No matter how often we try to take a big picture view, stress always seems to find a way into our daily lives. While everyone experiences stress, how we choose to deal with its pressures can make all the difference. Learning how to better manage stress can make a major impact on your overall health, as too much stress can negatively affect your physical health. There are many different techniques for managing your stress, including exercising more, sleeping better, and even learning how to meditate. However, one of the easiest and most beneficial ways of dealing with stress is through your diet.
How Your Diet Can Reduce Stress
Your diet can help to reduce stress in a number of ways. Comfort foods, such as warm oatmeal, boost serotonin levels in the body. Researchers consider serotonin a major contributor to feelings of well-being and happiness. Other types of food can reduce levels of cortisol and adrenaline, two stress hormones that can negatively effect the body, and a healthy diet can also strengthen your immune system and lower your blood pressure, thereby countering two major impacts of stress on the body. But which foods have the biggest impact on reducing stress?
All types of carbohydrates cue the brain to start making more serotonin. To receive a steady supply of this happiness-inspiring chemical, you should eat a diet that contains complex carbohydrates, which the body digests more slowly. Food choices include breakfast cereals, pastas, whole-grain breads, and oatmeal. Complex carbs can also stabilize your blood sugar levels and help you feel more balanced.
Because they’re an excellent source of vitamin C, oranges are a must to any stress busting diet. Research suggests that vitamin C can decrease the level of stress hormones in the body, while also boosting the immune system. A recent study found that individuals who had high blood pressure had their blood pressure and cortisol levels normalize more quickly when the took vitamin C prior to undergoing a stressful task.
While Popeye’s favorite vegetable might not give you super strength, it does provide you with plenty of magnesium. Getting too little magnesium in your diet can cause headaches and fatigue, which serves to compound the effects of stress. Just one cup of spinach can make a huge difference in regulating your body’s magnesium levels. However, if unlike Popeye you hate spinach, you can also get plenty of magnesium from salmon, cooked soybeans, and other types of leafy green vegetables.
To say goodbye to the effects of stress, say hello to fatty fish. Chalked full of omega-3 fatty acids, eating such fish as salmon and tuna can stop your body from building up stress hormones, and some studies suggest can even protect against mood disorder, heart disease, and PMS. To get enough omega-3 in your diet, make sure you eat at least six ounces of fatty fish a week.
While coffee may stay reign as the king of hot, caffeinated beverages in the U.S., drinking a cup of tea offers many healthy benefits. A recent study found that individuals who drank four cups of black tea daily for six weeks reported feeling calmer and had lower levels of cortisol in their system. Compared to coffee tea also contains less caffeine, which can raise blood pressure and boost stress hormones.
Eating foods that contain potassium can help to reduce high blood pressure, and avocados contain twice as much potassium as a banana. However, avocados due contain a high number calories and fat, so take care not to overindulge.
A great source of vitamin E, which can boost your immune system, and vitamin B, which studies have shown makes individuals more resistant to bouts of stress. Just a quarter cup a day is all you need to enjoy this healthy snack.
Timothy Lemke blogs about healthy eating habits for Dr. Jason Peacock, a dentist in Tumwater Washington at Smiles Dental.