Should You Try A Stress Reduction Diet?

Flip stress eating on its head.

via @gatherandfeast

The Anti-Inflammatory Diet.
The Heart-Healthy Diet.
The Beach Body Diet.
The Clear Skin Diet.
The Migraine Diet.

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Got a problem? There’s a diet for that.

Although they might sound a little offbeat, they’re all very real eating styles that are scientifically proven to help with physical and mental ailments. It’s true that food is medicine, and often times a healthy diet is a powerful first line of defense when it comes to preventing and treating disease.

But what if your ailments aren’t linked to an allergy to dairy, or high LDL cholesterol, or sky-high blood sugar levels?  For many people, illness and disease are deeply rooted in their personal stress and anxiety levels. According to the American Medical Association, anywhere from 60 to 80 percent of diseases are caused by stress, including serious conditions like high blood pressure, autoimmune disease, and cancer. 

Most of us deal with chronically high stress levels, coping with the pressure by turning to meditation, exercise, social time (hitting up the local happy hour after a rough day at work feel familiar for anyone?), and maybe stress eating a pint or two of Ben and Jerry’s. But if you’re resistant to meditation, or just feel like you need something else to help you manage your stress levels, you might want to take a second look at what’s on your plate. Enter: The Stress Reduction Diet.

What is it?

You’ve probably already experienced how the foods you eat can deeply affect your mood—like how great you feel instantly while inhaling a plate of french fries … and then the major let down (and stomach pain) a few minutes later. And lots of us head for the kitchen in times of duress; stress eating is a normal—if not unhealthy—coping mechanism. Use your bad habit to your advantage by reaching for the right foods.

Following an anti-stress diet can be useful in a few ways. First, you’ll likely ditch the foods that cause inflammation and fatigue, which zaps your brainpower and your ability to make decisions. You know that sense of overwhelm you get when you see your email inbox is pushing the triple-digits, and you just can’t deal? Could be because you’re eating processed foods that inhibit your brain’s ability to function at its optimal level. Secondly, you’ll start eating foods that fire off neurological triggers in your brain that boost neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin.

The Stress-Reduction Diet

via @thedelicious

Ready to eat your way to zen? Here’s what you need to cut out of your diet.

Avoid

  • Processed foods
  • Artificial and processed sugars
  • Foods high in saturated fats, like bacon
  • Excessive amounts of caffeine or alcohol
  • Fried foods

Eat

  • Complex carbohydrates – High fiber carbohydrates like oatmeal and quinoa trigger a release of tryptophan in the brain, the predecessor of serotonin, which means that you’ll feel blissed and relaxed about 20 minutes after eating. Plus, carbs energize your bod, and fiber keeps you full so you can properly focus on the task at hand.
  • Monounsaturated fats – Avocados, olive oil, and nuts are ideal sources of monounsaturated fats. Not only do these foods taste rich and leave you feeling satisfied (no hanger here!), snacks high in monounsaturated fats encourage the brain’s serotonin receptors to be extra sensitive—which is a good thing.
  • Protein – Yes, eating more protein can help you lose weight and build lean muscle—but it turns it, the macro nutrient can also help with anxiety and stress. The amino acids in protein help your brain produce the neurotransmitters dopamine and norepinephrine, which instantly elevate your mood and help you calmly respond to stressful situations.