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Handle Stress with Food

Key takeaways:

  • Embrace the principle of moderation – some “comfort foods” may not be considered “healthy” but can be helpful in the moment
  • Keep in mind that many foods we crave (e.g. refined sugars and processed foods) have the potential to make you feel good right away, but cause sudden spikes and drops in blood sugar and can leave you feeling worse in the long-run
  • Happy oranges with smiling faces are wearing winter hats. They are looking at orange slices.Be mindful of your body! Pay attention to what makes your body feel good (long-term) and what makes your body feel bad.
  • Some key nutrients and foods that can help manage stress and anxiety:

Food Skills, CRC | Regent Park Community Food Centre,  www.tcrc.ca

 

What is stress?

  • A normal response to environmental factors (“stressors”) that challenge our abilities to maintain equilibrium or balance within ourselves
  • When our “fight or flight” response is activated

Symptoms of stress:

  • Cognitive symptoms: difficultly concentrating or thinking, trouble with memory, constant worrying, difficulty making decisions
  • Emotional symptoms: moodiness, irritability; feeling hopeless or helpless; feeling nervous or anxious; feeling depressed, unhappy, or guilty; inability to relax
  • Physical symptoms: headaches, muscle tension or other physical pain, stomach problems or nausea, diarrhea or vomiting, loss of sex drive, rapid heart rate, high blood pressure, fatigue
  • Behavioural symptoms: changes in eating or sleeping patterns; social withdrawal; nervous habits such as nail biting or teeth grinding; increased use of caffeine, cigarettes, alcohol or other drugs; neglecting responsibilities or experiencing a decline in performance/productivity

Vegetables Cartoon Root Vegetables Running

Diet as a tool to manage stress:

  • Some foods have a calming effect in our body while others can act as stimulants and can even be triggers for stress and anxiety
  • The goal is to improve overall brain and body health through choosing foods that provide nutrients that support brain and body functions
  • Embrace the principle of moderation – some “comfort foods” may not be considered “healthy” but can be helpful in the moment
  • Keep in mind that many foods we crave (e.g. refined sugars and processed foods) have the potential to make you feel good right away, but cause sudden spikes and drops in blood sugar and can leave you feeling worse in the long-run
  • Be mindful of your body! Pay attention to what makes your body feel good (long-term) and what makes your body feel bad.
  • Some key nutrients and foods that can help manage stress and anxiety:
    • Complex Carbohydrates are thought to boost serotonin (Serotonin is a hormone that helps regulate sleep and appetite, moderate our mood, and inhibit pain.) – Eat oatmeal, whole-grain bread, green vegetables, sweet potato, and lentils
    • Foods with tryptophan (a precursor to serotonin) – Eat turkey, chicken, bananas, milk, oats, cheese, soy, nuts, peanut butter, and sesame seeds
    • Vitamin B rich foods, thought to help ward off anxiety – Eat beef, pork, chicken, leafy greens, legumes, citrus fruits, rice, nuts, eggs
    • Magnesium has a calming effect and can aid in sleep – Eat spinach, legumes, nuts, seeds, avocado
    • Omega-3 fatty acids have anti-anxiety effects – Eat salmon, flaxseed, walnuts, chia seeds
    • Probiotics support gut health (gut health is very closely linked to brain health) – Eat yogurt, sauerkraut, kimchi
    • Antioxidants can keep inflammation levels low and allow neurotransmitters to be produced and function well – Eat blueberries, red berries, kidney beans, spinach, kale, and dark chocolate
    • Herbal tea to warm and soothe the body – Drink chamomile, lemon balm, mint, etc.
  • Consider regulating or limiting your intake of alcohol and caffeine – both can lead to anxiety, disrupt sleep, and/or cause irritability or edginess

Food Skills, CRC | Regent Park Community Food Centre,  www.tcrc.ca

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