Nutrition is more than just about the fuel and building blocks you need for a heathy body, it’s also about the needs of a healthy mind. With that in mind, let’s combine two regular feature around these parts and discuss nutrition and stress.
Nutrition and Stress
In general, I’ve written about stress management in terms of what you do, not what you eat, but stress can have a huge impact on your diet. The term “stress eating” didn’t become a thing by accident. First off let’s be clear that I’m not talking about binge eating crap because something went wrong:
- No pint of Ben and Jerry’s because of a bad breakup
- No pound of chocolate because
- No six pack and four bags of Doritos because your team lost the Super bowl
No, what I’m talking about is things that have the potential to help you with your stress, without adding 10 pounds around your middle, so, without further ado, foods for stress.
You know that “turkey coma” you get on Thanksgiving? It comes from the amino acid tryptophan, which helps produce serotonin, a neurotransmitter that aids with feelings of happiness and wellbeing.
Oatmeal also helps produce serotonin, and additionally it is a complex carbohydrate. This means it’s slower to digest, and won’t cause a spike in your blood glucose levels.
Yogurt, particularly probiotic yogurt, can help with your gut bacteria. A small study out of UCLA indicated that eating probiotic yogurt helped reduce brain activity in the areas controlling stress.
One of the main effects of stress is increased stress hormone levels. Omega-3 fatty acids have anti-inflammatory properties, which fight the effects of your stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline. Salmon is high in omega-3 fatty acids.
Another food that helps reduce your cortisol levels is dark (greater than 70% cacao) chocolate. It is also a terrific source of antioxidants, which can help relax your blood vessels and reduce your blood pressure (one of the primary symptoms, and causes, of stress).
Yes, Andrew is pushing vitamin D, again. A long term (50 year) study on the effects of vitamin D levels found higher levels of vitamin D were associated with a reduced risk of panic disorders.
Life is tough, and we’re going to get stressed out. But you’ve got to eat, so why not fine tune your diet to help manage your stress, rather than contribute to it?