Stressed Out? Try these Nutrition Tips!
Most of us have a hard time sticking to a healthy diet when life becomes stressful. When pressure creeps up, we choose ice cream, potato chips or fast food – or just skip a meal altogether. After time, this way of eating can create havoc with our bodies. It can lead to weight gain, health problems and feelings of frustration. Below are tips to help you choose the right foods when stressed:
- Omit Caffeinated Coffee. Caffeine only aggravates stress. Just a cup or two of caffeinated beverages can escalate feelings of anxiety. Caffeine directly affects the brain and central nervous system, producing changes in heart rate, respiration and muscle coordination.
- Don’t Skip Meals. When we skip meals, we deprive ourselves of the essential building blocks needed to function at your best. Too little of just one nutrient amplifies the stress we feel by staining the processes in our bodies that depend on that nutrient.
- Choose the Right Carbohydrate. When we consume carbohydrates, we increase the amount of tryptophan available to our brains. Tryptophan is an amino acid required to make serotonin, a brain chemical that has a calming influence, which is a benefit when we are under stress. Focus on complex carbohydrates, such as whole grains, fruits and vegetables. Sugary simple carbohydrates such as candy and sodas are considered empty calorie sources of carbohydrate and should be limited.
- Don’t Ignore Fats. Our bodies need fat, but we need to choose healthy fats. Saturated fats and trans fatty acids can suppress our immune system and raise levels of stress hormones like cortisol. Focus on healthy fats, such as monounsaturated fats found in olive and canola oil, and omega-3 fatty acids found in cold-water fish such as salmon and mackerel.
- Vitamins and Minerals. To fight stress, consume Vitamin C, the B-complex vitamins, calcium and magnesium. Vitamin C boosts our immune system, and also helps our body absorb iron, which helps metabolize energy by carrying oxygen throughout the body. The best sources of Vitamin C are dark green vegetables, strawberries and citrus fruits. B-complex vitamins provide added energy to help fight fatigue. They are found in a wide variety of foods, including poultry, whole grains and some vegetables. Calcium reduces irritability and nervousness in women who consume 1,200 mg spread out over the day. Calcium absorbs best in small amounts, so start enjoying more dairy products or calcium-enriched foods. Enzyme action, normal muscular contraction and nerve transmission all require magnesium. Eat nuts, legumes, whole grains, dark green vegetables and seafood to obtain magnesium.
Remember that the best sources of vitamins and minerals come from food, not supplements. Supplements are supposed to supplement your normal diet and fill in the gaps where needed.