Most of us feel stressed out at least some of the time. When it comes to fighting stress, the same things are often recommended. These include creating a better work-life balance, spending time with positive people, practicing self-care, talking about our worries, and exercising. But one thing you don’t hear about often is how your diet can help you manage stress.
Being stressed has a physical effect on our bodies. It raises our blood pressure, heart rate, and blood sugar levels. Eating a healthy and balanced diet can help counter these effects of stress while working to reduce your stress levels. Here’s a look at some simple changes to what and how you eat that could help to manage stress.
Adaptogens are typically herbs, plants, or mushrooms that can reduce stress, anxiety, and fatigue while counteracting the effects of stressors on your body. Some common adaptogens include turmeric, mushrooms, maca, and licorice root. These can be enjoyed as foods, supplements, or drinks to help balance stress’s effects.
The only problem with adaptogens is that most people do not know much about them. As a result, give yourself enough time to learn. There are surely several ones that you would enjoy and that you can include in your diet without too many problems. You can read more about adaptogens here.
Eat More Leafy Greens
Leafy greens like cabbage and spinach are excellent sources of magnesium. This means they help regulate cortisol and blood pressure levels, both raised by stress.
The problem with eating leafy greens is that you need to eat larger quantities than you might be used to. If you were used to steaks and fast food for a large portion of your life, your calorie intake would drastically decrease if you focused on leafy greens. As a result, it is always great to consume leafy greens in salads with something more consistent.
Coffee can be an adaptogen, which is great. Caffeinated drinks like tea and coffee can also help us to take some time for ourselves, and an afternoon coffee break can be great for reducing stress. But too much caffeine can leave us jittery, anxious, and unable to sleep. If you like coffee, and other caffeinated drinks, try to enjoy them in moderation for the best results.
It has to be added that caffeine might be included in several drinks you do not expect. You most likely already know about energy drinks, but did you know that even some sweets have some added caffeine that would add to how much you consume throughout the day? Always read the labels not to have a problem with this.
Avoid Restrictive Diets
Restricting what you eat, stopping yourself from eating when you want to, and cutting whole food groups from your diet can mean that eating is no longer a pleasure. When we’re overly restrictive, we add another stressor to our lives.
Also, restrictive diets might not include some very important foods that would help you to reduce stress naturally. This is what happens when you take out whole groups from what you consume. Contrary to popular belief, restrictive diets are not that great. They are only suitable for people who suffer from some specific diseases the keto diet was designed to help people with diabetes. The best diet for a regular, healthy individual is one that includes all important nutrients and food groups.
Try Mindful Eating
Instead, try to practice mindful eating. Instead of restricting yourself, try to eat what you fancy when you are hungry, and learn to stop when you are full to avoid overeating. Mindful eating reduces the pressure on your diet, helps to reduce emotional eating, and makes eating a pleasure instead of a stressor. Also, mindful eating was proven to be very effective in helping people suffering from several psychological eating disorders.
Obviously, mindful eating is not for everyone. But, it is often dismissed because people tried other similar practices, like meditation, and did not get the expected results. Do not make this mistake! You never know what might work in your case so do try mindful eating. It might be that little extra you need.
Eat More Protein
When we’re stressed out, life is harder, and we need more energy to cope. Eating more protein can help to boost your energy levels and give your body the best chance of fighting stress. Chicken, fish, oats, yogurt, beans and pulses, and eggs are all excellent protein sources. And if you cannot add such foods to your diet, a very good protein supplement is always something that can help.
Watch Out for Hidden Sugars
Stress raises your blood sugar. Eating too many refined sugars can make this worse. If you aren’t eating sweet foods, you might think that you are avoiding sugars. But processed foods like white bread and fat-free foods are often high in hidden sugars. Switch to natural sugar sources like fruit and to brown rice, bread, and pasta to reduce refined sugar.
Once again, the trick to reducing sugar intake, especially from unexpected sources, is to read the labels. You will surely be surprised to see how many foods you buy from the supermarket have added sugar. This is particularly true with sauces and even simple options like ketchup and mustard. There is even added extra sugar in some breads.
Stress is common. But that doesn’t mean that we have to live with it and its physical effects on our bodies. Changing your diet and your eating habits, exercising, and generally looking after yourself can reduce your stress levels and help your body cope with stress’s effects. Also, make sure that you get as much rest as your body needs. Nowadays, it is very easy to lose sleep because of work or other worries that tend to pop up in an unexpected manner. Do be careful with your sleeping schedule!