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Maintaining a Healthy Diet During Times of Stress
It can be difficult to maintain a healthy diet in stressful situations. It’s easier to eat a healthy diet when life is calm and stress levels are low. However, it’s not impossible to eat well and stay away from unhealthy comfort foods. It’s possible to eat well with a little planning and only a few minutes of effort. Continue reading to learn how to maintain a healthy diet even during stressful times.
Reduce intake of saturated fats
Saturated fats are a part of most people’s daily diets. However, they can be unhealthy and increase our risk of heart disease. If you are concerned about saturated oils in your diet, choose leaner cuts. Try trimming off the fat of fatty meats and eat plain nuts instead of snacks. Replace fried fast food with lean meat sandwiches and wraps.
Saturated fats should account for only 6% of your daily calories, which means that eating 11 to 13 grams of meat a day isn’t unhealthy. The 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines For Americans recommend that saturated fat be limited to 10% of daily calories. To lower your intake of saturated fat, trim the fat off of meats and choose those with less than 10% fat. Reduce the amount butter in your dishes and replace it with low-fat varieties.
Good news is that the average American’s fat intake has decreased. Between 1971 and 2000, the average American’s total fat intake fell by almost half. The dietary guidelines for Americans, however, place more emphasis on the quality and types of foods, not the amount of each. While this new recommendation is sensible, it is important to make adjustments to your diet when you are experiencing stress or anxiety.
Research findings from the past decade have informed the recommendations for how much saturated fat should be consumed. The 2010 guidelines by the Heart and Stroke Foundation recommend that people consume no more than 10 percent of their calories from saturated fat. The dietary guidelines recommend that you limit the amount of saturated fat in your diet.
Healthy alternatives to comfort foods
This study explored the effects of replacing comfort food with healthier options in a general population. Researchers conducted an online survey in spring 2021 with a sample size of 4,047 people. The survey questions focused on sociodemography, stress, and nutrition. The comfort food and healthy alternative items were selected through literature review, with the food substitutes defined by experts. They also examined the effects of gender, age, and body mass on food intake.
When people are stressed, their body releases chemicals that make them feel good. Comfort foods tend to be high in fat, sugar, and energy. They can also trigger a temporary psychological response, which helps people cope with stressors. However, some foods are known to release dopamine, the chemical responsible for human pleasure. Overstimulating this reward pathway can lead to compulsive behavior. Comfort foods include mashed potatoes, macaroni, pizza, and ice cream. It is possible to find healthier alternatives to these foods by reducing their sugar content and calorie content.
The study showed that about half of the participants changed their eating habits when they were stressed. Among those who responded to the survey, chocolate and coffee were the top two comfort foods. It was interesting to note that substitutes for coffee and cookies were quite different. In general, stress eaters ate more calories than usual, while only two people reported eating less than normal. A further 68.9% of stress eaters reported that they ate comfort foods.
These results suggest that healthy substitutes could be recommended to help people resist the temptation of eating energy-dense foods in stressful situations. These concepts, also known as nudging have been shown to positively influence behavior. However, there have not been any studies that looked into the role substitutes in stress-eaters choices. Therefore, a study is needed to determine whether these recommendations work for stress-eating behavior.
Reduce intake of trans-fats
The American Heart Association states that trans-fat is even worse for your health than saturated fat. The new guidelines recommend that you limit trans-fat intake to less than one percent of your total calories. In addition, you should limit the amount of trans-fats in your diet during times of stress, which are often associated with increased anxiety and stress. This is not an easy task. It may be tempting to reach for fast-food chains or other convenience foods, but do your best to limit your intake of trans-fat-rich foods.
Studies show that trans-fats increase the risk of coronary heart disease. According to the Nurses’ Health Study, a 2% increase in trans fat intake is associated with an increase of 1.93 in risk. Thus, if you are facing increased stress, it is important to limit your intake of trans-fats. New regulations on food labels now require that manufacturers use lower-trans fat ingredients in their products.
The Center for Science in the Public Interest has long advocated the elimination of artificial trans fats. However, the recent decision by the New York health board is a step in the right directions. The city represents about 3% of the U.S. population, but is a cultural and economic trend-setter. Its decision attracted a lot of media attention and has spawned similar efforts elsewhere in cities and counties.
In 1981, two Welsh researchers speculated about trans-fats and heart disease. In a controlled feeding study, they found that partially hydrogenated vegetable oils raised LDL cholesterol while lowering HDL. This hypothesis was supported by a study published in 1993 at Harvard University. That study showed that reducing trans-fat intake by just 2% with healthier unsaturated fat could reduce the risk of heart attack by one-third. Ultimately, the study resulted in an influential symposium.
Increase intake of omega-3 fat acids
To investigate the role of dietary fats in the prevention of stress, the study examined university staff and used the Perceived Stress Scale (PSS) as the primary outcome measure. These researchers hypothesized that DHA intake would reduce stress perceptions in staff members. The intervention study included a small intervention study nested within a larger prospective cross sectional study, which compared the three stress measures with the dietary fat intake and mood. To determine if DHA had a positive effect on perceived stress, researchers repeated the study over a 10-week period.
In addition to helping the heart and brain function, Omega-3 fatty acids are beneficial to the heart and brain. They are also highly beneficial when they are combined with vitamins B (thiamine), Vitamin E, and Biotin, all members of the vitamin B-complex family. These nutrients are vital for energy, stress relief, and memory enhancement. These nutrients can be found in dark green vegetables and eggs, quinoa, as well as animal-based proteins.
The AHA Science Advisory issued in 2000 stated that omega-3 fatty acids are beneficial in the prevention of cardiovascular disease and other cardiovascular diseases. It also found that these fatty acids may lower blood pressure and improve arterial endothelial function. The Advisory also clarifies the difference between marine-derived omega-3 fatty acids and plant-derived omega-3 fatty acids. It is important to remember that omega-3 fatty acids should be obtained from food sources that are free of contaminants.
Many people believe that ALA, the only type of omega-3 fatty acids found in the body, is the only one. This is incorrect. ALA is found in significant quantities in both plant- and animal-based foods. The National Institutes of Health recommend 1.1 grams for females and 1.6 grams for males. Nevertheless, many people cannot make this conversion. For this reason, ALA is the most commonly consumed source of omega-3 fatty acids in the Western diet.
Reduce your intake of refined foods
Research has shown that when people are under stress, they tend to consume more sugar and refined carbohydrates. Consuming these types of foods increases blood sugar, which spikes up in response to the stress. As a result, cortisol is released in the body, causing problems like sleep disturbances, immune system problems, and unhealthy food cravings. People feel anxious due to the rapid fluctuation in blood sugar.