Stress and Nutrition:
Healthy Foods for Your Diet

When discussing stress and nutrition, we usually think about how the stressful life situations lead to poor nutrition decisions.  We know that people who experience continuous stress in their lives are more likely to develop health.  Incorporating more nutritious foods that can counteract the negative impact of stress.

You can relieve stress by eating healthy. Healthy eating provides you with much needed energy and balanced emotions to deal with extra stressful times. Ingesting the daily reccommended amounts of foods found on the food pyramid provides your body with its necessary nutrients, vitamins and minerals.  The connection between stress and nutrition should not be overlooked. A balanced diet will help you stay focused, energetic, and strong during stressful times.

grocery shopping for healthy foods

When talking about stress and nutrition, the use of caffeine and sugar is included because so many people rely on these two substances as a quick energy boost. However, caffeine overload leads to poor sleeping patterns and can enhance the negative effects of stress. Sugar provides a spurt of energy but then the energy level drops within a few hours.

Prepare nutrious well-balanced meals, including complex carbohydrates, protein and fat.  This will help fuel your body throughout the day and keep you feeling full longer. You will be less likely to grab a high-calorie sweet snack.

Here is a check list of stress-busting foods that actually help you combat the negative effects that stress has on your health.

  • Complex Carbohydrates: As you digest carbohydrates the brain produces an increase of serotonin, a hormone that helps enhance your good mood feeling. For a slower more continous supply of serotonin, include complex carbohydrates, because the body digests them more slowly. Good choices include pastas, whole-grain breads and cereals. Complex carbohydrates also help balance mood swings by stabilizing your blood sugar levels.
  • Simple Carbohydrates:  Nutritionists usually recommend limiting consumption of simple carbs--sugar deserts, candies and soda. However, these foods can provide short-term stress relief. Simple sugars enter the blood stream quickly, leading to a jolt of serotonin.
  • Oranges: This fruit provides much needed vitamin C. This vitamin helps reduce levels of stress hormones while strengthening the immune system. But since the body does not store extra amounts of this vitamin, a supplement may be necessary if you are experiencing a particularly stressful time.
  • Spinach: This leafy green vegetable is loaded with magnesium. Magnesium helps regulate cortisol levels, but the body is likely to use it up when under stress. Feeling of fatigue and headaches may result if your body has too little magnesium in its system. Sources rich in magnesium include spinach, soybeans, cashews, almonds, halibut and salmon.
  • Essential Fats: These omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids promote the easy flow of needed nutrients into our body cells as waste products flow out of the cells. Oily fish such as salmon, sardines and tuna contain omega-3 fatty acids, which appear to help relieve mild depression. Other sources include almonds, walnuts, canola, flax and soybean oils. 
  • Black Tea: Consuming black tea actually helps your body rebound from stressful events more quickly because it lowers the level of stress hormones like cortisol.

There is a recognized connection between stress and nutrition, which can lead individuals to make poor nutritional selections affecting overall health. Unhealthy nutrition can enormously affect a person’s capacity for reacting and dealing with stress.  Because of this, good nutrition is invariably part of any stress management strategy.

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