Unfortunately, all of this excess stress can lead to an increase in weight. And whether the extra weight is a result of overeating and unhealthy food choices, or your body’s response to increased levels of cortisol, getting a handle on stress is a priority if you want to prevent stress-related weight gain.
In many cases, you’ll feel the effects of stress right away. But there are other ways your body responds to stress, such as weight gain, that may take time to notice.
According to Dr. Charlie Seltzer, a weight loss physician, your body responds to stress by increasing levels of cortisol, which gets the body ready to “fight or flee.”
Cortisol, a stress hormone released by the adrenal glands, increases in response to a threat. When you no longer perceive a threat, cortisol levels return to normal.
But if stress is always present, you can experience an overexposure to cortisol, which Seltzer says is a problem since cortisol is also a significant appetite stimulant.
“This is why so many people respond to stress by going for comfort food,” he explains.
And to make matters worse, Seltzer also points out that excess calories consumed in the setting of high cortisol appear to be preferentially deposited around the middle.
What’s more, a 2015 study showed that our bodies metabolize slower under stress.
The study found that the women participants who reported one or more stressors during the previous 24 hours burned 104 fewer calories than non-stressed women.
To arrive at this figure, researchers interviewed the women about stressful events prior to giving them a high-fat meal to eat. After finishing the meal, the women wore masks that measured their metabolism by calculating inhaled and exhaled airflow of oxygen and carbon dioxide.
Not only did it demonstrate a slow down in their metabolism, but the results also showed that stressed women had higher levels of insulin.
The researchers concluded that the 104 fewer calories burned could add almost 11 pounds per year.
What are the risks of stress and weight gain?
When stress peaks or becomes difficult to manage, more serious, long-term health-related consequences can occur.
Depression, high blood pressure, insomnia, heart disease, anxiety, and obesity are all linked to untreated chronic stress.
Treating and managing stress-related weight gain starts with a visit to your doctor’s office to discuss your concerns. After a thorough exam, they’ll rule out any other health issues and help you come up with a plan to manage your weight and reduce stress.
In addition to implementing the stress-busting steps listed above, your doctor may recommend working with a registered dietitian (RD) that specializes in stress and weight loss. An RD can help you develop a balanced nutrition plan that fits your needs.
Your doctor may also suggest working with a psychologist or therapist to develop strategies to manage your stress.
And finally, your doctor may also talk with you about medication if your stress is related to chronic anxiety or depression.
What’s the outlook for people with stress and weight gain?
People with chronic high stress are susceptible to several health-related issues, including:
high blood pressure
other chronic conditions
Additionally, extra weight may increase your risk for diabetes and certain cancers.
With proper treatment, including medical interventions and lifestyle modifications, you can lower your stress levels, reduce stress-related weight gain, and decrease the chances of developing a long-term health condition.
Chronic stress can lead to weight gain. The good news is there are simple and effective ways to reduce daily stressors, and consequently, manage your weight.
Through regular exercise, healthy food choices, mindfulness meditation, and minimizing your to-do list, you can begin to reduce stress and manage weight.
While everyone has specific life stressors, factors related to job pressure, money, health, and relationships tend to be the most common.
Stress can be acute or chronic and lead to fatigue, headaches, upset stomach, nervousness, and irritability or anger.
Regular exercise, adequate sleep, and good nutrition are some of the best ways to better equip your body to combat stress, but several vitamins and supplements can also help.
Here are the 7 best vitamins and supplements to help you combat stress.
1. Rhodiola rosea
Rhodiola (Rhodiola rosea), is an herb that grows in the cold, mountainous regions of Russia and Asia.
It has long been known as an adaptogen, a natural, non-toxic herb that stimulates your body’s stress response system to increase stress resistance (1).
The adaptogenic properties of rhodiola are linked to two of the herb’s potent active ingredients — rosavin and salidroside (2).
An 8-week study in 100 people with chronic fatigue symptoms, such as poor sleep quality and impairments in short-term memory and concentration, found that supplementing with 400 mg of rhodiola extract daily improved symptoms after just 1 week (3).
The symptoms continued to decline throughout the study.
In another study in 118 people with stress-related burnout, taking 400 mg of rhodiola extract daily for 12 weeks improved associated symptoms, including anxiety, exhaustion, and irritability (4).
Rhodiola is well tolerated and has a strong safety profile (5, 6, 7).
SUMMARYRhodiola is an adaptogenic herb that has been shown to improve symptoms associated with chronic fatigue and stress-related burnout.
Getting adequate amounts of quality sleep is important for relieving stress.
Stress is strongly linked to insomnia, a sleep disorder characterized by difficulties falling asleep or staying asleep — or both (8, 9).
That said, achieving adequate quality sleep may not be the easiest if you’re under stress, which in turn could worsen its severity.
Melatonin is a natural hormone that regulates your body’s circadian rhythm, or sleep-wake cycle. Levels of the hormone increase in the evening when it’s dark to promote sleep and decrease in the morning when it’s light to promote wakefulness.
In a review of 19 studies in 1,683 people with primary sleep disorders — those not caused by another condition — melatonin decreased the time it took people to fall asleep, increased total sleep time, and improved overall sleep quality, compared with a placebo (10).
Another review of 7 studies involving 205 people investigated the effectiveness of melatonin for managing secondary sleep disorders, which are those caused by another condition, such as stress or depression.
The review demonstrated that melatonin decreased the time it took people to fall asleep and increased total sleep time but did not significantly affect sleep quality, compared with a placebo (11).
Though melatonin is a natural hormone, supplementing with it does not affect your body’s production of it. Melatonin is also non-habit-forming (12).
Melatonin supplements range in dosage from 0.3–10 mg. It’s best to start with the lowest dose possible and work up to a higher dose if necessary (13).
While melatonin supplements can be purchased over the counter in the United States, they require a prescription in many other countries.
SUMMARYSupplementing with melatonin may help you fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer if you have difficulties falling asleep related to stress.
Glycine is an amino acid that your body uses to create proteins.
Studies suggest that glycine may increase your body’s resistance to stress by encouraging a good night’s rest through its calming effect on the brain and ability to lower your core body temperature (14, 15).
A lower body temperature promotes sleep and helps you stay asleep during the night.
In one study, 15 people who had complaints about the quality of their sleep and took 3 grams of glycine before bed experienced less fatigue and increased alertness the following day, compared with a placebo (16).
These effects occurred despite no difference in the time it took to fall asleep or time slept, compared with a placebo, suggesting glycine improved sleep quality.
In a similar study, taking 3 grams of glycine before bedtime was shown to improve measures of sleep quality and performance on memory recognition tasks (17).
What’s more, another small study found that supplementing with 3 grams of glycine before bed reduced daytime sleepiness and fatigue following 3 days of sleep deprivation (18).
Glycine is well tolerated, but taking 9 grams on an empty stomach before bed has been associated with minor stomach upset. That said, taking 3 grams is unlikely to cause any side effects (19).
SUMMARYThe calming effects of glycine have been shown to improve sleep quality and feelings of alertness and focus.
Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) is an adaptogenic herb native to India, where it has been used in Indian Ayurveda, one of the world’s oldest medicinal systems (20).
Similarly to rhodiola, ashwagandha is thought to enhance your body’s resilience to physical and mental stress (21).
In one study on the stress-relieving effects of ashwagandha, researchers randomized 60 individuals with mild stress to receive 240 mg of a standardized ashwagandha extract or a placebo daily for 60 days (22).
Compared with the placebo, supplementing with ashwagandha was strongly associated with greater reductions in stress, anxiety, and depression. Ashwagandha was also linked to a 23% reduction in morning levels of cortisol, a stress hormone.
What’s more, a review of five studies examining the effects of ashwagandha on anxiety and stress observed that those who supplemented with ashwagandha extract scored better on tests measuring levels of stress, anxiety, and fatigue (23).
A study investigating the safety and efficacy of supplementing with ashwagandha in people with chronic stress noted that taking 600 mg of ashwagandha for 60 days was safe and well tolerated (24).
SUMMARYThe adaptogenic properties of ashwagandha have been shown to reduce stress, anxiety, and depression, as well as lower morning cortisol levels.
L-theanine is an amino acid most commonly found in tea leaves.
It has been studied for its ability to promote relaxation and reduce stress without exerting sedative effects (25, 26).
A review of 21 studies involving nearly 68,000 people found that drinking green tea was associated with reduced anxiety and improvements in memory and attention (27).
These effects were attributed to the synergistic effects of the caffeine and l-theanine in the tea, as each ingredient on its own was found to have a lesser impact.
However, studies suggest that l-theanine by itself may still help relieve stress.
One study showed that supplementing with 200 mg of l-theanine reduced measures of stress, such as heart rate, in response to performing a mentally stressful task (28).
In another study in 34 people, drinking a beverage containing 200 mg of l-theanine and other nutrients lowered levels of the stress hormone cortisol in response to a stressful task that involved multitasking (29).
L-theanine is well tolerated and safe when supplemented with at its effective dose for relaxation, which ranges from 200–600 mg per day in capsule form (30, 31).
For comparison, l-theanine comprises 1–2% of the dry weight of leaves, corresponding to 10–20 mg of l-theanine per commercially available tea bag (32).
That said, drinking tea is unlikely to have any noticeable effect on stress. Nonetheless, many people find the act of drinking tea to be relaxing.
SUMMARY L-theanine is a natural component of tea leaves that has been shown to reduce stress and promote relaxation.
In one 12-week study in 60 people with work-related stress, those taking one of two forms of a vitamin B complex supplement experienced less work-related stress symptoms, including depression, anger, and fatigue, compared with those in the placebo group (41).
What’s more, a review of 8 studies involving 1,292 people found that taking a multi-vitamin and mineral supplement improved several aspects of mood, including stress, anxiety, and energy (42).
Though the supplement contained several other vitamins and minerals, the study’s authors suggested that supplements containing high doses of B vitamins may be more effective at improving aspects of mood.
Another study observed similar results, suggesting that supplementing with B vitamins as part of a multi-vitamin and mineral supplement may improve mood and stress by lowering homocysteine levels (43).
However, it’s unclear whether people who already have low homocysteine levels will experience these same effects.
Vitamin B complex supplements are generally safe when taken within the recommended dosage ranges. However, they may cause harmful side effects like nerve pain when taken in large amounts. Plus, they’re water-soluble, so your body excretes any excess through urine (44).
SUMMARYThe eight B vitamins, collectively known as B complex vitamins, may improve mood and reduce stress by either lowering homocysteine levels or maintaining healthy levels of this amino acid.
Kava (Piper methysticum) is a tropical evergreen shrub native to the South Pacific islands (45).
Its roots have traditionally been used by Pacific Islanders to prepare a ceremonial beverage called kava, or kava kava.
Kava contains active compounds called kavalactones, which have been studied for their stress-reducing properties.
Kavalactones are thought to inhibit the breakdown of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), a neurotransmitter that decreases the activity of your nervous system, producing a calming effect. This can help relieve feelings of anxiety and stress (46).
A review of 11 studies in 645 people found that kava extract relieved anxiety, a common reaction to stress (47, 48).
However, another review concluded that there is insufficient evidence to confirm that kava relieves anxiety (49).
Kava can be taken in tea, capsule, powder, or liquid form. Its use appears to be safe when taken for 4–8 weeks at a daily dosage of 120–280 mg of kavalactones (49).
Serious side effects like liver damage have been linked to kava supplements, likely due to supplement adulteration or the use of less expensive parts of the kava plant, such as the leaves or stems, instead of the roots (50).
Therefore, if you choose to supplement with kava, choose a reputable brand that has its products independently tested by organizations like NSF International or Underwriters Laboratories (UL).
Kava is not a controlled substance in the United States, but several European countries have regulatory measures in place to limit its sale (51).
SUMMARYKava has traditionally been consumed as a ceremonial beverage. Studies suggest that it may alleviate anxiety via its calming effects, but more research is needed.
The bottom line
Stress can be caused by many things, such as job, money, health, or relationship factors.
Several vitamins and other supplements have been linked to reduced stress symptoms, including Rhodiola rosea, melatonin, glycine, and ashwagandha.
L-theanine, B complex vitamins, and kava may also help increase your body’s resistance to life’s stressors.
Always check with your healthcare provider before trying a new supplement, especially if you’re taking other medications, pregnant, or planning to become pregnant.
If stress continues to be a problem in your life, consider speaking with a medical professional or therapist about possible solutions.
Getting in a workout before you eat breakfast may affect your insulin levels and help you stay healthier.
Improving insulin sensitivity may help decrease the likelihood of developing diabetes.
A new study out of the United Kingdom focuses on how mealtimes can affect the results of a workout.
Exercising before breakfast can boost health benefits for people, including burning significantly more fat and helping them better control their blood sugar, according to a new study published this month in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism by health scientists at two British universities.
In the course of the 6-week study, researchers from the universities of Bath and Birmingham studied dozens of men with overweight or obesity who were sedentary from the Bath region in England.
The study showed that those who worked out before breakfast burned twice the amount of fat than those who exercised after a morning meal.
The researchers found that those who exercised after fasting overnight had lower insulin levels during exercise.
How the study worked
The participants, who engaged in moderate-intensity cycling, ate their meals before 8 p.m. the evening before the exercise.
Researchers compared results from two groups — those who ate breakfast before exercise and those who ate after — with a control group of men that made no lifestyle changes.
Researchers built the study in part on growing evidence that the timing of meals can have an impact on the effectiveness of exercise.
Although working out before breakfast over 6 weeks didn’t lead to any weight loss differences, the study found it did have a positive impact on the participants’ health, because their bodies responded better to insulin.
This effect has significant long-term ramifications: It kept their blood sugar levels in check and has the potential to reduce the risk of conditions such as heart disease and diabetes.
The researchers say their data is the first to show that exercise training before eating breakfast has an impact on moderate-intensity training exercise in men with overweight or obesity.
The researchers explained that the increase in fat use is largely attributable to lower insulin levels during exercise, which means pre-breakfast exercisers end up using more of the fat from their fat tissue and within their muscles as fuel.
“The biggest takeaways from this study are that the timing of meals in relation to exercise can have a profound impact on the responses to exercise,” Javier Gonzalez, PhD, a senior lecturer in human physiology at the University of Bath and one of the study’s co-authors, said by email.
“For people looking to maximize the health benefits of exercise, performing some sessions in an overnight fasted state is likely to provide greater benefits than performing all sessions after breakfast,” he said.
Gonzalez noted that previous research has suggested a single session of exercise performed before breakfast increases fat use. But before this study, no one knew for certain whether this increase in fat use persists over a training program or a sustained period of time.
“Here we demonstrate that the increase in fat use with exercise before breakfast persists throughout six weeks of training, even as people get fitter,” Gonzalez said. “Furthermore, this translates into improvements in insulin sensitivity and adaptations in muscle associated with glucose control.”
He added that these improvements in insulin sensitivity and adaptations to muscle have the potential to reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
Todd Astorino, PhD, a professor of kinesiology at California State University San Marcos, said health scientists have known for at least 40 years that abstaining from food before exercise enhances a reliance on fat as fuel.
“So their results showing this are not novel,” he said by email. But he said what is novel is that high insulin levels were reduced with exercise training before, but not after, carbohydrate ingestion.
“This suggests that if you have a person exercising who is at risk for diabetes or has diabetes and has high blood sugar, exercise should be done in the fasted state to foster this reduction in the insulin response to a meal, which is linked to overall metabolic health status,” Astorino explained.
He called the study’s revelation groundbreaking.
Getting healthier without losing weight
Kent Hansen, an assistant professor in the department of health, exercise, and rehabilitative sciences at Winona State University in Minnesota, says the public health message here could be that you don’t have to necessarily lose body fat to become more sensitive to insulin.
“Let’s say genetics dictate that you’re a bigger person. The public health message would say that even though you don’t lose weight, you can improve your health with a method similar to this,” he said.
The study was funded by The Physiological Society, Rank Prize Funds, and Allen Foundation.
Researchers say next steps include exploring the longer-term effects of this type of exercise and looking into whether women will benefit in the same way as men.
“We performed this study in men as a first study to ensure we had a homogenous group of people,” Gonzalez said. “We are very keen to see if the responses translate to women too.”
Newer research links “quiet” brains with longevity.
Researchers theorize that a less active brain uses less of the body’s energy.
Experts say there are a number of ways to calm your brain, including meditation, active listening, and mindful eating.
Everyone wants to stay mentally sharp as they get older — and it stands to reason that one way to do this is to maintain an active brain.
But new research suggests that less may be more when it comes to your brain activity.
In a study published in the medical journal Nature, researchers from Harvard Medical School report that a calm brain with less neural activity could lead to a longer life.
After analyzing donated brain tissue from people who died at ages from 60 to more than 100, researchers said they noticed that the longest-lived people had lower levels of genes related to neural activity.
A protein, REST, that suppresses neural activity was found to be associated with neural activity and mortality.
In experiments on worms and mammals, boosting REST led to lower neural activity and longer lifespans while suppressing it did the opposite.
“This study shows that daily periods of slowed activity, whether spent in meditation, unitasking, or simply being still or sleeping are as important for brain health and longevity as activity and exercise,” Gayatri Devi, MD, a neurologist and psychiatrist at Northwell Health in New York, told Healthline.
“The brain is the most energy-hungry organ in our body, consuming nearly a third of our energy, although it weighs only about one-seventieth of our body weight,” explained Devi. “For our brains and our bodies, less is more and rest is best.”
In a world that often feels like it’s moving too quickly, what are some of the best ways to quiet the brain?
Maryanna Klatt, PhD, a professor of clinical family medicine at The Ohio State University’s Wexner Medical Center, specializes in stress-related chronic illness and is trained in mindfulness, running a program called Mindfulness in Motion.
She shared some strategies for your brain with Healthline.
Tune into your body
Klatt says a great way to start on your path to lowered stress and heightened mindfulness is to be more aware of your body.
“Just some gentle stretches and awareness of where you’re holding your tension is a great starting point because when people acknowledge their body, they open up to what really is going on for them,” she said.
Another exercise in mindfulness is to establish a habit that sets events into motion.
“Since we deal a lot with medical doctors, I suggest touching a doorknob before meeting with a patient,” explained Klatt. “This creates a moment to focus on why they’re doing what they’re doing and how they’re going to connect with the patient. The habit is a helpful way to be present with a patient or co-worker.”
Meditation works hand-in-hand with mindfulness because it provides a helpful barometer of one’s mental state.
“It’s not about clearing your mind, it’s about seeing where your mind’s at,” said Klatt. “That’s why having a little meditation practice, even 5 or 10 minutes a day, can make a difference in bringing mindfulness to your activity during the whole day.”
In a spirited discussion, it’s all too easy to stop listening to others as you wait for your chance to speak.
Klatt says she’s seen this in a classroom setting.
“One way to recognize that we are going a thousand miles an hour is to watch our thoughts,” she said. “If you’re not really listening, or not being present with whoever you’re with, that can be a wake-up call to be present and not miss the moment.”
Chart it out
A simple exercise can spell out, in stark terms, whether we’re truly living the life we want to live.
Klatt asks students to create two pie charts, one to show how they’d like to divide the 24 hours in their day, and one to show how they actually spend their time.
While the breakdown likely includes time away from the office, it often doesn’t include any time that’s truly free.
“Earmarking open space intentionally every day, so it’s not for X, Y, or Z, not for exercising, not for reading, but for unstructured time, can help,” said Klatt.
During this time, it’s important to set boundaries and consciously tell yourself that you’re taking time for yourself.
“It’s about being really honest with yourself about having clear boundaries and telling yourself that you’re going to take a break from work, or kids, or trying to solve problems, during the downtime,” Klatt explained. “I think that people waste their downtime. People feel doubly bad because they didn’t get anything productive done and what they really didn’t get done was relaxing.”
Think about meals
We’re often told to watch what we eat, but we’re rarely told to watch how or where we eat.
While it’s fine to enjoy a treat full of empty calories from time to time, it’s probably best not to wolf down a bag of chips while zoning out in front of the television.
“I tell people that if they’re going to eat it anyway, they need to savor it,” said Klatt. “Savor every moment of it because otherwise you’re getting all those calories and you’re missing the pleasure of it.”
Many people don’t acknowledge burnout until they’re fully burnt out.
Recognizing the signs of burnout before it sets in can help with re-assessing and re-prioritizing.
Klatt says symptoms can include emotional exhaustion, the lack of a sense of personal accomplishment, a lack of excitement, and a pervasive mood of irritation.
“It’s when stuff that hadn’t in the past been a big deal suddenly becomes a big deal,” she said. “That’s the point where you want to step back before you get to the point where you’re really not effective at your job, nor effective at living the life that you want to live. Then it’s lose-lose.”
Positive examples can also be found in daily life. People who are engaged in their job and their life might have good advice for finding the right balance.
“I think mentorship in terms of mindfulness has really meant a lot during my life,” said Klatt. “Sometimes, you stumble and don’t know how to move forward. I think people all around us have this wisdom, but we don’t take the time to think about who we respect in terms of how they live their lives.”
Insomnia is a fairly common sleep disorder that makes it difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep. Having insomnia prevents many people from getting the seven to nine hours of sleep per night that experts recommend.
Some people experience short periods of insomnia for a few days or weeks, while others have insomnia for months at a time.
Regardless of how often you have insomnia, acupressure may provide some relief. Acupressure involves using physical touch to stimulate pressure points that correspond to different aspects of physical and mental health.
While you can have acupressure done by a professional, you can also try stimulating pressure points on your own. Read on to learn five pressure points you can try and find out more about the science behind using acupressure for sleep.
1. Spirit gate
The spirit gate point is located at the crease on your outer wrist, below your pinkie finger.
To treat insomnia:
Feel for the small, hollow space in this area and apply gentle pressure in a circular or up-and-down movement.
Continue for two to three minutes.
Hold the left side of the point with gentle pressure for a few seconds, and then hold the right side.
Repeat on the same area of your other wrist.
Stimulating this pressure point is associated with quieting your mind, which can help you fall asleep.
2. Three yin intersection
The three yin intersection point is located on your inner leg, just above your ankle.
To treat insomnia:
Locate the highest point on your ankle.
Count four finger widths up your leg, above your ankle.
Apply deep pressure slightly behind your biggest lower-leg bone (tibia), massaging with circular or up-and-down motions for four to five seconds.
In addition to helping with insomnia, simulating this pressure point can also help with pelvic disorders and menstrual cramps.
Don’t use this pressure point if you’re pregnant, as it’s also associated with inducing labor.
3. Bubbling spring
The bubbling spring point is located on the sole of your foot. It’s the small depression that appears just above the middle of your foot when your curl your toes inward.
To treat insomnia:
Lie on your back with your knees bent so you can reach your feet with your hands.
Take one foot in your hand and curl your toes.
Feel for the depression on the sole of your foot.
Apply firm pressure and massage this point for a few minutes using circular or up-and-down motion.
Stimulating this pressure point is believed to ground your energy and induce sleep.
4. Inner frontier gate
The inner frontier gate point is found on your inner forearm between two tendons.
To ease insomnia:
Turn your hands over so that your palms are facing up.
Take one hand and count three finger widths down from your wrist crease.
Apply a steady downward pressure between the two tendons in this location.
Use a circular or up-and-down motion to massage the area for four to five seconds.
In addition to helping you sleep, the inner frontier gate point is associated with soothing nausea, stomach pain, and headaches.
5. Wind pool
The wind pool point is located on the back of your neck. You can find it by feeling for the mastoid bone behind your ears and following the groove around to where your neck muscles attach to the skull.
To treat insomnia:
Clasp your hands together and gently open your palms with your fingers interlocked to create a cup shape with your hands.
Use your thumbs to apply a deep and firm pressure toward your skull, using circular or up-and-down movements to massage this area for four to five seconds.
Breathe deeply as you massage the area.
Stimulating this pressure point may help to reduce respiratory symptoms, such as coughing, which often interrupt sleep. It’s also associated with reducing stress and calming the mind.
What does the research say?
Acupressure has been around for thousands of years, but experts only recently started to evaluate its effectiveness as a medical treatment. While most of the existing studies about acupressure and sleep are small, their results are promising.
For example, a 2010 study involved 25 participants in long-term care facilities who had trouble sleeping. Their sleep quality improved after five weeks of acupressure treatment. The benefits lasted for up to two weeks after they stopped receiving treatment.
A 2011 study involving 45 postmenopausal women with insomnia had similar results after four weeks of treatment.
There are many studies with similar findings, but they’re all relatively small and limited. As a result, experts don’t have enough high-quality data to draw any concrete conclusions.
However, there’s also no evidence that acupressure decreases sleep quality, so it’s certainly worth trying if you’re interested.
When to see a doctor
Sleep is crucial for your physical and mental health.
Regularly not getting enough sleep is linked to a range of health problems, including:
A panel of experts has released guidelines stating that regular exercise can help prevent cancer as well as help people undergoing cancer treatment.
The experts recommend 30 minutes of aerobic exercise 3 times a week and strength training 2 to 3 times a week.
Experts say exercise can help prevent cancer by reducing inflammation, keeping weight under control, and boosting the immune system.
Kathryn Schmitz is seeking a paradigm shift.
Schmitz, a professor of public health specializing in cancer at Penn State University, thinks the perception of the ties between exercise and cancer is where the perception of the ties between exercise and heart health was decades ago.
Back then, she said, getting a patient out of bed and moving after a heart attack would be criticized. Today, the benefits of exercise to heart health and recovery are well known.
A similar consensus is emerging in the way the medical field thinks about cancer.
The latest sign in that shift came this week, with the publication of new guidelines that recommend physicians “prescribe” exercise in efforts to reduce the risk of certain cancers and improve the treatment outcomes and quality of life of those with the disease.
“Today if you asked someone with a dad with colon cancer if he should be exercising they’d probably either say no or they don’t know,” Schmitz told Healthline.
Schmitz co-chaired the roundtable — which included experts from the American College of Sports Medicine, the American Cancer Society, and 15 other groups — that put together the new guidance.
The gist of the guidance, published inthreepapers this week, is that exercise can contribute to the prevention of bladder, breast, colon, esophagus, kidney, stomach, and uterine cancer.
The guidelines also state exercise can help improve survival rates for people with breast, colon, and prostate cancer — as well as the quality of life of those people in terms of reducing side effects of cancer treatment.
How much exercise?
The researchers recommend that people with cancer do 30 minutes of moderate aerobic activity 3 times a week and strength training such as weights 2 to 3 times a week.
Schmitz said originally the researchers looking into that question sought to find out if there were specific “doses” of exercise that could be tailored to different people with cancer.
But the 30 minutes 3 times a week recommendation seemed to work pretty universally.
They still ended up with their goal of being able to “prescribe exercise like a drug,” Schmitz said. “Just turns out that it’s, say, 600 milligrams for everybody, if you will.”
Schmitz says getting more tailored recommendations for cancer prevention is one of the remaining open questions that ongoing research hopes to help answer.
“We don’t know the exact, optimal dose of exercise needed for cancer prevention,” Alpa Patel, the American Cancer Society’s senior scientific director for epidemiology research, told Healthline. “But we know from the evidence to date that the more you do the better.”
Why exercise works
Patel, lead author of the paper that covered the prevention aspects of the new guidance, said how exactly exercise affects cancer prevention is severalfold.
That includes exercise’s effects on reducing inflammation, helping regulate blood sugar and sex hormones, and improving metabolism and immune function.
“Depending on the specific cancer, one or more of those mechanisms may be more important than the others,” he said. “So, for breast cancer, the benefits of exercise are really driven through the impact on sex hormones.”
“It can also affect cancer development or risk through reducing obesity, a risk factor for many cancers,” said Dr. Crystal Denlinger, an oncologist at the Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia and chair of the National Comprehensive Cancer Network’s panel on survivorship guidelines.
She told Healthline that the exact reasons why exercise affects certain cancers in different ways still needs additional research.
The current recommendations do vary a bit based on personal history, Denlinger noted. But, she said, “at this time, there is no one ‘best’ exercise — anything that gets you moving and active is good.”
She said further trials are under way to evaluate how and when exercise can affect cancer treatment.
The effort underway for Schmitz — through an initiative she started at the American College of Sports Medicine — is pushing to get oncologists to assess and advise cancer patients’ physical activity.
“This is an easy, cheap way to give patients less fatigue and a better quality of life,” she said.
Binge eating disorder (BED) is considered the most common feeding and eating disorder in the United States (1).
BED is about more than food, it’s a recognized psychological condition. That means people with the disorder will likely need a treatment plan designed by a medical professional to overcome it.People who are diagnosed with BED experience episodes of eating unusually large amounts, even when they’re not hungry. After an episode, they may feel a strong sense of guilt or shame.
Regular binge episodes can lead to weight gain, which can contribute to health conditions like diabetes and heart disease.
Fortunately, there are plenty of strategies you can try — both at home and with the help of a professional — to reduce episodes of binge eating.
Here are 15 tips to help overcome binge eating.
1. Ditch the diet
Fad diets can often be very unhealthy, and studies show that overly restrictive eating methods may trigger episodes of binge eating.
For example, one study in 496 adolescent girls found that fasting was associated with a higher risk of binge eating (2).
Similarly, another study in 103 women noticed that abstaining from certain foods resulted in increased cravings and a higher risk of overeating (3).
Instead of following diets that focus on cutting out entire food groups or significantly slashing calorie intake to lose weight quickly, focus on making healthy changes.
Eat more whole, unprocessed foods, such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, and moderate your intake of treats rather than excluding them from your diet altogether. This can help reduce binge eating and promote better health.
SUMMARYStudies show that fasting or eliminating certain foods from your diet may be associated with increased cravings and overeating. Focus on eating healthy foods instead of dieting or cutting out certain foods completely.
2. Avoid skipping meals
Setting a regular eating schedule and sticking to it is one of the most effective ways to overcome binge eating.
Skipping meals can contribute to cravings and increase the risk of overeating.
One small, 2-month study showed that eating one large meal per day increased levels of blood sugar and the hunger-stimulating hormone ghrelin to a greater extent than eating three meals per day (4).
Another study in 38 people found that adhering to a regular eating pattern was associated with a decreased frequency of binge eating (5).
Try setting a regular eating schedule and sticking to it.
SUMMARYAdhering to a regular eating pattern can reduce the risk of overeating and may be associated with lower levels of ghrelin and fasting blood sugar.
3. Practice mindfulness
Mindfulness is a practice that involves listening to your body and paying attention to how you feel at the moment.
This technique can prevent overeating by helping a person learn to recognize when they no longer feel hungry.
One review of 14 studies found that practicing mindfulness meditation decreased the incidence of binge eating and emotional eating (6).
Another small study showed that combining mindfulness with cognitive behavioral therapy may improve eating behavior and self-awareness (7).
Try listening to your body to recognize when hunger tapers off. Additionally, try to eat slowly and enjoy food to promote healthy eating behaviors.
SUMMARYPracticing mindfulness can help you recognize when you’re no longer hungry, which can improve your eating behaviors and reduce the incidence of binge eating.
4. Stay hydrated
Drinking plenty of water throughout the day is a simple yet effective way to curb cravings and stop overeating.
In fact, studies show that increasing water intake could be linked to decreased hunger and calorie intake.
For example, one study in 24 older adults found that drinking 17 ounces (500 ml) of water before eating a meal decreased the number of calories consumed by 13%, compared with a control group (8).
Similarly, another study in older adults showed that drinking 13–17 ounces (375–500 ml) of water 30 minutes before a meal significantly decreased hunger and calorie intake while increasing feelings of fullness during the day (9).
Other studies indicate that drinking more water can boost metabolism and weight loss (10, 11).
The amount of water each person should drink daily depends on various factors. Thus, it’s best to listen to your body and drink when you feel thirsty to ensure you’re staying well hydrated.
SUMMARYDrinking more water can keep you feeling full to decrease calorie intake and prevent binge eating.
5. Try yoga
Yoga is a practice that incorporates both the body and mind by using specific breathing exercises, poses, and meditation to reduce stress and enhance relaxation.
Studies indicate that yoga can help encourage healthy eating habits and reduce the risk of emotional eating.
One small study in 50 people with BED showed that practicing yoga for 12 weeks led to a significant reduction in binging (12).
Another study in 20 girls found that combining yoga with outpatient eating disorder treatment decreased depression, anxiety, and body image disturbances — all of which could be factors involved in emotional eating (13).
Research also shows that yoga can decrease levels of stress hormones like cortisol to keep stress under control and prevent binge eating (14, 15).
Try joining a local yoga studio to start adding this type of exercise to your routine. You can also use online resources and videos to practice at home.
SUMMARYYoga can help prevent binge eating and may reduce common triggers like stress, depression, and anxiety.
6. Eat more fiber
Fiber moves slowly through your digestive tract, keeping you feeling full longer (16).
Some research suggests that increasing fiber intake could cut cravings, reduce appetite, and food intake.
One small, 2-week study found that supplementing twice daily with a type of fiber found in vegetables decreased hunger and calorie intake while increasing fullness (17).
Another study in 10 adults showed that taking 16 grams of prebiotic fiber daily increased levels of specific hormones that influence satiety and significantly reduced feelings of hunger (18).
Fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains are just a few fiber-rich foods that can keep you feeling full.
SUMMARYFiber can help keep you feeling full to reduce calorie intake and feelings of hunger.
7. Clean out the kitchen
Having lots of junk food or trigger foods in the kitchen can make it much easier to binge eat.
Conversely, keeping healthy foods on hand can reduce your risk of emotional eating by limiting the number of unhealthy options.
Start by clearing out processed snack foods like chips, candies, and pre-packaged convenience foods and swapping them for healthier alternatives.
Stocking your kitchen with fruits, vegetables, protein-rich foods, whole grains, nuts, and seeds can improve your diet and reduce your risk of binge eating unhealthy foods.
SUMMARYRemoving unhealthy foods from your kitchen and stocking up on healthy alternatives can improve diet quality and make it harder to binge eat.
8. Start hitting the gym
Studies indicate that adding exercise to your routine could prevent binge eating.
For instance, one 6-month study in 77 people showed that increasing weekly exercise frequency stopped binge eating in 81% of participants (19).
Another study in 84 women found that pairing cognitive behavioral therapy with regular exercise was significantly more effective at reducing the frequency of binge eating than therapy alone (20).
Plus, other research suggests that exercise can decrease stress levels and enhance mood to prevent emotional eating (21).
Walking, running, swimming, biking, and playing sports are just a few different forms of physical activity that can help relieve stress and reduce binge eating.
SUMMARYStudies show that exercising can reduce the risk of binge eating and decrease stress levels.
9. Eat breakfast every day
Starting each day off with a healthy breakfast might reduce the risk of binge eating later in the day.
Several studies have found that maintaining a regular eating pattern is associated with less binge eating and lower levels of ghrelin, the hormone that stimulates feelings of hunger (4, 5).
Plus, filling up on the right foods can keep you feeling full to curb cravings and reduce hunger throughout the day.
For example, one study in 15 people found that eating a high-protein breakfast reduced levels of ghrelin to a greater extent than eating a high carb breakfast (22).
Meanwhile, eating fiber- and protein-rich oatmeal was shown to improve appetite control and promote fullness in another study in 48 people (23).
Try combining a few fiber-rich foods, such as fruits, vegetables, or whole grains, with a good source of protein to avoid overeating.
SUMMARYEating a fiber- and protein-rich breakfast can prevent cravings and keep you satisfied throughout the morning.
10. Get enough sleep
Sleep affects your hunger levels and appetite, and sleep deprivation may be linked to binge eating.
In fact, one study in 146 people found that those with BED reported significantly more symptoms of insomnia than people without a history of this condition (24).
Another large study showed that shorter sleep duration was associated with higher levels of the hunger hormone ghrelin and lower levels of leptin — the hormone responsible for promoting fullness.
Additionally, sleeping less than 8 hours per night was linked to higher body weight (25).
Aim to squeeze in at least 8 hours per night to keep your appetite in check and reduce your risk of binge eating.
SUMMARYBED may be linked to increased symptoms of insomnia. Sleep deprivation has been shown to alter the levels of hormones that affect hunger and appetite.
11. Keep a food and mood journal
Keeping a food and mood journal that tracks what you eat and how you feel can be an effective tool. It can help identify potential emotional and food triggers and promote healthier eating habits.
One study in 17 people showed that using an online self-help program that involved keeping a food diary was associated with fewer self-reported episodes of binge eating (26).
Several other studies also suggest that tracking your intake may be linked to increased weight loss and aid long-term weight management (27, 28, 29).
To get started, simply start recording what you eat and how you feel each day using either a journal or app.
SUMMARYFood and mood journals can help identify triggers to address potential problems. Studies show that using a food diary is associated with fewer episodes of binge eating, as well as increased weight loss.
12. Find someone to talk to
Talking to a friend or peer when you feel like binging may help reduce your likelihood of overeating.
One study in 101 adolescents undergoing sleeve gastrectomy showed that reliable social support was associated with less binge eating (30).
Another study in 125 women with obesity found that better social support was linked to decreased binge eating severity (31).
A good social support system is thought to reduce the impact of stress, which may help decrease your risk of other coping habits like emotional eating (32, 33).
Next time you feel like binge eating, pick up the phone and call a trusted friend or family member. If you don’t have someone to talk to, eating disorder helplines are available free of charge.
SUMMARYA good social support system may be linked to decreased binge eating and stress.
13. Increase your protein intake
Upping your intake of protein-rich foods can keep you feeling full and help control your appetite.
One study in 19 people showed that increasing protein intake from 15% to 30% led to significant reductions in body weight and fat mass, as well as decreased daily calorie intake by an average of 441 calories (34).
Similarly, another study found that following a high-protein diet enhanced metabolism, promoted feelings of fullness, and increased levels of glucagon-like peptide 1 (GLP-1), a hormone known for its ability to suppress appetite (35).
Try including at least one good source of protein — such as meat, eggs, nuts, seeds, or legumes — in each meal and enjoy high-protein snacks when you feel hungry to keep cravings at bay.
SUMMARYIncreasing your protein intake has been shown to decrease calorie intake, enhance feelings of fullness, and increase levels of GLP-1, a hormone that can help suppress appetite.
14. Plan meals
Planning meals can help ensure that you have healthy ingredients on hand to prepare nutritious meals. Also, measuring out portion sizes and putting the remainder of food away may help you avoid triggering a binge.
In fact, one study in over 40,000 adults showed that meal planning was associated with improvements in diet quality and variety, as well as a lower risk of obesity (36).
Meal planning also makes it easier to stick to a regular eating pattern, which has been linked to a decreased frequency of binge eating (5).
Set aside an hour or two each week to plan out a weekly rotation for your meals.
SUMMARYMeal planning has been associated with improvements in diet quality and variety. It can also make sticking to a regular eating pattern easier and ensure that you have healthy ingredients on hand at all times.
15. Seek help
While the strategies above can be helpful, oftentimes a treatment plan designed by a professional is needed to help overcome binging.
Treatment for BED can involve different types of therapy or medications to help get binging under control and treat any underlying causes or symptoms.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy, the most effective form of therapy, explores the connection between your thoughts, feelings, and eating patterns and then develops strategies to modify your behavior (37).
Other types of therapy used to treat binge eating include dialectical behavioral therapy, interpersonal psychotherapy, and behavioral weight loss therapy (37).
Antidepressants, antiepileptic drugs, and certain stimulants are also sometimes used to treat BED, though more research is needed to evaluate the long-term effects of these medications (38, 39).
SUMMARYCognitive behavioral therapy is considered an effective treatment method for binge eating. Other types of therapy and certain medications can also be used.
The bottom line
BED is a recognized psychological condition that affects millions of people around the world.
However, it’s possible to overcome it with the right treatment plan and healthy lifestyle modifications.
1. What is the link between type 2 diabetes and heart health?
The association between type 2 diabetes and heart health is two-fold.
First, type 2 diabetes is frequently associated with cardiovascular risk factors. This includes high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and obesity.
Second, diabetes itself increases the risk of heart disease. Atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death for people with diabetes. This includes heart attacks, strokes, and peripheral vascular disease.
Heart failure also occurs more often in people living with diabetes.
You can try out the American College of Cardiology’s calculator to estimate your 10-year risk of heart disease.
2. What steps can I take to prevent complications of type 2 diabetes?
Type 2 diabetes is associated with microvascular and macrovascular complications.
Microvascular complications involve damage to small blood vessels. This includes:
diabetic retinopathy, which is damage to the eyes
nephropathy, which is damage to the kidneys
neuropathy, which is damage to the peripheral nerves
Macrovascular complications involve damage to large blood vessels. These increase the risk of heart attacks, strokes, and peripheral vascular disease.
Controlling your blood sugar levels can decrease your chances of microvascular complications. Blood sugar targets depend on your age and comorbidities. Most people should keep a blood sugar level of 80 to 130 mg/dL fasting, and under 160 mg/dL at two hours after meals, with an A1C less than 7.
You can lower your risk of macrovascular complications by managing your cholesterol, blood pressure, and diabetes. Your doctor may also recommend aspirin and lifestyle changes, such as quitting smoking.
3. What other factors put me at high risk for heart disease?
In addition to type 2 diabetes, risk factors for heart disease include:
family history of heart problems
high blood pressure
high levels of albumin, a protein in your urine
chronic kidney disease
You can’t change some risk factors, such as your family history, but others are treatable.
4. Will a doctor monitor my risk for heart disease, and how often will I need to see one?
If you’ve recently been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, your primary care physician is typically the person who will help you manage your diabetes and cardiac risk factors. You may also need to see an endocrinologist for more complex diabetes management.
The frequency of doctor visits varies from person to person. Still, it’s a good idea to get checked at least twice a year if your condition is under good control. If your diabetes is more complex, you should see your doctor about four times per year.
If your doctor suspects a heart condition, they should refer you to a cardiologist for more specialized testing.
5. What tests will doctors use to monitor my heart health?
Your doctor will monitor your cardiovascular risk factors through your medical history, a physical exam, lab tests, and an electrocardiogram (EKG).
If your symptoms or resting EKG are abnormal, additional tests may include a stress test, echocardiogram, or coronary angiography. If your doctor suspects peripheral vascular disease or carotid disease, they may use a Doppler ultrasound.
6. How can I lower my blood pressure with diabetes?
High blood pressure is a risk factor for both heart and kidney disease, so it’s important to keep it under control. Typically, we target a blood pressure of under 140/90 for most people. In some cases, such as people with kidney or heart disease, we target under 130/80 if lower numbers can be safely achieved.
Lowering your blood pressure includes a combination of lifestyle changes and medication. If you’re considered overweight or obese, weight loss is recommended.
You should also make changes to your diet, such as following a DASH diet (Dietary Approach to Stop Hypertension). This diet calls for less than 2.3 g of sodium per day and 8 to 10 servings of fruits and vegetables per day. It also consists of low-fat dairy products.
You should also avoid excessive alcohol consumption and increase your activity levels.
7. How can I lower my cholesterol with diabetes?
Your diet plays a big role in your cholesterol levels. You should consume less saturated and trans fats, and increase your consumption of dietary omega-3 fatty acids and fiber. Two diets that are helpful for managing cholesterol are the DASH diet and the Mediterranean diet.
It’s a good idea to increase your physical activity levels as well.
For the most part, many people with type 2 diabetes should also take a statin drug to lower their cholesterol. Even with normal cholesterol, these drugs have been shown to decrease the risk of heart problems.
The type and intensity of the statin drug and the target cholesterol values depend on several factors. This includes your age, comorbidities, and your projected 10-year risk of atherosclerotic vascular disease. If your risk is greater than 20 percent, you’ll require more aggressive treatment.
8. Are there any treatments I can take to protect my heart?
A heart-healthy lifestyle includes a healthy diet, avoiding smoking, and regular exercise. In addition, all cardiac risk factors need to be under control. This includes blood pressure, diabetes, and cholesterol.
Most people with type 2 diabetes should also take a statin drug to reduce the likelihood of a coronary event. People with a history of cardiovascular disease or those who are at high risk for it may be candidates for aspirin or other antiplatelet agents. These treatments vary from person to person.
9. Are there any warning signs that I’m developing heart disease?
Warning signs for the presence of cardiovascular disease may include:
chest or arm discomfort
shortness of breath
Unfortunately, in the presence of diabetes, heart disease is often silent. For example, a blockage can be present in the coronary arteries without any chest pain. This is known as silent ischemia.
This is why proactively addressing all of your cardiac risk factors is so important.
Omega-3 fatty acids are important fats that provide many health benefits.
Studies have found that they may reduce inflammation, decrease blood triglycerides and even reduce the risk of dementia (1, 2, 3).
The most well-known sources of omega-3 fatty acids include fish oil and fatty fish like salmon, trout and tuna.
This can make it challenging for vegans, vegetarians or even those who simply dislike fish to meet their omega-3 fatty acid needs.
Of the three main types of omega-3 fatty acids, plant foods typically only contain alpha-linolenic acid (ALA).
ALA is not as active in the body and must be converted to two other forms of omega-3 fatty acids — eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) — to bestow the same health benefits (4).
Unfortunately, your body’s ability to convert ALA is limited. Only about 5% of ALA is converted to EPA, while less than 0.5% is converted to DHA (5).
Thus, if you don’t supplement with fish oil or get EPA or DHA from your diet, it’s important to eat a good amount of ALA-rich foods to meet your omega-3 needs.
Additionally, keep in mind your omega-6 to omega-3 ratio, as a diet low in omega-3s but high in omega-6s can increase inflammation and your risk of disease (6).
Here are 7 of the best plant sources of omega-3 fatty acids.
1. Chia Seeds
Chia seeds are known for their many health benefits, bringing a hefty dose of fiber and protein with each serving.
They’re also a great plant-based source of ALA omega-3 fatty acids.
Thanks to their omega-3, fiber and protein, studies have found chia seeds could decrease the risk of chronic disease when consumed as part of a healthy diet.
One study found that consuming a diet with chia seeds, nopal, soy protein and oats decreased blood triglycerides, glucose intolerance and inflammatory markers (7).
A 2007 animal study also found that eating chia seeds decreased blood triglycerides and increased both “good” HDL cholesterol and omega-3 levels in the blood (8).
Just one ounce (28 grams) of chia seeds can meet and exceed your daily recommended intake of omega-3 fatty acids, delivering a whopping 4,915 mg (9).
The current daily recommended intake of ALA for adults over age 19 is 1,100 mg for women and 1,600 mg for men (10).
Boost your chia seed intake by whipping up a nutritious chia pudding or sprinkle chia seeds on top of salads, yogurts or smoothies.
Ground chia seeds can also be used as a vegan substitute for eggs. Combine one tablespoon (7 grams) with 3 tablespoons of water to replace one egg in recipes.
SUMMARY:One ounce (28 grams) of chia seeds provides 4,915 mg of ALA omega-3 fatty acids, meeting 307–447% of the recommended daily intake.
2. Brussels Sprouts
In addition to their high content of vitamin K, vitamin C and fiber, Brussels sprouts are an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids.
Because cruciferous vegetables like Brussels sprouts are so rich in nutrients and omega-3 fatty acids, they have been linked to many health benefits.
In fact, one study found that an increased intake of cruciferous vegetables is associated with a 16% lower risk of heart disease (11).
A half cup (44 grams) of raw Brussels sprouts contains about 44 mg of ALA (12).
Meanwhile, cooked Brussels sprouts contain three times as much, providing 135 mg of omega-3 fatty acids in each half-cup (78-gram) serving (13).
Whether they’re roasted, steamed, blanched or stir-fried, Brussels sprouts make a healthy and delicious accompaniment to any meal.
SUMMARY:Each half-cup (78-gram) serving of cooked Brussels sprouts contains 135 mg of ALA, or up to 12% of the daily recommended intake.
3. Algal Oil
Algal oil, a type of oil derived from algae, stands out as one of the few vegan sources of both EPA and DHA (14).
Some studies have even found that it’s comparable to seafood in regard to its nutritional availability of EPA and DHA.
One study compared algal oil capsules to cooked salmon and found that both were well tolerated and equivalent in terms of absorption (15).
Though research is limited, animal studies show that the DHA from algal oil is especially beneficial to health.
In fact, a recent animal study found that supplementing mice with a DHA algal oil compound led to an improvement in memory (16).
However, more studies are needed to determine the extent of its health benefits.
Most commonly available in softgel form, algal oil supplements typically provide 400–500 mg of combined DHA and EPA. Generally, it is recommended to get 300–900 mg of combined DHA and EPA per day (17).
Algal oil supplements are easy to find in most pharmacies. Liquid forms can also be added to drinks or smoothies for a dose of healthy fats.
SUMMARY:Depending on the supplement, algal oil provides 400–500 mg of DHA and EPA, fulfilling 44–167% of the daily recommended intake.
4. Hemp Seed
In addition to protein, magnesium, iron and zinc, hemp seeds are comprised of about 30% oil and contain a good amount of omega-3s (18, 19).
Animal studies have found that the omega-3s found in hemp seeds could benefit heart health.
They may do this by preventing the formation of blood clots and helping the heart recover after a heart attack (20, 21).
Each ounce (28 grams) of hemp seeds contains approximately 6,000 mg of ALA (22).
Sprinkle hemp seeds on top of yogurt or mix them into a smoothie to add a bit of crunch and boost the omega-3 content of your snack.
Also, homemade hemp seed granola bars can be a simple way to combine hemp seeds with other healthy ingredients like flaxseeds and pack in extra omega-3s.
Hemp seed oil, which is made by pressing hemp seeds, can also be consumed to provide a concentrated dose of omega-3 fatty acids.
SUMMARY:One ounce (28 grams) of hemp seeds contains 6,000 mg of ALA omega-3 fatty acids, or 375–545% of the daily recommended intake.
Walnuts are loaded with healthy fats and ALA omega-3 fatty acids. In fact, walnuts are comprised of about 65% fat by weight (23).
Several animal studies have found that walnuts could help improve brain health due to their omega-3 content.
A 2011 animal study found that eating walnuts was associated with improvements in learning and memory (24).
Another animal study showed walnuts caused significant improvements in memory, learning, motor development and anxiety in mice with Alzheimer’s disease (25).
Just one serving of walnuts can fulfill an entire day’s requirements of omega-3 fatty acids, with a single ounce (28 grams) providing 2,542 mg (26).
Add walnuts to your homemade granola or cereal, sprinkle them on top of yogurt or simply snack on a handful to increase your ALA intake.
SUMMARY:One ounce (28 grams) of walnuts contains 2,542 mg of ALA omega-3 fatty acids, or 159–231% of the daily recommended intake.
Flaxseeds are nutritional powerhouses, providing a good amount of fiber, protein, magnesium and manganese in each serving.
They’re also an excellent source of omega-3s.
Several studies have demonstrated the heart-healthy benefits of flaxseeds, largely thanks to their omega-3 fatty acid content.
Both flaxseeds and flaxseed oil have been shown to reduce cholesterol in multiple studies (27, 28, 29).
Another study found that flaxseeds could help significantly lower blood pressure, particularly in those with high blood pressure (30).
One ounce (28 grams) of flaxseeds contains 6,388 mg of ALA omega-3 fatty acids, surpassing the daily recommended amount (31).
Flaxseeds are easy to incorporate into your diet and can be a staple ingredient in vegan baking.
Whisk together one tablespoon (7 grams) of flaxseed meal with 2.5 tablespoons of water to use it as a handy substitute for one egg in baked goods.
With a mild yet slightly nutty flavor, flaxseed also makes the perfect addition to cereal, oatmeal, soups or salads.
SUMMARY:One ounce (28 grams) of flaxseeds contains 6,388 mg of ALA omega-3 fatty acids, or 400–580% of the daily recommended intake.
7. Perilla Oil
This oil, derived from perilla seeds, is often used in Korean cuisine as a condiment and cooking oil.
In addition to being a versatile and flavorful ingredient, it’s also a good source of omega-3 fatty acids.
One study in 20 elderly participants replaced soybean oil with perilla oil and found that it caused ALA levels in the blood to double. In the long term, it also led to an increase in EPA and DHA blood levels (32).
Perilla oil is very rich in omega-3 fatty acids, with ALA making up an estimated 64% of this seed oil (33).
Each tablespoon (14 grams) contains nearly 9,000 mg of ALA omega-3 fatty acids.
To maximize its health benefits, perilla oil should be used as a flavor enhancer or dressing, rather than a cooking oil. This is because oils high in polyunsaturated fats can oxidize with heat, forming harmful free radicals that contribute to disease (34).
Perilla oil is also available in capsule form for an easy and convenient way to increase your omega-3 intake.
SUMMARY:Each tablespoon (14 grams) of perilla oil contains 9,000 mg of ALA omega-3 fatty acids, or 563–818% of the daily recommended intake.
The Bottom Line
Omega-3 fatty acids are an important part of the diet and essential to your health.