The Ultimate De-Stress Diet: Using the Power of Food to Relax the Body and Mind with Nutritionist Lindsay Sherry.
Lindsay Sherry is a regular presenter at Rancho La Puerta, and her Food as Medicine presentation series is very popular with our guests. A favorite lecture of mine is the Ultimate De-Stress Diet where she teaches seven tips to manage stress by paying attention to our diets.
1. Don’t be afraid of salt! The minerals in salt feed the adrenal glands which control stress hormones; cortisol and adrenalin. You should salt your food, but not all salts are created equal. There’s a difference in what gets branded as table salt and real salt. Iodized salt is heated, bleached, and highly processed. Iodized salt makes you retain water and dehydrates your cells and raises your blood pressure. One tablespoon contains over 2300 mg of sodium because it’s the only mineral that survives the heating process. The other minerals get burned or bleached out. Real salt has 84 to 92 trace minerals and alkalizes the body. It stimulates digestion, increases metabolism, regulates hydration, supports the respiratory system, helps with eczema and acne, helps regulate melatonin (your sleep/wake hormone) regulates serotonin(your calm happy hormone) and reduces your blood pressure. One teaspoon is under 500 mg of sodium because it’s filled with all the other minerals too. Those vibrant colors in natural salt, like Himalayan salt, are the minerals. Naturally sourced, unbleached sea salt is ok but look for the colored salts, they have more minerals.
2. Add in adaptogens. Adaptogens either pull you up and elevate your mood or help you stay calm. There are 16 adaptogens on the planet and they can be taken as a supplement. They help the body adapt to stress. When we become stressed we either go high, we get anxious and our heart starts to race, or we go low and our energy tanks. We might become sad, emotional or depressed.
Three adaptogens Lindsay recommends:
1. Ashwagandha has a calming effect and is good for people who suffer from anxiety and helps counter the tired but wired feeling. It stimulates the immune system but is a nightshade, so it’s not good for people who have issues with tomatoes, eggplant, potatoes, and chilies.
2. Holy Basil is uplifting and great to take if you feel low. It’s good for people who suffer from depression, have respiratory issues, asthma, and allergies.
3. Rhodiola Rosea is a stimulant and great for people who struggle with fatigue and feeling low, have high altitude sickness or cognitive dysfunction. Rhodiola Rosea stimulates brain function.
3. Increase your B’s. This is the number one vitamin we burn through at a faster rate than any other vitamin in times of stress. The B vitamins boost energy and mood. When you’re exhausted and cranky, your B vitamins are probably low. These come from animal protein or nutritional yeast. B6, B9, and B12 are good for serotonin production and neurotransmitters. They all work together and play a critical role in the production of serotonin which helps you feel calm and happy. The B’s affect your neurotransmitters. Vitamin B12 is a particularly excellent energy booster, countering fatigue, and exhaustion. Three tablespoons of nutritional yeast have 700% of daily value of B6, 500% of B12 and 225% of B9. It’s great to add to eggs or on a salad. Lindsay cautions that if yeast is an issue, stay cautious and avoid yeast additives.
4. Up your magnesium consumption. It’s the number one mineral burned when you’re stressed. It is responsible for over 300 functions in your body. It’s the fourth most abundant mineral in your body. The typical American has a mass deficiency. A slight deficiency can make it difficult to shut your brain down at night. Magnesium doesn’t make you tired, but it relaxes you. If you’re not sure you can ask your doctor to check your level when you have blood work done. Broccoli, bananas, cabbage, avocado, raspberries, and blackberries are great sources. The number one magnesium rich food is raw cacao. If you regularly crave chocolate you might be deficient in magnesium and it might be time to get tested. See the magnesium rich Chocolate Oat Drop cookie recipe Lindsay shared in the lecture.
5. Get your ZZZ’s. Tart cherry juice is the number one food for melatonin production and inflammation. Melatonin is your sleep/wake hormone. Athletes sometimes add tart cherry juice to their diet to reduce inflammation. Drink one cup an hour before bed. It’s not a good morning beverage because the melatonin makes you tired.
6. Do you have food sensitivities? What foods and how much? Number one symptom is feeling fatigued and it’s a digestive thing, which is totally different from having a food allergy. Food allergies affect your immune system while sensitivities disrupt your digestive system. We all have food sensitivities; the question is what are they and how big an issue are they? Some symptoms of food sensitivity include brain fog and memory issues, fatigue, mouth ulcers, weight gain, depression, and weight loss.
7. Understand the energetics of food. We all strive for balance. When it’s hot out we crave cool foods and when it’s cold we crave hot foods. All foods have an energy that helps us balance our bodies and moods or can create an imbalance if we’re not eating the right ones at the right time. A holistic approach is to look at foods with yin or yang: Yin foods tend to be more calming and cooling for the body. Great examples of yin foods are fruits, leafy greens, beans, honey, butter, and oils. They help relax you. Yang foods are warm and include salt, eggs, red meat, miso, fish, root vegetables and whole grains.
The proper foods and additives can be a powerful tool to help manage and overcome stress. Everyone’s body is different and there isn’t a one size fits all solution. It’s best to listen to your body and pay attention to how your digestive system responds to what you’re eating and putting into it. The right diet can help you manage your stress. A nutritionist can help.