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A Smart Diet for Stress Management

Posted May 13 2011 12:58pm
Studying could drain your energy,
so the right diet is what you need!

It’s almost summer time! But before all the care free time begins, final exams are most students’ top concern! Therefore, smart food choices can in fact help you manage your stress. There’s evidence that too much pressure is a mood killer, weakens you immune system making you more susceptible to colds and with chronic stress exposure, high blood pressure and heart diseases could be on the rise! There are many ways to cope with stressful situations such as adopting organizing skills, practicing relaxation and breathing techniques, exercising and one important strategy we’re about to discuss is having lots of “stress-fighting foods”!

So how do these stress-fighting food work?
There are various ways in which foods can help you bust stress and help you cope with hectic situations! Comfort foods, like a bowl of warm delicious oatmeal, can actually boost your levels of serotonin, a calming brain chemical. Other foods can reduce levels of cortisol and adrenaline which are stress hormones peaking during pressure times. Finally, a nutritious diet can counteract the impact of stress, by helping your immune system work at its best as well as by lowering stress-induced high blood pressure.  Now, what are these helpful foods exactly?

Complex Carbohydrates – All carbohydrates speed up the brain’s production of serotonin. For a steady supply of this feel-good chemical, it’s best to eat complex carbs, which are digested more slowly. Good choices include whole-grain breakfast cereals, breads, rice and pastas. They can also help you feel balanced stabilizing blood sugar levels.
Simple Carbohydrates – Steering away from unhealthy refined carbs such as sweets, chocolate, desserts and fuzzy soda drinks are definitely advised. Even though they sure spike your blood glucose and increase your serotonin, unfortunately this just a short term relief of stress induced irritability leading to a very sharp decrease in serotonin and thus making you feel more fatigue and energy depleted!
Summer is the season for fresh citrus fruit,
so take advantage!
Vitamin C rich fruits – Such as oranges, kiwi, strawberries and pineapples can help reduce levels of stress hormones such as cortisol, decrease blood pressure while strengthening the immune system. If you have a particularly stressful event coming up, you may want to consider pumping your diet with vitamin C rich fruits on daily basis! Nevertheless, all fruits are rich in vitamins, minerals, water and antioxidants so having 3 servings of fresh fruits per day would be a great boost of energy!
Vegetables – Vegetables are pretty helpful to manage stress because of their antioxidants, fibers and mineral content. Crunchy raw vegetables can fight the effects of stress in a purely mechanical way. Munching celery, cucumbers, cabbage, bell pepper or raw carrot sticks help release a clenched jaw which can ward off tension headaches!  Moreover, veggies mineral content such as magnesium can help regulate cortisol levels and tends to get depleted when we’re under pressure. Too little magnesium may trigger headaches and fatigue and spasm your muscles, doubling the effects of stress.
Have at least 2 servings of grilled fish per week!
Fatty Fish – Omega 3 rich fish such as salmon and tuna can help in keeping cortisol and adrenaline in check! They can also prevent surges in stress hormones, protect against heart diseases, decrease inflammation, boost your immune system and help in regulating your blood lipid profile! For a steady supply of omega rich foods, aim to eat grilled fatty fish at least twice a week. 
Nuts – To start with, nuts are rich in plant based omega 3 and thus can assist fish omega 3 in fighting stress hormones peaks and inflammation. Pistachios, walnuts and almonds for example can soften the impact stress hormones have on the body. Adrenaline raises blood pressure and gets your heart racing when you’re under stress. Moreover, nuts are rich in vitamins and minerals. For one, they are rich with magnesium that decrease muscle tension you may experience during stressful periods. They are also rich in vitamin E and a range of B vitamins, which make the immune system boost!
So to make the best out of nuts, have a handful of nuts, or equivalent to a quarter of a cup of raw, unsalted nuts every day!

Bedtime Snack – A smart way to go around bedtime snacks is to stick to a light meal rather than large greasy or sugary ones! When in time of stress, most of us tend to increase our cravings to fatty or sugary meals that can comfort us! Well, on the contraire, it’s about time you know that such meals push you to become more fatigue, energy depleted and deprives you from sleeping right. Therefore, light meals that can increase your serotonin levels and help you relax, soothe your tension and reduce your muscle spasms are the right choice for you. Go for a mini- salad with a whole grain cheese sandwich for example or a glass of low fat milk rich in calcium and high fiber cereals.
Exercising during stressful times can replenish energy
drained by your hard work - even a 15 minute work out at home!
Exercise – Diets are great to help you cope with stressful situations and manage your stress hormones, but exercise work wonders as well! Most students avoid exercise during their stressful exam periods due to lack of time or if they are feeling tired. However, a quick daily 15-minute aerobic exercise can do if you so jammed on time! Exercise increases oxygen circulation, produces endorphins, chemicals that make you feel happy and relaxed as well as it can make you feel rejuvenated and full of energy! Don’t forget to stretch more often when you sitting all day studying!
Don't forget to stay hydrated: drinking a minimum of 8 glasses of water per day will help you get rid of toxins as well as replenish your energy! Just place a bottle of water next to you and sip on it regularly in case you tend to forget to drink when you're overwhelmed with work! Aaand best of luck studying!
Brought to you from WebMD
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