Nutrition and Stress

Too rushed or stressed to eat well? Think again!! Good nutrition is an important stress management tool. When our bodies are poorly fed, stress takes an even greater toll on our health. Nutrition and stress are interlinked. Here are some tips to eat well for academic success:

  1. Eat regularly. Your brain needs glucose to work at its best. Eating regularly throughout the day helps keep your blood glucose stable. Studies have shown that more stable blood sugar levels are associated with better academic performance.
  2. Get your unsaturated fats. Omega-3 fatty acids found in walnuts, flax seed and fish oil are associated with brain function. Deficiencies of this fatty acid can result in depression and/or anxiety.
  3. Eat your veggies. Fruits and vegetables contain vitamins and minerals like copper, zinc, manganese, and vitamins A, E and C. Leafy greens are especially good for you. These vitamins and minerals work to neutralize harmful molecules produced when your body is under stress.
  4. Add high-fiber foods. High fiber intake has been associated with greater alertness and decreased perceived stress. So add fiber-rich foods like oatmeal, nuts, beans, fruits and vegetables to your diet.
  5. Trade caffeine for more sleep. Caffeine leads to increased blood pressure and may make you anxious, especially if you are already prone to anxiety. While consuming caffeine may seem to help you concentrate better, some studies show that caffeine only restores what is lost through lack of sleep. Instead of turning to caffeine, try the natural grade booster – sleep!  
  6. Stock up on nutrient-dense snacks. If you know that a stressful or busy time is approaching, prepare by stocking up on quick, healthy snacks. Aim to incorporate two food groups at snack time. Some examples are granola with yogurt, almonds and pretzels, carrots with hummus or a cheese stick with fruit.

How you deal with stress matters. Sometimes people turn to unhealthy coping mechanisms such as eating/not eating, drinking excessive amounts of alcohol, etc. These are short term solutions that can create long term problems. Aim to be consistent with the basics of eating well, moving your body, getting adequate sleep, and enjoying your free time. Use constructive coping mechanisms like talking with someone you trust, journaling, meditating, etc. If stress continues to negatively impact your quality of life, consider getting help.

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