Election day diet: What to eat to help your poor, stressed-out body

Lauren Ott, lead registered dietitian at the University of Colorado Anschutz Health and Wellness Center, offered some advice on how to treat your body right when you’re feeling stressed out.

(Base photo by DoodleMatt/Flickr)
(Base photo by DoodleMatt/Flickr)
(Base photo by DoodleMatt/Flickr)

How are you coping with this election?

If the answer is, “not well,” maybe you could use some help. If they answer is “not well, my stomach feels like its turning inside out and I’m always shaky,” then you could definitely use some help.

Lauren Ott, lead registered dietitian at the University of Colorado Anschutz Health and Wellness Center, offered some advice on how to treat your body right when you’re feeling stressed out.

Don’t forget to eat.

It seems silly, and yet most of us have been there: You get so busy or so worked up that food is the last thing on your mind. But Ott says remembering to eat regularly is one of the best things you can do for yourself.

“The key is managing blood sugar, so it’s really important to make sure that you’re not going five hours without food,” she said.

When your blood sugar drops, it leads to all kinds of problems, from irritability, to tiredness, to anxiety.

“That can lead to impaired decision making, which is not a good thing during election season,” she noted.

Avoid refined carbohydrates.

This will also help manage your blood sugar, Ott says. Refined carbohydrates are digested very quickly, so your blood sugar spikes and then drops.

So, that means avoid things like soda, candy, white pasta and white bread.

Avoid caffeine, too.

Excess caffeine leads to stress and anxiety, and you really don’t need more of that, do you?

Internal stress leads to external stress.

“Certain foods — foods that are high in trans fast, that are high in sodium — can stress you internally, which can exacerbate external stress,” Ott said.

That means cut out the junk. Avoid fried food and pre-packaged food.

Here’s what you should eat.

Ott recommends whole grains and foods that are high in protein and/or high in healthy fats, like avocados and nuts.

She also suggests turkey, full of that ol’ Thanksgiving friend tryptophan, and milk. Both will make you feel more relaxed.

Milk is also helpful when stress is giving you a stomach ache, Ott says. (And if you’re lactose intolerant, try ginger instead.) Foods that are low in fat and low in fiber are also good for upsets tummies.

It might also help to stick to “the BRAT diet,” Ott says, which means eating bland foods like bananas, rice, applesauce and toast. A raw salad might sound like it falls into that category, but Ott warned against that choice and suggests going with cooked vegetables instead.

And this should be obvious, but if your stomach hurts, don’t eat anything spicy.

Other advice.

Eating right is, of course, only one part of dealing with stress.

“One of the best things to help with stress is exercise,” Ott said. “Even just a walk around the block where you can kind of deep breath and get some exercise in.

Remember stay hydrated, too. Dehydration can lead to a rapid heart rate, which will only worsen feelings of stress.

And, hey, get some sleep.

Our advice, Ott-approved:

Adopt a temporary diet of turkey and avocado on whole grain toast, washed down with a glass of milk.

Correction: An earlier version of this story identified the wrong kind of carbohydrate as the bad kind. My apologies to you and to complex carbs.

Ashley Dean

Author: Ashley Dean

Ashley Dean covers dining and nightlife, and other odds and ends. She previously covered music and did some copy editing for the Denver Post, the Colorado Daily and the Daily Camera. She's from New York, likes her bourbon straight and has strong opinions about Kanye West. She can be reached at adean@denverite.com, 303-502-2804 or @AshleyDean.