How to eat to beat stress
Stress is something unavoidable that can arise at any point during the day. Getting from A to B, work deadlines, maintaining relationships, cooking or even trying to fall asleep are all activities that can trigger stress. Under normal circumstances stress usually subsides once the issue in hand has been resolved but in more chronic cases, stress can increase your risk of diseases such as type 2 diabetes, heart health and obesity if left to linger. Rob Hobson reveals his top diet tips to beat stress.
What happens in the body when you get stressed?
When you get stressed the body reacts with a set of responses known as ‘fight or flight’ which include:
- The release of the stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol
- An increase in blood sugar (and release of insulin)
- Raised blood pressure
- Rapid heart beat
The Impact of raised cortisol and insulin as well as the hunger hormone ghrelin can ramp up hunger and cravings for unhealthy foods, which in most cases can make matters much worse when you’re feeling stressed.
Top diet tips to beat stress
Making healthy food choices is even more important when stressed and meals should be balanced and include lean proteins, healthy fats and fibre to help create a more favourable hormone signalling environment that supports satiety, mood regulation, seep and energy balance.
Try adopting the tips below to help tackle stress…..
Eat regularly to maintain energy levels and nutrient intake. Certain nutrients such as B vitamins and magnesium are easily depleted during times of stress. Magnesium is also required to help with muscle relaxation and low levels have been associated with increased anxiety. If stress is curbing your appetite, then try eating little and often by incorporating healthy nutritious snacks into your day.
Include plenty of protein in your diet
Protein helps to slow down the release of glucose into the bloodstream and is also required in greater amounts when you’re chronically stressed. Be sure to include oily fish each week as it contains essential omega 3 fatty acids which are important to help quell inflammation and may play a role in lowering overall stress and anxiety.
Balance blood sugar levels with fibre
Fibre is important to help maintain blood sugar levels by slowing down the release of glucose and reducing the amount of insulin secreted. Complex carbs such as brown rice, rye bread, wholemeal pasta, barley and quinoa are all high also help the body to take up an amino acid into the brain called tryptophan, which is used to make serotonin (the feel-good hormone) and melatonin (the sleep hormone).
Ditch sugar and other highly refined foods
Foods such as white bread, pasta, confectionary and sugary cereals can impact on blood sugar levels causing imbalances and leaving you feeling less centred. Fizzy drinks and alcohol have the same effect and are often reached for during times of stress.
Fill up on colourful fruits and veggies
These foods are key contributors of vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients that help to reduce inflammation, which can increase amidst chronic stress. Bananas are a good pick- me-up and contain dopamine, which is a mood boosting chemical in the brain. Include plenty of dark green leafy vegetables which are a good source of
magnesium and can help to regulate cortisol and blood pressure. Leafy greens also contain folate which is used in the production of dopamine.
Minimise stimulants such as caffeine
Minimise stimulants such as coffee as too much caffeine can leave you jittery and make the feeling of stress seem even more pronounced. Try calming herbal teas such as chamomile, lemon balm, passion flower or peppermint. Valerian is also good if you’re looking for something relaxing and sleep-inducing before bedtime to help promote sleep.
Don’t dine and dash!
It’s tempting when under pressure to grab something to eat on-the-go whilst on route to a meeting or running for the tube. Eating this way can lead to symptoms of indigestion such as heartburn and bloating, especially as during stress the body diverts blood away from the gut. Find time to sit down and eat properly.
Rob Hobson is a registered nutritionist (BSc, MSc, AFN), published author and food writer. Rob has 15 years of experience working with some of the UK’s leading food companies, government agencies, NHS and private clients as well as regularly writing in the media for publications including the Daily Mail online.
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