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How To Control Stress Through Nutrition
We all face stress on a daily basis; here’s how nutrition can help your body respond to it.

The food we eat can have a direct impact on the level of stress our body has to endure, and the same goes for the other way round—stress impacts our dietary habits, often for the worse. When our bodies are faced with constant or short episodes of stress, it changes the way we use energy, where it is diverted to, and can cause cravings for unhealthy food options. The latter can lead to nutritional deficiencies, especially if there is a prolonged period of stress. Sometimes, stress can even disrupt one’s ability to carry out daily activities, such as cooking, leading to a further reliance on highly processed foods and/or stimulants.

Chronic stress can have an adverse effect on the digestive system, increase blood pressure, lead to weight gain, disrupt sleep, and lead to anxiety and depression. This happens because of certain hormones and chemicals that are triggered during episodes of stress so that the body can tackle short-term situations. The hormones, namely adrenaline and cortisol, increase the heart rate so that more blood is circulated to support the muscles and heart, and they increase the amount of glucose available for energy. When such a response is triggered, the body prioritises certain functions, and diverts focus away from some others such as reproduction and digestion. It goes without saying that when this occurs for a long duration, it has an extremely adverse effect on the body. A balanced diet can help the body both recover from such bouts of stress, as well as regulate the hormone levels. In order to fully tackle stress and its root cause, however, this needs to be accompanied with other measures such as regular exercise, professional help, good sleep habits, a balanced lifestyle and mindfulness techniques that work for you.

Below we’ve gathered some food habits that can help fight stress and protect your body from its impact. Do consult a professional before starting any new nutrition plan, or before adding new foods to your diet.

Increase protein intake
Your body needs more protein to repair any damage caused by stress. Include foods like lean meats, eggs, yoghurt, lentils, nuts and seeds, tofu, and fish in order to supplement this demand.

Don’t skip meals
Eating small meals regularly is key to giving your body the tools to protect itself. Avoid skipping meals as this can exacerbate feelings of irritability and fatigue.

Avoid processed foods
These foods, while readily available, often come packed with excess sugar. Opt for whole foods and complex carbs that will help regulate your blood sugar.

Add omega-3 fatty acids
It is believed that omega-3 fatty acids can reduce inflammation in the body caused by stress, and even regulate the level of cortisol. One can incorporate omega-3s through foods like salmon, avocados, chia and flax seeds, walnuts and olive oil.

Reduce stimulants
When low on energy, we normally turn to caffeine-heavy stimulants like coffee and tea for a boost. In the long run, this will both dehydrate the body and hamper the absorption of key nutrients. If you can’t abstain from coffee, try and reduce the amount you’re having.

Address emotional eating
During stressful times, we tend to eat less mindfully, opting for quick, sometimes unhealthy options in order to cope with the situation. You should address this with the help of a professional, but some tips are to eat and chew slowly, keeping your full focus on the meal; and prep your meals in advance so that you always have something ready.

Increase vitamin C
While research is still ongoing, some studies show that vitamin C can improve one’s mood and is required in the body’s response to stress. Foods rich in the vitamin are vegetables citrus fruits.

Increase magnesium
This mineral is believed to help the body relax and reduce symptoms of stress. Some sources are bananas, pumpkin seeds and dark chocolate.

Increase vitamin B
Vitamin B-rich foods like chicken, eggs, and fortified foods can help with adrenal gland functioning.

 

At Seva At Home, we produce a wealth of free health information to help elders live healthier, happier lives. This has been produced by independent research carried out by the Seva At Home team. This information is not a replacement for medical advice. Please consult your physician for relevant medical diagnosis and advice.

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