Eating certain foods found to reduce long-term stress
Problem set due Monday. Essay due Tuesday. Another problem set due Wednesday. Project due Thursday. Friday is the weekend. Wait, what’s a weekend?
Stress is a shadow that follows every college student, even on cloudy days — especially on cloudy days. It is oftentimes overwhelming and cannot be erased overnight, but there is one way to gradually reduce it: through the foods that you eat. According to Gill Paul’s book Eat Yourself Calm, “There are loads of delicious, nutritious foods that positively support all the body systems during periods of stress and target the symptoms that accompany stress. We can literally eat ourselves calm.”
Although our bodies do a good job of dealing with short-term stress, they are less victorious when it comes to long-term stress. As a result of chronic stress, your immune system lets its guard down, your blood sugar levels go on a roller coaster, and your blood pressure climbs. While most people are familiar with methods of combatting stress such as exercising more, getting enough sleep, and practicing yoga and meditation, fewer people know about the benefits of a stress-reducing diet.
One way to reduce stress is by keeping your blood sugar at a steady level, because fluctuating blood sugar will unbalance your energy and mood.
This can be achieved by eating small snacks throughout the day consisting of foods that take a long time to burn, such as vegetables. Today’s Dietitian, a nutrition magazine, also explains how iron is essential in preventing fatigue. Iron is necessary for the formation of hemoglobin, the molecule which carries oxygen from the lungs to the rest of your body. Some of the best sources for iron include thyme, parsley, basil, eggs, beef, salmon, almonds, spinach, and broccoli.
Another way to reduce stress is by eating foods with lots of B vitamins. According to Eat Yourself Calm “B group vitamins are particularly useful because they support the nervous system and brain function and stimulate the production of feel-good hormones such as serotonin.”
Reader’s Digest explained the functions of specific B vitamins: Vitamin B1, for example, helps control your blood sugar level. Vitamin B3 plays an important role in the synthesis of serotonin. Vitamin B5 influences the adrenals, the glands which regulate stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline. Vitamin B12 has been shown to be beneficial for combatting depression, which is often linked with anxiety. Some examples of food which are rich in B vitamins are whole grains, potatoes, bananas, legumes, oily fish, poultry, and nuts.
Antioxidants are another key to stress reduction, especially antioxidant vitamins A, C, and E, as they can help “lower blood pressure, protect the heart and digestive system, and encourage brain function,” according to Eat Yourself Calm. Fruits and vegetables are a good way to get antioxidants, especially those with the brightest colors.
Finally, reducing your caffeine and alcohol consumption can help reduce stress. Since caffeine is a stimulant, it causes the release of chemicals such as the fight or flight hormone adrenaline, which raises your body’s alertness and anxiety. Alcohol, although often used to relieve stress, can actually prolong it. According to an article in U.S. News, in some cases alcohol can decrease cortisol, the hormone which helps the body respond to stress, causing the anxiety to stay for an even longer time.
While exercise and sleep are critical for reducing stress, sometimes it’s hard to find the time to fit in a workout or go to bed earlier. Eating, on the other hand, is a part of your daily routine. Just make sure to include some stress reducing foods in your diet, and you’ll be on your way to a happier lifestyle in no time.