Managing Stress with a Healthy Diet
While the body typically bounces back quickly from acute stress, chronic stress does not give the body time to recover. Serious health consequences can result when the body is under continual stress. Research suggests those who suffer from chronic stress are more susceptible to colds, depression, high blood pressure, stroke and heart attack. Because of the health benefits of certain vitamins and minerals found in food, eating a healthy, balanced diet plays a crucial role in managing stress.
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Whole grains contain complex carbohydrates which boost serotonin (a “feel-good” chemical) in the brain. Whole grains are an excellent source of B vitamins which boost energy and combat the fatigue commonly associated with stress. Good choices of whole grains include whole-grain breads and breakfast cereals, brown rice and pastas, and oatmeal.
Fruits and Vegetables
Chronic stress increases the production of free radicals which damage cells and increases the risk of developing certain diseases. Eating fruits and vegetables rich in antioxidants, such as vitamins C and E and beta-carotene, can help to reduce the effects of free radicals. Excellent sources of vitamin C include bell peppers, broccoli, oranges, strawberries, and cantaloupe. Excellent sources of vitamin E include papaya, spinach, blueberries, and olives. Foods rich in beta-carotene include sweet potatoes, carrots, kale, and romaine lettuce.Magnesium, which helps regulate stress hormones, can become depleted when the body experiences chronic stress and low levels of magnesium may cause headaches and fatigue, two common symptoms of stress. Eating foods rich in magnesium, such as spinach, salmon, black beans and navy beans, can help replenish lost magnesium and ease the side effects of stress.
Nuts and Seeds
Chronic stress affects the immune system, making the body more susceptible to colds and other illnesses. Eating nuts and seeds high in vitamin E, such as almonds and sunflower seeds, helps to boost immunity. Foods high in zinc, like brazil nuts, sesame seeds, and pumpkin seeds also boost the immune system.
Foods and Beverages to Avoid or Cut Back On
When trying to manage stress, it’s best to avoid beverages such as regular tea, soda or energy drinks since caffeine acts as a stimulant and can increase blood pressure in people who are sensitive to caffeine.Avoiding sugar when trying to manage stress is also a good idea. Sugar causes blood sugar levels to spike and fall quickly, increasing the production of insulin which hinders the adrenal glands from regulating stress hormones and protecting the body against stress.Excessive alcohol use can cause depression and is also harmful to adrenal glands. Those who experience chronic stress should drink alcohol in moderation.While eating a balanced diet can be helpful in managing stress, those who suffer from chronic stress should consult a physician for more suggestions on how to get stress under control.