When we are under chronic stress and our adrenals are overworked it is very important to pay attention to our diets for two reasons. First when we are stressed we have a tendency to eat whatever is easy, which usually isn’t very good for us. Secondly stress depletes our bodies of nutrition. As I mentioned in Part 1 of this series I’m writing about stress in a food blog because we can help counter the profound ways stress affects our bodies with the foods we eat. While diet can’t entirely compensate for an over stressed, over scheduled life it can help. However, coupled with lifestyle changes diet can be a powerful healer to re-balance our systems.
Everything I’ve read about chronic stress and adrenal friendly diets say the same thing, and it’s pretty fundamental and easy. Stay hydrated, eat whole foods, and eat some protein, complex carbohydrates, and healthy fat at every meal and in every snack. It is also recommended to eat smaller portions 6 times a day rather than 3 (or fewer) large meals. This helps avoid blood sugar spikes and their subsequent crashes which stress the system in general and causes the adrenals to work hard to maintain proper blood sugar.
STAY OUT OF THE MIDDLE OF THE GROCERY STORE
Processed foods not only create more stress on our bodies they provide no real nutritional support. What we need, especially in times of stress, are good quality whole foods; colorful (preferably organic) fruits and vegetables, grass fed dairy, and lean meats (if you eat them.)
If you must go down the inner aisles for some things frozen fruits and vegetables would be my first pick. But whenever you pick up something in a package please read the label. Opt for ingredients you might find in your pantry. Especially try to avoid carrageenan, food dyes, MSG, high fructose corn syrup, artificial sweeteners, and nitrates/nitrites. I personally also avoid any GMO food derivatives.
Here are some foods The Prescription for Natural Healing recommends avoiding because they create more stress on the system. The list includes items from the center of the grocery as well as a few from the meat and dairy section.
Foods to Avoid
- Artificial Sweeteners
- Carbonated Soft Drinks
- Chocolate (Unfair I Know)
- Fried Foods
- Junk Foods
- Red Meat
- White Flour Products
- Food Containing Preservatives or Heavy Spices
- Chips and Similar Snack Foods
I’ve created a table of foods that are good sources of vitamins important in adrenal support. They are listed by color in case you are trying to eat some of the five colors at every meal as directed by TCM dietary guidelines. I use this table when creating my grocery list. Then no matter what I cook I know my meals are supporting my adrenals and I do feel better.
EAT COMPLEX CARBOHYDRATES
What’s the difference between simple carbohydrates and complex carbohydrates? Simple carbohydrates include fructose (fruit sugar), sucrose (table sugar), and lactose (milk sugar) and are sometimes called simple sugars.
Complex carbohydrates include fiber and starches. Some foods that are rich in complex carbohydrates are whole grains, vegetables, beans, and peas. According to Better Nutrition’s Healthy Living Guide grains may not be the best source of complex carbohydrates after all. Instead they recommend fresh or flash frozen vegetables as the number one pick. Topping their list are yams, spinach, chard, red pepper, butternut squash, beets, and carrots.
Of whole grains they recommend choosing brown rice, millet, or quinoa over the gluten containing grains of wheat, rye, and barley.
CHOOSE HEALTHY FATS
Fats are not the enemy. Fats are key building blocks for nerve fibers, brain tissues, immune messengers, cell membranes, and reproductive and stress hormones. They also allow your body to utilize fat soluble vitamins. However, after about age two the body only needs small amounts of fat.
Healthy fats include extra virgin olive oil, organic butter, sesame seed oil, coconut oil, and avocado oil.
Avoid industrial seed and vegetable oils like canola, soybean (both heavily GMO as well) safflower, and sunflower oil. They are prone to oxidation both in the bottle and in your body. They promote chronic low level inflammation throughout the body.
Most Americans eat too much protein due to a diet heavy in meat and dairy. If you are so inclined good choices of animal protein are pastured beef, poultry, or eggs because they have a healthier nutritional profile. Also good are wild caught cold water fish like halibut and salmon.
I, like most people, was introduced to the concept of complementary protein in Diet For a Small Planet. If you are unfamiliar with the concept, simply put plant sources have protein amino acids, but not necessarily all of them to form a complete protein. By combining foods with complementary amino acids complete proteins can be formed providing a quality substitute for meat. This simple breakdown is from Prescription for Nutritional Healing.
To make a complete protein combine beans with any of the following:
- Brown Rice
Or combine brown rice with any of the following:
If you have reduced, or eliminated, meat in your diet, be sure to get about 50 grams of protein a day.
TO SALT OR NOT TO SALT
For healthy adrenal activity a healthy balance between sodium and potassium is essential. This ratio determines blood pressure levels, nervous system outputs, electrolyte balance, and the production and utilization of energy. Now that you are shopping around the edges of the grocery you can safely add salt to your diet. (Processed foods are very high in sodium.)
However, all salts are not the same. Commercial table salt is highly processed which strips it of its natural nutrients. This is why Celtic Sea Salt is recommended as a healthier choice. It has a wealth of nutrients and trace minerals in addition to the sodium.
One word of caution though, table salt has added iodine which is important for thyroid function. If you are vegetarian or vegan review your diet to be sure you are getting enough iodine. Sea kelp is an excellent source of iodine and many other nutrients.
So a healthy adrenal diet has some specific nutrition guidelines but the bottom line is the same. Your best bet for good health is to eat a balanced diet of good quality (preferably organic) whole foods.
This information is not intended to treat, diagnose, cure, or prevent any disease.
All material in this article is provided for educational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you have regarding a medical condition, and before undertaking any diet, exercise, or other health program.
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I believe in keeping things simple and that small steps can bring about big changes.
Read more on my “About” page. You can contact me at MyFoodFriend@Yahoo.com.