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Nutrition Ideas for Stress Reduction

By Cheryl Ellis, Staff Writer

(Page 1 of 2)

Stress depletes the body of energy in a variety of ways. Loss of sleep, feelings of agitation or depression, and development of poor eating habits are “side effects” of stress that need intervention. Some stress can help us rise to the occasion and get things done, but too much stress drains the body. One way to break the stress cycle is by changing the diet to one that can actually help reduce stress.

The body under stress will experience a reduction in vital nutrients, such as B vitamins, which are nervous system helpers. Depending on magnesium to help with muscles and calcium for bones, the overstressed system may benefit from vitamin and mineral supplements.  Before starting a vitamin regimen, consult with your primary doctor about any special needs you may have.  The doctor may be able to refer you to a nutritionist who can target specific requirements and make useful dietary changes.

When stressed, all individuals may go for “comfort food,” which can include coffee, even if it’s decaffeinated. Coffee, cola and chocolate are three major suspects when it comes to providing comfort while introducing caffeine, which will sap one’s ability to relax. Caffeine also dilates the kidneys, increasing the need to empty the bladder.  While there’s nothing wrong with active, healthy kidneys, it becomes inconvenient in the middle of the night.  Frequent urination also requires that we put the water back into our system, and a continuous cycle of tasty beverages with caffeine’s stimulating element can dehydrate our systems.

Dehydration is a common nutritional problem. We don’t wash our clothes in soda or tea, but we frequently “wash our insides” with these substances. Many people complain that “water is boring,” and they have a point. Some folks recommend adding a splash of cranberry juice, lemon or lime to adjust the flavor. There are vitamin supplements that can be added to water to provide a break, also. The added hydration can be a tremendous stress reducer, especially when incorporating exercise into a stress management program.

Small changes that focus on key areas such as fat, fiber and sugars lead to big improvements in overall health. Many of us opt for drive-thru or delivery to solve the stress of cooking a meal. Some fast food companies are offering healthier choices, but the old, less healthy favorites may be hard to get away from. If you find that you are having a problem acclimating yourself or your loved one to the “healthy” options, add on components such as salad or vegetables to round out the meal and incorporate fiber.

Fiber helps the body move food through the digestive system, enhances the “full” feeling and improves digestion by helping eliminate waste from the system. Constipation can increase stress in the body both physically and emotionally. A balanced system eliminates waste at the proper intervals, allowing the individual to feel comfortable physically, leading to emotional comfort as well as physical.

When it comes to vitamins, the first priority is to “eat” your vitamins through “whole” foods that retain their nutrients. Whole foods do not have to be served raw, but there should be no processing that adds preservatives. Creating “whole food meals” can be done gradually by adding salads, or by blanching or steaming cut vegetables. Since time and energy are usually a factor, consider paying extra for pre-cut vegetables. When cooking “whole” foods for you and your loved one, you may need to add time on to the quick cooking for softer vegetables.

Even frozen foods, properly cooked and with a minimum of additives, can provide better nutritional alternatives than one might imagine. Opt for minimal processing. This includes the amount of sodium in canned, frozen or even in deli-prepared foods.

Salad bars or food bars in grocery chains may appear healthy, but combine questionable ingredients. For example, the “healthy” tuna salad may contain far more mayonnaise than some people might use. The same is true for salad dressings prepared at salad bars and added on to the greens. Most retailers and restaurants will disclose nutrition values, but you can get an idea by just looking at some offerings. One way around the confusion in salad bars is to mix “plain,” unadorned vegetables, nuts and pastas with a smaller portion of your favorite sauce laden dish.


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