Natural Ways to Beat Stress: Part II
Whether experiencing issues at work, relationship troubles or scheduling snags, a little stress is inevitable, and as long as stress is intermittent, it's not a problem. Think of it like dark chocolate: A little stress every now and then can be healthy, but a lot of recurrent stress can cause your body harm. As mentioned in Part One of Natural Ways to Beat Stress, continual stress can boost risks for disease, add inches to the waistline and affect libido. In addition to the stress-busting methods previously mentioned, balanced nutrition plays a key role in keeping your body healthy during stressful times. Discover how four all-natural ingredients can help beat stress and then enjoy an easy, stress-busting recipe that contains all four.
Bananas are a rich source of potassium, which helps maintain water levels in the body and regulates heartbeat. Periods of high stress deplete levels of potassium, and eating a banana is one of the healthiest ways to provide restoration and beat stress. What's more, bananas are the only fruit to contain tryptophan, the amino acid in turkey that induces relaxation after Thanksgiving dinner. In addition, the tryptophan and vitamin B6 found in bananas combine to produce serotonin, a neurochemical that alleviates depression.
During periods of stress, some people comfort themselves with chocolate, and according to research, this might not be a bad idea. One study found that anxiety-ridden subjects who ate 1.4 oz. of dark chocolate per day for two weeks beat stress by lowering levels of the stress hormone cortisol and levels of catecholamines, otherwise known as the "fight or flight" hormones. Sadly, as with many things that people truly enjoy, moderation is important. Because of its high fat and sugar content, too much dark chocolate can be detrimental to the waistline.
Acknowledged for its many healthful properties, maca is a root that grows high in the Andes Mountains. Although locals have known for hundreds of years about the stress-relieving benefits of maca, the rest of the world is finally catching up. Maca is an adaptogen, which is a nutrient that helps the body adapt to psychological, physical and environmental stress. Maca also helps beat stress by balancing hormones in the body, including those released in times of stress like catecholamines and cortisol.
These buttery nuts are a rich source of magnesium (as are bananas and dark chocolate). Magnesium is the most important of all minerals for managing stress. In fact, many stress-related diseases like heart disease and high blood pressure are coupled with a magnesium deficiency. This important mineral prevents the entry of calcium into nerve cells, which can activate the nerve. By blocking entry of calcium, magnesium keeps nerves, blood vessels and muscles relaxed. One-quarter cup of cashews contains almost 30 percent of the recommended daily value for magnesium. Eat cashews by the handful, or try chopped cashews in this delicious and healthy dessert.
Dark Chocolate Frozen Banana Bites
8 oz. high-quality dark chocolate (60 percent or higher cocoa solids)
2 teaspoons maca powder
4 bananas, peeled and sliced into four pieces each
3/4 cup chopped cashews
Peel and slice the bananas and place on a large plate. Insert a toothpick into each slice, cover with plastic wrap, and freeze for roughly two hours. When the bananas are frozen, line a cookie sheet with waxed paper. Put the chopped cashews in a shallow bowl and set aside. Melt the chocolate in the top portion of a double boiler over water that is just simmering and not touching the bottom of the top pan, stirring frequently. When the chocolate is melted, add the maca powder and stir until the powder is well blended into the chocolate.
Remove the bananas from the freezer and dip each into the chocolate, turning to coat. Immediately roll each banana bite in the chopped cashews and place on the cookie sheet. When all bananas are coated in chocolate and nuts, return to the freezer for 5-10 minutes to set, and enjoy!
As people are increasingly busy, stress has become a regular part of daily life. Unfortunately, over time, stress can play havoc with the health. While eating to combat anxiety has been criticized in the past, certain foods have been found to offer a calming effect. Prepare these delicious and healthy dark chocolate treats during worrisome periods for a quick and easy stress-buster.
By guest contributor Jillian Fritsen