The food you eat has a major impact on your moods, stress level, and energy level. Certain foods will allow you to have a stable mood and plenty of energy all day. Other foods set you up for cravings, crashes, and even chronic stress by disrupting your hormonal system. Can you guess which types of food wreak havok on your health? I’ll give you a hint: insulin is one of the hormones it affects.
If you guessed sugar, you are right! Many people begin their day with sugar, and find themselves reaching for more sugary and caffeinated foods throughout the day. Eating sugar causes blood sugar dips, which leave to cravings. It’s not only refined sugar that causes these waves of energy crashes and moodiness. Refined grains also fall into the sugar category. So does non-fat or low-fat dairy products. Foods with “fat free” written on the label are usually just sugar and chemicals. Cereal, bagels, and muffins are sugar. For some people, eating fruit by itself can also be problematic. If you enjoy having just fruit for breakfast, eat some protein and vegetables within 30 minutes. This allows time for proper digestion of the fruit, and you will avoid an energy dip later.
Sweet Foods in Chinese Medicine
Sweet foods effect the spleen system. This corresponds to the earth element. When your earth element is healthy, you feel centered, balanced, and grounded. Your life feels harmonious. Foods that nourish the spleen are called “full sweet” foods. These form the basis of our diets, and include whole grains, root vegetables, meat, nuts, and dairy. ”Empty sweet” foods stress and weaken the spleen. This leads to bloating, fatigue, and feeling spacey. Empty sweet foods are refined sugars and grains, fruit juice, and artificial sweeteners.
Besides nourishing the spleen system, healthy forms of fat are essential to keeping stress at a minimum. You may remember from biology class that your cells are surround by a lipid bilayer. This means each cell of your body is wrapped in two layers of fat. This includes the cells of your nervous system. A healthy nervous system is essential for stress management. Some of the healthiest fats are olive oil, organic butter and coconut oil. Organic, grass-fed, pasture raised animal products are important here, because the fat they provide us is completely different from grain fed, industrial raised animals.
In Chinese Herbology, many of the stress reducing herbs are minerals. Mu li, for example, is a shell. These herbs are used to help sedate and calm the mind, especially when someone is experiencing anxiety and insomnia. Eating mineral rich foods is a natural way to reduce anxiety. Minerals like magnesium, calcium and potassium even help relieve muscular tension. Try the Energy Broth recipe to add more minerals to your diet.
The stress fighting foods below were chosen because they keep blood sugar even and the spleen system strong. They are high in minerals, and many of them contain healthy forms of fat.
Top Stress Fighting Foods:
Coconut oil and milk
Nuts and Seeds (especially walnuts and almonds)
For more help fighting stress, make an appointment with Katie Robinette LAc.