Good nutrition is the foundation of good health. Good nutrition is especially important during times of stress. When stress occurs in our lives proper nutrition reinforces our resistance against the effects of stress. So, what kind of diet can support your body in its fight against stress?
First lets talk about substances you should avoid if you are dealing with a lot of stress in your life.
Caffeine is a stimulant. Drinking coffee only increases feelings of stress. If you are drinking many cups of coffee a day, then you may find that you can reduce a lot of stress by switching to good decaffeinated coffee for a portion of your daily intake.
In small amounts, alcohol may help you relax. In larger amounts, it may increase stress as it disrupts sleep. In large amounts over a long term alcohol will damage your body and will also exacerbate the symptoms of any depression you may be experiencing.
In the short term, nicotine can cause relaxation but its toxic effects eventually raise the heart rate and stress the body. If you smoke, try taking your pulse before and after a cigarette, and notice the difference. The long term negative effects of smoking on your body aren’t worth the temporary, short-term relief you feel after smoking a cigarette.
- Sugar: Sugar-rich foods can raise energy in the short term. The problem with this is that your body copes with high levels of sugar by secreting insulin, which reduces the amount of sugar in your blood stream. Insulin can persist and continue acting after it has normalized levels of blood sugar. This can cause an energy dip or what I refer to as a “sugar coma.” You may feel good after that candy bar but, you will eventually crash and feel worse than you did before you ate it.
The above substances actually rob your body of its stores of nutrients. They also stimulate your heart rate, affect mood, behaviors and brain chemistry, and can lead to dependence. These are all things that will only compound the health issues associated with stress.
Good nutrition supports the adrenal glands, which is of great importance in your fight against stress. Stress shrinks your adrenal glands, and a healthy diet helps to maintain good adrenal function. To help fight the negative effects of stress you should increase the following:
- B Vitamins:
The B vitamins support the entire nervous system and the adrenal glands. They also are essential to energy production and provide support to the immune system. B vitamins also help maintain regular blood sugar levels, which may become irregular due to stress.
Foods that contain B-vitamins include liver, soy, broccoli, legumes, fresh meats, unprocessed grains, lentils, salmon, corn, nuts, sunflower seeds, egg and citrus fruit.
- Vitamin C:
Vitamin C is an antioxidant. Most people know that Vitamin C helps improve immunity, but it also has been found to reduce blood pressure as well as reduce the actual symptoms of stress. This is because of its ability to lower cortisol levels, the stress hormone.
Foods that contain Vitamin C include citrus fruits, green leafy vegetables, melon, tomatoes, broccoli, mango, and red and green bell peppers.
- Amino Acids:
Amino Acids support brain function, especially that of neurotransmitters, which can dramatically influence mood and behaviors. Because of this, amino acids can help relieve symptoms of stress. Foods that contain Amino Acids include eggs, meat, fish, and beans with rice.
Magnesium helps with muscle relaxation and heartbeat regulation. It has been shown to help cure insomnia and anxiety, two issues common in people under chronic stress. Foods that contain Magnesium include dairy, meat, eggs, fish, seafood, green leafy vegetables, nuts, tofu, and whole grains.