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  • Linnette Johnson

How Your Diet Impacts Your Emotional Stress

Here is that magic word again—STRESS!

Stress is a primal component of all human beings and something that needs to be discussed more. As you may have noticed, I talk a lot about stress. In case you missed it -- here is the post about stress being primal... now the real talk again about stress.

When you start looking at ways to reduce your stress levels, you probably focus on how much work you are doing, your daily responsibilities, and whether you practice good self-care. These are all very important, but don’t forget about the most straightforward choices you make daily that could impact your stress.

A common one is your diet, where some foods can increase stress while others help to reduce it. Your diet has a much more significant impact on your stress levels than you might expect, and your anxiety can determine what food choices you end up making. This vicious cycle starts with focusing on proper nutrition to fuel your body.

Nutritional Deficiencies

The first thing that can happen if you have a poor diet is nutritional deficiencies. These deficiencies can affect not just your physical health but your emotional health as well.

For example, did you know that folate can affect your mood and lead to more depression? You get folate from foods like eggs, asparagus, spinach, and avocado.

Some other nutrients you need to help balance your mood and fight stress naturally are:

Omega 3 fatty acids – Healthy fats are still essential!

You can get your fatty acids from healthy sources of fats like salmon, tuna, walnuts, nuts, seeds, avocados, and extra virgin olive oil.

Vitamin D – Do you know why you feel more energized and happier during sunny days?

It is the vitamin D from the sun’s UV rays. If you live somewhere that is cloudy and rainy, or it is winter where there isn’t much sun, you will need to supplement vitamin D through your food.

You can get it from foods like fatty fish, eggs, dairy, and green leafy vegetables.

Fiber – For more fiber, eating more fruit, avocados, and whole grains is usually a good place to start.

Calcium – While many people get their calcium from dairy and yogurt, you might not be someone who can eat much dairy. In this case, you can get calcium from almonds, sesame seeds, tofu, and kale.

Remember – calcium needs vitamin D to process and upload into our bodies and bones.

Iron – You also want to make sure you have enough iron.

Iron can help with your mental health, as well as balance your energy levels. This is also our oxygen transporter.

Get iron from red meat, turkey, some nuts, and seeds like pumpkin seeds and almonds, broccoli, and dark chocolate.

Remember – iron needs vitamin C to process and upload into our bodies, so make sure you eat broccoli, oranges, strawberries, and kiwi.

Protein – You get protein from many foods, including meat, poultry and fish, dairy, cheese, eggs, and nuts. You can also get protein from beans, legumes, soybeans, peas, and broccoli.

Feeding Emotions with Unhealthy Habits

Another link between stress and nutrition is that you can often “help” the stress and emotions with food. The problem is that you probably go for fast and processed foods, increasing your stress levels rather than lowering them. The reason is that most of the time, these foods are high in sugar, and when someone’s blood sugars aren’t level, it will increase their stress levels and mood swings more as the body is yo-yo-Ing up and down from the sugar.

Many times, emotional eating and stress occur at the same time. Like anything, if done in moderation, it will not do anything in the long term. However, if you deal with chronic stress or get into the habit of only using food to comfort yourself, it can become a problem. You might overeat, have too many nutrient-less foods, and even become malnourished because you aren’t getting enough vitamins and minerals. Suppose you notice that emotional eating is not an occasional occurrence. In that case, you should find something that helps you to deal with stressful situations, like meditation, yoga, and/or therapy which can lessen your stress and help you understand the emotional eating components.

Unhealthy Habits from Stress

Too much stress in your life can further encourage you to have other unhealthy habits. Not just having vitamin deficiencies and emotional eating, but generally overeating without listening to your body’s cues, plus not getting enough exercise, sleeping too much, drinking alcohol, smoking, or doing drugs. These can all turn on you and not only not help with your stress but make it worse.

The Cycle Continues

This is a vicious cycle that is very hard to get out of. Once you start going to unhealthy habits to deal with your stress, you feel that temporarily it is helping but hurting your mental health in the long term. The best thing you can do is stop this cycle is to start eating consciously through body cues and look for healthier ways to manage your stress.

Don’t feel like you can never emotionally eat; just don’t rely only on that all the time. Try to find healthier habits, such as visiting with friends, playing with your dog, or getting in a little more exercise.

What will you start today to help lessen your stress?

I would love to hear from you, and I will respond…


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