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Food for Thought: Managing Stress Through Diet

Good nutrition is an important stress management tool. When our bodies are poorly fed, stress can have a major impact on our health. Nutrition and stress are interlinked; sometimes, people turn to unhealthy coping mechanisms such as overeating, undereating, or excessive alcohol consumption. These are short-term solutions that can create long-term chronic problems. During such times, one should ensure they have a balanced meal containing all the food groups, get 7-8 hours of sleep, and keep themselves physically active through exercise. Nutrition and exercise are therefore used as interventions to reverse these potentially negative health effects.

Effects of stress on the body include muscle tension, nausea, dizziness, increased heart rate/palpitations, appetite fluctuations, and disturbed sleep/insomnia, as well as increased blood pressure. Stress can also cause an imbalance in neurological function in the brain, affecting decision-making, anxiety, and mood changes, which can increase the expression of those behaviors and behavioral states.

Effects of stress on the mind include mood swings, withdrawal, agitation and irritability, anxious or racing thoughts, loss of concentration and focus, and feeling tearful.

Foods that have a negative effect on the body during stress include caffeine, alcohol, and foods high in fats, sodium, and sugars.

Here are some tips to eat well to manage stress:

  • Include cereals such as brown rice, wheat, ragi, and millets in the diet.

  • Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables.

  • Restrict salt intake to a minimum.

  • Include eggs, milk, and its products (buttermilk, curd, yogurt) to improve the quality of the diet.

  • Avoid consuming too many sugary and high-fat foods.

  • Drink plenty of water and consume beverages in moderation.

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