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Stress Management Through Nutrition: When, How, and What You Eat Can Matter

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We all know that what we eat has a significant impact on our health, wellbeing, and mood. However, it’s important to realize that when and how we eat also plays a crucial role in effective stress management.

Stress can affect your appetite in two ways.  Initially it will shut down your appetite as your brain reacts to stress by releasing hormones which supress appetite, at the same time as releasing adrenaline which triggers the body’s ‘fight or flight’ response which also supresses appetite.

However, if you’ve been soaking up the stress over a prolonged period of time, your brain starts to produce the cortisol hormone which increases appetite and the motivation to eat.   

In addition to this, it is thought that stress affects food preferences and results in an increase intake of foods high in fat and/or sugar that actually supress stress related emotions in the short term – ergo comfort eating to counteract stress. 

Stress also causes us to reach for caffeine or sugary ‘energy’ drinks, and often alcohol.  The knock on effect of these is lack of sleep, low energy and weight increase, note that one bottle of wine contains almost 650 calories  that are mainly derived from sugar.

 

How can a balanced nutritional meal help with stress management?

Eating a balanced nutritional meal with a slow release of sugars is a fundamental aspect of stress management. Such a meal not only stabilizes your energy levels but also helps regulate insulin, enabling you to comfortably transition to your next meal without energy crashes.

However, when stress strikes, it often triggers impulsive snacking habits, leading to the consumption of convenient yet highly processed, fatty, and sugary foods. This dietary pattern results in rapid insulin spikes and leaves you feeling hungry shortly after consumption, exacerbating stress.

In moments when you can only spare time for a snack, it’s essential to choose options that promote stress management. Fruits and nuts are excellent choices in this regard. Bananas and apples, in particular, are renowned for their stress-soothing properties. Likewise, almonds, walnuts, and Brazil nuts offer not only convenience but also valuable nutrients that aid in stabilizing brain function during challenging times

Optimizing Stress Management Through Breakfast Choices

How you approach your breakfast can significantly impact your stress levels and overall well-being. Breakfast plays a crucial role in setting the tone for your day. If you find yourself not inclined to eat breakfast, consider incorporating stress management into your morning routine. Bananas, for instance, are a convenient and quick option that you can easily eat on the go. Alternatively, packing a yogurt in your bag ensures you have a stress-busting snack on hand.

For those who can face a heartier meal in the morning, oats in the form of muesli, granola, or porridge offer an excellent choice. They provide sustained energy and can help stabilize blood sugar levels, ultimately calming the brain. Additionally, the humble combination of a boiled egg and toast offers a balanced mix of proteins and carbohydrates, which is a key to maintaining stable blood sugar levels and promoting overall mental well-being through stress management.

Benefits of Batch Cooking

To achieve this mindful eating, you need to be organised and have an idea of what you are going to eat during the week.  Like all good habits, it’s worth practising to get into the pattern of planning meals day by day, and shopping appropriately.  Batch cooking is good way to plan meals and eat well and cheaply.  Cooking at the weekend is an excellent way to destress.   This way you will be able to take charge of your eating habits which will in turn help you manage stress better.

The Cooking Academy run dedicated workshops and seminars about corporate nutrition and healthy eating.  In these sessions, we can cover a range of topics including, work-life balance, nutrition and the science of food to help your team become happier, healthier and more productive. For more information on these sessions, click here.

 

For more information on stress and over eating click here

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