Stress built over time from the day-to-day activities in life can cause health problems down the road. Often overlooked, a healthy diet can go a long way towards stress management. Simple changes to your diet during times of stress will help you live a longer and more fulfilling life.
Before understanding stress management, you should understand what stress is. Stress is the body's reaction to a perceived threat. This could range from the threat of physical violence or concern over your ability to pay the bills. Stress is not always bad. It activates your flight-or-fight instinct, giving you strength to overcome your challenges.
Emotional stress such as fear, worry and anxiety over things you can't control leads to long term stress. Since stress releases a lot of energy into the body, long term exposure causes a great deal of strain on your body.
The symptoms of stress can be identified in three ways: physical, emotional and mental. Physical symptoms include high blood pressure, upset stomach and muscle tension. Emotional symptoms include irritability and depression. Mental symptoms include insomnia, inability to concentrate and anxiety.
Stress burns a lot of vitamins and other nutrients from your body. This makes your body weaker and prone to sickness, as your body no longer has enough of what it needs to fight off disease. This is where a healthy diet comes in.
Nutrition and Stress Management
Eating healthier can be a daunting task. It's easier to pick something from a fast food restaurant, or putting some frozen dinners in the oven. It's often easier than going through the hassle of figuring out what's good for you. However, you don't need to look any farther than your four basic food groups.
Breads and Grains
Breads and grains are full of complex carbohydrates. A steady diet of carbohydrates aid the brain in the release of serotonin, a chemical that helps stabilize your mood. Whole grain, in particular, is also a good source of vitamin B, a nutrient heavily depleted during times of stress.
Examples of whole grain foods include:
- Breakfast cereals with whole grains
- Brown rice
Fruits and Vegetables
Fruits and vegetables are essential foods for stress management. They are good sources of magnesium and vitamins C and E.
Foods rich in vitamin C include:
- Bell peppers
Foods rich in vitamin E include:
Spinach is also a good source of magnesium.
To reduce high blood pressure, eat fruits and vegetables high in potassium. Foods high in potassium include:
Meats and Dairy
Meats and dairy are excellent sources of protein. Dairy products also contain calcium.
Some good dairy products to consume include:
Be sure to pick the non-fat or low-fat versions of the above foods.
Good meat choices include:
Foods to Avoid
Sugar is a simple carbohydrate, and while it does many of the same things as your complex carbohydrates, your body burns it up too quickly, leaving your body tired wanting more food.
Avoid the following during periods of stress:
- Foods high in sugar
Eating the right foods and avoiding the wrong ones is a powerful tool for stress management. Experiment and find out what works best for you and your family, and soon you will find yourself feeling healthier and less stressed.