Tips for a stress-free lifestyle

Khanyisile Nkosi

Khanyisile Nkosi

Living a healthy lifestyle is not just about losing weight.

It is also about developing a healthy brain to help reduce stress-related illnesses in your body, says nutritionist and gym instructor Mali Ramara.

"Our brain is the highest consumer of energy than any organ in the body. Any change in our food intake will have a major impact on the brain's ability to function in a balanced manner.

"Eating take aways and processed sugars may make a person feel better for a few minutes, but it will leave you run down and feeling tired all the time," says Ramara.

To developing a coping strategy, it is important for people to firstly understand how stress works on the body and mind.

"Our body goes through a variety of changes when we are subjected to stress. The physical symptoms associated with stress include rapid heart rate, muscle tension and cold sweat. If the stress continues and becomes chronic, a wide spectrum of symptoms may emerge, including diarrhoea, irritability, insomnia, skin rashes, headache, back pain, low sex drive, and difficulty concentrating," she says.

People react differently to stress, Ramara says. Other people may channel stress to their gastro-intestinal track and have diarrhoea, stomachache or decreased appetite, while others experience symptoms such as headaches, neck and shoulder tension.

"Too much stress can result in a build-up of cholesterol in the arteries and put a person at risk of developing stroke and heart problems. The psychological effects of long-term stress can limit a person's ability to perform at work or in any other areas. This leads to a self-perpetuating cycle because reduced performance in any area of your life puts a person under more stress. Many people have trouble recognising the psychological and physical symptoms of stress, thus they go to a doctor for instant relief.

It is estimated that 75 percent to 90percent of doctors' visits are stress-related problems. I believe that adopting a healthy eating habit can reduce this percentage drastically," says Ramara.

What to feed your body to produce a balanced body and mind

Proteins: almonds, nuts, milk, avocado, beef, chicken, cottage cheese.

Vitamins: liver, whole grain, dark leafy vegetables.

Fat: Olive oil, fish, salmon, avocado, nuts, seeds (pumpkin, sesame seeds).

Simple guidelines:

l Eat more vegetables and fruits;

l Reduce white flour and processed food such as sweets, cakes, take aways, margarine and butter;

l Eat less red meat;

l Reduce salt in your food;

l Reduce caffeine;

l Reduce alcohol;

l Drink water.