Healthy Vegetarianism in a Stressful Life

girl at spa massageThe ethical choice

Choosing not to eat animal produce can be a positive step for the planet and an ethical choice to be respected. To function fully without the more dense animal source foods can be tricky when stress hits, but with some nutritional awareness you can ensure you are fulfilling your body’s needs in terms of metabolism, brain function and satisfaction from the foods you eat.

When life’s demands build-up and we run our engines at a higher rate, our adrenal glands release stress hormones that heighten immune defences, tissue breakdown and muscle contractions (to name a few) and nutrients are quickly used up. This then requires more healing and detoxification – yes needing more nutrients… Suboptimal nutrient levels can quickly affect how able we feel to handle work, life and emotional stressors. In winter months that can make us want to hide ourselves away.

ChickpeasEnsuring quality proteins:

Efficient functioning of our adrenal glands rely on protein and low dietary levels can affect the way we cope with stress; often seen as fatigue and sugar cravings. Vegetarians need to be mindful not to just load up on grains and beans which can be inflammatory and stop absorption of minerals like calcium, iron and zinc, but also get these essential minerals within a range of quality protein and B vitamins for energy production:

  • Slow cook beans and pulses with onion, garlic, carrots and green veg to break down difficult to digest fibres and anti-nutrients to make full use of their protein.
  • Replace large starchy carb meal parts like big rice and pasta portions, replacing at least some with higher protein veg like greens, especially spinach, watercress, kale and broccoli.
  • Goat’s and sheep’s milk and their products like yoghurt and milk have good protein:fat ratios and easier to digest than cow’s milk.
  • Greek-style yoghurt is made in a way that increasing the protein:carb ratio and is more satisfying for the appetite, best to choose satisfying whole milk versions alongside a diet low in sugar.
  • For non-vegans, free-range organic eggs both provide complete and highly bioavailable protein and also nutrients like iron and choline which can be missing from a plant-based diet.
  • Nuts are extremely useful in a vegetarian diet and can be added to salads, at the end of stir fries, stews and make the perfect snack to curb sugar cravings when stressed.

nuts in shells_lowresEnsuring healthy fats:

Alongside the omega 3 oil info in the nutrient table, the following range of fats both satisfy biochemical needs but also satisfy taste and appetite in a way that carbohydrates can not:

  • Eggs and dairy from grass (not grain) fed free range animals are not just better for the environment, but also have much healthier fats, including omega 3 oils and Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA), both of which encourage good appetite regulation and weight control.
  • Monounsaturated Fatty Acids or MUFAs from avocados, olives and olive oil, nuts, seeds reduce both heart disease risk and inflammation.
  • Vegans should include coconut, peanuts, Brazil nuts, cashews, pumpkin seeds and pine nuts for vital saturated fats, needed in balance with other fats for mental and heart health – as well as protein.
  • Coconut contains Medium Chain Triglycerides (MCTs) that have shown to raise metabolism and support good cholesterol regulation and weight management.
  • Winter cravings for cheese and chocolate are a clear sign to increase those healthy fats. Our ancestors cooked with animal fats and butter is a good winter food. Cooking a warming curry with ghee is a great comfort food all round!

Common problem for veggies? Constant cravings for sugar can indicate that there are not enough healthy, quality proteins and fats in your diet.  Be particularly aware of this if you are vegetarian and especially vegan. This can hit most hard in the cold winter months when we are producing more energy to heat ourselves.

avocadoThe solution:

Make sure you are starting the day with the protein and fat inclusion that sets up appetite control, energy and mood for the day. Simple changes can ensure that stress won’t be sending you to the vending machine for a self-medicating sugar hit:

  • For most muesli just won’t cut it; grains – especially raw – are hard to digest and can rob the body of minerals. At the very least, swap half for nuts, have with Greek yoghurt and try to have a savoury breakfast half the week.
  • Stoke up your energy reserves and level out highs and lows of blood sugar with eggs, goat’s cheese, good quality nut burgers or occasional halloumi as the basis for a healthy English breakfast or with avocado, spinach, watercress and rye toast.

See The De-Stress Diet Vegetarian 7 Day Meal Plan to help you on your way…..


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