Fighting Stress

Stress is a part of our daily lives. Many of us deal with extreme stress at least once a year. If ignored, stress can lead to a broad range of health issues. What can be done to deal with stress? It may be easier than you think.

Nearly 50% of Americans surveyed said that they experienced a "seriously stressful event" within the past year. The leading cause of this stress was illness, followed by a death in the family and trouble at work. Most people react to stress in negative ways, like losing sleep and eating poorly.

Responding to stress doesn't have to be negative. Recent research has shown that stress makes eating a balanced diet even more important than ever. One study showed that stress makes us extremely sensitive to the glycemic index of foods. That means that eating sugary foods and foods with a lot of processed carbohydrates can make a bad situation even worse.

Instead, doctors recommend increasing our intake of omega-3 fatty acids during times of stress. The easiest way to get omega-3s into our diet is by eating fish. Another good source is flax seed, either as ground into a flour or in capsule form. The omega-3s help our nervous system withstand the onslaught of stress, actually protecting our neurons form damage.

The ideal stress-fighting diet also includes lots of protein (great low glycemic index), plus green vegetables for vitamins and minerals. My favorite stress-busting strategy? Don't forget the dark chocolate! The cocoa flavanols are great for improving our body's response to stress, and let's face it, when didn't a bit of chocolate help melt away those stress surges?

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