Stress-Busting + Mood-Boosting Dark Chocolate Bark (4 Ways)
I think most of us can agree the stress struggle is real!
These days, it seems like everyone is stressed out, and for good reason. We’re constantly racing to check (too many items) off our to-do lists, piling our schedules with obligations/events and exposed to a variety of environmental stressors such as toxins, EMF radiation, processed food, caffeine, alcohol, sugar, antibiotics, etc.
So while I’m probably stressing you out talking about all of these stressors (LOL) the good news is there are plenty of actions we can take to immediately alleviate stress, feel more calm and boost our moods.
But before we dive into the fun stuff (like this insanely easy and delicious stress-reducing dark chocolate bark recipe) I think it’s important for you to understand how stress effects your body and brain, empowering you to customize your own stress-combatting tools, and ultimately feel your best.
WHAT HAPPENS TO OUR BODIES WHEN WE’RE STRESSED?
Our bodies were designed to handle short, succinct bursts of stress as a survival mechanism back in the primal days.
We’d see a saber tooth tiger and this stressor would cause a stress response in our body. This means our brain (specifically the hypothalamus) would perceive the threat and send a “danger” message to our adrenal glands. In response our adrenal glands would release the stress hormone cortisol into our bloodstream.
Cortisol’s role is to mobilize energy from storage sites in the body for immediate use. It does this by converting amino acids found in our liver and muscles into glucose, our most efficient source of fuel, so our bodies can use this for energy. It also puts a halt on almost all other systems and functions in the body to preserve energy (such as reproductive and digestive processes).
This is incredibly effective when we need to use that energy to run from a tiger every once in awhile, but not so effective when it’s chronically happening on a daily basis from stressors like getting stuck in traffic, meeting a deadline, receiving an upsetting email, etc.
Because our bodies can’t tell the difference between a text or a tiger, it goes through the same stress response each time a perceived threat occurs. And because it’s rare that we need all of that extra energy produced physically to run from said tiger, it often times gets stored as fat, primarily around our mid-section.
HOW DOES STRESS AFFECT OUR HORMONES & HEALTH?
Not only do we tend to put on weight when we’re chronically stressed, but other bodily functions become imbalanced as a result.
+ Low Progesterone
Chronic cortisol output depletes other hormones such as progesterone, which is a calming and relaxing hormone vital to menstruation, ovulation and fertility.
+ High Estrogen/Estrogen Dominance
Low progesterone can lead to high estrogen or estrogen dominance, with symptoms ranging from painful periods, headaches, fibroids or cysts, mood swings and weight gain, primarily around the hip/butt/thigh area.
+ Adrenal Fatigue/Burnout
Constant cortisol output also puts immense strain on your adrenal glands, leading many people to experience “adrenal fatigue” or burnout. Your adrenals get fatigued from the constant demand to release cortisol into your blood stream, and they eventually stop responding. This is known as a low-cortisol imbalance, where you rarely feel well-rested (even after a full night’s sleep) and depend on crutches like caffeine or sugar to get through the day.
It’s a vicious cycle, and our bodies and hormones are so intricately linked you can’t experience one imbalance without having it affect other systems in your body. This leads many people to experience multiple symptoms and imbalances as a result, affecting everything from your mood, sleep, energy and productivity levels, to your weight, fertility and health and happiness and it’s core.
*Think you might have a hormone imbalance? Take this quiz to find out.
THE ROLE FOOD PLAYS IN STRESS
While chronic stress can have a drastic effect on our bodies and lives, rest assured there are plenty of easy food swaps and lifestyle tips you can incorporate into your daily routine to alleviate it. And if you know me you know my favorite way (as well as one of the most powerful ways on the planet) is to influence your mood with food.
Beyond just making you feel better by indulging in comforting cravings, there are certain nutrients that can tweak your mood in very specific ways with immediate side effects. One of my favorite stress-busting recipes is this loaded dark chocolate bark. It’s super easy to make, tastes delicious, satisfies sweet cravings (which we often crave when we’re stressed) and includes a number of nutrients that work to lower cortisol levels, optimize feel good neurotransmitters (such as serotonin and GABA) and instantly boost your mood. Let’s break it down by ingredients/topping options.
+ Dark Chocolate (at least 70% cacao)
Dark chocolate (cacao) is abundant in magnesium, an “anti-stress mineral” that helps you release tension, sleep better and boost your mood
+ CBD Oil
CBD is sourced primarily from the flowers of the hemp plant. What’s really cool about CBD is it contains cannabinoids, which are active compounds that interact with our endocannabinoid system (aka almost every system in our bodies) helping to balance and regulate everything from our neurotransmitter and mitochondrial function to inflammation and metabolism. They also contain very low levels of THC, under 0.3%, so you get all of these amazing anti-inflammatory and stress + anxiety-reducing properties of cannabis without the high.
Read this post to get the full scoop on CBD (as well as what you need to look for in brands before purchasing). I love the brand Soul Addict and you can use my code sa_lauren20 to save 20% off your first purchase.
+ Turmeric/Golden Milk
Turmeric is known for it’s anti-inflammatory benefits, which is important as chronic stress causes inflammation in the body, and we now know inflammation is the root-cause of all disease. The spice tastes absolutely amazing in this Golden Milk Coconut Cashew Butter made by Ground Up PDX (use code SOFRESH15 to save 15% off your first purchase).
+ Pistachio & Rose
Pistachios are rich in vitamin b6, which help to support and strengthen neurotransmitters such as serotonin (your feel good hormone) melatonin (your sleep hormone) and GABA, your relaxation or stress-reducing hormone. Rose is anti-anxiety agent shown to reduce stress and depression.
+ Honey & Lavender
Honey has antibacterial, anti-microbial and immune-boosting properties that produce a calming effect on the body. Lavender helps the brain to halt production of chemicals that cause negative or stressed emotions.
+ CBD Caramel & Cashew
Refer to the CBD section above for all of those amazing stress-reducing benefits. Cashews are also rich in anti-stress mineral magnesium.
Food is a powerful way to reduce stress, boost your mood and help you feel better almost immediately. Add these nutrients listed above (as well as the dark chocolate bark recipe below) to your stress-busting toolkit and use the next time you’re in need of some serious zen.
If you want to watch the TV segment where I share how to make this dark chocolate bark + more info on stress and how it affects your health, watch here!
Stress-Busting + Mood-Boosting Dark Chocolate Bark (4 Ways)
This stress-busting + mood-boosting loaded dark chocolate bark is easy to make, tastes delicious, satisfies sweet cravings & includes nutrients that work to lower cortisol levels, optimize feel good neurotransmitters & instantly boost your mood.
For the Base:
- 1 tbsp coconut oil
- 2 cups dark chocolate (at least 70% cacao)
- 1-2 tsp of Soul Addict Hemp CBD Elixir (use code sa_lauren20 to save 20% of your first purchase)
For The Toppings:
- Ground Up PDX's Golden Milk Nut Butter (use code SOFRESH15 to save 15% off your first order) + Toasted Coconut Flakes
- Chopped, shelled pistachio nuts + dried rose petals
- Honey Lavender Nut Butter + Goji Berries
- Salted CBD Caramel (using this recipe) + Chopped Cashews + Flaky Sea Salt
- Heat dark chocolate and coconut oil in a small stove-top pan over medium-low heat until just melted
- Remove from heat and option to stir in 1-2 tsp of CBD oil
- Pour onto a parchment lined pan and put in the fridge for 10-15 minutes to chill
- Remove from fridge and drizzle/top with preferred toppings
- Place back in the fridge for an hour to chill or 20 minutes in the freezer if short on time. Recipe will last in the fridge for a week.