There are things you can do to reduce the impact of stress on your body. The most obvious is to eliminate or minimize what is causing the stress. However, this may not be realistic. The good news is there are other solutions that can combat stress and its debilitating effects.
“Following a balanced and healthful diet is important, especially in times of stress,” says EHE's nutrition expert Atheer Yacoub. “While cravings for ‘comfort foods’ such as high-sugar and high-fat treats may increase, these foods can make you feel tired, sluggish, and low on energy. It’s important to choose foods that sustain energy and focus, rather than ones that provide emotional comfort during times of stress.”
Americans and Stress
We are stressed out. According to the American Institute of Stress, 77% of American adults report experiencing physical symptoms from stress on a regular basis, 73% report stress-related psychological symptoms, and 33% believe that they live with extreme stress. Nearly half of American adults feel that stress negatively affects their professional and personal life.
In a report by the American Psychological Association, widely reported stressors include:
You don’t have to be in a certain line of work or in specific circumstances to experience stress. You may not even realize how stressed you are. But your body does. That's why it's important to understand how to manage stress with things like nutrition.
Foods for Stress Reduction
Food has a natural ability to heal the body and reduce stress. The key is knowing which foods offer the best stress-busting properties. Yacoub recommends "a balanced diet which includes lean protein (chicken, fish, turkey, legumes, and tofu) and foods high in fiber, such as whole grains, fruits and vegetables, nuts, and seeds. Eating regularly, not skipping meals, and eating healthy snacks can help reduce vulnerability to stress.”
Try to incorporate these 12 foods into your daily diet to reduce stress and its impact:
What to Avoid
Just as there are foods that reduce stress, there are foods that make it worse. Artificial sweeteners, sugar, high fat, and alcohol should all be on your list of foods to avoid. “In addition to avoiding high-sugar and high-fat foods, caffeine should also be limited during times of stress,” says Yacoub. “It can exacerbate the feeling of nervousness and can also contribute to lack of sleep, which further leads to stress. Switching to an herbal tea like chamomile may help calm the nerves and avoid unnecessary jitters!”
Yacoub also offers more advice on natural stress relief. “In addition to proper nutrition, exercise and meditation can be helpful tools to alleviate stress.”