Everything, from finances and careers to relationships and health, can cause stress. That being said, you don’t need to completely eliminate stress to live a healthy and happy life. You just need to learn how to manage it. Deep breathing and exercising can help (especially if you combine the two by practicing yoga), but science suggests that nutrition could also play an important role in managing stress.
Many people know that high anxiety levels can affect your eating habits. Your body releases a hormone called cortisol when it is under stress. In addition to increasing your appetite, cortisol can also cause carb and sugar cravings, which is why you suddenly get the urge to eat sweet and fatty foods when you’re feeling tension. But the relationship between nutrition and stress is a two-way street.
What’s the Link Between Nutrition and Stress Management?
Just as stress levels can impact your eating habits, your eating habits can impact your stress levels.
Poor eating habits can cause your cognitive performance to suffer. An unhealthy diet does not provide your brain with the fuel it needs to stay alert and focused. This is why it’s hard to concentrate, think critically, and make the best decisions if you aren’t giving your body the proper nutrients.
Eating a lot of calories, sugar, and fat can also make you feel tired and lethargic, so you might not have as much energy to tackle your daily to-do list. As your productivity falls, your stress levels may start to rise.
An unhealthy diet also does not provide your body with the nutrients it needs to fight off illness. As a result, you may get sick more often and take longer to recover, which can stress you out even further.
All of this can quickly turn into a vicious cycle in which an unhealthy diet causes stress, which causes you to make poor food choices, which leads to additional stress, and so on. Eating a healthy diet, however, is one of the best ways to combat stress.
Tips for Managing Stress With a Healthy Diet
Don’t turn to unhealthy comfort foods during times of stress. Follow these tips to adopt a healthy diet that will keep your stress in check:
Eating carbs can trigger the release of serotonin, which is a mood-stabilizing hormone. But all carbs are not created equal. Choose foods with complex carbs, such as whole-grain bread or old-fashioned oatmeal, instead of foods with simple carbs, such as candy and chips.
- Incorporate foods rich with vitamin C into your diet. Studies show that vitamin C plays an important role in lowering your cortisol levels after a stressful event.
- Choose your caffeinated beverages wisely. If you need a boost of energy, opt for caffeinated tea, which is a cleaner source of energy than caffeinated soda. Research shows that drinking tea can reduce your anxiety and help you feel calmer.
- Load up on foods that contain vitamin B, which can increase your body’s resilience to stress.
- Low levels of magnesium can make you feel tired. Prevent this problem by incorporating spinach or other leafy green vegetables into your diet.
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