Do you want to move the needle from just surviving to thriving?
Are you constantly feeling excessive stress in your life even when you take a break your brain doesn’t actually feel it?
Stepping out of excessive stress is a tough thing to do. How can you shake up your autonomic nervous system and move out of the sympathetic state to rest and digest?
When our mind gets stuck in chronic stress it can lead to serious damage to the body’s organs, the brain’s cognitive function, and possibly turn into more serious health problems such as heart disease, mental health illnesses or dementia.
Stress hormones such as cortisol, adrenaline and epinephrine increase the uptake of the brain’s use of insulin, glucose and oxygen, working the body even harder to get out of the stress state until it reaches a safe domain.
In chronic stress, cortisol increases inflammation in the body, does not slow down, rather the stressors increase; requiring more energy to stay on alert. This does not allow the hormones to settle down and return to that rest and digest state which further compromises one’s health. The body is remains stuck in the crisis!
You can recover from that stress by taking care of yourself, eating nutrient rich-foods filled with vitamins and minerals to activate the rest and digest state.
First, it starts with eliminating processed foods, preservatives and fast foods. Next, it’s sticking to the basics: Focus on nutrient-dense foods loaded with brain stimulating vegetables, fruits, and fats mixed with smaller portions of animal and plant-based proteins and complex fiber. Read this past article about the benefits of organ meats for brain health.
These foods will get you to thriving along with exercise and mindfulness activities for reducing stress.
Let’s start with vitamins and minerals:
Antioxidants: THINK FOODS THAT ARE THE COLOURS OF THE RAINBOW that feeds the brain. They are antioxidants responsible for lowering risks of cognitive problems, slowing down aging and revitalizing the skin, eyes, tissue, joints, heart and brain. Antioxidants inhibit oxidation, killing free radicals causing cell damage that is a major factor in chronic disease.
- Foods high in antioxidants are: Goji berries, wild blueberries, dark chocolate, pecans, artichokes (boiled, kidney bean, cranberries, blackberries: cilantro, tomatoes, carrots, pumpkin seeds, sweet potatoes, pomegranates, strawberries, kale, broccoli, grapes or red wine, squash, wild-caught salmon.
Vitamin C Fruits and vegetables are loaded with vitamin C. Unlike animals who produce their own vitamin C, humans do not and so we must get our Vitamin C from food. Supplementation is an essential option that is very effective especially when ill. It’s most effective when taking it every 4 hours in larger dosages (10,000 units a day) to sustain recovery which can be demanding on a daily basis. Look for time-releasing Vitamin C or a buffered Vitamin C for best results.
- Foods high in Vitamin C: black currant, red pepper, coloured peppers, guava, oranges, kiwi, citrus (lemons, lemons, grapefruit), dark leafy greens, cauliflower and many more.
Magnesium We don’t eat enough magnesium in our diet which has enormous benefits for keeping us calm, bowel regularity and organ function. Magnesium plays a central role in just about every bodily process, from the synthesis of DNA to the metabolism of insulin. Low levels of magnesium are associated with many chronic conditions such as Alzheimer’s, diabetes, bone-related issues and heart disease. Include magnesium-rich foods Into your diet more than once a day is essential. For more information about magnesium supplementation, check out a past article (scroll down for details)
- Foods high in magnesium: Wheat bran, amaranth, spinach (cooked) sunflower seeds dried), almonds/almond butter, cashews, mackerel, black beans, flaxseeds and dark chocolate.
Omega 3 are healthy fats and essential to our daily diet. For more than 60 years, fats were considered harmful to the heart. Today, we know that the brain is made of 60% essential fatty acids as are the outer layer of cell membranes that exists to protect it. Fish oils specifically boost brain function since they are rich in EPA and DHA fatty acids great for healthy skin, hair, lower triglycerides (fats), fights infections, reduces arthritis pain, eczema and most importantly inflammation the cause of pain, swelling and chronic illness. EPA (Eicosapentaenoic Acid) improves function i.e. heart, mood balance and reduces inflammation. While DHA (Docosahexanoic Acid) builds structural integrity for the brain (retention/memory), cardiovascular tissues and membranes. Take more than the required RDI if you are experiencing foggy brain or inflammation in the body (swelling redness heat). Also read a past article on the Power of Fats.
Foods high In Omega 3’s: Avocados, coconut oil flax hemp and chis seeds, seed oils and nuts and seeds cold water fish such as sardines, salmon, rainbow trout, mackerel are excellent sources and eat them often.
B Complex vitamins are fundamental as we age. Pollution and heavy metals in the environment, over the counter drugs, processed foods (to name a few) deplete our absorption of vitamin B’s. The range of B-complex vitamins B1-12 (nine in total) are essential for oxygenating the cells in the body and regulating mood, sleep, elimination, and bipolar, anxiety disorders. Keeping up with B vitamins are B3, B6, B3, B12 folate (B9) and choline are essential.
B Vitamin foods are: Beef liver, organ meats, chicken, turkey, oysters, eggs, dairy, clams salmon, spinach, collards, turnip greens, asparagus, Brussel sprouts, romaine lettuce avocado and broccoli and sunflower seeds.
Choline plays a similar role in terms of supporting energy and brain function, as well as keeping the metabolism active. Choline is present in the form of phosphatidycholine, a compound that makes up the structural component of fat, and thus can be found in different types of foods that naturally contain certain fats.
- Choline foods are: Eggs, liver, beef, salmon, Brussel sprouts and breast milk. In fact, eggs are sometimes called “brain food” because they are known for supplying high amounts of choline.
Some Amino acids (the building blocks of proteins) are active brain boosters:
L-Tyrosine is an amino acid, a precursor to neurotransmitters and substances like epinephrine, norepinephrine and dopamine which aids the body to produce chemicals that help with reducing stress, fighting fatigue, depression, poor cognitive function, the thyroid, energy and mood.
- Foods with Tyrosine are:: Meat (turkey, beef, , eggs or fish, oy products, chicken, turkey, fish, peanuts, almonds, avocados, bananas, milk, cheese, yogurt, cottage cheese, lima beans, pumpkin seeds, and sesame seeds.
It is also available in supplement form, which some people take when they are trying to lose weight, or pursuing active fitness training.
L-Theanine is an amino acid that impacts nerve impulses in the brain and the release of neurotransmitters, including GABA. It can have a calming, sedative effect on the body and mind without feeling lethargic. It is often used to reduce anxiety, hyperactivity and sleep-related problems. It’s a unique amino acid because it’s not used to form proteins or make enzymes.
- Foods high in L-theanine are: greens, black and white teas and bay bolete mushrooms. L-theanine supplements can be beneficial.
Starting with whole foods and quality animal proteins will ensure better function and support your brain health. Go big on the vegetables and moderate on the meat proteins. Brain health is a huge industry loaded with options for improving its function. Research first before taking supplements (if on medication especially) and start with low dosages.
My Best in health,
Rani Glick is a Mindful Nutrition Specialist bringing awareness about body and brain health for those living with stress or chronic illness. The mindfulness based stress reduction eight-week program is also available for the workplace. To book a consultation or find out more about Rani.