I know that stress has been scientifically proven to damage bone, but I am also realistic. I recognize that there will never be a time in my life that is completely stress-free. That’s just life! Here’s the good news. Scientific evidence clearly shows that nutrition is a powerful weapon against stress. It’s such a simple, effective, and tasty solution to this all-too-common problem! That alone helps me feel less stressed. So today, I am going to share with you six delicious Foundation Foods and will show you how they effectively reduce stress. From www.saveourbones.com
Does Stress Really Harm Your Bones?
I want to be clear about the type of stress we’re talking about today, because many of you may be remembering that “stress” on bones — in the form of weight-bearing exercise — stimulates them to build. That kind of physical stress can be very healthy, and in fact is essential. But the kind of stress we’re discussing is different. It’s a state of mind that is usually the result of certain situations in life. And it’s been scientifically proven that stress reduces bone density.
Stress stimulates the production of cortisol, a steroid hormone that boosts your brain and body into action. It’s the hormone you secrete in the “fight or flight” response, and it is intended for the short term only. When your system is constantly exposed to cortisol, such as occurs under chronic stress, it “has the same effect on the alkaline/acid balance as when you eat highly acidifying foods.” (Chapter 14, The Save Our Bones Program)
So in a very real way, stress ages your bones.
How To Reduce Cortisol Levels Through Nutrition
If you have the Save Our Bones Program, then you are aware of the extensive list of stress-reducing exercises and techniques. Those are excellent, especially when practiced in conjunction with stress-busting nutrition.
The following six foods are Foundation Foods in the Save Our Bones Program, and they’ve been shown to improve mood by various mechanisms, including decreasing cortisol levels.
Whether dried or fresh, apricots deliver a hefty amount of beta-carotene, an antioxidant carotenoid that gives apricots their beautiful yellow-orange color. Beta-carotene has been linked to lower levels of depression (often a side effect of stress) and better mood. Scientists believe that depression is linked to cell damage from free radicals, and beta-carotene protects cells from oxidation.1
Apricots’ antioxidant content (they also contain lycopene) and their exceptional alkalizing properties make them a “Power Food” as described in the Save Our Bones Program. They also contain bone-healthy Foundation Supplements like Vitamin C, Vitamin K, and copper.
2. Crunchy Alkalizing Vegetables
When I am particularly stressed, I sometimes find that my jaw, neck, and shoulder muscles get very tight. A bone-smart solution is to munch on crisp, crunchy vegetables that relieve stress mechanically, by reducing tension and stiffness in the jaw and neck.
Celery is also high in potassium, which helps lower blood pressure. High blood pressure goes hand-in-hand with stress.
Scrumptious and versatile mushrooms can lift your mood, and not just because they have so many fascinating shapes and varieties and are fun to cook with. Mushrooms contain selenium, a trace mineral that has been linked to improved mood.
“The metabolism of selenium by the brain differs from other organs in that at times of deficiency the brain retains selenium to a greater extent,”2 notes a review on selenium and mood published in Nutritional Neuroscience.
Mushrooms also contain trace minerals copper and zinc, which are moieties of the crucial antioxidant enzyme, superoxide dismutase. Mushrooms also contain riboflavin (B2), niacin (B3), and pantothenic acid (B5). These B-complex vitamins are essential for youthful bones. Shiitake mushrooms offer quite a bit of magnesium, too, which is vital for youthful bones. Research has also linked magnesium intake to depression relief.3
Walnuts are both tasty, crunchy additions to alkalizing foods like plain yogurt or mixed fruit. And the evidence is clear that walnuts can improve your mood and relieve stress. The secret to walnuts’ mood-lifting ability is their alpha-linolenic acid ( ALA) content. ALA is an Omega-3 fatty acid that is also found in fish oil, and your body can synthesize ALA into the essential fatty acids DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid.)
According to a recent study, the action by which essential fatty acids improve depression is twofold. First, these fats help preserve and increase the brain’s structures and modulate signal transduction in the brain. Second, ALA decreases and prevents the inflammatory state associated with depression.4 Additionally, low levels of ALA are linked to lower dopamine levels. Dopamine is a “feel good” brain chemical that also keeps anger and aggression at bay.
These bone-healthy nuts also contain boron and copper. While they are acidifying, you do not need to eat a lot of walnuts to reap the benefits. According to research, you only need about 4 walnuts a day to get a good amount of ALA.5
Because it’s a dairy product, this Foundation Food sometimes causes confusion. Here’s the scoop on yogurt: it’s a fermented dairy product that contains healthful bacteria, rendering it alkalizing. The vast majority of dairy products (cheese, cow’s milk, butter, etc.) are not fermented, and are therefore acidifying.
In addition, sweetened, flavored yogurt is acidifying despite having active cultures. So when I talk about alkalizing yogurt, I am referring to the plain, unsweetened, organic variety made from cow’s or goat’s milk. This is the perfect time of year to include yogurt in your diet. Not only does it help boost your mood (which might need a lift if you live in the Northern Hemisphere and the daylight is decreasing), but yogurt also helps prevent the flu.
The fermentation process infuses yogurt with beneficial bacteria, often called probiotics. A UCLA study linked gut probiotic levels with improved brain function. It’s well known that stress can negatively affect your digestion. But what’s interesting is that the reverse is true: what’s going on in your gut can affect your mood. In the UCLA study, 36 women were divided into 3 groups: 1 group ate yogurt twice a day; the second group ate a yogurt-like dairy product without probiotics; and the third group ate neither. After 4 weeks, fMRI scans (also taken before the study) showed a much calmer response to emotionally-stimulating pictures among the women who had eaten the yogurt.6
In addition, the women showed improved brain function overall in the probiotic group, especially in the areas of cognition. Ingesting the yogurt “affected activity of brain regions that control central processing of emotion and sensation,” the study concludes.6 Plain yogurt is also an excellent source of calcium.
I saved the best one for last! Dark chocolate is in fact a Foundation Food, and it’s been associated with stress relief for some time. It turns out there’s some real evidence to support chocolate’s reputation as a mood-booster. In a placebo-controlled trial, a group of men and women aged 40 to 65 drank a powdered chocolate drink each day for 30 days. The drink packets were unmarked, so the participants did not know if they were receiving the drink mix with 500mg, 250mg, or 0mg of cocoa polyphenols. The researchers discovered that the group that drank the 500mg polyphenol mix were calmer and more content.7
The polyphenols in chocolate are also antioxidants that protect your bones from the oxidative effects of aging.
So Many Foods, So Many Possibilities
I love to consider all the possible food combinations and dishes that could come out of just this list of 6 foods. Here are some creative ideas to get you started:
Top plain yogurt with a teaspoon or two of chopped walnuts and grated dark chocolate. Make a yogurt-based dip to eat with the crunchy, alkalizing veggies and raw mushrooms. Dip dried apricots into melted dark chocolate. Make yogurt “cream cheese” and stuff celery sticks with it; top with chopped walnuts and chopped dried apricots.
You can also use these foods in other dishes. It’s fun — and good for your bones — to experiment and get creative in the kitchen. And it can relieve stress, not only because it’s enjoyable but also because the components of the foods themselves can calm your brain (and build your bones). Eating the right foods is not the only way to keep stress at bay.
Exercise Also Relieves Stress While Increasing Bone Density
When you exercise, it sets a cycle in motion that builds your bones and improves your mood via a feedback loop. Savers already know that weight-bearing exercise directly benefits your bones by stimulating them to build and strengthen. It also causes the release of hormones like endorphins, which make you feel happy and positive, and reduces cortisol. This positive hormonal response makes you want to exercise again, and the cycle starts over.
Many studies have shown that exercise improves mood, reduces stress, and relieves depression. When scientists analyzed various studies on this subject, they concluded that enhanced mood is definitely related to exercise.8 And of course, while you’re engaging in weight-bearing exercise, you’re also increasing your bone density and giving your bones what they need to be youthful and strong.