The link between stress and nutrition is real. In fact, people who eat a nutrient-dense diet are better able to handle inevitable daily stressors than those with habits that drain the body. Here are three ways to keep your body strong, no matter what life throws at you.
1. Hydrate: We hear it often…DRINK PLENTY OF FLUID. How much fluid is enough, and what counts? As a general rule, drink half your body weight in ounces of fluid. That means about 65 oz of fluid for a person weighing 130 lb (130 lb / 2 = 65 oz). Highly active people may need more. If you don’t want to count ounces, monitor your urine. A well-hydrated person expels clear, light yellow urine every couple hours throughout the day. That’s right, you should be peeing every couple hours!
The most supportive liquids are pure water, fresh juices, herbal teas and mineral broth. They provide valuable nutrients to your cells, tissues, organs and muscles. Drinks high in sugar, artificial sweeteners and caffeine can act as diuretics (pulling fluid out) and rob the body of nutrients. Dehydration puts added stress on the body and causes spikes in the stress hormone cortisol.
2. Balance blood sugar: This is a topic of its own. Suffice it to say, unbalanced blood sugar stresses the body and leads to poor health. Skipping meals; waiting too long between meals; consuming too much sugar, caffeine, alcohol or fruit; eating too little fat or protein; getting too little sleep; even too much exercise can put huge stress on the body. Repeated cycles of blood sugar spikes and dips can lead to irritability, fat storage, cravings, fatigue, brain fog and poor decision-making.
Create meals that consist of whole, unrefined carbohydrates balanced with fat and protein. Proportions and amounts should stabilize blood sugar for 4-5 hours. This means eating at least three main meals per day and, for some people, two or three snacks. Honor your meal times and keep balanced snacks on hand to guard against blood sugar dips.
3. Balanced meals: Our bodies need a mix of carbohydrates, fat and protein. Skimp on any one of these macronutrients and the body moves into a state of stress.
As the body’s primary energy currency, carbohydrates are critical for brain function. They help regulate fat and protein metabolism, too. Eat a variety of colorful leafy, crunchy, starchy vegetables; fresh seasonal fruits; and whole grains. Pile your plate high. At least 50% of the food you consume in a day should come from this category, with an emphasis on vegetables.
Regardless of your preferred source of protein (plant or animal), it’s important to get an optimal amount each day. Protein is a building material for growth, repair and maintenance, and it is necessary for healthy immune function. Recommended sources include wild fish, organic or pastured meat and poultry, eggs, beans, legumes, nuts and seeds. While “optimal” is different for everyone, a good place to start is 2-4 servings/day (1 serving = 3 oz animal or 6 oz plant protein).
Without fat, our bodies don’t function well, and a poor functioning body heightens the response to stress. We need fat for proper metabolism, to make hormones, to transport vitamins, and especially for brain function. Healthful sources of fat include avocados, nuts, seeds, nut butters, olive oil and ghee. It doesn’t take much. As little as 2-5 tablespoons of fat per day will keep your body happy.
We can’t totally eliminate the stressors that life presents, but by staying well hydrated, balancing blood sugar and eating a good mix of carbohydrates, fats and protein, you can keep your body strong and your immune system resilient for when it needs it most.
To learn how to personalize these body-strengthening nutrition tips, contact JTC Nutrition at 303-442-2492 or firstname.lastname@example.org.