Can You "Go Organic" On A Limited Budget? Going organic and all-natural on a limited…
Can What You Eat Really Affect Your Stress Levels?
Everything in your body is connected in some way. This includes how different bodily processes are affected by your diet. What you eat influences everything that you are capable of physically and mentally. Since doctors and other health experts agree that 75% of all infections and diseases begin in your gut, you can see how important it is to eat smart.
Aside from the physical impact your diet can also affect your emotions. This is really great news, because it allows you to manage and prevent stress by eating certain foods. Eating fresh vegetables, fruits, nutritious grains, fiber-rich foods and drinking lots of water naturally reduces how stressed you feel.
The opposite is also true. When you eat a lot of processed foods, fried foods, sugar, salt and fast foods, and drink energy drinks, alcohol and too much coffee, your stress levels skyrocket. The relationship sometimes takes place nearly instantly. Here is what happens inside your body.
In the limbic system of your brain the amygdala helps process your emotions. It is controlled by your hypothalamus, which controls what hormones are released by particular glands. These are all affected by cytokines and eicosanoids. How are these 2 main controllers of your emotions regulated properly? They handle your stress properly when they receive the nutrients and minerals that are found in a healthy diet.
Certain Foods and Beverages, Like Caffeine, Alcohol and Sugar, Can Crank Up Your Adrenaline
Your mind understands that adrenaline is needed when you experience a “fight or flight” situation. Your entire body stresses physically and mentally. Other foods with very little nutritional value, fried foods, junk food, sweet snacks, candy and processed foods, make digestion difficult and stressful.
They also deny your brain the essential nutrients it needs to function properly. When your brain recognizes that your body is not getting the minerals, nutrients and vitamins it needs to stay healthy, it sends out stress alerts. Your stress elevates because your brain is trying to tell you that you had better get some nutritious food in your body, and quickly.
When you experience stress, your heartbeat is elevated. Your heart has to work harder to pump oxygenated blood throughout your body. This is because, your brain translates stress into a situation where it believes you are going to have to fight or flee. So it attempts to prepare your body by accelerating certain internal processes.
This leads to unacceptable levels of stress, simply because of what you eat and do not eat. What should you avoid eating and drinking so you enjoy a calm, clear, relaxed state of mind most of the time?
Foods and Drinks That Can Aggravate Stress Levels
Alcohol, energy drinks, bad fat, sugar and salt are stress boosters. They naturally crank up your production of cortisol, which is known as “the stress hormone“. So any time your body experiences more of those types of foods and drinks than it can process, your stress level naturally rises. To avoid aggravating your stress level, cut back on or eliminate the following foods and drinks from your diet.
Alcohol, Beer and Wine
They should always be enjoyed in moderation. There are many who believe a glass of wine at the end of a stressful day helps you calm down. That is absolutely incorrect. Alcohol of any kind cranks up the production of your stress hormones. Your cortisol levels spike, and unfortunately people drink more alcohol when they are stressed out. This leads to a vicious cycle that not only intoxicates you, but also works negatively on your digestive system, your overall body health and your stress levels.
Energy drinks are absolutely loaded with sugar and caffeine. Caffeine jitters and a sugary crash are stressful. So is the physical process your body goes through when excess sugar cranks up your cortisol production and makes you anxious.
Coffee is one of the most popular beverages around the world. If you enjoy 8 to 12 ounces every day, you may not jack up your stress levels. But sweet coffee drinks with sugars and syrups can lead to a highly agitated state. Enjoy coffee in moderation, and skip the unhealthy sugar and other artificial sweeteners.
Sweet Treats and Candy
Sweet treats and candy are packed with sugar and other artificial sweeteners. This causes a spike in your insulin level and your blood sugar. When your body is through processing the unhealthy candy bar or fudge you just ate, you experience a sugar crash. High anxiety, an irritable state and dangerous stress are also along for the ride.
Processed foods are easily defined as just about any food item that has been packaged. They deliver tons of the cortisol producing sugar, and are also high in fat and sodium. Unhealthy artificial additives are also in the mix. So much of today’s food prepared outside of the home is processed. And much of the food you purchase and bring into your home is also processed. Any food high in sugar, salt and fat is going to naturally increase your level of stress.
Salt actually releases “feel good” chemicals in your brain. Foods high in salt content like cured meat and fish, Roquefort cheese, canned vegetables, canned soup, french fries, pickles and instant noodles can be very high in salt content. Salt is extremely addictive for some people, raises your risk of heart disease, heart attack and stroke, and naturally elevates stress levels.
Foods and Drinks That Can Help Alleviate Stress
If you read food labels and cut back on salt, unhealthy fats, sugar and processed foods, you will experience less stress in your life. On the other side of the equation, what foods and beverages actually reduce stress? Get the following nutrient-rich foods and drinks into your diet for less stress and anxiety.
Make sure any fish you eat is caught in the wild. Most fish is good for you, but wild salmon in particular is incredibly high in omega-3 fatty acids that it can be used to treat depression, anxiety and stress. Healthy fats actually improve mental clarity and memory. DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) is another fatty acid found in wild salmon and other cold, deep-water fish that also beats depression and stress. If you do not enjoy the taste of salmon, add a daily Omega 3 supplement to your diet.
Walnuts and Almonds
Walnuts are extremely high in a special Omega 3 fatty acid called ALA (alpha-linolenic acid). They are also full of magnesium, as are almonds, cashews, and peanuts. When your magnesium levels are low your serotonin level drops. This chemical helps regulate your mood and delivers feelings of happiness. Grab a handful of nuts the next time you are stressed and tired, just make sure they are not salted.
This recommendation does not mean running out and buying a bunch of unhealthy candy bars. Make sure the dark chocolate you purchase is at least 70% cocoa. Organic dark chocolate can improve your mood and drop your stress level thanks to the flavanols (also called the flavan-3-ols) it delivers.
There are a lot of great reasons for eating blueberries. Most nutrition experts consider it a perfect food. It is simply good for your body and mind in many ways. The antioxidants in blueberries protect and even repair cells throughout your body. They also have been proven to sharpen your memory and boost your mood. Any blueberries will do, but organic blueberries are highly recommended.
Black and Green Tea
Green tea has a special amino acid called theanine in it. Some studies showed that green tea reduces anxiety and stress, and can even be used as a sleeping aid. That research also showed that black tea quickly helps you “de-stress” and calm down.
The reason why so many people love high-carbohydrate foods is that carbs boost the production of serotonin in your brain. This boosts your mood, and can reduce and prevent stress. High-fiber grains like oatmeal take a long time to digest, so serotonin is released at a steady pace. This can help you remain calm and peaceful literally all day long if you have oatmeal for breakfast.
Kale, Spinach and Chard
Leafy greens are high in magnesium. That is the same magnesium found in walnuts and almonds which helps relax your muscles and calm your nerves. It is found in high quantities in leafy green vegetables, especially kale, spinach and chard.
B vitamins reduce your levels of homocysteine, a stress-promoter. They also help regulate a healthy serotonin level. Vitamin B 12 gives you a healthy boost, and taking a B-complex multivitamin each day has been shown to effectively treat and reduce stress.
You may already be familiar with some of the B vitamins such as Vitamin B6 and B12 but there are actually eight of them. Here is a complete list of B vitamins:
- B1 (thiamin)
- B2 (riboflavin)
- B3 (niacin)
- B5 (pantothenic acid)
- B6 (pyridoxine)
- B7 (biotin)
- B9 ([folic acid)
- B12 (cobalamin)
How Stress Controls Your Diet
There is something rather odd that nutrition researchers have found out about stress. It seems that when human beings experience stress and anxiety, they often eat a lot of the foods that cause more stress. Why is that? It’s because many food manufacturers intentionally place addictive chemicals and minerals like salt, sugar, trans fat and monosodium glutamate (MSG) in just about everything they make.
As for the reasons why food manufacturers use additives, it is because those chemicals are extremely cheap and they help their packaged foods last longer. They also can cause an addictive reaction in many people. If you find yourself powerless to resist sweet and salty foods, there is a very natural reason for your behavior.
Sugar, MSG, trans fat and salt cause the same reaction in some people that a drug addict or alcoholic experiences when they enjoy the drug or drink of their choice. In some, these dangerous and deadly foods cause no reaction. But in others, it leads to a vicious cycle of eating foods that cause stress, and then treating that stress by eating more of those same foods.
The good news is that you can totally detox your body and retrain your brain with healthy diet practices in 3 to 4 weeks. It takes anywhere from 20 to 30 days for most people to wean themselves off of sugar, salt, trans fats and MSG. But be forewarned, for some this is not an easy process. It is unfortunately as equally difficult as kicking a cocaine or heroin habit if you are painfully addicted to these stress-boosters.
The next time you experience stress of any kind, be aware that you may try to treat yourself with “comfort food”. The next time you get anxious and are reaching for a treat, try a handful of nuts or some dark chocolate. Enjoy a piece of healthy broiled salmon instead of fried fish. Use oatmeal, blueberries and green tea to treat anxiety and stress, rather than potato chips, your favorite soda or a double cheeseburger.
When To Look For Answers Beyond Your Diet
Just about every nutrition expert and health specialist now agrees that your diet is responsible for up to 70% of your level of physical fitness and health. So diet is very important for a healthy way of life. However, your body and mind are incredibly complex. That means that even with the “perfect” diet you may find unacceptable levels of stress in your life.
Looking for Stress Relief Answers
The answer is simple. Make the necessary dietary changes mentioned above. Cut out or eliminate processed foods, salt and sugar from your diet. Drink lots of water, not sodas and energy drinks. Start eating more leafy greens, blueberries, oatmeal, wild salmon and other healthy fruits and vegetables.
If you do not notice your stress diminishing, there may be some cause other than your diet. That does not mean you should go back to eating those foods, which makes you stress out even more. Keep enjoying a healthy diet for the multitude of physical and mental benefits it delivers. Just understand that there are other answers out there for stress relief.
Stress counselors are available to help you treat your problem. Your doctor may even prescribe medication if your stress is causing serious issues. Benzodiazepines like alprazolam create a response in your brain that leads to a very calming effect. Practicing relaxation techniques like yoga and mindful meditation are also effective non-dietary ways of managing your stress levels. Just remember, if a healthy diet alone does not give you the peace of mind you are looking for, there are plenty of other options out there.