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Feel Better. Live Longer.

By: Meredith Hawk, RD LDN


Stress- We find it everywhere! Within the last two years, we have all felt stress in some form or another. So, what is exactly is taking place when our body is thrust into the fight or flight syndrome? A hormone found in our bodies known as cortisol (AKA, the main stress hormone) surges. When cortisol levels rise, our bodies suffer huge effects including:

· Immune system suppression

· Insomnia

· Mood swings

· Depression

· Blood pressure changes



Studies have also shown that chronic stress can lead to an increase in appetite, specifically an increased intake of foods high in fat and sugar. We all know what happens when we consume too much of these foods. We put ourselves at risk for increased levels of visceral fat, obesity, and in turn chronic disease. Stress has even been associated with the prevalence of mental health disorders such as depression. While research connecting certain foods or diets to stress management is minimal, there are studies focusing on nutrients that help the brain to function properly. The Mediterranean Diet is a well-studied diet that includes consumption of foods such as:


· Fish

· Poultry

· Fruits and vegetables

· Whole grains

· Nuts & seeds

· Healthy fat sources (such as olive oil; avocados)



Focusing on an anti-inflammatory diet will help alleviate stress. Think about consuming more whole, real foods and less processed, quick, convenient foods. Foods containing: B-vitamins, Magnesium, Omega-3’s and gut healthy foods are great for de-stressing. These can include but are not limited to:

· Salmon, Leafy Greens, Liver (or other organ meats), Eggs, Legumes etic. (high in B-vitamins)

· Pumpkin seeds, Almonds, Spinach, Dark Chocolate, Bananas, etc. (high in Magnesium)

· Mackerel, Salmon, Herring, Oysters, Sardines, Flax Seeds, Chia Seeds, Walnuts, etc. (high in Omega-3’s)



While the events of the last few years have put a tremendous amount of stress on us and even possibly a few pounds, we can take steps to help ourselves. Meditating, practicing mindfulness while eating and following an anti-inflammatory diet are great places to start. Stress will come regardless but our diet is something we do have some control over. So remember this quote from Virginia Woolf, “One cannot think well, love well, sleep well if one has not dined well”.



References:

1. Barrington, W.E., Beresford, S.A.A., McGregor, B.A. & White, E. (2014). Perceived Stress and Eating Behaviors by Sex, Obesity Status, and Stress Vulnerability: Findings from the Vitamins and Lifestyle (VITAL) Study. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 114 (11), 1791-1799.

2. Bremer, J. D., Moazzami, K., Wittbrodt, M.T., Nye, J.A., Lima, B.B., Gillespie, C.F., Rapaport, M.H., Pearce, B.D., Shah, A.J., & Vaccarino, V. (2020). Diet, Stress and Mental Health. MDPI:Nutrients, 12 (2428); DOI:10.3390/nu12082428.

3. Gordon, B. & Klemm, S. (2022). Lifestyle and Managing Stress. Eatight.org. Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. <https://www.eatright.org/health/wellness/preventing-illness/lifestyle-and-managing-stress>.

4. Kandhalu, P. (2013). Effects of Cortisol on Physical and Psychological Aspects of the Body and Effective Ways by Which one can Reduce Stress. Berkeley Scientific Journal, 18 (1), 14-16.

5. Takeda, E., Terao, J., Nakaya, Y., Miyamoto, K., Baba, Y., Chuman, H., Kaji, R., Ohmori, T., Rokutan, K. (2004). Stress control and human nutrition. The Journal of Medical Investigation, 51, 139-145.

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