How To Combat Stress Through Food
Stress is common throughout all walks of life. There are a number of external factors that contribute to our stress levels such as, work life and family responsibilities. However, there are also internal contributors that can increase stress, these include how our digestive, immune and nervous systems are working.
It is commonly a vicious circle, with external factors encouraging us to comfort eat and therefore putting pressure on our internal systems, causing greater stress.
Long-term stress has been linked to diabetes, depression, mental health challenges, cardiovascular disease and digestive issues.
Stress has also been shown to cause immediate negative body responses such as high blood pressure, increased heart rate and blood sugar. This is our body’s way of dealing with psychological issues such as stress, we are hardwired to ‘fight or flight’ in order to survive. However, with stress levels on the increase, we are commonly in a constant state of ‘fight or flight’, putting pressure on your physical health with little time to recover.
When you are stressed your adrenal glands produce the main stress response hormones, adrenaline, noradrenaline and cortisol. With high stress levels, the adrenal glands can become overworked and inefficient at producing the correct level of hormones, which has been linked to an increased risk of depression, diabetes, infertility, heart disease and cancer.
Aside from identifying your triggers for increased stress levels, what you choose to eat will have a huge impact on how stressed you are feeling. Your adrenal glands are significantly influenced by your blood sugar levels and therefore if you eat foods that will maintain a stable blood sugar level, you are likely to release a healthy level of stress hormones when the time is appropriate.
So how and what should you be eating in order to maintain a steady blood sugar level?
Eat at least 5-A-Day
Getting your fruit and vegetable quota for the day will help to lower stress levels. Aim for 6-8 portions of fruit and vegetables, keep it varied to boost your nutritional intake.
Have a good breakfast
Ditch the sugar-laden cereal that will leave you feeling hungry again within an hour. Instead opt for something such as porridge topped with nuts or chopped fruit with Greek yoghurt and pumpkin seeds. You can also have a hot breakfast, which could be poached eggs on a toasted pitta, or grilled tomato and mushrooms with avocado.
Eat protein with every meal
When you are feeling stressed, your body is calling out for protein. This can be in the form of fish, lean meat, eggs, beans, lentils or nuts and seeds. Be sure to incorporate protein into each of your meals as this will help you to maintain a steady blood sugar level throughout the day.
Never skip a meal
To maintain a steady blood sugar level, it is vital that you do not skip meals. Eating 3 main meals a day, plus snacks if needed, will not only help to counteract stress, but will also help to boost mood and decrease lethargy.
Avoid processed foods
These are foods such as cakes, crisps, sweets, chocolate, white pasta, white rice, white bread, cereals and pastries. All of these foods include high levels of sugar, which will guarantee you an unbalanced blood sugar level, increasing your stress levels.
Be cautious of caffeine
Caffeine is a stimulant that reduces energy levels in the long term. Instead of reaching for the coffee first thing in the morning, try having a fruit tea or large glass of water.
Nutrition To Beat Stress
Below are several key nutrients that are great at combating stress levels, incorporate these foods into your daily routine to help you fight against the stresses and strains of every day life.