It seems like every time you open Facebook or a magazine there is a new health craze. Whether it’s green juice, wheatgrass shots, or the latest superfood, there is always something new to try.

This time, it’s adaptogens.

What is an adaptogen?

Adaptogens are herbs that are non-toxic to the body, have widespread benefits, and help bring the body back into equilibrium. Some adaptogens stimulate the body or enhance mental performance and physical stamina. Others help calm the body and increase immunity. Some herbs may have anti-inflammatory effects, but they’re not necessarily true adaptogens.


Adaptogens work by supporting the adrenal glands – the glands that deal with stress and fatigue. They bring the body back to homeostasis, which is often hard to do in our stress-filled society. The harmful effects of stress greatly exceed feelings of anxiety; stress harms your sleep cycle, which in turn leads to unhealthy food and exercise choices. Stress also messes up your hormones, causes inflammation throughout the body, leads to weight gain, harms your heart, decreases immune function, and disrupts digestive and mental health.


What makes adaptogens such potent stress-fighters?

They tailor their functions to your body’s exact needs. Regardless of how your body exhibits stress, whether that’s from lack of sleep, work or family stress, travel, or illness, adaptogens are able to target the imbalances in your body and help correct them.


Adaptogens are available in powders, capsules, tinctures and even teas. But before purchasing, be sure to check that the manufacturing company is a reputable source, since these are not regulated by the FDA. (No supplements are!) Talk to your doctor about which ones are best for your needs, and how often you should be taking them. Adaptogens do not treat one illness; instead, they promote overall well-being. If you’re feeling “off” in any way, adaptogens may be a healthy addition – along with a nutritious diet and active lifestyle.




Here’s a quick list of the most common adaptogens:

  1. Ashwagandha
  2. Eleuthero
  3. Holy Basil (Tulsi)
  4. Maca
  5. Panax Ginseng
  6. Rhodiola Rosea
  7. Schisandra
  8. Astragalus
  9. Licorice
  10. Moringa
  11. Gotu kola
Remember, adaptogens are not meant to cure or treat disease, and they can never replace a holistically healthy lifestyle. If you’re stressed and tired, don’t expect these herbs to allow you to keep pushing – listen to your body, slow down, and use adaptogens to return the body to a balanced internal state. There is no one-size-fits-all for adaptogens, so talk to your doctor to figure out what is best for you!

Blog post written by Trainer, Sarah Oliver

VIM is now offering nutrition services with Trainer & Nutrition Coach, Christine Galvin!

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stress relieving foods

Vacation is over, and the stressors of daily life are starting to return. We often reach for high-calorie or sugary foods for comfort, but junk food only doesn’t really make us feel better.

Eating healthy food—and making that a conscious choice—can actually offer some real stress relief.

food stressEnd the cycle of eating bad-for-you foods and find relief elsewhere. Instead, add these truly anti-stress foods to your diet.


Stress depletes our B vitamin stores, which screws up neurotransmitters and that fight-or-flight hormone, adrenaline. Eating nuts helps to replenish these important B vitamins. The potassium in nuts is also key; a couple servings of potassium-packed pistachios a day can lower blood pressure and reduce the strain stress puts on our heart.

Red Peppers:

While oranges get all of the vitamin C hype, red peppers have about twice as much (95 vs. 50 mg per 1/2-cup serving). High doses of vitamin C before stress-inducing activities can lower blood pressure and increase recovery from the surge in cortisol – the “stress hormone.”


Omega-3 fatty acids are crucial in a stress-reducing diet. Taking a daily omega-3 supplement (containing DHA and EPA) for 12 weeks can reduce anxiety by as much as 20 percent. You won’t get the same mood boost from the omega-3s (ALA) in flax, walnuts and soy, though, so shoot for about 2 servings a week of wild salmon or other oily fish and/or talk to your doctor about DHA supplements.


This leafy-green veggie is rich in stress-busting magnesium. People with low magnesium levels (most of us, actually) are more likely to have elevated C-reactive protein levels—and research shows people with high CRP levels are more stressed and at a greater risk for depression. Magnesium also helps regulate cortisol and blood pressure, and since magnesium gets flushed out of the body when you’re stressed, it’s crucial to get enough. Other solid magnesium sources include beans and brown rice.


Not only does oatmeal feel warm and comforting to eat, it actually helps your brain generate the important stress-reducing neurotransmitter, serotonin. Research shows that people who avoid carbs are more stressed than their carb-loving friends. Not all carbs are created equal, though. Refined carbs (white bread, pasta, baked goods, etc) digest faster and spike blood sugar, messing with moods and stress. Complex carbs like oatmeal are digested more slowly and don’t spike blood sugar.

Dark Chocolate:

If you crave chocolate when you’re stressed, go ahead and indulge! Research shows people who eat the equivalent of an average-size candy bar (about 1.4 ounces) daily for two weeks had lower cortisol and fight-or-flight hormone levels. To reap the feel-better rewards, choose chocolate that’s at least 70 percent cocoa, or extra high in anti-inflammatory flavonoids like this locally-made chocolate bar! But remember, dark chocolate is a high-calorie food, so mind your portions.


Research shows tea drinkers de-stressed faster and have lower cortisol levels than those who don’t drink tea. Caffeine can increase the stress response in many people, so stick to decaf and herbal teas. Herbal teas like chamomile, peppermint or ginger can be very soothing to the digestive tract, which can help with stress by calming the nervous system in your gut.

Do you eat these stress reducing foods? Are you willing to try them out in place of your usual stress snacks? Let us know in the comments!

stress-free thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is almost here!

For some this might bring a fun time of family, friends, and good food. For others, it might be a reminder of all the stressful cooking and hosting that needs to be done!

This year, let’s skip the unnecessary worries and make this a healthy, fun holiday season.

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