Stress is something that we all suffer from at some point, and, while a little stress can be good and a strong motivator for people, too much stress has been clinically proven to be unhealthy in many ways. Stress reduction is important for those who are feeling high levels of stress; so, what role does your diet play?
A common reaction to stress can be to over-eat or to eat too much of the wrong kinds of food; this, along with the stress hormones running through your body leads to the storage of fat, particularly in places that it is difficult to shift, such as the stomach and mid-section. Of course if you are storing more fat and finding it hard to shift excess weight, this can lead to more stress! So, if you are embarking on any kind of diet change due to stress it is important to eat sensible portions of the right kinds of food.
Food can affect your body in different ways in terms of stress management; for example, comfort foods such as a warm bowl of oatmeal produce serotonin, a chemical which is calming for the brain. There are other foods such as oranges and oily fish which reduce the stress hormones cortisol and adrenalin, while having a healthy diet overall will boost the immune system and allow for better management of stress by reducing blood pressure.
So, let’s take a closer look at the foods which are not only healthy, but good for reducing stress. Complex carbohydrates help the body to produce more serotonin. These include whole-grain breads, cereals and pastas as well as the oatmeal mentioned above. The good thing about complex carbohydrates is that they have a low GI (Glycemic Index) so are a great fuel for the body as they provide a sustained source of energy and serotonin. Simple carbohydrates such as sugars and pastries may do the job if you are desperate, but these are not recommended as they process quickly and excess sugars will be turned to fat.
Foods with high levels of vitamin C (such as oranges and other citrus fruits) are thought to lower the levels of stress hormones in the body whilst providing a boost to the immune system. Omega-3 fatty acids are also thought to curb stress hormones. You can get your omega-3 by eating oily fish such as salmon or tuna, walnuts and canola oil.
Magnesium is a vital mineral for the body which if short, can lead to stress-compounding headaches. It is recommended that you keep up your magnesium levels by eating leafy vegetables such as spinach or other foods high in magnesium such as salmon.
Often, movement of the body is attributed to reducing stress. For this reason, experts recommend crunching on raw vegetables so that you are able to reduce stress in a mechanical kind of way. The bonus from doing this is that if you are inclined to snack when stressed, at least you are eating something healthy!
So, if you are feeling as though you are under a lot of stress, fill your plate up with healthy food choices. Boost your immune system, reduce stress hormones and see how much better you feel.