Stress can take a major toll on your body, and there are more factors that contribute to its effects than you think! We spoke with Talia Pollock, owner of partyinmyplants.com and the Party in my Plants Podcast, to understand more about how the foods you put in your body can affect the stress that comes out.
There are some recent studies analyzing the link between gut health and stress. What are your thoughts on this and how do you think food plays a role?
Even before recent studies linked stress and gut health together, my own experience with stress and my gut health linked the two together! 100% yes, stress affects how our gut feels and hinders our ability to properly digest our food. As someone who has that good ol’ “IBS” diagnosis, stress, above anything else is the trigger for me feeling lousy, so it’s great that studies are coming out to support this.
I believe that the role food plays in this is two fold: first, it’s obviously of the utmost importance to eat lots of plants. Fruits, veggies, nuts and seeds are the way to go and for bonus points with your belly: fermented foods, which are chock full of good-for-your-gut bacteria (also known as probiotics), will help greatly. But since we’ve already established that stress compromises your gut’s ability to function properly (and can give you a stomach ache!), the other role that food plays is that it musn’t stress you out. Getting stressed ABOUT healthy eating is like eating after brushing your teeth at night...it cancels the good habit out! So eating healthfully is vital for good gut health, but not if you’re white-knuckling that kale!
Can your diet affect your body’s overall balance?
Absolutely, certain foods can trigger problems like stress! Highly processed foods like the kinds you find in non-perishable bags at the gas station, sodas, alcohol, refined sugary foods like candy, desserts that you don’t get at a “hippie healthy bakery using only maple syrup or coconut sugar,” red meat and dairy are all foods/food groups that can cause serious blood sugar spikes and crashes (affecting stress, fatigue and anxiety) as well as create chronic inflammation in the body which can cause serious disease down the road.
What are some ways people can heal their bodies with food?
EAT MORE PLANTS! Just eat more plants. Focus on getting some plant in with every meal or snack you eat, be that avocado on your whole grain toast in the morning with your eggs, berries with nuts for a snack, some favorite veggies in your salad for lunch, an apple with nut butter for another snack and some sweet potato alongside your whatever (meat, chicken, fish, tofu) for dinner! I’m not going to look you in the computer-screen-eye and tell you it’s necessary to go fully plant-based right now but just trying to eat one plant (fruit and veggie) with every meal or snack you can dramatically improve your health.
How do you feel following a vegan diet/lifestyle has impacted your overall health and wellbeing? Have you seen any reductions in stress, anxiety, fatigue, discomfort, etc?
Eating more plants has completely changed my overall health and really, my overall self. I used to be a highly anxious person with daily digestion discomfort and extreme emotional highs and lows. Since shifting to a mostly plant-based diet over 8 years ago AND cutting out the processed crap (because one can still eat too much processed crap on a plant-based diet if one is not cognizant of it!) that person doesn’t really exist anymore. My mood balanced, my digestive distress that plagued me pretty much every minute of the day was alleviated, my weight balanced and I stopped having panic attacks. I attribute all of this to adopting an overall healthier lifestyle too, though, not just my diet, because like I said, stress is worse for your body than anything. So you can eat all the plants you want and still be stressed and practically cancel out the effects of the plants. So stress-reducing activities like daily meditation, exercise, prioritizing sleep and just not “pushing” too hard at life 24/7 combined with the plants is what I think massively changed my well being.
What are your thoughts on “mindful eating” and do you think it has a place in healing some of the ailments we mentioned earlier?
If by “mindful eating” we mean consciously not eating while you’re driving, arguing or thinking about something stressful, then yes, absolutely, eating in a state of stress is awful for your gut health and thus overall health and happiness! If we also take “mindful eating” to mean deliberately thinking about what we put into our bodies and how that’ll affect our health versus willy-nillying food into our mouths without thinking, then yes, that absolutely also will help us stop eating those stress causing and health reducing foods as well. :-)
Do you have any stress-busting recipes on your blog that you’d like to share?
Chia seeds are high in omega 3 fatty acids which work hard to fight inflammation AND help to reduce depression and anxiety so my incredibly easy and tasty chia pudding is a rockstar stress-busting recipe! If you make the cacao variety of it, the magnesium found in cacao can also help you relax making this recipe a double whammy.
Because both spinach and avocado are inflammation fighting (spinach because it’s rich in antioxidants and avocado because it’s high in carotenoids, which fight inflammation) AND because avocado is loaded with B vitamins which stress actually depletes in our body (and which is necessary for our body to maintain healthy nerve and brain cells), my spinach, lemon and avocado pesto is a great stress-busting recipe.
Bananas are actually one of the most stress-reducing plants you can eat - they’ve got neurotransmitters called tryptophan, serotonin and norepinephrine which are chemicals that basically help our cells communicate that we should be happy, relaxed and in a positive mood. Add this to the fact that banana ice cream is one of the most delicious treats you can make with plants and I think I’ve sold you on my banana ice cream recipe!
Talia Pollock is the creator of partyinmyplants.com, a hilarious hub of healthy living help. Through her popular Podcast, LOL cooking videos and sought-after coaching and events, Talia proves that it’s practical and possible to live healthfully without compromising your social life. As a holistic health coach, speaker (she's a former stand-up comedian) and professionally-trained plant-based chef, Talia has made it her mission to help others eat more plants so they can have a life as epic as a party!