Stressed Out?

Stressed out? Chances are you’re nodding your head. Maybe you’re not right now (after all you’re enjoying my website), but maybe you were earlier today, or yesterday, or last week. Don’t worry, you’re not alone. In a 2013 study performed by the American Psychological Association, researchers found anecdotal evidence that stress in America is increasing in adults and in teens. The report found that:

  • 42% of adults and 31% of teens reported that their stress levels have increased
  • 43% of adults and 35% of teens lost sleep in the past month due to stress

Stress has become an epidemic, not just for our sleep habits, but also for our eating habits.

  • 38% of adults have overeaten or eaten unhealthy food in the past month because of stress with 49% of adults engaging in this behavior at least every week
  • 67% of teens report skipping meals because of stress due to lack of appetite

stresssymptomsWhat is Stress (and why is a holistic health coach talking about it?)

For starters, everyone has a stress response. It’s what has kept us alive all these years! This type of short term stress response is a good thing. It’s necessary for our survival. Let’s go over the basics of what happens when our bodies experience stress.

  1. Short term, our body is equipped with a “fight or flight” response. The sympathetic nervous system takes over your body.
  2. Sugars in your body are mobilized to various parts of your body to increase energy.
  3. Our muscles tense up, our heart beats faster and blood flows away from any non-essential body systems including your digestive organs. In moments of acute stress, your body can’t always properly process the food.

how-successful-people-stay-calm-graph1This entire stress response shouldn’t last more than a few hours. It turns into a serious health problem (which is why I’m talking about it) when it becomes chronic. Chronic stress can lead to a range of problems including:

  • Gastrointestinal related issues including constipation, diarrhea, indigestion, reflux or bloating.
  • Storage of excess abdominal fat.
  • Aggravated existing or new muscular conditions .
  • High blood pressure, thicker heart muscles, heart disease, heart attack, and stroke.
  • Sleeplessness due to an active sympathetic nervous system that doesn’t want to shut down.
  • A suppressed immune system can become suppressed, leaving it susceptible to new viruses. S
  • Inflammation which is known to cause an array of diseases including IBS and rheumatoid arthritis.

Learn to Manage Stress

So now that we know what stress is, what it does to our bodies, and how chronic stress can turn into a number of health problems, how can we manage it?

Before I share some tips on managing stress, I will let you in on a little secret. I recently experienced a massive amount of stress and experienced first hand how it completely shut down my body, which included muscle spasms, lack of appetite, and shortness of breath. How did I help myself? I deepened my breathing and got a massage. Luckily, my yoga and meditation practice helped me lower my stress levels and deal with them so that my stress didn’t become chronic. It’s about being prepared and luckily I was.

There are a number of things you can do right now, stressed or not, that will help you manage stress in the future.

  • Practice deep breathing and meditation practices which strengthen your vigilant prefrontal cortex and help you avoid overreactions. Think of it your prefrontal cortex as your very wise grandparents.
  • Eat nutritious foods such as nuts, fatty fish, and berries that will help maintain a healthy cortisol level. Enjoy a cup of green tea which will also help decrease cortisol and increase endorphins, relax muscles, and improve your mood.130429114739-large
  • Get enough sleep so you won’t be as susceptible to daily stressors.
  • Embrace imperfection. No one is perfect. Nothing is perfect. Actually, the beauty of our world is that it is perfectly imperfect. So if nature can’t be perfect, what makes you think you can be?
  • Exercise! According to Harvard Health Publications, exercise has a number of neurochemical benefits that reduce the level of stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol, while stimulating endorphins that your body’s natural painkillers and mood elevators.

Most importantly – BREATHE! Nothing is worth stressing out over. Not the report that’s due, not your kid’s laundry, and certainly not your the driver going 20 mph under the speed limit in front of you. Check out my latest article on mindfulness. It’s a great read for those of you looking to help manage your stress in this crazy (and amazing) world!

If you’re interested in speaking with me more about how to lower your stress levels through nutrition, exercise, and mindfulness, contact me at info@mbeewell.com

Benefits-of-Meditation

For the Love of Cauliflower!

IMG_0221I admit it. I’m in love. It’s a great love. One that I expect will continue to excite me for years to come. Hopefully one that will be full of different colors, spices, and flavors. A love that makes me excited because it’s easy, yet will always bring exciting moments to the table. Yes, I’m in love with cauliflower and I don’t care who knows it!

I’ve been lucky enough to plant cauliflower at the farm I’m working at, watch it grow, and eat it. There’s nothing that is more satisfying (well not too many things.) To see those little white pillows hiding in those huge collard like leaves which you then wrap into a ponytail until the big day comes when it’s time to eat it – it’s like playing hide and go seek with your food.

Not only is it fun to plant, tend to, and harvest, but it’s also fun to eat. Especially those big leaves! Before working at the farm, I never knew how delicious those leaves were. Why would they take them off when they sell cauliflower at the supermarket? I don’t know! (Note: Both recipes below call for cauliflower leaves, however if you can only get cauliflower at the supermarket sans leaves – don’t fret! You can use collard greens or kale as a replacement).

And if I wasn’t making you excited enough for some cauliflower recipes, it’s really good for you too (of course!) Since it resembles your brain, it benefits your brain as a good source of choline and Vitamin B, both needed for brain development. It also contains sulforaphane, which has been shown to kill cancer stem cells and slow tumor growth. That same sulforaphane improve blood pressure and kidney function. It’s a known anti-inflammatory which helps calm your immune system and reduce your chances of suffering from countless inflammatory related diseases. And if that wasn’t enough, it also supports your digestive system by detoxifying and providing a good dose of fiber to keep things running smoothly. It’s packed full of vitamins including 77% of your recommended daily value of Vitamin C among other vitamins such as vitamin K, thiamin, magnesium, and potassium. See, healthy things are delicious!

Below are two recipes that I’ve made recently with my CSA share. They’re both delicious and will satisfy your hunger despite being vegetarian. Cauliflower is such a hearty vegetable that you don’t even realize you’re not eating meat!

IMG_0222Roasted Cauliflower with Arugula Pesto Pasta

This recipe came about because I needed to use arugula and cauliflower, but I was craving pasta. Presto! Arugula pesto mixed with roasted cauliflower. It’s extremely satisfying. You even get a few doses of your greens for the day – all while eating pasta! It’s like a cheat day, but not!

1/2 lb Fresh Arugula
2 cloves garlic
Salt
Pepper
Olive Oil
Head and leaves of cauliflower (if you’re getting it at a farmer’s market you’ll have lots of huge, beautiful leaves)
Smoked paprika
1 lb whole wheat pasta
1/2 cup Parmigianno Regiano
6 very thinly sliced pancetta pieces (If you’re vegetarian, feel free to leave this out, I won’t know!)

First roughly chop (into bite size pieces) a whole head of cauliflower, leaves and everything. (If you don’t have cauliflower leaves, chop up collard greens or kale). Drizzle with olive oil, salt, and pepper, then place in a 375 degree oven for 15-20 minutes until the leaves are crisp and the cauliflower is cooked through.

On another baking sheet, lay thin slices of the pancetta on the sheet and bake until cooked through (about 10-15 minutes). Be aware that it will smoke, so put some fans on!

Bring a pot up to a boil and add the pasta. Cook until al dante. Drain, reserving a 1/2 cup of the liquid.

Meanwhile, in a food processor, add the arugla, garlic, Parmigianno Regiano, salt, pepper, and enough olive oil until the mixture comes together to a thick paste.

In a bowl, combine the pasta and pesto. Add a little of the pasta cooking water until the pesto is loosened up enough to coat the pasta. Add the cauliflower, leaves, and crumbled bruschetta. Top with extra cheese if you want!

 

Cauliflower SoupCauliflower Soup 

During our honeymoon in Italy, my husband and I had the best cauliflower soup we’ve ever had. Well it was the first time he’s ever tried it, but it won him over. It was delicate, smooth, and not overpowering. I’ve been trying to recreate it and I think I’ve come pretty close with the below recipe. Of course, I’ve put my own spin on it, making it super healthy (no cream here) without losing any of the flavor.

 

3 tablespoons olive oil
medium onion (6 ounces), sliced thin
head very fresh cauliflower (about 1-1/2 pounds), broken into florets
Salt, to taste
Extra virgin olive oil, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Chop up the leaves of the cauliflower (you can use collards or kale instead). Toss with a little bit of olive oil, salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes. Bake for 15 minutes until the leaves are crisp.

Warm the olive oil in a heavy-bottomed pan. Sweat the onion in the olive oil over low heat. Add the cauliflower, salt to taste, and 1/2 cup water. Raise the heat slightly, cover the pot tightly and stew the cauliflower for 15 to 18 minutes, or until tender. Then add another 4 1/2 cups hot water, bring to a low simmer and cook an additional 20 minutes uncovered.

Working in batches, purée the soup in a blender to a very smooth, creamy consistency. Let the soup stand for 20 minutes. Thin the soup with 1/2 cup hot water. Reheat the soup. Serve hot, drizzled with a thin stream of extra-virgin olive oil (I like to use chipolte flavored oil), freshly ground black pepper, the cauliflower “chips” and toasted whole wheat bread cut in cubes.