Stress will, without a doubt, seriously affect your diet. Some people lose their appetite altogether when stressed, while others begin to binge eat. Here is a look at how the things you eat can impact your stress levels—both positively and negatively.
Preventing Stress With a Healthy Diet
A healthy diet helps keep stress at bay. By eating good, nutritious foods, you keep your body at optimum functioning capacity. The better your body feels, the better it deals with stress. According to some experts, foods that are high in essential vitamins and minerals can actually reduce stress levels.
Eating lots of fresh fruits and vegetables helps provide these nutrients. They’re also full of fiber, which helps keep your intestines in order and combats the diarrhea and constipation that can arise from long-term stress. Fish is another great food to eat when you’re stressed, because it contains omega fatty acids and choline. The omega fatty acids help prevent the heart disease stress can cause. Choline is good for memory, giving your brain a little assistance when stress frazzles it, and you can’t keep track of all the things you normally do.
B vitamins (found naturally in foods such as leafy vegetables and diary products) are another good source of energy. The vitamin C in citrus and other fruits keeps your immune system up when stress tries to bring it down. Magnesium is probably one of the more helpful nutrients for stressful times; it has actually been shown to help with anxiety and relax muscles. Some nuts, leafy vegetables, and whole grains are good sources, but if none of those strike your fancy, you can actually take a bath in Epsom salt—your body will absorb the magnesium it contains through your skin.
Causing Stress With a Poor Diet
On the other hand, some foods can actually make stress worse. Anything with caffeine or theo-bromine should be used carefully, as research has shown they can increase anxiety. The energizing effect of neuro-stimulators such as these actually increases the anxiety of stress. In addition, neuro-stimulators disrupt your sleep, and when you don’t get enough sleep, your body finds it more difficult to manage stress. So, instead of grabbing a cup of coffee to keep you awake to finish the project that’s due tomorrow, drink a big glass of water for a little pep. It hydrates your whole body and helps your brain work better, so you can deal more efficiently with stressful circumstances.
Junk food and sodas can aggravate stress as well. Living off fast food fills your body with empty calories, instead of providing the needed nutrients, which can actually induce stress. Drinking too much soda (also full of empty calories) can result in a buildup of carbon dioxide, which can cause acidosis. Acidosis occurs when your body contains too much acid and the kidneys can’t flush it out properly. Stress also increases blood glucose levels, so eating lots of sugary substances in tandem with that increases the risk for diabetes considerably, Research has shown that illnesses like acidosis and diabetes intensify stress as well.
Your diet doesn’t have to be totally restricted—just because you’re stressed doesn’t mean you can’t have a candy bar. However, if you’re having a tough time coping or you’re dealing with chronic stress, a change in diet could be just what the doctor ordered.