Unhealthy eating habits such as skipping meals, fad dieting, eating fast foods regularly, and too much of processed foods cause stress. On the other hand, stress makes the body crave foods that are high in fats and sugars, resulting in diabetes, heart disease and metabolic syndrome.
Efficient stress management includes incorporating healthy eating plan, regular exercise and a bit of lifestyle change. A well-balanced diet increases the resistance against bad effects of stress on our body.
Here are some foods that are helpful or harmful in stress.
Eat a wide variety of colorful foods
Consuming 40 to 60g of nutrients daily is essential to keep the body healthy and protected from ailments and stress. Essential nutrients are carbohydrates, protein, fat, good fatty acids, vitamins and minerals.
The red, purple, blue, yellow, orange, green vegetables and fruits have loads of vitamin C, beta-carotene and other antioxidants and nutrients that help fight stress.
So go all out for carrots, colored bell peppers, red cabbage, beets, tomatoes, blueberries, mangoes, and endless other veggies and fruits.
Consume complex carbohydrates instead of simple carbohydrates
Complex carbohydrates made up of polysaccharides and fiber break down slowly and release energy in a steady flow.
They are known to support the optimum levels of serotonin in the brain which increases the feelings of well being and reduces cravings caused by stress.
Fiber also helps lower the LDL or 'bad' cholesterol levels.
Whole grains such as brown rice, whole wheat, oats, bran, barley and millets are rich in complex carbohydrates. And so are potato, yams, kidney beans and peas.
Lean proteins are good for relieving stress
Chicken, fish, lean meats, and tofu are lean proteins that are useful in managing stress.
They are good sources of tryptophan which is the building block for serotonin and melatonin, both of which are good stress busters since they support a calm and optimistic mood throughout the day.
Cottage cheese (paneer) and yogurt are also good sources of tryptophan and calcium.
Eat more of vitamin C and other anti-oxidant foods
Vitamin C promotes serotonin production that helps reduce stress. Studies show that vitamin C and vitamin E have a therapeutic effect on stress related memory deficits and cognitive dysfunction.
Tomato and citrus fruits such as oranges, lemons, lime, and grapefruit are powerful anti-oxidants. Strawberries and kale are also rich in vitamin C.
Calcium and magnesium, too, are wonderful stress busters
Magnesium and calcium are two very important minerals for metabolic processes in the body, though both function differently (almost opposite). For example, calcium excites the nerves whereas magnesium calms them down.
A French study indicated a link between stress and magnesium-calcium ratio. According to this study, magnesium deficiency in the body can become a stress trigger in itself and the body becomes susceptible to physiological damage produced by stress.
Food rich in calcium and magnesium include green leaved vegetables such as cabbage and spinach, broccoli, artichoke, okra, legumes such as kidney beans, lentils, soybean, seeds and nuts, fish, meat, dairy products such as cheese, sour cream, yogurt, etc.
Avoid junk food and quick fix meals
Junk food and quick fix meals are the direct cause of stress since they act as stimulants even when your body does not have the resources available for additional stimulation. Moreover, these foods are high in saturated fats and sugars and are definitely not good for your health.
Quit smoking and avoid alcohol during stress
Smoking and alcohol may give you a high for a short time but ultimately they are nothing but trouble. Alcohol releases excess adrenaline that results in nervousness, lack of sleep and anxiety - all of which promote stress. Similarly, smoking can result in cancer, heart disease, lung diseases and tension which cause further stress.
Onions and garlic are also stress management foods
Onions and garlic cannot be consumed in large quantities but they are useful at whatever portions you consume them since they are rich in potassium and onion is rich in vitamin B6 as well. These nutrients are essential in the production of serotonin, which is known to reduce stress.
Vitamin B6 is also essential for production of melatonin that promotes a good night's sleep and epinephrine and norepinephrine that help us respond to stress.
Avoid excessive coffee consumption
Coffee contains caffeine and when it is consumed in large quantities can have negative side effects on the brain and nervous system. Caffeine increases the production of cortisol, a stress hormone that makes you crave for fatty foods; adrenaline, which is anyway high during stress situation, stimulating you but resulting in fatigue once the effect of caffeine wears off; adenosine and dopamine, which adversely affect your health when produced excessively.
Check for nutrient deficiencies
If you are always fatigued and unable to control your stress, you probably are deficient in some nutrient. This can be rectified by changing your eating plan to include those nutrients or going in for nutritional supplements. When the body is under stress, it uses up vitamins A, B, and C and magnesium and proteins till they are depleted. It may be helpful to include them in your diet.
It is fascinating to know how a variety of common foods can balance our mind and body and relax us. But it is wise to have it in moderation. Too much of food is not good, even if it is healthy and nutritious.No food or nutrient alone can reduce stress; a diet for stress management should include a well balanced meal incorporating a right proportion of complex carbs, lean proteins, and essential vitamins and minerals.
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