Plant-Based Foods That Reduce Stress

Foods That Reduce Stress

Plant-Based Foods That Reduce Stress

When it comes to soaring stress levels, few of us have seen a year to compete with 2020. But today, I got some good news!

It turns out that one of the best weapons for fighting stress-related health problems is a plant-based or vegan diet. Why?

Because stressful situations stimulate our bodies to release the “flight-or-fight” hormone cortisol. And over time (say, several months of living with a pandemic 24/7), an elevated cortisol level can lead to increases in:

  • insulin resistance

  • triglycerides

  • cholesterol

But stress isn’t the only thing triggering the stress hormone. In this NutritionFacts video, Dr. Greger reviews research findings on the link between diet and elevated cortisol.

In a study headed by Minnesota VA endocrinologist Dr. Michael F. Slag, 52 participants either fasted or ate one of a standard, high-fat, high-carb, or high-protein animal-based) meal. The results, in Dr. Greger’s words?

“A single meal high in animal protein can nearly double the level of stress hormone [cortisol] in the blood within a half-hour of consumption.”

Eating a large amount of animal protein in one sitting caused a much greater cortisol surge than consuming the recommended amount.

In a later clinical trial from London’s University College researchers, participants ate a high-protein, three-course lunch the first day and a low-protein lunch the second.

Day 1 Menu: Crabmeat and sweet corn soup, stir-fried rice and veggies, tuna, and cottage cheese entrée.

Day 2 Menu: Pearl barley soup, stir-fried rice and veggies, and apple juice.

Their post-meal cortisol measurements showed a jump on Day 1 after eating crab, tuna, and cottage cheese. After Day 2’s vegetarian lunch, the levels dropped.

The researchers concluded:

“There is some evidence that maintaining a very high-protein diet may chronically stimulate the HPA [stress response] axis and increase release of vasoactive hormones [increase blood pressure].”

They also linked high cortisol to weight gain. Finally, Dr. Greger warned that consuming large amounts of meat during pregnancy “… lead to inappropriate fetal exposure to cortisol -¦ resetting their whole stress-response thermostat, leading to higher cortisol levels their whole life.” 

Dr. Greger’s further clarifies:

“So, no surprise that animal protein intake during pregnancy may lead to larger weight gain for her children later in life, and maybe even her grandchildren. That’s how much the stress axis can get mucked around.”

Face it. By itself, the everyday stress of 21st-century life is more than enough to keep us in “flight-or-fight” mode. So, next time someone sets a dish of crab, tuna, or cottage cheese in front of you?

FLEE! Flee straight to the nearest fruit and vegetable bar – and load your plate with a heaping serving of stress-relieving foods!

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