Healthy eating habits can be hard to keep on lock in times of duress. If you find yourself burning the candle at both ends, it’s more crucial than ever to keep your body in tune with all the right dietary moves. Foods high in vitamins and nutrients naturally lower stress and soothe the nerves. Easier said than done, though, right? If monk-like discipline isn’t really your vibe when the going gets tough, just cut out the worst offenders. Keep scrolling for our list.
Processed foods will only exacerbate stress. Potato chips possess little nutritional value and come packed with trans fats, sodium, and artificial additives. Non-organic potatoes are also among the most heavily pesticide-sprayed crops. Nosh on air-popped popcorn instead if you’re looking for a healthier alternative.
Caffeine stimulates dopamine activity in the brain, giving you a natural mood boost. Alluring as that may be, neuro-stimulators like caffeine and theobromine also heighten stress and may amp up your anxiety. Your adrenal hormones will already be taking a hit in times of stress, so over-caffeinating can lead to adrenal fatigue. Two eight-ounce glasses of water can give you the same energy as a cup of coffee. Staying hydrated flushes out your immune system and allows your body to stay in peak performance mode.
If you’re having a stressful week, forgo the morning bagel and toast routine. Your body processes complex carbohydrates in the same way as sugar. Instead, opt for protein, fiber, and good fats in the a.m. hours. Try swapping out your regular grains for Paleo Avo Toast, which is packed with good omega-3s and will keep your blood sugar on an even keel through the day.
Refined sugar spikes insulin, setting off blood sugar levels and eventually leading to a crash. It’s also highly addictive. The more refined sugar you consume on routine, the more you’ll crave it, and it also dips the immune system. Studies suggest sugar is as dangerous as tobacco or alcohol. Combined with stress, a leading cause of disease, it only fans the flame for an illness. Stay away from ice cream and other refined desserts if you’re feeling overworked.
Soda packs a one-two punch of sugar and caffeine. The empty calories and carbon dioxide will only serve to aggravate stress levels over time. Carbonation can leach calcium from bones , depleting the body of valuable vitamins and minerals. The high caffeine levels in popular energy drinks can also disrupt sleep patterns, and the last thing you want to do is pull at the thread of your natural circadian rhythms. Make sure you’re maintaining a regular sleep pattern and getting those z’s. Your body and your subconscious need the recovery time.
While unequivocally delicious, mac ’n’ cheese is the trifecta of cortisol-boosting elements: complex carbohydrates, fat, and salt. In short, don’t mix business with pleasure. Save the heavy splurges for a reward once life slows back down. Consider going Paleo for a stint. Avoiding grains reduces inflammation in the body and increases mental focus, keeping your immune system in check.
Raw cacao is a superfood; however, the majority of processed chocolate contains sweeteners and additives, offering little nutrient value. If you find yourself craving chocolate under duress, reach for magnesium instead. Science says chocolate cravings could be the result of a magnesium deficiency. A natural calming agent, magnesium replenishes the body’s minerals to sooth the nerves, helping you to feel more grounded and centered in times of crisis.
The combo of red meat, complex carbs, and sugar-laden sauces like ketchup makes the all-American go-to quite the conscious-dulling combo. Protein mixed with complex carbohydrates is difficult to process and digest. When you’re stressed, your system is taxed enough, so have your protein with leafy greens instead of a bun. Your body will assimilate the nutrients far easier.
It’s probably not a huge shock that gum doesn’t have a whole lot to offer in the nutrition column, so why waste your time? Avoid artificial sweeteners. They will exacerbate digestive issues and spike your insulin—yes, even just chewing gum. Ten minutes of meditation is a far more productive endeavor.
Stress can slow digestion and metabolism. If your body is not digesting properly, spicy foods like jalapeños tend to sit in the stomach for a more prolonged period than normal, often resulting in acid reflux. Stay away from spicy peppers when you’re in the zone. Stick with clean, easy-to-digest meals.
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