When I’m feeling sick, I’m much more likely to pop open a can of chicken noodle soup and pour a glass of orange juice than reach for the Tylenol Cold + Head. Maybe I just like eating, or maybe it’s because I believe that food holds the power to make us feel great and fuel our every move. Nevertheless, it’s my thing, and I’ve always been curious to see if there were foods that could help elevate those annoying and minor common health complaints. You know, like just feeling tired and dealing with bad menstrual cramps.
So I went to Whitney Tingle and Danielle DuBoise of Sakara Life, an organic meal delivery service that aims to provide nutrient-rich, plant-based options to its customers. DuBoise also happens to be a certified holistic health coach. From fatigue to headaches, here’s a few of their tips and snacking tricks.
While Tingle and DuBoise say there are many type of headaches, they note that migraines can often be from low levels of magnesium. “Most Americans—as many as 80 percent—aren’t getting enough of this vita mineral,” they tell me. If you’re looking to add this to your diet, some snacks they suggest include 1 cup of spinach, 1/8 a cup of pumpkin seeds, 1 cup of yogurt or Kefir, 1 medium avocado, figs, dark chocolate, and even bananas.
This was of particular interest to me because almost every single month, I feel like a thousand knives are hitting my stomach, and sometimes you don’t want to rely on ibuprofen for relief. "Something really interesting that we learned from our friend and colleague, hormone and women’s health expert Alissa Vitti, is that PMS is not inherent to menstruation,” they tell me. "If you eat clean and reduce your stress levels, many times you can reduce PMS symptoms to almost zero! Studies have shown that women who eat plant-based diets high in vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds and herbs have fewer PMS symptoms. Also, make sure you’re getting enough healthy fats! Avocados are great for hormone health—their nutritional profile is rich in omegas, fiber, magnesium, potassium, and Vitamin B6,” they suggest.
Again, Tingle and Duboise say that magnesium can potentially help in this department. "Stress causes elevated cortisol (the stress hormone), which leads to more stress…it’s a vicious cycle. But magnesium can help stop that cycle, calming the adrenals, lowering cortisol levels, protecting the brain against stress hormones, and ultimately helping the body cope with stress in a healthier way,” they tell me.
They also explain that in many of their brand’s meals, they include adaptogenic herbs. “These plants help the body deal with stress by lowering cortisol. Some of our favorites are ginseng, holy basil, ashwagandha, and medicinal mushrooms, like chaga and reishi,” they explain.
Lack of Energy
Among all the complaints Duboise and Tingle hear are bloating and lack of energy. And they say that many times, the symptoms of these complains are related to what they call the “gut micro biome,” which they explain as "the six pounds of bacteria living in your digestive system that dictates everything from leanness to happiness and level of energy.”
Interestingly enough, they also explain that the typical American diet—which is often high in sugar, low in fiber, and processed—can negatively impact this microbiome. "The gut needs a ton of plant based fiber and fresh, water-dense, whole plant foods. This encourages the right kind of bacteria to flourish and discourages the growth of unhealthy bacteria,” they say.
To help promote a healthy gut, they suggest eating lots of leafy green—like four to eight cups—every single day. In addition to the greens, two to three servings of colorful veggies and staying hydrated by drinking and eating your water. "This means eating plenty of water-rich fresh produce—romaine, cucumbers, zucchini, and melon are good examples—so that the water stays in your body longer and deeply hydrates your cells. Not only will you have more energy, but your skin will be brighter and younger-looking too,” they say.
Apart from keeping your gut healthy using the tips above, Tingle and Duboise say their Sakara bloat-fighting secret is using bitter foods, like fennel or arugula, in their meals, as they help with digestion by activating the liver and stimulating the production of gastric juices. "We put bitter herbs like meadowsweet and gentian in our new Digestive Tea to help get rid of bloat…it’s perfect after a big meal,” they note.