Stress can negatively impact our relationships, our work, academic performance. It is even tied to chronic conditions and death. Today, we are at war with some of the highest reported levels of stress due to the COVID pandemic. Americans have been even reported among the highest stressed in the world prior to this experience.
But there’s good news! A popular diet that is promoting many other health benefits has been tied to lower stress levels, a recent study finds.[i]
You’ve likely heard of the Mediterranean diet already.
This healthy diet includes a large amount and variety of non-starchy vegetables, minimal consumption of processed whole-grain cereals, legumes, nuts, and seeds are popular choices for both men and women.[ii]
If this abundance of healthy foods isn’t enough of a reason to start following this diet trend, we now have reason to believe that this diet lowers stress! Research done at Wake Forrest School of Medicine suggests that the Mediterranean Diet can lower the physiological effects of stress. These studies were done in a controlled experiment with middle-aged animals consuming selections found in this diet versus those found in a typical American diet which is high in protein, saturated fats, salt sugar.
Researchers measured changes in the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems as well as the adrenal gland hormone cortisol, in response to both acute and chronic stress levels. Differently from the animals fed a Western diet, the animals fed the Mediterranean diet exhibited enhanced stress resilience. This indicated a lower sympathetic nervous system and cortisol responses to stress, and even a more rapid recovery after they removed the stress factors.[iii]
The conclusion of the studies indicates that consumption of a Mediterranean-like diet could potentially provide us with a relatively easy, cost-effective intervention to potentially reduce the negative factors associated with psychological stress.