Eating Healthy, Living Strong
In this chapter of her book, Nurture Your Soul: The Importance of Self-Care for Caregivers, summarized below, Theresa discusses nutritional foods, which help the body handle stress.
The right foods help your body cope with the stress you experience from opposition, adversity, or negativity in life. In addition, maintaining reasonable weight allows organs to operate at their optimal level for longevity and lowers toxicity build-up in your body. Deliberately feeding your body for life helps you prepare for the work you are here to achieve for the benefit of others. You must be healthy, alert, and vigorous to keep up with activities meaningful to your purpose.
Here are a few nutritious foods to get you started, and you will benefit from your own research. An excellent website that provides great detail on the nutritional content of many foods is: http://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/poultry-products/703/2. Another way to track your nutritional need is through: https://www.fns.usda.gov/core-nutrition/core-nutrition-messages and http://www.choosemyplate.gov.
Local fresh produce is best: When shipped across country (after being harvested unripe), its nutritional content suffers greatly. The next best thing frozen produce, typically picked ripe and frozen quickly to retain nutrients. Vegetables are best lightly cooked with some crunch left in them. Sautéing with herbs and spices is a wonderful way to prepare them. Canned foods are overcooked and salty: Not recommended!
Bananas and avocados contain potassium and help lower blood pressure, both reducing the feeling of stress. Dark and colorful fruits are typically high in antioxidants and “phyto-nutrients” (beneficial plant compounds). Antioxidants reduce oxidation of LDL (bad) cholesterol, and reduce “free radicals” that damage cells. Red, purple, and black grapes help your blood vessel walls relax and reduce blood pressure. Pomegranate seeds (deep red) have calcium, iron, potassium, folic acid, and vitamins A and E, and benefit the digestive system. Blueberries contain manganese, which helps development of bones, and digestion of protein, carbohydrate, and fat.
Green leafy vegetables balance the body’s stress hormone, cortisol. Kale, collards, Swiss chard, turnip greens, and Bok Choy are filled with calcium, folic acid, vitamin K, and iron. Spinach might be the most nutrient-dense, with vitamins C and A (beta- carotene), fiber, folic acid, magnesium, and other nutrients. Spinach helps control colon, lung, and breast cancers, and its flavonoids protect against age-related memory loss.
Red and purple vegetables contain nutrients that keep the heart healthy, and increase glutathione, a natural antioxidant. Orange and yellow vegetables (sweet potatoes, carrots, butternut squash) contain beta-carotene that your body converts into retinol, which protects skin from sun damage.
Walnuts contain valuable omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin E for smoother skin, healthier hair, brighter eyes, and stronger bones. Other beneficial nuts include hazelnuts, pistachios, and almonds.
One serving of yogurt provides half of the RDA for calcium, 450 milligrams. Calcium is necessary for strong bones, nails, and teeth. Yogurt contains two milligrams of zinc (25 percent of the RDA), helps balance your stress level and supports your intestine’s good bacteria.
Pasteurized milk is not as good for adults as previously thought. Milk-fat increases LDL cholesterol. However, unpasteurized milk is beneficial when taken as yogurt, buttermilk, or “sweet acidophilus milk” (milk supplemented with a probiotic). Alternatives include almond, rice, and soymilk. (Soy is not good for developing males, because of the phyto-estrogens it contains.)
Green tea is full of antioxidants called catechins, which might help prevent skin cancers, and reduce sunburn. Green tea typically contains 26 milligrams of caffeine per six-ounce cup (less than black tea, far less than coffee).
Garlic is a spice with great medicinal benefits. It lowers blood pressure and supports the heart. Garlic contains the broadest known spectrum of antibacterial, antifungal, anti-parasitic, anti-protozoan, and antiviral compounds of any vegetable.
Beyond fruits and vegetables, healthy carbs include: Brown rice, whole wheat pasta, Quinoa (pronounced keen’-wah), oats, barley, and whole-grain breads. These are prepared just like their white counterparts, and are tasty with more substance.
Meats are more nutritious when baked, broiled, or grilled using herbs and spices. Fried foods should be eaten sparingly or prepared in a healthy fat that doesn’t produce carcinogens when heated, such as olive oil. You can also bake chicken or turkey at 400ºF to get the crunchy fried effect. Watch overall fat intake: Too much can prevent you from burning your own fat; too little can keep you from producing leptin (a hormone that makes you feel satiated) and lead to fat-deficiency mood and memory problems.
Choose several of these foods and incorporate them for at least 21 days (this is how long it takes to change a habit). See how they impact your stress level. A food/mood journal can help you identify patterns.