Stress and Diet

salmon and avocado

Everyone experiences stress to some degree. For some, it’s an occasional issue and for others it’s more common and longer lasting. The human body responds to stress by producing hormones, mainly cortisol, in preparation for the “fight or flight” response. Unfortunately, prolonged exposure to cortisol can lead to problems with chronic inflammation which has been linked to several health conditions including diabetes, heart disease and hypertension. Unchecked stress can also lead to digestive problems such as constipation and heartburn.

Food choice can be negatively influenced by stress. Cortisol, appears to promote excessive intake and cravings for foods.1 Frequently, the comfort foods chosen in response to stressors are highly processed with hefty doses of sugar, salt or unhealthy saturated fats.

Obviously, identifying and dealing with the root cause of the stress is key. However, there are some changes that can be made to the diet that may help mitigate some of the more serious health risks associated with stress.

Foods that reduce inflammation may help. Ongoing research suggests that the Mediterranean Diet may be helpful in reducing the physical damage done by too much inflammation.2

The Mediterranean Diet is an eating plan that emphasizes the use of heart healthy unsaturated fats such as olive oil. Minimally processed whole grains, legumes (such as lentils), fruits and vegetables make up the bulk of the diet. Use of plant-based proteins such as legumes and fish are preferred over animal proteins, though small, occasional servings of meat are ok.

Oldways, a nonprofit promoting cultural foodways, has a webpage dedicated to showing
people how to adopt the Mediterranean Diet, including recipes.


Managing Stress

woman meditating

Although stress may seem unavoidable, there are a few things you can do to help manage it. Just about any form of exercise can help act as a stress-reliever. Being active helps boost the chemicals in the brain that act as the body’s natural painkillers and mood elevators. These chemicals are called endorphins and they reduce the levels of your body’s stress hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol. Have you ever finished a workout and had an overwhelming feeling of relaxation and optimism? You can thank your body’s endorphins for that! So, the next time you feel you are too busy and stressed to fit a workout in, try to make the time for it. It will really pay off in the end!



One cup of fresh spinach is an excellent
source of vitamin A and vitamin K. One
cup of fresh spinach makes about a ¼ cup of cooked spinach. A ½ cup of cooked spinach is an excellent source of vitamin A, vitamin K, and folate. It is also a good source of calcium, iron, potassium, vitamin C, and vitamin B6. Calcium is a mineral that works with vitamin D to help build strong bones and teeth.

Shopping Tips

Look for fresh spinach with loose leaves that are green and crisp.

Wash and dry spinach immediately after you buy it.

Put fresh spinach in an open plastic bag. Keep in the refrigerator for up to five days.