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Combat Stress and Depression with Good Eating Habits

Combat Stress and Depression with Good Eating Habits

Depression and stress are not caused by a poor diet, but a link between food and mood can exist. When one becomes depressed, energy level and drive are much lower than usual.  Enthusiasm for most things, including meals, is lost.  Healthy eating practices can suffer as a result. Carbohydrates are an important component of a healthy diet to combat depression and should comprise 50-60% of daily intake. Carbohydrates increase the brain’s production of serotonin which heightens feelings of well-being and mood. Carbohydrates come from plant foods like fruits, vegetables, beans and whole grains and also are supplied in milk. When under stress or depressed, avoid alcohol.  Many people think alcohol makes then feel “good”, but it is actually a depressant.  Consuming alcohol can contribute to nutritional deficiencies of vitamins needed for good mental health.

Long-term stress can cause damage to the body and increase the risk of becoming ill.  In addition, many people respond to stress by overeating.  Prolonged stress can lead to chronic health conditions like heart disease, stroke, cancer or ulcers.  However, studies have shown that eating a diet with plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains is protective against the harmful effects of stress.  Antioxidants and phytochemicals are substances found naturally in plant foods that can boost immune function and reduce the risk of disease.  Some top sources of antioxidants include broccoli, cantaloupe, papaya, spinach, asparagus, carrots, tomatoes and peaches.  Foods rich in phytochemicals include tomatoes, romaine lettuce, pink grapefruit, sweet potatoes and soy products.  To get the benefits of these important nutrients, eat at least 5 fruits and vegetables every day.  Getting these important stressbusting nutrients has been shown to be more effective if taken in food form rather than a supplement.

When stressed:

  • Don’t binge or grab whatever is in sight. Take time for eating well
  • Include plenty of carbohydrate foods like fruits, vegetables, and grains.
  • Limit caffeine and alcohol.
  • Do something other than eating.  Exercise can relieve some of that stress.
  • Try quick foods and recipes.

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