Stress is inevitable in life. Don’t try to escape stress; instead, deal with it by addressing the root causes, and also aiding your body in reducing the effects of stress on it.
One of the ways that we deal with stress is with food (we’ve previously tackled stress eating). Eating right and having good eating habits will help. Here are a few changes to the way you eat that will help you reduce the stress your body goes through.
Eat Less Processed Food, More Whole Foods
Unprocessed or whole foods are in their naturally-occurring state (e.g.: fresh vegetables, fish, and grains). Minimally processed foods have been cooked or cut or dried but have nothing much added to them. Highly processed foods have something added to them like sugar, oil, salt or other ingredients that preserve them.
Generally, processed foods contain less micronutrients and fiber and more calories from refined sugars and trans fats. All this makes you feel more sluggish than normal and also contributes to feeling stressed.
Try reducing your consumption of processed food and add more whole/unprocessed foods to your diet. You’ll find you feel revitalized and more energetic.
Include plenty of fruits and vegetables in your diet for antioxidants that help to negate the biological effects of stress. Include lean protein sources such as beans, lentils, chicken and trimmed meats, as well as healthy fats such as avocado, olive oil, nuts, and oily fish. Low GI, fibre-rich carbohydrates can also aid in creating a healthy microbiome for good mental health, as well as providing a dose of vitamins and minerals for stress reduction (think oats, sweet potatoes, quinoa and basmati rice).
Reduce or Time Your Caffeine Consumption
While coffee is a useful pick-me-up for many people, its high dosage of caffeine per serving can keep you from getting good quality sleep. This can hamper your physical and mental health.
Swapping coffee for green tea (which has half the amount of caffeine) will do wonders for your sleep while providing that caffeine boost you need to get through your day. You can also limit yourself to having coffee only before lunchtime so you can sleep at a reasonable time.
Sweets are a known comfort food craved during stressful times. Dark chocolate is a good alternative treat because it contains stress-reducing magnesium and may improve your cognitive function. It also reduces your blood pressure due to its flavonoid and theobromine content.
Chloe McLeod is an Advanced Sports Dietitian and Accredited Practicing Dietitian for MX Endurance. Get in touch with her.