Did you know that the word ‘STRESSED’, is ‘DESSERTS’, spelt backwards?
Numerous studies link stress to ‘reward’ eating of high fat, high sugar foods inducing that feel-good factor - but this dopaminergic pathway in the brain is also associated with motivation and addictions…which is why one biscuit is never enough...
There's been a lot of talk about stress recently, so I'm not going to talk about that. But have you heard about oxidative stress?
Oxidative stress occurs when the balance between free radical activity and the anti-oxidants that keep them in check, are out of kilter. We produce free-radicals as a natural by-product of our bodily processes; these can be helpful, for example by helping to fight off bacteria and viruses which cause disease.
BUT - left unchecked, free radicals can cause damage throughout the body, leading to the development of several diseases, including joint damage, diabetes, hypertension, neuro-degenerative disorders (Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s), and increased acceleration of aging. That doesn’t sound good, does it?
So, it’s important to recognise how this oxidative stress occurs – and then how to minimise it.
Excess alcohol, excess food, excess exercise, excess sun exposure…the theme here being ‘excess’. And yes, you can do too much exercise!!
Lack of sleep, unnecessary exposure to chemicals (cleaning fluids, some hair and beauty products, paint, car fumes and pesticides in gardening products), as well as too much emotional/physiological stress (oops, yes I said it) - all create oxidative stress.
The key here is balance – none of these (with the exception of smoking) are dangerous in their own right, if kept to an appropriate level. Some, like exercise, are positively beneficial to health, if balanced with rest and recovery. It's the accumulated effect of too much which can cause extensive damage, leading to ill-health.
The good news is that we can make lifestyle choices to reduce these risks:
balancing high intensity activity with yoga, tai chi, stretching and pilates
getting enough rest, relaxation and sleep
reducing consumption of high fat, high sugar, high pesticide/preservative-containing 'convenience' foods
limiting the other activities mentioned above, which are known to damage health
You can also increase your body’s antioxidant levels to quash these free radicals by eating foods containing high levels of these health-protecting nutrients. Download this easy-to-use Rainbow Diet of colourful veg and fruit, containing the key anti-oxidant vitamins A, C, E and minerals selenium and manganese. Pin it to your fridge or kitchen board for easy reference. Anti-inflammatory foods such as garlic, ginger, herbs and spices, especially curcumin – include these in your cooking and you’ll be optimising your health already!
And in the current climate, anything we can do to help protect our immunity is the most important step we can take in managing our health – and helping us to live a long life well.
Right, I’m off to eat an apple…
Stay safe and well, Amanda