At some point, I realized that I was ignoring both of these things, and that was a huge roadblock for my other goals.
I think it’s really common to ignore stress. It’s just hard to manage because sometimes it feels out of our control. So we push on with the things we know we can control, like exercise and food. But the stress doesn’t go away on its own. It builds and gets more in our way, which adds more stress. Annnnnd repeat.
I read something really cool recently that I wish I would have seen back when I was deep in my struggles with stress. This study found a solid connection between what we eat and our stress levels. After I read it I was like, “OF COURSE”. It’s crazy that I had never really thought about the connection between healthy food and stress, even after spending so much time learning about how different foods affect my body.
The information in this study is SO interesting, and I thought maybe it could help you if you’re lost in a stress cycle. Let’s talk about it!
A little rundown of the study
This study was based in Australia and targeted a large group of adult men and women.
The goal was to find the link between eating habits (specifically fruit and veggie intake) and perceived stress. The participants completed a detailed food frequency questionnaire so researchers could see how many servings of fruits and vegetables they were eating, and how often.
“Perceived stress” was determined using a stress questionnaire. Basically, it gave participants a certain number of points for different responses, and the higher total points = higher perceived stress.
Here’s what they found
The participants with the highest fruit and vegetable intake had 10 percent less perceived stress, compared to participants with the lowest fruit and veggie intake. This was true for men and women, but the result seemed to be stronger in older participants compared to younger. INTERESTING, right?!
They also zoned in on serum carotenoid levels. This is a little sciency but you get carotenoids from fruits and vegetables. They make the orange/yellow color and work as antioxidants!
When serum carotenoids (aka blood levels) were checked in this study, researchers found that higher carotenoid levels = lower stress.
So, can eating more fruits and veggies help YOU with stress?
It’s a cool study, but how can you apply the takeaway to your life?
It’s a place to start if you’re struggling to get a grip on stress.
The past two years have been… a lot. Factor in “normal” life stress that comes and goes, and I bet a lot of us are in the same boat! Constantly trying to stay ahead and keep our mental health in check, even through stress keeps creeping back in trying to overwhelm us.
So, remember when I mentioned food being something we can control? USE THAT.
Start to build your meals and snacks around whole foods like fruits, veggies, legumes, whole grains, lean protein, etc. All of these foods give you the antioxidants we talked about, fiber, and tonnnnnnns of other important nutrients.
Nutrients that protect our cells, keep your gut healthy, reduce chronic inflammation, improve blood flow, and so much more.
As you boost your diet with these foods, pay attention to how you feel. Maybe you’ll notice less stress. Maybe you’ll even notice an improvement of some other issues you used to blame on stress, like trouble sleeping or bloating!
Personally, I can totally tell a difference in all of these things.
Food is the foundation of health, right?! It’s totally worth making small changes to feel better.
Other ways to lower stress
We already knew that exercise is a huge stress reliever, and now we know that good nutrition helps too! Here are some other strategies that might help you feel less stressed.
Your body struggles to regulate pretty much all functions when it’s sleep deprived.
A few minutes of quiet to think, center yourself, and breathe can really set the tone for your day. Making this a habit can help you breathe through tough situations later too.
Get all of your thoughts and worries out on paper. Physically unload your brain! I always feel “lighter” when I do this, and I can sort through my thoughts a little easier.
Any form of self-care you love
Self-care looks different for all of us. Maybe meditation and journaling just don’t work for you, but cooking is a huge stress reliever. Or maybe it’s making more time to be social, or getting regular massages. Maybe it’s music.
Whatever form of self-care works for you and your stress, make it a priority.
Soooo – have you ever noticed a correlation to your eating and stress levels? I wanna know! Share with me below!