Stress diet is specifically designed to combat the harmful effects casued by stressful conditions on the human body. It usually includes low-fat and low-sugar foods with a large percentage of fresh fruits and vegetables, while avoiding stimulants like caffeine and alcohol which tend to increase the stress levels of the body.
Stress Management Diet: Foods to Consume
- Fiber: A high fiber diet keeps the digestive system healthy, which is often affected by constipation during stressful conditions. It also makes the person feel light and relaxed throughout the day. Whole grains, fruits and vegetables are a rich source of fiber.
- Carbohydrates: Healthy carbohydrate-rich foods like potatoes, rice, pasta, etc. help in triggering of the neurotransmitter serotonin which brings about a sense of wellbeing and counter-balances stress related depression.
- Fresh vegetables and fruits: Vegetables contain certain natural amino acids which improve serotonin release in the brain, thus battling stress and depression. Certain fruits like bananas are known to be a good source of serotonin, and hence should be included in a stress diet.
Stress Management Diet: Foods to Avoid
- Caffeine: Commonly found in tea, coffee, chocolate and various energy drinks or cold drinks, caffeine tends to activate the central nervous system and keep a person alert and active. However, excessive use of caffeine tends to cause dependence, reduction of sleep, increased cholesterol, high blood pressure as well as increased stress accumulation in the body.
- Alcohol: Alcohol is known to be beneficial for the heart if taken in moderate quantities, but excess alcohol causes additional stress, insomnia, irritability and feelings of tension and depression. The body produces toxins during stress, and alcohol inhibits the ability of the liver to remove these toxins from the body. Hence it is not recommended for inclusion in a stress diet, as it is known to worsen the condition of stress.
- Cigarettes: Smokers often justify smoking as a de-stressing activity, but this is far from the truth, as smoking is known to cause hypertension, respiratory and heart diseases as well as cancers.
- Sugar: Sugar provides instant energy, but excessive intake can result in stressed conditions like depression, irritability, obesity and even increase the risk of diabetes.
- Salt: It increases blood pressure and emotional instability, and should be taken in limited amounts by stressed out people.
- Fat: It causes obesity and puts extra stress on the heart; hence its consumption should be limited in a stress diet. Fatty and fried foods also inhibit the immune system, which is already observed to be functioning poorly in stressed-out individuals.
- High protein animal foods like different types of meats are known to worsen the health of a person under stressed conditions.
An overstressed condition may require the attention of one’s doctor, and one should not depend solely on a stress diet under extreme conditions.
The following links can be viewed for more information about how to manage stress with a healthy diet: