Although Stress Awareness Month is coming to an end, it's important to be aware of ways you can recognize and manage stress year-round. Many people are surprised to learn that diet and nutrition can play a key role in how effectively your body and mind handle stressful situations.
Try the tips below to help you focus on using nutrition to reduce the stress in your life.
Remember to Eat Balanced Meals
Include lean proteins with each meal and snack such as chicken, egg whites, low-fat dairy products, lean meats, fish or soy products. Protein works to satisfy your hunger and also helps to keep you mentally alert. Round out your meals with fresh fruit, vegetables and whole grains.
Eat Regularly, Try Not to Skip Meals
When you are stressed, it is easy to hold off on meals or possibly skip them altogether. If you do this, your body’s energy level tends to suffer in a crisis and then when you finally eat you might end up overindulging. If stress tends to kill your appetite, try to eat smaller amounts of food more often during the day. A handful of nuts, fresh fruit, or Greek yogurt may help to fill the void.
High-fiber, Carbohydrate-rich Foods
Scientists believe carbohydrates cause the brain to produce more serotonin, a hormone that relaxes us. And lots of fiber is helpful in preventing late-night binging. Some examples of healthy comfort food include baked sweet potatoes, minestrone soup, or sautéed vegetables over rice.
Fruits and Vegetables
Chronic stress can weaken our ability to fight disease. By upping our intake of antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables, we can boost our immune system. Acorn squash and carrots, for example, are great sources of the antioxidant beta-carotene. And citrus fruits provide plenty of Vitamin C, another stress-busting antioxidant.
Be Careful of Too Much Sugar
As a carbohydrate, sugar tends to calm us. The problem with sugar is that it easily enters and leaves the bloodstream rapidly, causing us to, in effect, "crash." On the other hand, more whole grain carbohydrates such as whole wheat pasta, beans, and lentils, can help soothe without bringing us down.
Take a Brisk Walk
Try using a brisk walk to deal with a stressor rather than grabbing for your favorite junk or comfort food. A soothing cup of herbal tea may help to de-stress the moment. If you feel the need to eat, go for hard crunchy foods. These can help relieve stress by putting tight jaw muscles to work. You can do this by snacking on a handful of almonds, soy nuts or baby carrots.
Decrease or Cut the Caffeine
Many of us feel our energy lag when stressed so we turn to caffeine to keep us alert and focused. Using caffeine can disrupt our sleep that night. If caffeine tends to keep you awake at bedtime, try decaffeinated coffees and teas. Wean slowly, as going completely ‘cold turkey’ can cause headaches.
If You Drink Alcohol, Do So in Moderation
If you are feeling very stressed, you might be turning to alcohol for relief more often than you realize. If you drink, limit yourself to 2 drinks a day for men and 1 drink a day for women.
Make Mealtime Enjoyable
Separate from work or other sources of stress. If you eat at your desk at work or pay bills during dinner the mealtime will likely not be relaxing to you. Take the time to slow down, relax while you eat, enjoy the food that is fueling your body and providing you with the energy to combat the world that you live in! Enjoy each bite!