Give your body the foods it needs to fight stress, be healthy and be happy!
We deal with stress on a daily basis—whether it’s because we’re drowning in a pool of emails, or if we can’t find time to fix the car, or if we need to move into a new house, or even if we have to just decide what to cook for dinner! Stress isn’t necessarily bad, but a prolonged amount of stress does affect us overtime. And this isn’t just emotionally—stress affects us physically as well!
Fight-or-Flight Response: Good acute reaction. Bad chronic reaction.
Our body’s natural response to stress is to release the hormone cortisol, which increases our blood pressure. This usually helps us during times of “fight or flight” since more blood flow gets to the organs that need more oxygen and nutrients. But when you are constantly are under stress, your body keeps pumping out cortisol which can lead to serious issues. Over time, too much cortisol can increase blood sugar, suppress the immune system and cause a higher-than-average blood pressure which breaks down both your blood vessels and your heart. The once helpful body reaction becomes self-destructive.
There are simple ways of managing your stress levels, and one of the simplest, natural ways to do so is by keeping track of your blood pressure. In other words, your blood pressure is a good indicator of your stress level (and also heart health in general)! Things ranging from meditation to exercise can help you do this. But did you know that even small, simple changes to your daily diet can make a big difference?
Clean and simple foods that help you fight away that stress
We’ve compiled a list of clean and simple foods that help you fight away that stress. Try incorporating more of these foods into your diet by following our simple “swaps”!
Swap milk chocolate for dark chocolate
Yes, it’s alright to indulge! But remember that on top of that, choose your indulgences wisely.
In the case of picking between milk chocolate and dark chocolate, pick the darker chocolate. We’re not saying that you can’t ever have milk chocolate ever again, or that you’re picking the lesser of two evils if you pick the dark chocolate, but we are saying to remember that you have options! So go dark!
Why? Well, we’re sure that you’ve read or at least heard about all the benefits of dark chocolate. Well, the message here is still the same—stress relief is yet another one of the many benefits of eating dark chocolate!
Dark chocolate effectively reduce stress hormones and lowers BP
Simply consuming dark chocolate reduces levels of stress hormones, suggests a 2009 study by Swiss researchers. Additionally, dark chocolate has been previously proven to lower blood pressure nearly as well as medication.
You can actually try this at home and on your own. Try a simple experiment. Before you make the switch to dark chocolate, record your blood pressure and take a note of your stress levels and mood. Then take two weeks and switch to eating only dark chocolate—we suggest within the 60 percent range if you’re not used to dark chocolate. Record your blood pressure and note your stress levels and moods again.
Try it out and see how much this small simple change can improve not only your stress levels, but also your blood pressure (and hence, heart health!) and your mood. How sweet is that?
Swap salad croutons for nuts and seeds
You’ve picked out a tasty salad for lunch today, and we’re proud of that choice you made for a greener meal. But don’t forget that the toppings also count for something too!
Grab a combo of pistachios, cashews, almonds, walnuts, or pumpkin seeds for a powerhouse package of fiber, antioxidants, and unsaturated fatty acids, all of which lower blood pressure.
And remember, anything that reduces blood pressure also helps fight off stress!
In one study, pistachios reduced the effects of anxiety in people taking a math test. Meanwhile, almonds are rich in energy-boosting protein and good-for-you monounsaturated fat, which is linked to lower rates of depression in another study. The omega-3 essential fatty acids in walnuts have been linked to reduced rates of depression, the selenium in cashews and almonds has been shown to elevate mood, and tryptophan in pumpkin seeds may help the brain make serotonin.
Swap beer for wine
Alcohol is a central nervous system depressant, so it will in general lower your blood pressure and take the edge off your tension. It’s also a great way to remind yourself mentally to wind down, and many people need that signal at the end of the week that everything is over and the weekend is here.
However, some alcohols are actually better for you than others!
Unlike in beer, in wine, there are healthful flavonoids and antioxidants—not to mention the one-up for your extra classiness!
So just sip slowly, stick to one glass, sit back into the couch and enjoy the conversation, the TV dramas, the landscape, or whatever you do that relaxes you!
Your heart will thank you for the lower blood pressure, and I’m sure you’ll appreciate feeling less stressed.
You don’t have to make dramatic changes to your life. Simple and small changes add up to big impact
Hopefully this list has inspired you to try making some small changes. As a quick reminder – you don’t have to completely revolutionize your life to reduce stress, lower blood pressure, reduce cholesterol or control blood sugar. You certainly don’t have to suffer in order to lead a heart healthier life. Simple and small changes build up!
Focus on satisfying your soul and really feeling like you are getting something out of what you’re eating. Of course, moderation in quantities/calories is also important, but you know your body best and now you know what is best for your body!
So how do you know if this is all working? How do you know if the small changes that you make now actually add up to reduce stress and benefit your health?
Blood pressure is one of the easiest ways to measure your stress level
Like we mentioned earlier, one of the easiest ways to measure your stress levels and the physiological effects of stress on the body is to take your blood pressure. Use a blood pressure monitor from home so that you don’t even need to go to the doctor and can be in charge of your own health.
Track your blood pressure measurements on a mobile app in order to more easily spot the trends in your blood pressure and to see if the changes that you’re trying are the right steps for you!
We would like to suggest Hello Heart (iOS, Android) in particular, not just because it’s a free app that is easy to use right from your iPhone, Apple Watch or Android device, but because it’s user friendly and extremely engaging to users. The app allows you to set reminders, view trends, and explore the full picture of your heart health.
If in the end, you take away just one thing, remember: food is your medicine—but it’s a lot better tasting than what comes out of a pill bottle!