Is the holiday season stressing you out? Try adding a few of these surprisingly beneficial foods to your diet. After all, you are what you eat!
Avocados are loaded with monounsaturated fat and potassium that reduce blood pressure. High blood pressure is a common trait in people who are stressed.
Asparagus is high in folic acid, which is required to make serotonin, the chemical that makes people happy.
Beef contains iron, zinc and vitamin B, known to stabilize moods and help ease feelings of anxiety.
Fish and other seafood, especially salmon, mackerel and herring, are a great source of the omega-3 fatty acids that protect the heart and lower stress levels. Not a fish eater? Try foods fortified with DHA, a fatty acid found in eggs, milk, yogurt and soy products.
Almonds, pistachios and walnuts are full of vitamin E, an antioxidant that boosts the immune system, which you need to strengthen to prevent getting sick since your body is weaker when stressed. A handful of these nuts per day also lowers blood pressure levels. You can add some of these nuts to your cereal or salad.
Milk, preferably skim or 1%, is loaded with vitamin B and calcium. Calcium can soothe tensions, reduce muscle spasms and even lessen stressful PMS symptoms such as mood swings and irritability.Milk is full of protein, which helps blood sugar levels stabilize.
Whole grains are full of healthy fiber and consuming carbohydrates will make your brain produce more serotonin. Try some oatmeal (not the heavily processed kinds meant for the microwave!) or brown rice.
Oranges are high in vitamin C. Vitamin C is not only a great immunity booster like vitamin E, but also controls free radicals that accumulate when your body is stressed. If these free radicals are not controlled, they can lead to harmful consequences over time including (eek!) cancer. Also, free radical damage increases as you age, so make sure you load up on tons of antioxidants. In a nutshell, vitamin C repairs the body from the effects of stress.
Spinach is full of magnesium. Lack of magnesium makes you feel fatigued and can trigger migraines.
In addition to munching on the above, avoid the following when stressed.
Caffeinated beverages can raise stress hormone levels and anxiety. If a person is already stressed, consumption of caffeine leads to an increase in stress levels and sleeplessness. Instead of coffee or energy drinks, switch to green tea. Green tea has much less caffeine and lots of antioxidants! Can’t stay away from your daily cup o’ Joe? Then at least be aware that caffeine lingers in your body for six hours, so try to consume it before late afternoon.
Trans fatty acids can be found in baked goods such as cakes and cookies. Trans fats compromises your immune system, which leads to more stress on the body. It also elevates your risk for heart disease.
Sugar raises blood sugar levels, and an excessive amount of sugar in your system can lead to dangerously high blood sugar levels. When blood sugar levels are spiked, adrenal glands lose control over stress hormones and can no longer protect the body against stress.
So, next time you feel the stress bug coming on, eat up – the right way.
For more information, head to Womens Health
Last modified: January 12, 2009