Best Way to Combat Stress By Eating Healthy

What and how a person eats reveals as much about their relationship with their body and current stress levels as it does about their taste in food. When you are relaxed and in harmony with your body you listen to its messages and tune into its signals of hunger and satiety. By doing so you quite naturally eat the right amount, choosing a balanced combination of foods providing all the nutrients you need.

Stress, it need hardly be said, leads to poor eating habits. Stressed individuals, especially Type As, often eat on the run or in a distracted way, while doing other things. Even when they stop long enough to sit at the dining table, they often demolish their food at the double, finishing their plates before others are even halfway through. All this rushing down of their food, compounded by the fact that raised stress levels slow down the digestive process, causes indigestion and associated problems such as diarrhoea and constipation. Being stressed also makes some people liable to overeat, either because they turn to food for comfort when they feel stressed and depressed, or because they simply ignore their bodies’ satiety signals. Conversely, by ignoring hunger signals, stressed individuals may undereat, or eat erratically, ‘fuelling’ their bodies instead with caffeine, nicotine or alcohol. When the body’s hunger-satiety signals are constantly ignored the mechanism falls into disuse.

Eating Healthy Best Way to Combat Stress By Eating Healthy

Fortunately our bodies are forgiving. By consciously regulating your food consumption and controlling the way you eat, by respecting and listening to your body, its natural intelligence and its instinctive desire for the nutrients it needs will reassert themselves.

Principles of healthy eating

  •  Sit down and eat three meals a day, or five smaller meals if you prefer. Don’t go for more than a maximum of six or seven waking hours without eating, but do allow at least two or three hours between meals to give the body a chance to rest and digest, and for you to experience hunger in between meals.
  •  Don’t rush your meals. Take your time, relax and enjoy your food. When you eat slowly, taking small mouthfuls and chewing well, you feel more satisfied and do not overeat.
  •  Make sure you eat a balanced and varied diet, including at least five portions of fresh fruit or vegetables, raw or lightly cooked, each day, to provide essential vitamins and minerals; three or four helpings of carbohydrates such as potatoes, rice, beans, pasta and bread, preferably whole grain; one or two portions of protein such as fish (eat two or three portions of oily fish, such as salmon, tuna or sardines, a week), meat, cheese, eggs, tofu, beans and nuts; a moderate amount
  • of fat, the best sources being vegetable oils such as olive oil, and fish oils.
  •  Cut out or cut down on fatty foods and sugary snacks. Go for crunchy apples and raw vegetables such as celery and carrot sticks when you fancy a snack.
  •  Drink alcohol in moderation and avoid alcoholic binges. A glass or two of red wine is known to protect against heart disease. More can cause health problems such as liver and kidney disease. The recommended weekly limit for women is 14 units, 21 for men, spread out over the week.
  •  Limit caffeine to two or three cups of coffee, or five or six cups of tea, a day. If you are sensitive to caffeine, avoid it altogether. A good cuppa helps you unwind and relax, and tea is also a good source of antioxidants, which protect against heart disease and some forms of cancer. Caffeine, present in tea, coffee and cola, gives you a boost by stimulating the central nervous system, making you more alert. However, it can increase your stress levels and keep you awake, especially if drunk after mid-afternoon.
  • Drink plenty of water, at least eight glasses a day, and more if you live or work in a centrally heated or air-conditioned home or office. Water flushes out impurities and waste products from the system, keeps body, hair and skin hydrated and healthy, and aids digestion.
  •  Indulge yourself occasionally.
  • Never get stressed about what you are, or are not, eating!

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