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6 Low FODMAP Foods to Reduce Stress and Nourish Your Body

Note: Keep to low FODMAP servings as per the Monash and FODMAP Friendly apps.

Understanding Cortisol Levels

We all have stress from time to time. But when it goes on for weeks, or months, chronic stress can impact all the body's systems—especially the adrenal glands, small organs that rest on top of the kidneys and are responsible for releasing important hormones. One of these is cortisol, a stress hormone that regulates energy, reduces inflammation, and regulates blood pressure and blood sugar. It also controls the sleep/wake cycle: levels fluctuate during the day, increasing in the morning when you need to wake up, and decreasing at night when it's time to sleep. If you're in a state of constant tension and anxiety certain nutrients that relieve stress, promote calm, reduce inflammation, and balance blood sugar can help. 

6 Stress-Reducing Foods

Kefir

Studies suggest that bacterial imbalances in the gut contribute to stress and anxiety. Naturally fermented kefir is rich in beneficial bacteria, which improve gut health, reduce anxiety, lessen stress, and may protect against inflammation. Probiotic bacteria also improve serotonin levels and can produce GABA, a neurotransmitter that promotes relaxation and eases tension. Low levels of GABA have been linked with increased anxiety. I tablespoon of kefir is low FODMAP.

Recipe tips: Combine kefir with rolled oats, chia seeds, dried cherries, and vanilla extract, and refrigerate overnight for an instant breakfast bowl; make a zesty dressing with kefir, bell peppers, and cilantro; strain kefir through a cheesecloth overnight, then mix in Casa de Sante low FODMAP certified Tuscan Herb or Lemon Herb Seasoning for a creamy spread.

 

Turkey

It’s high in tryptophan, an amino acid precursor to serotonin and melatonin. (Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that promotes calm and relieves stress, while melatonin is a hormone that enhances sleep.) Studies show that tryptophan lessens anxiety and also improves sleep, even at doses as low as 250 mg—the amount in just one serving of turkey. Turkey is also rich in high-quality protein that minimizes blood sugar spikes and enhances energy. Vegan sources of protein and tryptophan include edamame, kidney beans, white beans, peanuts, and tofu.

Recipe tips: Spread turkey slices with mashed avocado, layer with arugula, Casa de Sante low FODMAP certified Tuscan Herb Seasoning and shredded carrots, and roll up; combine cooked turkey cubes with 1 tablespoon dried cranberries, and kefir; sauté cooked turkey with oyster mushrooms, Casa de Sante low FODMAP certified Tuscan Herb Seasoning and spinach, and toss with spiralized sweet potatoes.

Sunflower Seeds

They’re rich in protein and B vitamins, which keep the adrenal glands healthy and improve the body’s response to stress. Studies show that thiamine (vitamin B) protects the adrenal glands from exhaustion and reduces the body’s reaction to cortisol. Pantothenic acid (vitamin B) may buffer cortisol and enhance adrenal function, and deficiencies have been linked with compromised adrenal function. Niacin (vitamin B) helps the body convert tryptophan to serotonin, and also improves sleep. And pyridoxine (vitamin B) is necessary for the synthesis of GABA, serotonin, and other neurotransmitters that protect against stress. Sunflower seeds are also a good source of zinc, which has mood-regulating and antianxiety effects. Studies have linked low blood levels of zinc with increased feelings of anxiety. 2 teaspoons of sunflower seeds is low FODMAP.

Recipe tips: Combine sunflower seeds, kale, parsley, garlic oil, lime juice, and red pepper flakes in a food processor, and blend into a zesty chimichurri sauce; soak sunflower seeds overnight, then drain and purée with kefir, garlic oil, and 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar for a healthy mayo alternative.

Tea

Some varieties of tea can help relieve stress and anxiety. Green tea contains L-theanine, an amino acid that enhances the production of calming neurotransmitters. While it does contain caffeine, research suggests that L-theanine offsets caffeine's stimulatory effects. Studies also show that L-theanine induces alpha-brain wave activity, which correlates with a perceived state of relaxation. Rooibos, made from the leaves of the African red bush, has a balancing effect on cortisol levels. And it’s caffeine-free. These teas also contain antioxidants that protect against inflammation.

Recipe tips: Make a strong rooibos tea, stir in low FODMAP sweetener and vanilla, then add ice and almond milk for a cooling latte; make a soothing digestive tea with peppermint tea, fennel seeds, and chopped ginger.

Red Bell Peppers

They’re an excellent source of vitamin C, which helps support adrenal function and balance cortisol. In some studies, vitamin C improved the ability of the adrenals to adapt to surgical stress and normalized cortisol levels. Other studies show that vitamin C reduces anxiety, minimizes stress, and improves mood. FODMAPs were not detected in red bell peppers but spicy foods can upset some individuals with IBS. Eat as tolerated.

Recipe tips: Halve red peppers, remove seeds, stuff with sautéed collards, leeks, and cooked quinoa, and roast until tender; combine chopped red peppers with zucchini, eggplant, tomatoes, garlic oil, Casa de Sante low FODMAP certified Tuscan Herb mix, and simmer until tender.

Collard Greens

They’re high in magnesium, a mineral that helps relieve stress, as well as folate, a B vitamin that’s essential for the production of neurotransmitters that mitigate anxiety. Spinach, chard, turnip greens, and kale are also excellent sources of magnesium and folate. Only trace amounts of FODMAPs were detected. Eat according to appetite.

Recipe tips: Simmer chopped collard leaves, red peppers, ginger, and curry powder in 1/4 cup coconut milk; sauté shredded collard leaves in garlic oil with chopped black olives and Casa de Sante low FODMAP certified Taco seasoning; steam whole collard leaves until tender, then use as a wrap for 1/4 cup canned chickpeas and1 cup quinoa.

Reviewed by Onikepe Adegbola, MD PhD, founder, Casa de Sante.


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