Can my diet help to manage my stress levels?
Physical but more often emotional stress can have a negative influence on our health and wellbeing in many different ways. What can lead to depression, hormone imbalances for both men and women and chronic pain and disease.
We all have it more or less, and but how we handle it can make all the difference. There are many strategies, and one of them includes what you eat. Read on to learn how a stress management diet can help.
How stress reducing foods work?
Foods can help tame stress in several ways. Comfort foods, like a bowl of warm oatmeal, boost levels of serotonin, a calming brain chemical. Other foods can cut levels of cortisol and adrenaline, stress hormones that take a toll on the body over time. A healthy diet can help counter the impact of stress by shoring up the immune system and lowering blood pressure. Let’s have a look at a couple of foods:
All carbs prompt the brain to make more serotonin. For a steady supply of this feel-good chemical, it’s best to eat complex carbs, which take longer to digest. Good choices include whole-grains, best consumed as a whole grains cooked like rice, flakes mixed into cereals, or in form of flour for breads, pastas. Complex carbs can also help you feel balanced by stabilizing blood sugar levels.
Oranges make the list for their wealth of vitamin C. Studies suggest this vitamin can curb levels of stress hormones while strengthening the immune system. In one study of people with high blood pressure, blood pressure and levels of cortisol (a stress hormone) returned to normal more quickly when people eat vitamin C rich foods before a stressful task
Too little magnesium may trigger headaches and fatigue, compounding the effects of stress. One cup of spinach helps you stock back up on magnesium. Don’t like spinach? Other green, leafy vegetables are good magnesium sources. Or try some cooked soybeans or a fillet of salmon, also high in magnesium.
To keep stress in check, make friends with naturally fatty fish. Omega-3 fatty acids, found in fish such as salmon, sardines, mackerel and tuna, can prevent surges in stress hormones and may help protect against heart disease, depression, and premenstrual syndrome (PMS). For a steady supply of feel-good omega-3s, aim to eat 3 ounces of fatty fish at least twice a week. If you don’t eat fish, add a tablespoon of grinded flaxseed to your breakfast.
Drinking black tea may help you recover from stressful events more quickly. One study compared people who drank 4 cups of tea daily for 6 weeks with people who drank another beverage. The tea drinkers reported feeling calmer and had lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol after stressful situations.
One of the best ways to reduce high blood pressure is to get enough potassium, and half an avocado has more potassium than a medium-sized banana. A little bit of guacamole, made from avocado, might be a good choice when stress has you craving a high-fat treat. Avocados are high in fat and calories, though, so watch your portion size.
Almonds are chock-full of helpful vitamins: vitamin E to bolster the immune system, plus B vitamins, which may make you more resilient during bouts of stress or depression. Eating a handful of pistachios, walnuts, or almonds every day may help lower your cholesterol, ease inflammation in your heart’s arteries, make diabetes less likely, and protect you against the effects of stress. Don’t overdo it, though: Nuts are rich in calories.
Crunchy raw vegetables can help ease stress in a purely mechanical way. Munching celery or carrot sticks helps release a clenched jaw, and that can ward off tension.
Not to mention the additional vitamins you get with it.
Another bedtime stress buster is the time-honored glass of warm milk. Research shows that calcium eases anxiety and mood swings linked to PMS. If drinking a glass of milk in the evening is a daily habit, I recommend to use 2% milk and if possible organic.
Herbal Supplements, Tea’s & Oils
There are many herbal supplements that claim to fight stress. One of the best studied is St. John’s Wort, which has shown benefits for people with mild to moderate depression. Chamomile tea is one of the best known herbal teas to calm your nerves and stomach, best taken after dinner or before bed to promote a good night sleep.
A trick I use after a busy day, is to use a Lavender oil based shower gel or bath salt before going to bed, and in worst cases drop some lavender oil on my pillow.
De-Stress With Exercise
Besides changing your diet, one of the best stress-busting strategies is to start exercising. Aerobic exercise boosts oxygen circulation and spurs your body to make feel-good chemicals called endorphins. Aim for 30 minutes of aerobic exercise three to four times a week.
If you are a highly stress prone person, with a lack of sleep, I would suggest you start your exercise with a cool down. Just walk for 30 min, or bicycle on medium level before starting an aerobic exercise.
My health and wellness recommendations are always based on international medical research or international accredited guidelines. But they may not apply to everyone, depending on their individual health status, age, sex, gender, genetic, tradition and religion. Nutrition is never an exact Science, because no human being is the same as the other.
Judith Coulson is a Medical Nutrition & Lifestyle Coach, specialized in drug free disease prevention and health promotion, for individuals and executive teams. Contact Judith@lifestylefoodclinic.com for an individual Food and Lifestyle Analysis and Consulting.