If your stress levels can impact your adrenal health and overall quality of life, what foods do you think you should eat to reduce stress?
If you do a quick Google search, you’ll find tons of conflicting advice. The truth isn’t as complicated as some people make it seem. If you want to help balance your body's stress levels and support your adrenal glands throughout the process, stick to natural foods with high nutrient-densities.
Everybody’s digestive system works differently. If you discover a specific food disagrees with you, you may want to consider taking it out of your diet. It doesn’t matter if it’s the most nutrient-dense food in the world. If it causes bloating, you will feel physically and mentally uncomfortable.
Foods to Eat for Adrenal Health
Unbalanced stress levels may impact optimal adrenal function. To bring your hormone levels back to a healthy range, stick to these four types of foods.
Foods High in Protein
Healthy Fats and Oils
Fruits and Vegetables
Low Glycemic Carbs
1. Foods High in Protein
You probably know that protein is critical for your muscles’ health, but did you know that protein is one of the building blocks of your hormones, too? The group of hormones called peptide hormones are made of the amino acids found in your dietary protein.
Sometimes when we are stressed and fatigued, our bodies crave sugary foods for quick energy. However, by including a high protein food with each meal, you can dull your sugar cravings and feel full longer. (1)
Here is a list of some high-protein foods:
2. Healthy Fats
For a lot of us, when we hear fat, we think of body fat. However, foods high in healthy fats like oleic acids and omega-3s give our body the raw material it needs to build new tissue.
Research published in 2017 shows that dietary fat intake influences optimal testosterone production in men and women. (2) Testosterone has an inverse relationship with cortisol, your body’s primary stress hormone. (3) Testosterone is critical for building muscle (yes, even in women) and if cortisol stays elevated over time, testosterone levels may stay low.
Here is a list of fatty foods to include in your diet:
Fatty fish (salmon and herring)
3. Fruits and Vegetables
Fruits and vegetables are among the most nutrient-dense foods you can find. Dark, leafy greens like spinach and bok choy are great staples to include in any diet, since they are full of a healthy variety of vitamins and minerals.
To support adrenal health, add as many vegetables as you can to your diet and replace unhealthy desserts with low glycemic fruits when possible. Most fruits and vegetables also contain antioxidants or other phytonutrients that keep your body functioning optimally.
Try to eat a rainbow of colors to get the most diverse range of nutrients: green, red, blue, purple, yellow, and whatever other colors you can find. For example, you could make a salad with spinach, red pepper, blueberries, carrots to get four colors in one meal.
Here is a small list of fruit and vegetables you can include in your diet:
4. Low Glycemic Foods
Foods high in sugar cause a spike in your insulin levels and a sugar crash. What does this mean for adrenal health?
A study published in Obesity in 2014 found that high-sugar diets are associated with higher cortisol release and fat storage. (4)
To keep your insulin levels consistent throughout the day, stick to sources of carbohydrates that are starchy and take a long time for your body to break down.
Here are a few low glycemic carb sources:
Green Leafy Vegetables (Spinach, Collard Greens or Kale)
Berries (Raspberries, Blueberries, Blackberries)
Foods to Avoid when considering Adrenal Health
Processed foods made with unhealthy fats and sugar may impact your body's inflammatory response. Imagine putting gasoline diluted with water into a car that needs premium fuel. That’s essentially what you’re doing to yourself when you don’t refuel properly.
Here are three rules to stick by that can help support your adrenal health.
Avoid high sugar foods.
Avoid unhealthy fats and oils.
Avoid foods that you’re intolerant to.
1. Avoid High Sugar Foods
If you consistently eat a high sugar diet, eventually anything that doesn’t have sugar added tastes bland. The opposite is true as well. Once you get used to eating natural foods, anything with added sugar will often taste overly sweet.
Here is a list of a few high sugar foods you may want to avoid:
Pies and cakes
Even though most of the calories in fruit comes from sugar, fruit is also high in nutrients and fiber. Choose low glycemic fruits like raspberries, blueberries and blackberries.
2. Avoid Foods High in Unhealthy Oils
You’ve probably heard of omega-3 fatty acids. They’re the healthy fats found in fish like salmon.
There’s another type of fat called omega-6 that most people consume in overabundance (although it’s still essential in small amounts). Omega-3s supports your body's optimal inflammatory response, while omega-6s are recommended to be consumed in limited amounts.
One of the most abundant sources of omega-6s in your diet comes from vegetable oils. Consistently consuming these oils may affect optimal metabolism and cardiovascular health. (5)
Here are oils you may want to consider cutting out of your diet:
Any listed as partially hydrogenated
Most fast food is also cooked with these oils. If you want to support your adrenal health, cooking with healthier oils might be a great option to consider. One of the best oils you can cook with is avocado oil. Avocado oil is high in oleic acid, a type of monounsaturated fatty acid that is known to support heart health.
3. Avoid Foods that You Don’t Absorb Well
If there are any foods that you know your body can’t absorb, you may want to consider avoiding them. Not only will trying to digest an intolerable food cause physical stress to your body, but it can also be mentally stressful to feel bloated and uncomfortable.
Besides asking your doctor for food allergies and food intolerance testing, an excellent way to find out which foods don’t agree with you is to keep a food log. Record everything you eat and if you have a day where you feel off, look back at your log to see what new foods might have caused it.
Some common food sensitivities include the following:
If you want to support your adrenal health, you may want to slowly consider cutting out or eliminating caffeine from your diet completely. However, if you drink a lot of coffee, completely quitting caffeine may not be practical so you may want to ease back instead of quitting. You can also try adding adaptogens into your diet to help with the process of decreasing your daily caffeine intake.
The Ultimate Adrenal Support Diet
Always consult with your health practitioner first if you have questions regarding your diet.
In the meantime, you may want to consider including in your diet foods that are high in protein, low glycemic carbs, fruits and vegetables, and healthy fats. Avoid foods high in sugar, foods high in processed fat, and foods you may be sensitive to.
A good rule of thumb when grocery shopping is to stick to the perimeter of the grocery store. Most of the fresh foods are located in the produce, dairy, meat, and seafood departments. The more packaged, processed foods are found in the middle aisles.
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