As entrepreneurs, you're under an intense amount of pressure; the last thing you need is more stress caused by poor diet choices. Continual stress puts your body on a state of constant alert. You may find during high-stress periods that your energy production increases, your muscles tense, and your heart rate is heightened.
"All systems are ramped up to deal with what our bodies perceive are physically dangerous situations," says Charlotte Watts, nutritional therapist and author of The De-Stress Diet (Hay House, 2008). While you may feel you're most productive when rushing to meet a deadline, putting your body in this ‘fight or flight’ stage uses up a lot of energy and nutrients, compromising the health of your immune system, digestion, and circulation and leaving you feeling depleted.
Eating a proper diet that aids the body manage stress symptoms can help keep you healthy and productive, even during these high-stress times.
Related: 7 simple ways to relieve stress now
"How we start the day can set the scene for how we cope with its demands,” says Watts. A high protein breakfast that contains some of all of the following—eggs, goat cheese, meat, and nuts, will provide nutrients that help sustain brain and body fuel. Add a fruit salad to stimulate digestion and detoxification to relieve stress on your digestive system.
A hearty salad with plenty of vegetables and a protein portion or a home-made stew with lots of vegetables is a good lunch option to satisfy your appetite and ensure a more productive and stress-free afternoon. Protein increases your energy levels while healthy fats such as olive oil, nuts, or seeds help control your body's dopamine and serotonin levels, which control your mood and stress levels.
Do you get the mid-afternoon munchies? Go for snacks such as nuts and fruit that keep blood sugar levels even. "Almonds are high in calming magnesium and omega oils," says Watts. Celery is also a great snack to calm your mid-afternoon nerves. "[Celery] activates the parasympathetic calming tone of the nervous system, hence its traditional use as a sleep and high blood pressure remedy,” says Watts. Avoid high-carb such as chips and crackers. While these may fill and satisfy your growling stomach, they rob us of nutrients and are full of empty calories.
After a stressful day, your body needs to relax. Watts recommends filling your plate with green vegetables to replenish minerals lost throughout the day. Vegetables such as broccoli, kale, cabbage, and cauliflower aid in detoxification and provide natural carbohydrates that boost serotonin—the body's feel-good hormone. These vegetables also have immunity-boosting powers to keep you from getting sick.
Eat mindfully—when planning your mealtimes, Watts says the most important element in staying stress-free is to eat mindfully. "Sitting down and chewing thoroughly is a crucial part of digesting and allowing mealtimes to be a part of your relaxation and not add to stress patterns,” says Watts. So, step away from your computer and smartphone and take the time to enjoy your food.
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This article originally appeared on Entrepreneur.com. Minor edits have been done by the Entrepreneur.com.ph editor.