Often maligned, stress has its perks. In ancient times the “fight or flight” stress hormones provided instant energy to flee that charging wooly mammoth. Fast forward to modern times, and stress spurs you to nail that looming work deadline, answer 235 emails by noon, and throw a last minute dinner party for ten.
However, there are some important differences between the stress of yore and modern stress. Both are linked to our neuroendocrine system. For cavemen, these hormones were essential in facing real wild animal type stress, triggering an increase in appetite to fuel the next encounter.
Modern Stress Realities
Research has proven that this stress hunger effect remains. But here’s the rub – now we crave sugary, starchy and unhealthy foods. Some folks deal with their chronic stress by grazing on every donut that finds its way into the office while others simply don’t eat. Neither behavior is ideal.
On top of this, stress is a world-class sleep thief. Sleep is crucial because it's when your body restores itself physically and mentally. And studies show that sleep deprivation has a direct effect on increased appetite for – you guessed it – unhealthy high carb, high calorie foods.
How Nutrients Break the Viscous Cycle
A nutrient-rich diet helps us cope and manage chronic stress, which in turn leads to quality sleep. When stress is under control, brain functioning improves as does immunity to disease. Plus, nutrients help to lower blood pressure, improve circulation and reduce toxins from the body.
While there are scores of nutrients that are important, there are some specific ones that help in reducing levels of stress chemicals in the body. These include complex carbohydrates, proteins (tryptophan, phenylalanine and tyrosine, theanine), vitamins C and B, magnesium and selenium.
Too Stressed to Eat Right? Think Again…
It’s almost a cliché now, the stressed-out person who is too busy to eat right. But these poor on-the-fly nutritional choices can actually increase our stress levels and cause other physical and mental issues.
Perhaps you’ve noticed how poor eating can affect your quality of life? This stress eating pattern affects emotions, reduces productivity and ultimately thwarts a good night’s sleep.
Nutritional experts recommend eating small meals and snacks throughout the day. Why? It helps to maintain blood sugar levels, ensuring a steady stream of energy. Additionally, it keeps your metabolism running steady. You'll be in a hungry/full cycle instead of a starving/stuffed cycle. Plus, you'll be less likely to overeat, while avoiding poor food choices.
3 Ways to Manage Stress
- Prepare for Success: Take some time to pack nutrient dense meals and snacks for your busy day. Not only will it curb your urge to eat unhealthy foods, it will make you feel better about life in general. No time to pack fresh food? No problem. You can grab any of Nutrient's on the go meals and have your stress management covered.
- Eat Breakfast: Skipping this meal has its consequences because it makes it harder to maintain stable blood sugar throughout the day. Your morning meal doesn’t have to be fancy; blend up a satisfying Nutrient shake or enriched oatmeal. Start your day strong!
- Relaxation Strategies: Try scheduling these into your day, so they don’t get pushed aside. Take a walk at lunch, enjoy an after work gym visit, or call up a friend for an overdue catch up. And when all else fails … breathe! Take a 5-minute break and focus on simply breathing. Slowly inhale through your nose, feeling the breath start in your belly and work its way to your head. Then, reverse the process by exhaling through your mouth.
What are some of your favorite ways to keep stress out of your life? We'd love to hear from you!
Singh K (2016) Nutrient and Stress Management. J Nutr Food Sci 6:528. doi:10.4172/2155-9600.1000528