A natural reaction
Have you ever found yourself with sweaty hands on a first date or felt your heart pound during a scary movie? Then you know you can feel stress in both your mind and body.
This automatic response developed in our ancient ancestors as a way to protect them from predators and other threats. Faced with danger, the body kicks into gear, flooding the body with hormones that elevate your heart rate, increase your blood pressure, boost your energy and prepare you to deal with the problem.
These days, you’re not likely to face the threat of being eaten. But you probably do confront multiple challenges every day, such as meeting deadlines, paying bills and juggling childcare that make your body react the same way. As a result, your body’s natural alarm system — the “fight or flight” response — may be stuck in the on position. And that can have serious consequences for your health.
Even short-lived, minor stress can have an impact. You might get a stomach-ache before you have to give a presentation, for example. More major acute stress, whether caused by a fight with your spouse or an event like an earthquake or terrorist attack, can have an even bigger impact.
Multiple studies have shown that these sudden emotional stresses — especially anger — can trigger heart attacks, arrhythmias and even sudden death.1 Although this happens mostly in people who already have heart disease, some people don’t know they have a problem until acute stress causes a heart attack or something worse.
When stress starts interfering with your ability to live a normal life for an extended period, it becomes even more dangerous. The longer the stress lasts, the worse it is for both your mind and body. You might feel fatigued, unable to concentrate or irritable for no good reason, for example. But chronic stress causes wear and tear on your body, too.
Stress can make existing problems worse.2 In one study, for example, about half the participants saw improvements in chronic headaches after learning how to stop the stress-producing habit of “catastrophizing,” or constantly thinking negative thoughts about their pain.3 Chronic stress may also cause disease, either because of changes in your body or the overeating, smoking and other bad habits people use to cope with stress. Job strain — high demands coupled with low decision-making latitude — is associated with increased risk of coronary disease, for example.4 Other forms of chronic stress, such as depression and low levels of social support, have also been implicated in increased cardiovascular risk. And once you’re sick, stress can also make it harder to recover. One analysis of past studies, for instance, suggests that cardiac patients with so-called “Type D” personalities — characterized by chronic distress — face higher risks of bad outcomes.5
What you can do
Reducing your stress levels can not only make you feel better right now, but may also protect your health long-term.
In one study, researchers examined the association between “positive affect” — feelings like happiness, joy, contentment and enthusiasm — and the development of coronary heart disease over a decade.6 They found that for every one-point increase in positive affect on a five-point scale, the rate of heart disease dropped by 22 percent.
While the study doesn’t prove that increasing positive affect decreases cardiovascular risks, the researchers recommend boosting your positive affect by making a little time for enjoyable activities every day.
Other strategies for reducing stress include:
- Identify what’s causing stress.Monitor your state of mind throughout the day. If you feel stressed, write down the cause, your thoughts and your mood. Once you know what’s bothering you, develop a plan for addressing it. That might mean setting more reasonable expectations for yourself and others or asking for help with household responsibilities, job assignments or other tasks. List all your commitments, assess your priorities and then eliminate any tasks that are not absolutely essential.
- Build strong relationships.Relationships can be a source of stress. Research has found that negative, hostile reactions with your spouse cause immediate changes in stress-sensitive hormones, for example.7 But relationships can also serve as stress buffers. Reach out to family members or close friends and let them know you’re having a tough time. They may be able to offer practical assistance and support, useful ideas or just a fresh perspective as you begin to tackle whatever’s causing your stress.
- Walk away when you’re angry.Before you react, take time to regroup by counting to 10. Then reconsider. Walking or other physical activities can also help you work off steam. Plus, exercise increases the production of endorphins, your body’s natural mood-booster. Commit to a daily walk or other form of exercise — a small step that can make a big difference in reducing stress levels.
- Rest your mind.According to APA’s 2012 Stress in America survey, stress keeps more than 40 percent of adults lying awake at night. To help ensure you get the recommended seven or eight hours of shut-eye, cut back on caffeine, remove distractions such as television or computers from your bedroom and go to bed at the same time each night. Research shows that activities like yoga and relaxation exercises not only help reduce stress, but also boost immune functioning.8
- Get help.If you continue to feel overwhelmed, consult with a psychologist or other licensed mental health professional who can help you learn how to manage stress effectively. He or she can help you identify situations or behaviors that contribute to your chronic stress and then develop an action plan for changing them.
50 Foods That Are Super Healthy
Eating healthy does NOT have to be boring.
There is a massive amount of foods out there that are both healthy and tasty.
Here are 50 incredibly healthy foods. Most of them are surprisingly delicious.
1-6: Fruits and Berries
Fruits and berries are among the world’s most popular health foods.
This is not surprising, given that they taste incredible. Fruits are also very easy to incorporate into the diet, because they require little to no preparation.
The apple is high in fiber, vitamin C and numerous antioxidants. Apples are very fulfilling, and perfect as snacks if you find yourself hungry between meals.
Avocados are different than most fruits, because they are loaded with healthy fats instead of carbs. They are creamy, tasty and high in fiber, potassium and vitamin C.
Bananas are among the world’s best sources of potassium. They are also high in vitamin B6 and fiber. Bananas are ridiculously convenient and portable.
Blueberries are not only delicious, but also among the most powerful sources of antioxidants in the world.
Oranges are well known for their vitamin C content. They are also high in fiber, antioxidants and taste incredible.
They are loaded with vitamin C, fiber and manganese, and are arguably among the most delicious foods in existence.
Eggs are among the most nutritious foods on the planet.
It is a myth that all meat is harmful. Unprocessed, gently cooked meat is one of the healthiest and most nutritious foods you can eat.
8. Lean Beef
9. Chicken Breasts
Chicken breast is low in fat and calories, but extremely high in protein. It is a great source of many nutrients. Again, feel free to eat fattier cuts of chicken if you’re not eating that many carbs.
Lambs are usually grass-fed, and their meat tends to be high in Omega-3 fatty acids.
11-16: Nuts, Seeds and Peanuts
These foods are crunchy, fulfilling and loaded with important nutrients that many people don’t get enough of, including magnesium and vitamin E.
They also require zero preparation, which is important because it makes it easier to incorporate them into the diet.
The almond is a popular type of nut. It is loaded with vitamin E, antioxidants, magnesium and fiber. Studies show that almonds can help you lose weight, and provide impressive benefits for metabolic health (5).
12. Chia Seeds
Chia seeds are among the most nutrient dense foods on the planet. A single ounce (28 grams) contains 11 grams of fiber, and a large part of the recommended intake for magnesium, manganese, calcium and various other nutrients.
Coconuts are loaded with fiber and powerful fatty acids called medium-chain triglycerides.
14. Macadamia Nuts
Macadamia nuts are very tasty. They are much higher in monounsaturated fats, and lower in Omega-6 fatty acids, than most other nuts.
Walnuts are highly nutritious and loaded with fiber and all sorts of vitamins and minerals.
However, take it easy on the peanut butter. It is very high in calories and incredibly easy to eat excessive amounts of it.
Calorie for calorie, vegetables are among the world’s most concentrated sources of nutrients.
There is a wide variety available, and it is best to eat many different types of vegetables every day.
Asparagus is a popular vegetable. It is low in both carbs and calories, but loaded with vitamin K.
18. Bell Peppers
Bell peppers come in several colors, including red, yellow and green. They are crunchy and taste very sweet, and are a great source of antioxidants and vitamin C.
Broccoli is a cruciferous vegetable that tastes great both raw and cooked. It is an excellent source of fiber, vitamin K and vitamin C, and contains a decent amount of protein compared to other vegetables.
The carrot is a popular root vegetable. It is extremely tasty and crunchy, and loaded with nutrients like fiber and vitamin K. Carrots are also very high in caroteneantioxidants, which have numerous benefits.
Cauliflower is a very versatile cruciferous vegetable. It can be used to make all sorts of healthy recipes, and also tastes pretty good on its own.
The cucumber is one of the world’s most popular vegetables. It is very low in both carbs and calories, and consists mostly of water. However, it does contain a number of nutrients in small amounts, including vitamin K.
Kale has been very popular in recent years, for good reason. It is incredibly high in vitamin K, vitamin C, fiber and a number of other nutrients. It is perfect to add a satisfying crunch to salads and recipes.
Onions have a very strong flavor, and are very popular for use in recipes. They contain a number of bioactive compounds believed to have health benefits.
Tomatoes are usually categorized as a vegetable, although they are technically a fruit. They are tasty and loaded with nutrients like potassium and vitamin C.
27-32: Fish and Seafood
Fish and other seafoods tend to be very healthy and nutritious.
They are especially rich in in omega-3 fatty acids and iodine, two nutrients that most people don’t get enough of.
Studies show that people who eat the most foods from the sea (especially fish) tend to live longer and have a lower risk of many diseases, including heart disease, dementia and depression (9, 10, 11).
Salmon is a type of oily fish that is incredibly popular due to its excellent taste and high amount of nutrients, including protein and Omega-3 fatty acids. It also contains some vitamin D.
Sardines are small, oily fish that are among the most nutritious foods you can eat. They contain hefty amounts of the majority of nutrients required by the human body.
Shellfish isn’t eaten very often, which is a shame because it contains more nutrients than almost every other food. It ranks similar to organ meats when it comes to nutrient density. Edible shellfish includes clams, mollusks and oysters.
Shrimp is a type of animal found in the sea. It tends to be low in fat and calories, but high in protein. It is also loaded with various other nutrients, including selenium and vitamin B12.
Trout is another type of delicious oily fish, similar to salmon.
Tuna is very popular in Western countries, and tends to be low in fat and calories, but high in protein. It is perfect people who need to add more protein to their diets, while keeping calories low.
However, it is a mistake to lump all grains together. There are many different types of grains, and some of them are very healthy.
Just keep in mind that they are still pretty high in carbs, so they are not recommended on a low carb diet.
33. Brown Rice
Rice is one of the oldest cereal grains, and is currently a staple food for more than half of people in the world. Brown (whole grain) rice is fairly nutritious, with a decent amount of fiber, vitamin B1 and magnesium.
Oats are incredibly healthy. They are loaded with nutrients, and also contain powerful fibers called beta-glucans, shown to have numerous benefits.
Quinoa has become incredibly popular among health conscious individuals in recent years. It is a tasty grain that is high in nutrients like fiber and magnesium. It is also an excellent source of plant-based protein.
Most people eat a lot of bread.
For those who are trying to adopt a healthier diet for the first time, it can be extremely challenging to find something to eat instead of bread.
Fortunately, there are several healthy (or at least “less bad”) options available.
36. Ezekiel Bread
Ezekiel bread may be the healthiest bread you can buy at the store. It is made from organic, sprouted whole grains, and also contains several types of legumes.
37. Homemade low-carb breads
The safest choice for healthy bread is something that you make yourself. Here is a list of 15 recipes for healthy breads that are gluten-free and low in carbs.
Legumes are another food group that has been unfairly demonized in recent years.
It is true that legumes contain anti-nutrients, substances that can interfere with digestion and absorption of nutrients.
However, these anti-nutrients can be eliminated by soaking and properly preparing the legumes before eating them (12).
What we’re left with is an incredibly cheap source of quality nutrition, including a great plant-based source of protein.
38. Green beans
Green beans, also called string beans, are unripe varieties of the common bean. They are very popular in Western countries.
39. Kidney beans
Kidney beans are loaded with various vitamins and minerals, and are very high in fiber. Just make sure to cook them properly, because they are toxic when raw.
Lentils are another popular legume. They are high in fiber and are among the best sources of plant-based protein. Lentils also taste delicious, and have a very satisfying texture.
Many people can’t tolerate dairy products.
However, for people who do tolerate them, they are a healthy source of various important nutrients.
If the dairy comes from grass-fed cows, then that may be even better, as it is higher in some bioactive fatty acids like CLA.
Cheese is incredibly nutritious, and a single slice of it contains about the same nutrients as an entire cup of milk. It is also one of the most delicious foods you can eat.
42. Whole milk
Whole milk is very high in vitamins, minerals, quality animal protein and healthy fats. It is one of the best sources of calcium.
Yogurt is made from milk that is fermented by adding live bacteria to it. It has many of the same health effects as milk, except with the added benefits of the friendly probiotic bacteria.
44-46: Fats and Oils
The “war” on fat is lost, and many fats and oils have been making a comeback as health foods.
44. Butter from grass-fed cows
45. Coconut Oil
46. Extra virgin olive oil
Tubers are the storage organs of some plants. They tend to contain a number of beneficial nutrients.
Potatoes are a very popular food around the world. They are loaded with potassium, and contain a little bit of almost every nutrient we need, including vitamin C.
They are also incredibly fulfilling. One study found that boiled potatoes were by far the most filling of 38 foods that were tested (17).
48. Sweet potatoes
Sweet potatoes are among the most delicious starchy foods you can eat. They are loaded with antioxidants and all sorts of healthy nutrients.
49. Apple Cider Vinegar
It is great to use in salad dressings, and to add flavor to meals.
50. Dark Chocolate
Not only is dark chocolate the most delicious food on this list, but it may also be the healthiest.
Dark chocolate is loaded with fiber and magnesium, and is one of the most powerful sources of antioxidants in existence (20).