.
- Oranges. The citrus fruits are powerhouse antioxidants thanks to tons of vitamin C and a hard protective outer skin that protects these super nutrients. Stress can cause your body to release dangerous free radicals. High levels of vitamin C can ensure you ward off the effects – vitamin C is dually effective in fighting free-radical, not only can it donate an electron to ward off the free radicals, but it is also effective in reactivating vitamin E. If you don’t like the super-size Florida oranges, try smaller nutrient-rich equivalents: clementines, tangelos or mineolas.
- Asparagus. Folate and other B vitamins make this a top food for keeping your cool. Uptake of these B vitamins is essential for production of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that boosts your mood. Asparagus is also notorious for reducing inflammation which can put undue stress on the body, including increased secretion of un-friendly hormones like cortisol. Blanch for crisp enjoyment as a side dish or enjoy raw in a salad.
Foods to Kill a Craving:
- Dark Chocolate. Just breaking off a decadent piece of dark chocolate can satisfy your taste buds when your sweet tooth goes wild. Researchers have found countless benefits linked to the consumption of dark chocolate, in moderate portions (1 ounce with 65 percent cacao.) This can be predominantly attributed to its rich antioxidant content and PEA (phenylethylamine,) which boosts beta-endorphins – elevating your mood to curb cravings.
- Pistachios. Make sure you get these sweet ‘n’ salty nuts in the shell. When you have a craving for a bit of sugar and salt, indulge in 30 shelled pistachios. The time spent unshelling this dynamically-flavored, antioxidant-rich nut will slow down your snacking, giving your brain and stomach time to communicate, so you feel satisfied.
- Mini whole-wheat pretzels. Almost everyone likes to snack on something with a crunch. Munching on fiber-rich, whole-wheat mini pretzels is a healthy choice over chips and all that fiber will fill you up. Try a 1 ounce serving next time you feel like munching on something with a crunch.
Foods for Radiant Skin:
- Sunflower seeds (raw). Loaded with vitamin E, a potent free radical fighter, these tiny seeds will bring a fresh radiance to your skin. Vitamin E is involved in the repair of blood vessels and wards off cancer, particularly skin cancers from the sun’s harmful rays.
- Red Peppers. Reap the benefits of antioxidants and vitamins A and C packed into one flavorful veggie. Both vitamin A and C are involved in repair and rejuvenation of the skin. Vitamin A maintains moisture, suppleness and repairs damage. Vitamin C is one of the most potent free-radical fighters, warding off damage from the sun’s rays.
- Avocados. A healthy source of fat and rich in vitamins A, C, E and fiber you can’t choose a better food for moisturizing from the inside out. Your complexion will benefit from the potent antioxidants in vitamins C and E – potentially even reversing sun damage. Be sure to watch your portions, although monounsaturated fats are the better option, it is still a fat.
- Watermelon. This summer favorite is loaded with an amino acid, known as citrulline, which is used by the body to synthesize arginine, another amino acid, essential to vascular health. Guys and gals can benefit from biting into the juicy melon – for men, it means a healthy erection and for the ladies, studies have shown a boost in libido.
- Peaches. Sex and fertility go hand in hand. The high vitamin C content in frozen peaches has been shown to improve sperm count and reduce sperm clumping. Plus, vitamin C is a potent antioxidant boosting immunity for you and your partner.
- Chocolate. Save the best for last. Some dark chocolate a day ensures desire will stay… or something like that. Researchers have found countless benefits linked to the consumption of chocolate, in moderate portions, including their high PEA (phenylethylamine) content. PEA fuels the release of endorphins and serotonin – natural mood-boosters – that will improve your longing for a little one-on-one time with your lover.
Planning your meals throughout the week to include these foods is sufficient – in fact, including a variety of colors and flavors in your diet every week, ensures you maximize your vitamin and mineral uptake while busting boredom.
- The great thing about most of these foods is that they travel well. Seeds and nuts are an easy snack to carry in your car, purse or backpack, so you always have a healthy, flavorful snacks – pack in snack size bags to ensure you monitor your portions.
- “Eat across the rainbow.” The varied colors in food are a reflection of the vitamins and minerals they contain. The more balanced you maintain your diet, the greater balance you will achieve for your hormones, health and life.
- Keep your taste buds engaged and vary the absorption of vitamins and minerals in these foods by changing the preparation methods (where applicable). Although vitamin C is lost when foods are heated, other chemicals become more potent (lycopene in tomatoes or sulfurophane in broccoli) – enjoy foods raw, steamed, blanched, grilled and roasted to change flavor and impact on your health.