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How to beat your stressful schedule

Foods we eat can also reduce or add to stress. Proper diet can help modulate inflammatory responses in the body and offset the negative effects of stress.

health and fitness Updated: Apr 28, 2011 15:10 IST
Dr Anjali Mukerjee

Think of it! We all have to work, pay bills, sit in rush hour traffic, deal with difficult interpersonal relationships, difficult family members- which add to stress in our lives. But foods we eat can also reduce or add to stress. Proper diet can help modulate inflammatory responses in the body and offset the negative effects of stress.

Foods that cause stress

It is usually found in coffee, tea, colas and chocolates. It stimulates the central nervous system and excess intake of caffeine can cause frustration.

Alcohol: In excess, it upsets sleep and brings about sleep disorders, creates problems with family, friends and co-workers which further leads to stress. Alcohol also acts like a diuretic, leaving the person in a dehydrated state which the body perceives as a stressor resulting in increased cortisol levels.

Sugar: Sugar lifts energy levels in the body immediately. The body releases insulin into blood to bring down sugar levels.

Even after the body has controlled the sugar level, insulin release may persist, causing a dip in energy. This can lead to ill temper, poor focus and depression. High sugar consumption puts severe load on pancreas.

Tobacco: Many people chew tobacco or use cigarettes as a stress buster. It may provide short term relief from stress, but in the long run, smoking causes a variety of cancers, hypertension, respiratory illness and heart disease.

Salt: Salt elevates the blood pressure, depletes adrenal glands and causes emotional instability.

Foods that reduce stress.

Proteins: Proteins build the body muscles and strengthen them. Protein-rich foods like meat, chicken, fish, eggs, cheese, milk, beans and soya keep the blood sugar in balance and thus help to reduce stress.

Carbohydrates: In unrefined form, they improve energy levels and enhance the mood. Whole grains like brown rice, whole wheat pasta and breads help to stabilize blood sugar levels and relieve stress.

Vitamins and minerals: Potassium, iron, zinc and copper help to avert high blood pressure, carry oxygen through blood and aid in quick metabolic breakdown of proteins. Foods like chicken, liver, oysters, bananas and beans are full of these vitamins and minerals.

Vegetable juices: Eat bright colored vegetables like broccoli, carrots, peppers and asparagus.

Fresh fruits: When our body encounters stress, it releases more free radicals than usual. Vitamin C keeps free radicals in check and protects the body from collective effects of stress.fruit

Stress busters
Hydrate your body by drinking water at regular intervals.
Do not skip meals, as that actually stresses the body, mind and reduces energy.
Eat at least six small meals in a day to prevent hunger pangs which in turn reduces stress.
Drink tea and coffee in moderation. Avoid soft drinks and chocolate as they contain caffeine which adds to stress. Too much caffeine can send the already stimulated nervous system from a state of high alertness to a state of anxiety.
Eat lot of fruits and vegetables to upgrade fiber intake. They maintain a healthy bowel system, and provide antioxidants which help offset the symptoms of stress.

No matter what the source of stress- physical (extreme exercise, inadequate sleep) or psychological (body image, worry, abuse, anger)- the body produces cortisol that leads to ageing and declining health.
— Dr Anjali Mukerjee is a nutritionist and founder of Health Total, a nutrition counselling centre