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Stress, it's the bane of existence for too many of us. Stress is an epidemic that is taking a toll on our health. Stress can make us feel awful physically, emotionally, and can intensify most unfortunate health conditions including (but not limited to) heart disease, obesity, Alzheimer's disease, diabetes, irritable bowel syndrome and other gastrointestinal disorders, depression, and anxiety. When the stress is on, which may be most of the time, how often do you turn to kale instead of potato chips, water instead of wine? It is important to take note here, since what we eat (and drink) can either help or hinder the self-perpetuating cycle of stress.

Certain foods are good for keeping stress at bay because they contain key nutrients like magnesium and B vitamins. Magnesium levels tend to decrease when we're stressed. This can lead headaches, muscle aches and an overall sense of fatigue. Magnesium is found in foods like dark green leafy vegetables, almonds, seafood and shellfish. B vitamins, particularly Folic acid, may help your mood and reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety. Asparagus, broccoli, nuts, seeds, yogurt, spinach, lentils and cremini mushrooms are good sources. Essential fatty acids from fish and flax, hemp, and chia are great to help keep stress at bay as well. Vitamin K is also a lesser known nutrient that helps fight oxidative stress (a main contributor of aging).

But to be more specific:

Here are the 5 Best Foods for Stress Prevention and Reduction

1. Nuts – In particular almonds, walnuts, and pistachios contain valuable stress busting nutrients like vitamins E, B, magnesium, essential fatty acids and fiber.

2. Avocado – Vitamin B5, B6, folate, vitamin E, fiber and copper.

3. Dark green veggies – Broccoli, Kale, Spinach, Asparagus, Chard, Collards – rich in B vitamins, magnesium, vitamin C, vitamin K.

4. Dark chocolate – Contains magnesium and supports healthy mood, cognition, and may benefit anxiety.

5. Oatmeal – Can help boost serotonin levels, providing whole grain carbohydrate, magnesium, fiber, chromium, and B vitamins.

Honorable mention: Blueberries – contain antioxidant vitamins and phytonutrients.

The 5 Worst Foods for Stress (aka Stress Aggravators)

1. "Designer" coffee drinks, "energy" drinks – anything that combines caffeine plus a lot of sugar (think Red Bull or Frappuccino) – a poor combination for so many reasons. Mostly that they can raise levels of the stress hormone cortisol and long term use can really tap the adrenal glands. (Choose green tea instead).

2. Alcoholic beverages – we know that many people drink a glass of wine or beer to wind down at the end of the day, but alcohol can actually aggravate stress.

3. Fried foods – Often contain unhealthy fats, excess sodium, and are robbed of nutrients due to their high cooking temperatures. Particularly foods like French fries, potato chips, tortilla chips, and the like are high carbohydrate plus high fat, and usually high sodium on top of that.

4. Processed foods – Think packaged cookies, donuts, crackers, cakes, muffins, brownies, etc… Usually of little to no nutritional value and usually containing excess sugar, salt, calories, and artificial ingredients. Not what the body needs to combat stress.

5. Ice cream – Another popular sugary treat that people gravitate towards when stressed, but we recommend you don't. Why? Ice cream is generally loaded with sugar, saturated fat, and often, artificial flavoring and coloring. Our bodies don't want any of that. This just puts more stress on the immune system, digestive tract, adrenal glands, pancreas, liver, and cardiovascular system to figure out what to do with these ingredients.

If you're under considerable stress on a regular basis you would be wise to take extra care to feed yourself well. Hydrate with pure water throughout the day. Get out and move your body (outdoors if possible) on a daily basis. Keep routine sleep and wake times (and try to get at least 7 hours of sleep nightly).

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