Why You Should Incorporate Healthy Food into Your Diet to Decrease Stress Levels
Stress is a common byproduct of everyday life, and global events of the past two years have ramped up stress levels for just about everyone.
Many factors stress the body and mind, from external stressors like work commitments and family responsibilities to internal factors like what you eat and how your nervous, immune, and digestive systems function.
When you are stressed, this triggers a series of biological responses, including:
- Rapid heartbeat
- Rising blood pressure
- Spike in blood sugar
These combined physical responses are known as the fight or flight response, a coping mechanism designed to help you engage with physical challenges threatening your survival – when being chased by a dog, for instance.
In today’s always-on society, with the lines between home and work increasingly blurred, the stress response in many people remains on continual alert. Resultantly, the body does not have sufficient opportunity to recover.
Your adrenal glands are responsible for producing these primary stress hormones:
If overworked, your adrenal glands could struggle to produce these hormones in the right quantities. How, then, could diet help to bridge this deficit?
How Could Your Diet Help Regulate Stress Levels?
If you eat a healthy and balanced diet, you’ll ensure your body can effectively manage all physiological changes triggered by stress.
To reduce stress response, you need to identify and reduce the underpinning stressors. Adrenal function – central to stress response – is significantly impacted by blood glucose levels, so improving all areas of diet beneficial to blood sugar will pay immediate dividends and help you feel less stressed.
How Can Eating Healthy Foods Help You Feel Less Stressed?
Stress has an adverse effect on both blood flow and blood pressure. Nutrients from healthy whole foods can improve overall blood flow in the body. Foods containing vitamin E, omega-3s like DHA and EPA, or polyphenols are all beneficial for increasing blood flow.
Improving blood flow has a positive knock-on effect on brain health, also improving the delivery of nutrients to the brain.
Emerging research also suggests that gut health might also help regulate stress levels.
How to Incorporate More Healthy Food Into Your Diet to Reduce Stress Levels Naturally
If you implement all these simple dietary and lifestyle tips, you should notice a pronounced reduction in stress levels. Even if you only manage to work on some of these areas; there is every chance you will feel slightly less stressed.
- Eat as many whole natural foods as possible, aiming for at least five portions of fresh fruit and veg daily. Fruits and vegetables are loaded with vitamins, and they also contain vital minerals like zinc, copper, and manganese, in addition to vitamins A, C, and E. Leafy greens are highly beneficial for your health. Consuming plenty of key minerals and vitamins helps your body to zap harmful molecules produced under stress.
- Kick off the day with a hearty and balanced breakfast. Sidestep pastries, sugary breakfast cereal, and too much caffeine.
- Eat little and often throughout the day. If you do not leave too long between meals, you’ll keep blood sugar levels stable, helping to destress you and improve focus. Eating small regular meals can also boost your mood, while ensuring you are more energized and less irritable.
- Take enough healthy fats onboard. Omega-3s are healthful fatty acids found in fish oil, flax seed, and walnuts. These fatty acids are associated with improved brain function. Failure to consume enough fatty acids is associated with anxiety and depression.
- Incorporate high-fiber foods into your diet. Foods like nuts, fruits, beans, veggies, and oatmeal can all help you feel more alert and less stressed.
- Skip highly refined and processed foods. Chocolate, sweets, biscuits, white bread, pasta, and foods with added sugars should all be strictly limited if you’re looking to reduce your stress levels. Many products like breads, cereals, and processed packaged foods are loaded with hidden sugars. Swap out processed foods for unrefined alternatives like oats, rye, rice, and brown bread. You should find this substitution of processed foods works wonders for blood glucose levels, and also for your overall stress levels.
- Don’t consume too much coffee. Excessive caffeine intake can cause spikes in blood pressure and can also contribute toward anxiety. Rather than relying on caffeine for its perceived benefits, instead focus on proper sleep hygiene so you address the root cause of your tiredness. Substitute coffee for water and you will keep yourself better hydrated while consuming less caffeine. Herbal and fruit teas are another healthy alternative to an overload of coffee.
- Stock up on protein-rich snacks like almonds, peanuts, yogurt, hummus, or granola to avoid binging on junk food or unhealthy snack food. You’ll feel less stressed knowing you have a ready supply of tasty bites.
- Avoid substance abuse. If you find yourself tempted to reach for some illicit drugs after dinner, or you abuse alcohol or prescription drugs, explore healthier methods of de-stressing and relaxing. If you already have alcohol use disorder or substance use disorder, there are plenty of rehabs in California to help you get back on track.