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Fight Stress With The Right Food

food and stress

One of the best ways to fight stress is to have a balanced diet, says Jahnavi Sarma

One should have several servings of fruits and vegetables daily besides two servings of protein, four or more servings of grains, and dairy products in moderation. And, of course, remember that sugar is one of the main culprits.

Eat quickly prepared foods if you need to, but aim for a combination of grain products and vegetables or fruit, along with a modest amount of protein (dairy, meat or bean) at least three times a day. Set aside time to eat meals at a pace that allows you to savour them. But always keep in mind that you shouldn’t starve yourself if you are feeling hungry. It is true that stress can increase a yearning for extra snacks and high-fat comfort foods so one should guard against binging if not hungry.

When people are worn out from the stress of trying to do too much, they often turn to sugar, caffeine or vitamins to increase energy levels and help them function. There is no evidence, however, that emotional stress increases our vitamin needs. If you focus on simple ways to get balanced nutrition, you’ll get all the vitamins and other nutrients you need. Sweets and caffeine-containing products may be enjoyed occasionally if you like, but avoid using them throughout the day, or you may experience huge dips and surges in your energy levels. A 15-minute catnap, a walk around the block or a few minutes of stretching are more likely to give you renewed energy. Review you priorities and set aside enough time to get adequate sleep for the most dramatic effect on you energy levels.

A person under stress needs more of all nutrients, particularly vitamins C and B which affect the nervous system, and calcium, which is needed to counteract the lactic acid that tense muscles produce. Eating a variety of foods ensures that the body gets all the nutrients it needs. These include vitamins, minerals, amino acids (from proteins), essential fatty acids (from vegetable oil and animal fat), and energy from carbohydrates, protein and fat. While most foods contain more than one nutrient, no single food provides adequate amounts of all nutrients. It is better if the diet consists of mostly whole (unprocessed) foods.

If you are under prolonged stress or are at risk of hypertension, consume foods high in potassium, such as orange juice, squash, potatoes, apricots, limes, bananas, avocados, tomatoes, and peaches. You also should increase your intake of calcium, which is found in yogurt, cheese, tofu, and chickpeas.

Since every person is unique, nutritional needs vary to some degree. It is better to experiment and take time to change eating habits that will suit your body. This will have positive immediate and long-term effects. Choose foods that you enjoy and always eat a relaxed meal. Precaution is better that cure. So, continue your healthy diet and supplements even after the period of stress has passed.

Food allergies
Did you know that food allergies cause stress?
Milk, wheat, eggs, corn, and sugar are five major food offenders. Some women have problems with all five. Those that you consume most frequently - and would find it most difficult to eliminate from your diet - are often the culprits. Such allergies can also cause sleep disturbances, thus aggravating stress.

Curb that craving
Staying away from caffeine (coffee, tea, cola, chocolate) helps. Caffeine causes a fight-or-flight response in your body and uses up your reserves of the important Vitamin B.

Alcohol also depletes your body's Vitamin B, and can disrupt sleep and impair judgment and clarity of thought.

Avoid sugar. It provides no essential nutrients and can cause an immediate "high" followed by a prolonged "low”.

But this doesn’t mean that when stress hits, you have to forego all your favourite “comfort foods”. Some treats, like puddings and muffins, can be made with less fat and sugar than in original recipes to make them lighter. You can also try to determine whether you really want the taste of a particular food, or whether non-food forms of comfort will meet your needs, When the taste is just what you want, try taking just a bite of your favourite dish to alleviate that craving. Just that small portion may give you the flavour you crave without added fat and calories.

Published: 2006-07-16
Author: Jahnavi Sarma

About the author or the publisher
I am a writer/editor/designer with 16 years experience in journalism and publishing. At present, I am associated with SamPoorna Media and Marketing Solutions.

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