Stress: wreaking havoc on your body, but what you eat [diet] can counteract some of those. Below’s what to eat to help your brain and body respond better to stress.
Diet and Stress Connection
I use to tell my friends that: the best part of life is food, and the best thing that has ever happened to me is FOOD. But not just any kind of food but balanced and a good food.. lol
Well, the body having a very physical response to stress (think: muscle tension, blood sugar spikes, breathing changes, racing heart) as stress hormones like adrenaline, noradrenaline, and cortisol pump through your system. Add an upset stomach and appetite changes, and you’ve got yourself a bad party.
According to American Psychological Association, they “fight or flight” response is a biological process that was probably useful early on in the process of evolution but not so much for modern-day stressers like traffic, tight deadlines, and dating problems. Because chronic stress can lead to chronic health issues, it’s important to get a handle on it ASAP.
Devouring doughnuts or demolishing bags of chips might provide a temporary distraction. But these nutrient-poor, high-calorie foods can actually make you feel worse physically. They may also trigger negative emotions, perpetuating the stress cycle. The good news is that healthy, nutritionally valuable food can have the opposite (positive!) effect. Over time, eating more of these foods can help your brain and body respond better to stress. Aim for a balance of protein, fat, and fiber to stabilize your blood sugar and give you important vitamins and minerals. Adding these foods to the menu may help you keep it together now and going forward.
You know carbohydrates play a big role in serotonin production, a stress-induced carb craving is actually pretty logical. When you’re stressed, the mood-regulating neurotransmitter serotonin takes a hit. The key is to reach for slow-digesting whole grains to help promote stable blood sugar levels.
They [Oats] provide a bonus dose of the amino acid tryptophan, which is a precursor to serotonin and a key part of its production. Vitamin B6, found in oats, is also important to keep your brain firing on all cylinders. They’ll help you feel focused and energized instead of like you need to take a nap under your desk.
Getting the most mileage out of your meal, top a bowl of oatmeal with nuts, nut butter, or if you’re up for a savory twist, an egg.
Based on several studies, it’s been have outlined that eating probiotic-rich foods and other foods that promote good digestion may be helpful for clear gut-brain communication, helping you feel happier and calmer. Probiotics have been used to soothe stress-related stomach issues. A 2013 (Danone-funded) study showed an association between consumption of probiotic bacteria in yogurt and reduced activity in parts of the brain that handle stress and emotion, suggesting that changing the gut bacteria can impact brain function. Yogurt also provides stabilizing protein, along with calcium and potassium, which support regular muscle and nerve function to help you mellow out and think clearly.
They’re packed with potassium and filling fiber, and the bright color and flavor provide a nice mood boost. Folate-rich oranges are also a great go-to stress management food. What’s especially awesome about oranges is that the vitamin C in there also present in many other fruits and veggies may help slow the production of the stress hormone cortisol. Getting a handle on cortisol is key, as chronically high levels have been associated with health conditions. Don’t like citrus? Try kiwi, mango, or berries, which also offer stress-reducing benefits. For less-sweet options, try tomatoes, broccoli, cauliflower, spinach, or winter squash.
Had a tough day at work? Take a big spinach salad for lunch to help you feel more upbeat and ready to take on the second half of the day. The folate in dark, leafy greens such as spinach and mustard greens produces the pleasure-inducing brain chemical dopamine. Spinach also provides some protein and fiber (about 3 grams of each per 3-cup serving of raw spinach). The potassium, magnesium, and calcium in spinach also support normal muscle and nerve function to soothe the body’s “fight or flight” response to stress, so you can deal with whatever comes your way.
With this foods, you are sure to kick stress off.