Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Stress Reduction, Pt. 3 - EAT

The third important step in reducing the toxic effects of stress on your mind and body is to eat REAL food. Many of us crave certain foods during times of high stress.  The types of foods most commonly craved during these "emergency" modes are simple carbs that are usually sugary.

These simple carbs are easily converted to quick fuel and soothe our brains with a serotonin-like effect, yet they are hollow fuels - giving us a quick rush, but immediately followed with an energy let-down because there are no nutrients or substance accompanying them.  These simple carbs convert quickly to sugars, actually causing a depletion of magnesium in our systems.  This may not seem too impressive until you understand the role of magnesium in your body and how low levels of this important mineral can affect your body and your brain.

Magnesium is a "relaxing" substance.  Constipated?  Have some Milk of Magnesia.  Getting a bowel scope?  Magnesium citrate is usually recommended to clean you out.  People with restless leg syndrome and insomnia often find symptoms lessen with the introduction of magnesium supplements.  Magnesium is a relaxing agent.  During times of extreme stress, studies have found that subjects actually excrete magnesium through their urine.  Another magnesium-depleting agent?  Sugar.

Think about times you are under high levels of stress.  Are you tense?  Do you have trouble falling asleep?  Ever notice an unusual twitching - maybe around your eye?  Are you eating simple carbs like bread, bagels, cookies, candy?  Satisfying these cravings can actually magnify your stress symptoms and you may soon find yourself in a vicious cycle of reactionary eating and annoying symptoms.

Break out of this cycle by purposing to eat REAL foods - especially during times of higher-than-normal stress.  REAL food can fortify your body with REAL nutrients.  Magnesium-rich REAL foods are even better.  These include dark green leafy vegetables like spinach, kale and swiss chard; whole grains like quinoa, amaranth and brown rice; as well as raw pumpkin seeds, raw almonds and raw cashews.  Make a preemptive strike at those sweet cravings by including sweet vegetables like carrots, winter squash and sweet potatoes in every meal.

Start your day with some REAL food for breakfast:  steel-cut oats with fresh, frozen or dried fruit, a boiled egg with spinach or a green smoothie; a lunch and dinner fortified with lots of dark green leafy vegetables; and snack on a trail mix of dried (no sugar added) fruit and raw nuts.  Your nerves (and the nerves of others around you) will thank you for it!

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