We've all got a lot on our plates... work, family, household chores, the time with old friends we try to squeeze in every once in a while. It often seems like we start running as soon as we wake up and keep going until we fall into bed each night. With all the tasks on our to do lists, it's no wonder so many of us are stressed.
Stress is a normal response to intense situations. The problem arises when it becomes destructive. In addition to putting a damper on our overall well-being, being frequently or permanently stressed out is actually dangerous. Stress can cause inflammation in the brain and throughout the body, leading to...
- Chronic sleep disturbances
- Digestive problems
- Memory loss
- Chest pain
- Weight gain
Yes, even weight gain.
People who are continuously stressed out may be more likely to forego exercise and eating healthy, sabotaging their weight loss goals.
When we're faced with difficult or trying situations, our bodies release cortisol and adrenaline, commonly referred to as "stress hormones." While both cortisol and adrenaline are essential to the proper functioning of our bodies, too much of either can wreak havoc on our bodies.
And when stress hormone levels rise, so does insulin. Insulin surges cause what is commonly referred to as "stress eating." And what do you normally eat when you're stressed? Sugary, processed foods.
It's impossible to completely eradicate stress from our lives, nor should we want to. Stress is just as essential as many other biological and physiological responses. But chronic stress can be dangerous.
There are numerous lifestyle and coping techniques for dealing with stress, and luckily, by eating healthy foods rich in the following nutrients, we can improve our chances of getting through our days stress-free.
Foods rich in vitamin C can reduce stress hormones in our blood. Consider including oranges, kiwi, broccoli, blueberries, and Brussels sprouts in your daily menu.
Magnesium deficiency is associated with an increase in our stress hormones and causes headache and fatigue. Spinach, raw pumpkin seeds, and raw almonds provide ample doses of magnesium.
Sometimes called the "anti-stress vitamin," B5 deficiency can cause fatigue and sleep problems. Eating healthy sources of vitamin B5 (mushrooms, avocado, grass-fed beef, and chicken) will help you fight stress.
Fiber & Complex Carbohydrates
Eating healthy, complex carbs can improve serotonin levels, which improves mood. And fiber-rich foods ensure you'll stay satiated longer and help prevent the urge to snack mindlessly. Healthy choices include sweet potato fries (which can also crush sweet/salty cravings, depending on how you season them) and quinoa.
Last but not least, Omega-3s help bring our stress hormone levels back to a normal range and reduce inflammation in the brain. Foods like flaxseed, wild seafood, grass-fed beef, raw walnuts, and chia seeds are rich in high-quality Omega-3s. You can also take a fish oil supplement packed with high-quality Omega-3s to dramatically reduce your chances of inflammation-induced chronic stress.
In addition to packing your diet with nutrient-rich foods, be sure you're eating healthy foods at regular intervals throughout the day to keep inflammation (and therefore, stress) at a minimum. Deprivation can lead to a drop in blood sugar, which decreases your physical, mental, and emotional energy... all of which can increase stress.