Even though April is Stress Awareness Month, stress is a common problem for most people year-round. Sadly, chronic stress has such a significant effect on one’s physical and mental health that it leads to chronic diseases. Fortunately, there are many ways to reduce stress, including choosing the right foods. Here are 10 ways people can use nutrition to reduce stress and improve their overall well-being.

Eat a balanced diet: A balanced diet that includes a variety of foods from all food groups is important for managing stress. Eating a balanced diet provides your body with the nutrients it needs to function properly, which can help reduce stress levels. Try to include foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats in your diet.

Limit caffeine and sugar: While caffeine and sugar may provide a temporary energy boost, they can also increase stress levels. Caffeine can disrupt sleep and cause anxiety, while sugar consumption can cause spikes and crashes in blood sugar levels that can lead to stress. Instead of relying on caffeine and sugar for energy, try to consume a balanced diet that includes complex carbohydrates and healthy fats.

Stay hydrated: Dehydration can lead to fatigue, headaches, and irritability, all of which can contribute to stress. Make sure to drink plenty of water throughout the day and limit sugary drinks like soda and juice.

Incorporate stress-relieving foods: Certain foods have been shown to have a calming effect and can help reduce stress levels. These include foods like bananas, almonds, and oatmeal, which are high in magnesium, potassium and other nutrients that can help regulate cortisol levels and promote relaxation.

Avoid processed and junk foods: Processed and junk foods are often high in unhealthy fats, sugar, and salt, which can contribute to stress. Instead, try to focus on eating whole, unprocessed foods that are packed with nutrients and fiber.

Practice portion control: Overeating can lead to feelings of guilt and stress, which can be particularly problematic. Try to practice portion control by eating smaller, more frequent meals throughout the day, and avoid skipping meals, which can lead to overeating later in the day.

Consider dietary supplements: Chef Marshall and his team have always advocated getting your nutrients through food but if you find it difficult to get all the nutrients you need from your diet, consider taking a daily multivitamin or dietary supplements. Some supplements, like omega-3 fatty acids, B-complex vitamins and magnesium can help reduce stress levels and improve overall health.

Limit alcohol consumption: While alcohol may help you relax in the short term, it can also increase stress levels and disrupt sleep in the long term. Try to limit your alcohol consumption and opt for non-alcoholic alternatives like herbal tea or water instead.

Make time for meal prep: For busy people, it can be difficult to find the time to prepare nourishing, balanced meals. However, taking the time to meal prep on the weekends can help ensure that you have healthy, stress-reducing foods readily available during the week.

Listen to your body: Finally, it is important to listen to your body and understand what it needs. If you are feeling stressed, take a moment to check in with yourself and assess whether you need to eat something, drink some water or simply take a break.

While these tips can be effective for reducing stress through nutrition, it is important to keep in mind that everyone is unique and what works for one person may not work for another. Commit to taking care of yourself – with these tips you will love the way you feel!