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  • Reduce your stress & cortisol levels with these 10 foods

    Foods to help with stressHave you heard of cortisol? Don’t stress as you might raise it! Cortisol is the main stress hormone that is produced when we are in the ‘fight-or-flight’ mode of stress. Stress is a natural and automatic short term response that occurs when the body feels threatened by a situation. Stress causes the release of cortisol, which causes a physical response such as a raising of blood sugar levels so you’re body has the energy to take ‘flight’. In this busy modern day life, stress however, can be prolonged, which can turn into chronic stress, and increase detrimental amounts of cortisol in the body over the longer term.

    This long term impact of cortisol can be the cause of many issues, including:

    1. Sugar & carbohydrate cravings

    2. Abdominal fat deposition & difficulty losing weight

    3. Low mood & poor cognition

    4. Lower testosterone levels

    5. Decreased immune response

    6. Poor thyroid function

    7. Adrenal fatigue

    But it’s not only stress that perpetuates this cortisol production. Our diet plays a huge part in dictating the amount of cortisol we will find circulating in our body. Stimulants such as caffeine and alcohol provide us with pseudo-energy, and this increases the stress response and stimulates the production of cortisol. Inflammatory and oxidative foods such as highly processed foods, trans-fats, refined carbohydrates and sugars will also trigger the release of cortisol. However it’s not all bad news! By incorporating the right foods into our diet, we can reduce our stress levels, maintain a steady energy flow and reduce the amount of cortisol that our body has to deal with.

    Top 10 foods for reducing Cortisol

    Nuts provide us with a decent hit of protein and good fats, which can help us to maintain a steady energy level and reduce our blood sugar levels. They are also an important source of minerals such as zinc and magnesium which help us to maintain balanced blood sugar levels and promote good mood. Tip - soak your nuts to release the nutrients, which are bound to phytates otherwise and not as well absorbed.

    Salmon and other oily fish are an abundant source of omega-3 fatty acids that reduce inflammation, oxidative stress and cortisol. Salmon is also a great source of dietary protein, to level out those energy levels and provide us with important amino acids to produce our neurotransmitters, important for reducing stress and lifting our mood.

    Grass fed Beef is also higher in omega-3 fatty acids than regular grain fed beef, and lower in pro-inflammatory omega 6 fatty acids. This means less inflammation in your body, and a good quality protein hit to maintain energy.

    Berries are a rich source of Vitamin C, which may reduce stress and cortisol levels, and aid in the production of our neurotransmitters to assist improve our mood. The anthocyanins found in darker berries, such as blueberries, and other antioxidants may also reduce oxidative stress in the body and cortisol.

    Chocolate as well all know, is delicious, but it’s also jammed packed full of cortisol lowering antioxidants, particularly dark chocolate which contains more antioxidant polyphenol and flavonols, and less sugar. The polyphenols and flavonols in chocolate may also be beneficial for maintaining a healthy mood.

    Garlic is filled with antioxidants as well, and can also boost our immunity that is often lowered when we are stressed and have higher cortisol levels present.

    Avocados contain many plant based antioxidants, fibre and poly/monounsaturated fatty acids, and has been found to improve satiety and maintain energy levels. They also contain B vitamins which are important for energy production and mood.

    Bananas give us our B vitamins for boosting our energy levels, and potassium and tryptophan, which are important for keeping us happy and helping our mood.

    Oats are a great way to start the day, with the complex carbohydrates and beta-glucan keeping you fuller for longer, and balancing out your energy levels. Oats like bananas contain tryptophan, which is a precursor for producing our happy brain chemical, serotonin.

    Olive oil has a plant chemical called oleuropein which has been shown to reduce cortisol levels, and is also anti-inflammatory and cardio-protective. Olive oil can also help to increase testosterone levels, which are often lowered with an increased cortisol level.

     References

    1. Randall M. The Physiology of Stress: Cortisol and the Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Adrenal Axis. 2012. Dartmouth Undergraduate Journal of Science. Available from: http://dujs.dartmouth.edu/
    2. Mark L. Dreher and Adrienne J. Davenport. Hass Avocado Composition and Potential Health Effects. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2013 May; 53(7): 738–750.
    3. Oi-Kano Y1, Kawada T, Watanabe T, Koyama F, Watanabe K, Senbongi R, Iwai K. Oleuropein supplementation increases urinary noradrenaline and testicular testosterone levels and decreases plasma corticosterone level in rats fed high-protein diet. J Nutr Biochem. 2013 May;24(5):887-93.
    4. Ali Kuopolla. 9 Foods that Lower Cortisol Levels Naturally. Available from: http://www.anabolicmen.com/foods-that-reduce-cortisol-levels-naturally/
    5. Keri Glassman. 13 Foods That Fight Stress. Available from: http://www.prevention.com/mind-body/emotional-health/13-healthy-foods-that-reduce-stress-and-depression
  • Yoga for Reducing Stress

    Yoga for Reducing StressYoga

    Cat, Cow, Pidgeon. Yes, these sound like animals you might find on your local farm, but they are also the names of Super Stress-busting Yoga poses! We all know that a regular practice of yoga has many health benefits, but did you know that it has also been proven to reduce your stress levels?

    A study published last year on healthy volunteers showed that 40 minutes of yoga per day could do the following:

    • Decrease stress levels - by reducing adrenaline, the hormone which contributes to increased stress levels and our ‘fight and flight’ stress response.
    • Elevate mood – by increasing serotonin, the happy and mood lifting brain chemical.
    • Increase antioxidant action – by decreasing the components of blood that contribute to oxidative stress, and increasing levels and activity of glutathione, which can increase the antioxidant status in the body
    • Increase immunity – by increasing levels of immune related cytokines, which can assist with healthy immune function.

    The beneficial and stress busting effects of yoga in this study were evaluated after 12 weeks. The daily yoga program included yoga body poses, breathing exercises, meditation and awareness practices.

    There are many different types of yoga, but all focus on the practice of being mindful and present whilst performing the yoga poses. You will often find most classes include a small amount of meditation time. Here’s a summary of the main yoga types and benefits:

    1. Hatha Yoga – yoga poses are slow and gentle which is great if you’re just starting out or are wanting to wind down at night.
    2. Vinyasa Yoga – yoga poses are performed to flow into one another, almost like a moving meditation.
    3. Ashtanga Yoga – strong poses are held for long periods of time, this is a more physically demanding type of yoga.
    4. Restorative Yoga – this is a more relaxing type of yoga to quiet the mind.
    5. Prenatal Yoga – designed for mum’s to be, this type of yoga focuses on breathing and core work.

    There are also many other types of Yoga out there to try. So what are you waiting for!? Grab your yoga mat and head out to your local yoga class and experience for yourself the amazing health benefits this form of exercise can offer you.

     

    1. Lim SA, Cheong KJ. Regular Yoga Practice Improves Antioxidant Status, Immune Function, and Stress Hormone Releases in Young Healthy People: A Randomized, Double-Blind, Controlled Pilot Study. J Altern Complement Med. 2015 Jul 16. [Epub ahead of print]
  • Should I eat Raw foods for healthy skin?

    Raw foods Raw foods

    If you’re looking for ways to try and achieve clear skin, you could consider incorporating raw foods into your diet. Raw foods will benefit all the organs of your body, especially the largest organ, the skin.

    When adding more raw foods to your diet, it may only take three weeks to notice some positive changes in your complexion. Here are five reasons to start incorporating more raw foods into your skin-friendly regime.

    1. Raw foods have more enzymes than cooked foods.

    Enzymes help repair skin cells and are crucial for all of the body's biochemical reactions. Without enzymes in your diet, toxins can build up, dulling your complexion and decreasing the renewal of skin cells, leading to accelerated aging.

    Between the loss of water and high temperatures when cooking produce, many of the natural enzymes are destroyed. By eating raw food, you're able to absorb more enzymes to help metabolic processes. This is not to say cooking should be avoided entirely. Cooking assists in the absorption of important vitamins and minerals in produce such as tomatoes and carrots, but most greens should be consumed raw or cooked at a low temperature to preserve enzymes.

    The best greens for your skin's health are radicchio, arugula, dandelion, watercress, swiss chard, and kale. Some other great enzyme-rich foods are pineapple and fermented foods such as pickled vegetables.

    2. Raw foods are rich in phytoestrogens.

    Phytoestrogens, which are found in plant foods, mimic the effects of oestrogen. Some studies have shown that this helps the appearance of skin by slowing down the loss of collagen and elastin.

    Foods that are rich in phytoestrogens include raw flaxseeds, green beans, nut and seeds, and pomegranates. Flaxseed contains the most lignins, a phytoestrogen that is highly anti-inflammatory.

    3. Raw foods assist your liver.

    The liver helps to detoxify the body, so it is important to look after it when it comes to keeping your skin healthy. When the liver becomes overloaded, it can eliminate excess toxins through the skin, messing with your complexion.

    Raw foods make the liver work less than animal products because they don't contain toxins, hormones or antibiotics. Raw foods also have good amounts of fibre, water, antioxidants, and nutrients that help the liver function.

    The best raw foods for the liver are garlic, lemon, beetroot, onion, bitter greens, and apples. These foods promote bile function to assist in the removal of toxins. These foods can be easily incorporated into your diet through salad dressings or smoothies.

    4. Raw foods contain a lot of water.

    In order to have healthy skin, it is important to hydrate from the inside out. Because the skin is about 64% water, hydration is one of the most important factors in avoiding aging skin.

    A lot of water is lost in cooked produce. Because of this, eating raw foods actually increases your hydration because you are able to benefit from the water in the foods. Also, soaking raw foods such as nuts and seeds in water to increase their water concentration will have a direct positive result on your skin.

    While drinking water is the easiest way to hydrate, some raw foods that have a high water content are watermelon, cucumber, celery, lettuce, strawberries, tomatoes, and green cabbage.

    5. Raw foods are rich in fibre.

    Increasing your intake of fibre sweeps the intestines of unwanted debris and is a great way to flush out your system.

    Some raw foods that include a healthy amount of fibre are flaxseed meal, chia meal, almonds, raspberries, and wheat bran. They fibre and omega-3s in these foods work wonders to make the skin healthy. The benefit of chia and flax in particular is that they do not tend to cause bloating, as other sources of fibre may do.

  • Do Your Muscles Need More Magnesium

    Magnesium Pure Vitamins Do your muscles need more magnesium?

    Recently, I’ve been experiencing muscle cramps every now and then. I’ll be lying in bed at night and suddenly a sharp twinge in my calf or the soles of my feet has me jumping out of my skin. They seem to come out of nowhere, and they’re agonising! Continue reading

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