What is the best way to eat to lower stress levels? In this post, I plan on addressing 5 principles anybody can start putting into action to start lowering their stress.
In future articles I plan to talk more about specific foods that have been proven to lower cortisol and promote a healthy hormonal output. *Really quick, when I say “hormonal output” I am referring to your health on a hormonal level. All-around health consists of a few different key things, one being spiritual – but in terms of foods to eat and what type of exercise you should be doing – I’m usually referencing hormonal health because that tends to have the biggest affect on your stress levels. Of course, gut health, reducing inflammation, and avoiding certain toxins in foods help – but today I’m addressing a pro-hormone health.
“Learning to optimize and balance your hormones is one of the keys to good health.”
Optimizing your hormones is a key to how you feel, look, and act. It’s that simple. Eating in a way that supports healthy hormonal functioning is the key to health. What the research has shown is that lower cortisol (primary stress hormone responsible for creating stress responses) are directly correlated with higher testosterone – which is indicative of good health in males. Now testosterone is not just for macho men, it’s for anyone looking to keep lower stress levels.
To preface, for the ladies out there;
Benefits of higher (healthier/more balanced) testosterone levels:
- Increased ability to lose stubborn body fat.
- Supports bone density (this deteriorates with age so its important to make it a focus).
- Promotes tissue growth and all-around body composition.
- Improved mood.
- Increased Libido.
Naturally testosterone will provide an improved mood, better energy and productivity, and will result in lower stress levels.
Anyone interested in health should find those interesting. No, it doesn’t make you start growing hair on your chest. In fact, at the highest rate naturally a woman can produce is about 10 percent of what a man can produce (article). So don’t worry ;).
As you can see, eating in a way that optimized hormones has a myriad of benefits for anyone, both men and women.
To keep it simple; you should learn to optimize your hormones through diet, exercise and certain lifestyle habits to keep your stress low. With that said, there are a few other keys that come to achieving good “brain health” including reducing inflammation, healthy detoxification, healthy immune system functioning, digestion, and a few more.
To make it fun; you should take what I say and put it to the test. If you enjoy it, continue. If you like eating ice cream every night, do it!
Eating in a way to optimize hormones is very basic. With that said there are a few key fundamentals to take into consideration.
Five Principles To Program Your Diet
- Enjoy lots of saturated and monounsaturated fats (study 1), (study 2). A good way to start implementing this is to cook everything with coconut oil. It’s inexpensive and the medium- and short-chain triglycerides found in coconut oil are very good for thyroid health, thus lowering your stress levels (study 3). I like to buy it in bulk since I use it daily. Make sure to get the unrefined organic virgin kind since the “conventional” hydrogenated coconut oil is filled with trans fats which create a havoc for your stress. The Medium-Chain Tryglicerides (MCT’s) found in coconut oil support neurogenesis & neuroplasticity through means of increasing Brain-Derive Neurtophic Factor (BDNF) due to the content of natural ketones.
- Eat some carbohydrates, they’re not the enemy! They’re vital for healthy a healthy hormonal profile along with proper thyroid gland functioning (study 4). Try and aim to get carbohydrates from natural sources like fruits high in Vitamin C like I outlined here, dark green vegetables, and sweet potatoes (they’re super high in micro-nutrients and taste amazing! :)). Just check this out
- Don’t go crazy high in protein. In fact you really only need about .82 grams per pound of body weight to maintain and improve body composition and support growth hormone (which is responsible for a number of healthy functions, I’ll write a post on it sometime). Going to high in protein leaves you with less room to indulge in lots of healthy fats and natural sources of carbohydrates, which as you know are imperative for health. (study 5), (study 6). I recommend getting protein in a way that you enjoy. Protein is healthy for a number of reasons; they support the amino acids that are responsible for the conversion of certain neurotransmitters that promote a good mood and relaxation. Too much however, is not necessary. If you like animal products, grass-fed beef and organic eggs are a great way to go.
- Try and eat organic produce and buy grass-fed meat if you can (that is, if you eat meat). I know it costs a little more… But it’s certainly worth it. Your endocrine system is very important for balancing out your stress levels. Conventional foods are very high in pesticides and can disrupt your endocrine system. When contaminated with too many pesticides, our body takes longer to detox all the unnatural substances its being filled with. This, as can be assumed, results in higher stress levels (study 7). On another positive note, eating organic is beneficial for the environment. Eating organic usually means your supporting local farmers. Buying grass-fed meat and free-range eggs is a good thing to do as well, conventional farming is going out-of-whack.
- Avoid polyunsaturated fats (PUFA’s) and trans fats. These fats are highly unstable in our blood streams. Trans fats are a given, but polyunsaturated fats are not as known for their inflammatory effects. Polyunsaturated fats slow down the metabolic rate and increase inflammation leaving the immune system to have to fight all the inflammation instead of aiding in inducing a non-stressed internal state. Polyunsaturated fats will stress you out (study 8), (study 9). Some good examples of PUFA’s to watch out for are canola oil, soybean oil, sunflower oil, and safflower oil.
*I do believe the natural sources of PUFA’s from omega 3’s are very important. Fish Oil, Cod Liver Oil, and really any wild-caught organic fish has some astounding health benefits. If you do eat fish regularly, avoid canned foods (As they contain toxins that increase inflammation). The natural source of DHA found in fatty fish is very beneficial for our brain health, lowering stress and improving cognition.
With that are five key principles to eat for a less-stressed state of being. Whatever your goals are for lowering stress; abiding by these rules are a sure-fire way to calm your mind and promote positive energy.
From a hormonal standpoint, cortisol is lowest when testosterone is elevated. So keeping your T to C ratio towards the higher end will allow your body to maintain lower cortisol levels – and lower stress and anxiety.
As stated before, I plan on putting out more specific content on certain foods that are beneficial to fit into your diet and addressing other topics of health. But for now, let’s keep it simple.
More important is it to not stress over what you eat. Keep it basic and know your doing well to improve your health. Over-thinking this diet and nutrition thing can trigger the stress response, therefore resulting in more anxiety.
What are your favorite foods that you like to fit into your diet? Leave a comment below and we’ll see if they have any anti-stress and health benefits!
P.S. If you enjoy learning more about reducing your cortisol and stress levels through videos and learning more about what I stand for, check out the new YouTube Channel where I am publishing videos consistently!
P.P.S Thank you so much for reading this! I hope you found some interesting information out of it. If you know of anyone that could benefit from learning from this post or site, please share it with them!