Stress is a normal part of life. Stress can come from physical causes like not getting enough sleep or having an illness or it can be emotional – worrying about not having enough money or the death of a loved one. Stress can also come from less dramatic causes like everyday obligations and pressures that make you feel like you’re not in control.
Your body’s response to stress is supposed to protect you. But over time, constant stress can actually harm you. The hormone cortisol is released in response to stress. Studies suggest that the high levels of cortisol from long-term stress can increase blood cholesterol, triglycerides, blood sugar, and blood pressure. These are common risk factors for heart disease. This stress can also cause changes that promote the buildup of plaque deposits in the arteries.
Even minor stress can trigger heart problems like poor blood flow to the heart muscle. This is a condition in which the heart doesn’t get enough blood or oxygen. And, long-term stress can affect how the blood clots. This makes the blood stickier and increases the risk of stroke.
Stress often leads to making poor food choices. Instead of reaching for that bag of chips or grabbing that chocolate bar, there are healthy food choices you can make that actually offset stress and can help reduce your risk of heart disease.
- Citrus fruit – Oranges, grapefruit, and other citrus fruits are a great way to get your vitamin C, which studies show reduces stress levels. Plus, vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that boosts your immune system. Keep oranges handy for a quick snack anytime.
- Turkey – Turkey contains tryptophan, an amino acid that boosts serotonin production, which has been shown to alleviate stress. Add turkey to your morning omelet or dice it into a salad for lunch.
- Spinach – Spinach is a great source of magnesium, a mineral that helps promote a sense of calm. It’s also full of fiber, which can boost your energy levels. Instead of lettuce, choose leafy, green spinach.
- Salmon – Salmon is full of Omega 3 fatty acids, which help to boost serotonin production, nourish the brain and reduce inflammation promoting healthy blood flow – all of which are compromised by chronic stress. Look for wild Alaskan salmon and serve it at least once a week.
- Nuts and seeds – Nuts and seeds are a rich source of Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids, which help reduce stress. Walnuts are one of the best sources of Omega 3s. Cashews and sunflower seeds also contain tryptophan, which boosts serotonin production and can take the edge off a stressful day. Keep nuts handy as an afternoon snack.
- Oatmeal – The complex carbohydrates in oatmeal help to boost serotonin production. Plus, oats have a lot of calming magnesium as well as potassium, which has been shown to help lower blood pressure. Make a bowl of oatmeal for breakfast and toss in some walnuts and cashews, as well as some cinnamon to help stabilize your blood sugar and you’ll be on your way to a stress-free day.
- Sweet potatoes and carrots – Root vegetables are a good source of fiber and carbohydrates, which can help boost serotonin production. Bonus – because they are slightly sweet, they can offset sugar cravings. Sweet potatoes and carrots are also a great source of vitamins and minerals that are good for your blood pressure and your heart. Pack baby carrots with almond butter for a power snack in the afternoon and have a sweet potato with dinner a couple of times a week.
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