Research has shown that there is a complex link between our central nervous system and our gut which may eventually help to explain why so many of us are prone to unhealthy eating decisions when our stress starts to boil over.
In fact, according to research conducted by the Center for Disease Control (CDC), the foods we choose to eat when we are feeling stressed are generally high in all the things we don’t need them to be including calories, sugar, and fat. This means that stress, all by itself, increases the chances of becoming overweight.
April is National Stress Awareness Month which provides each of us with an excellent opportunity to look at how much stress we have in our lives, how well we are managing it, and what we can do better in order to mitigate the damaging effects caused by chronic stress. We also thought it was an excellent opportunity to talk about the role food can play in helping you to manage your stress. While stress can make us crave foods that are not beneficial to meeting our nutritional needs, the foods we choose can also have a significant impact on our stress.
This month, rather than focusing on trying not to make unhealthy eating choices when you are stressed, approach from a different angle and explore the ways that you can use food to decrease and manage your stress. There are certain foods that are natural mood enhancers. Eating these foods can help keep you calm even in the most stressful situations. There are other beneficial foods that actively work to repair the damage chronic stress does to your body. Incorporating more of these kinds of foods into your daily diet will help make you naturally more resilient in stressful situations while also giving your body the support it needs to repair the damage stress has caused.
There are specific types of foods that offer stress mitigation and management benefits:
- Foods that are high in vitamins boost the immune system and help combat the damage caused by stress
- Foods that are high in potassium, folate, and/or magnesium are also excellent at making you more resilient when it comes to the effects of stress
- Foods that contain high amounts of healthy fats like Omega-3s help fight stress and the damage it causes
- Foods high in fiber are also beneficial to managing stress and repairing any damage it has done
- Foods high in protein help manage stress
You can easily incorporate more of the foods that fit into these categories into your diet to safeguard you against the damaging effects of stress.
Here are some examples of the kind of foods that fit into each group.
- High in Vitamins – blueberries, almonds, broccoli, beef, oranges, milk
- High in Potassium, Folate, and/or Magnesium – leafy greens, asparagus, spinach, avocados, apricots, broccoli, artichokes and arugula
- High in Omega-3s – walnuts, tree nuts, fish and spinach
- High in Fiber – whole grains, artichokes, oats, berries, oats, and broccoli
- High in Protein – tuna, beef, and milk