Do you find yourself battling the physical and mental effects of stress on a regular basis? It seems that dealing with stress is a challenge most of us have in common these days. Fortunately, prioritizing good nutrition is a strategy that helps. Take a look at these articles from Natural Awakenings Magazine and Fuel in which I was recently asked about nutrition-related solutions for fighting stress. They offer some practical, dietary ways to stress-proof both the body and mindset.
For more information about the healing effects of food in the context of stress, check out the article below that I wrote recently for Rejuvenan Global Health, Inc., an innovative new personalized healthcare platform where I serve as the Director of Nutrition.
How often does your body’s warning siren — stress — go off in a day? There are times when it can seem like a constant annoyance, and there are times when the distraction becomes deafening. Some stress is inevitable in life, a result of the natural course of events that are a part of what it means to be human. Ignore it over time though, and we end up paying with our health.
We’ve known for some time that stress has a powerful impact on the way the human body regulates itself. Short-term, it can cause digestive issues and inflammation, while chronic stress has been linked to diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, and other illnesses.
Paying attention to the food you’re eating day-to-day is one of the best ways to ensure continued health — but taking control of your diet can also have a profound effect on your mental state. Common advice will tell you to focus on eating healthy or “eating right” — but what exactly does that mean? It’s more nuanced than just eating your leafy greens every once in a while.
Focusing on nutrient-density is a great place to start: by consistently choosing nutrient-dense foods, or foods that are rich in healthy micronutrients per calorie, you ensure that the body has what it needs to thrive and protect itself. Many people who are overweight or obese — and even many who maintain an optimal weight — happen to also be undernourished, which makes it harder for the body to defend against stress. In an environment that often promotes weight gain, it’s very easy to find an abundance of empty calories that taste good but don’t support health and wellness. An effective solution is to regularly choose foods that give us the best chance at staying healthy during short and/or extended periods of stress. Some examples include leafy green vegetables, berries, garlic, beans and lentils.
Another important consideration is gut health: maintaining a healthy ecosystem of good bacteria helps the body build resilience against the physical effects of stress. Foundational foods for stress-resilience include foods rich in healthy bacteria like yogurt, kimchi, miso and kefir.
Foods rich in healthy bacteria can also help counteract the inflammation that can happen in response to chronic tension, but it’s not enough to simply eat foods rich in healthy bacteria — it’s also important to include prebiotics in the diet. Prebiotics are a type of fiber that acts as food for the healthy bacteria and helps it to thrive within the gut. Some examples of foods that serve as prebiotics are raw chicory root, raw banana, raw or cooked onions, raw garlic and raw wheat bran.
Keeping Up the Fight
The most important thing to remember is that big dietary shifts require long-term maintenance. Finding ways to encourage continued practice of these new behaviors becomes critical as you look to ward off stress with better nutrition.
Tracking your intake is one of the easiest ways to keep up. Paired with a log of other healthy lifestyle behaviors — like exercise, mindfulness and meditation — you can start to develop a cohesive representation of where you’re successfully practicing self-care and which areas of your lifestyle need more attention. (Keep reading…)
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Cheers to your good health,