NutriSense Blog
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13 Healthy Ways to Relieve Stress

May 11, 2022
Written by
Team NutriSense
Brooke McKelvey
Reviewed by
Amanda D.
CD, RDN

Are you often stressed? If so, you're not alone. According to the American Psychological Association, stress is one of the most common mental health problems in the United States. 

There are many different approaches to managing stress, and whatever works best for you will likely depend on your own needs and preferences. However, some tried-and-true methods address stress's physical, mental, and emotional aspects.

For example, getting more physical activity, positive thinking, maintaining good sleep hygiene, a healthy diet, and stable blood glucose levels can all reduce feelings of stress, anxiety, and depression. 

Whatever strategies you choose to try, ensuring that you take care of your physical and mental health is key to overcoming stress. Here are some tips and tricks to help you get started.

1) Add Exercise to Your Daily Routine

someone doing pushups with dumbbells

One of the most effective ways to relieve stress is by incorporating exercise into your daily routine. 

Exercise releases endorphins, which have mood-boosting effects. It also helps to improve sleep quality, which can be adversely affected by stress, can distract you from stressful thoughts, and help to increase feelings of self-efficacy. 

Because of these benefits, even a moderate amount of exercise can be an effective stress reliever. If you're wondering what that is—the recommendation is at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity per week for adults. 

Activities to Try

  • If you're too busy for an involved workout, try taking a brisk walk during your lunch break. Even small changes can make a big difference to your overall stress levels.
  • Make  time to find an activity that you love. You could use an app like ClassPass to try different things. 

Other Added Health Benefits

  • Regular exercise can lower your risk of other health conditions like heart disease.
  • Exercise is a vital part of weight loss and weight maintenance.
  • Regular exercise can lead to better sleep quality, which may, in turn, reduce stress levels.

2) Eat More Whole, Nutrient-Dense Foods

In today's fast-paced world, it's more important than ever to take care of your body and mind. When it comes to stress relief, what you eat can be just as important as stress-relieving practices like meditation. 

The food you consume provides your body with the nutrients it needs to function correctly. When you’re under stress, your body works overtime, depleting those nutrients quicker. A diet of whole, nutrient-dense foods helps replenish those nutrients and gives your body energy to cope with stress.

Some great examples of nutrient-dense foods include dark leafy greens, fresh berries, and wild-caught fish. Including these foods in your diet can help improve your mood, increase energy levels, and reduce stress. 

Other Healthy Foods to Try

  • Avocados, bananas, and dark chocolate are good sources of magnesium, a mineral that may reduce anxiety and improve sleep quality. 
  • Leafy greens like spinach and kale are rich in folate, a nutrient that helps the body produce feel-good chemicals like serotonin.
  • Fatty fish like salmon, sardines, and tuna are high in omega-3 fatty acids, which have links to lower levels of stress and anxiety.
  • Nuts and seeds are other excellent sources of magnesium, zinc, and selenium, which have relaxing properties. 

Other Added Health Benefits

  • Nutrient-dense foods provide the needed vitamins and minerals that our bodies use to thrive without added the fats, empty calories, and excess sodium often found in processed foods. 

3) Reduce the Amount of Time Spent in Front of Screens

an adult and a kid walking the dog

In today's modern world, we're constantly connected. All our electronic devices, from smartphones and laptops to TVs and video game consoles, provide entertainment and help us communicate, but they come with significant downsides. 

One of those downsides is that constant exposure to media can be stressful and distracting, pulling us away from the tasks at hand and making it difficult to focus on the present moment. 

The bright lights and images found on TV, laptops, phones, and tablets can overstimulate your brain and increase stress hormones. Disconnecting a bit will help you calm down and regain mental clarity. 

Different Activities to Try

  • Try turning your phone off overnight or set boundaries around your screen time. 
  • Try playing board games or building puzzles instead of playing video games. 

Other Added Health Benefits

  • The University of Suffolk has found that reduced screen time can increase productivity and improve sleep. 
  • The Mayo Clinic states that reduced screen time is connected with improved physical health. 

4) Limit Your Caffeine Intake

Caffeine is a stimulant that can give you a much-needed energy boost, but it can also lead to increased anxiety and restlessness

Caffeine can also aggravate existing stress by raising your heart rate and blood pressure. It can also make you more likely to experience anxiety and panic attacks. 

Caffeine acts on the nervous system, making it harder to relax, and it can also cause sleep problems, adding to your stress levels. If you're struggling with stress, limiting your caffeine intake may help you feel more relaxed.

Alternatives to Caffeine

  • Try swapping out your morning coffee for decaf or herbal tea.
  • Avoid having any caffeine after lunchtime for better sleep.

Other Added Health Benefits

5) Create Time for Leisure Activities

an older person reading a book

If you work long hours, rush from one chore to the next, and then go to bed thinking of all the work you still have to do, you're not giving your body or mind a chance to relax.

Between work, family, and other obligations, it can be hard to find time for leisure. But it's essential to find ways to relax, de-stress, and engage in activities that don't seem important enough to press pause on your responsibilities over. 

Why? Because when you're under pressure all day, every day, your body can go into fight or flight mode, releasing stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol. It can lead to physical symptoms like an increased heart rate, difficulty breathing, and tense muscles. 

Over time, chronic stress can contribute to serious health problems like anxiety, depression, heart disease, and obesity. That's why it's so important to find ways to let off steam and relax.

Activities to Try

  • Dedicate an hour or two each week to doing something that you enjoy, whether it’s taking a walk, playing a sport, or reading a book. 
  • Take a few minutes each day to do something that relaxes you, such as listening to music or taking a nature break.

Other Added Health Benefits

  • Research shows that recreational activities positively affect your outlook, confidence, and happiness. 
  • Research from Ohio State University shows that making time for these activities may lead to lower levels of depression. 

6) Practice Yoga or Mediation

Meditation and yoga are two popular stress relief techniques that help reduce anxiety and promote relaxation. 

Yoga is a form of exercise that helps improve flexibility, strength, and balance. It also helps focus on breathing, which can be very calming. Meditation allows you to focus on the present moment and clear your mind of racing thoughts. 

Both practices involve focusing on the breath and being present in the moment, which can help calm your mind and body. Research has shown that meditation can help lower blood pressure, improve sleep, and reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety.

Activities to Try

  • Try finding a local yoga studio and asking them about their class offerings. See which one appeals to you the most and attend classes. 
  • YouTube is an excellent resource for yoga and meditation videos. Get a yoga mat and try it at home! 

Other Added Health Benefits

  • Practicing yoga can also help to boost energy levels, increase concentration, and improve sleep quality.
  • Some research shows yoga may help treat addiction issues too. 

7) Take a Nature Hike or Walk

a person hiking in the mountains

Taking a nature hike or walk can be a great way to reduce stress. Studies have shown that being in nature can help lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol. 

Walking in nature also helps boost your mood and increase feelings of wellbeing. In addition, hiking or walking gives you a chance to get some exercise, which is another excellent way to reduce stress.

Immersing yourself in nature can help reset your mind and body and recharge your batteries.

Activities to Try

  • Find a local park or trail nearby, take a walk, or simply enjoy sitting under the shade of a big tree. 
  • Plan a weekend and go camping with your family or friends. 

Other Added Health Benefits

  • Studies have shown that being in nature can help lower blood pressure, heart rate, and levels of the stress hormone cortisol.
  • Exposure to nature can help increase levels of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that helps regulate mood and promote feelings of happiness.

8) Consume Less Alcohol

a person drinking water

When it comes to coping with stress, many people turn to alcohol to relax and unwind. 

However, drinking alcohol is not an effective way to manage stress long-term. In fact, drinking too much alcohol can lead to additional stress and anxiety

Here's why that may sound surprising: Alcohol is a central nervous system depressant, which means that it can initially help to calm the nerves. However, over time, alcohol consumption can disrupt the normal functioning of the brain and nervous system, leading to further anxiety and stress. 

Alternatives to Alcohol

  • There are many alternative alcohol-free beers and cocktails. Most bars even carry alcohol-free beverages or would be willing to make you a mocktail.
  • Add fresh citrus to club soda for a refreshing alcohol-free sipper. 

Other Added Health Benefits

  • You’ll save more money by avoiding alcohol on nights out with friends. 
  • Drinking less alcohol has been linked to weight loss

9) Set Realistic Goals and Expectations

Sometimes, trying to alleviate stress can be the thing that leads to more stress! So when it comes to stress relief, make sure you set realistic goals. 

It's crucial to recognize that you can't change or control every situation and learn that it's okay to accept these as they are. Setting unattainable or overly ambitious goals can lead to frustration and disappointment, causing stress to snowball out of control. 

As with any form of change, progress will likely happen gradually, so try to stay positive, even if you don't see immediate results. With time and patience, you will learn to effectively manage your stress and improve your overall quality of life.

Activities to Try

  • It's vital to start by identifying the specific sources of your stress. Once you have a clear picture of what is causing you tension, you can begin working on relevant solutions. 
  • Keep a record of your progress and failure to track what works—and what doesn't. It will help you set more realistic goals as you progress.

Other Added Health Benefits

  • You may find that setting realistic goals and expectations may lead to you being able to enjoy more free time and leisure activities because you won’t constantly be hung up on them. 

10) Hug Your Loved Ones & Connect With Others

a couple of people hugging each other

One of the most effective stress relievers is human contact. Whether it's a hug from a loved one or a handshake with a new acquaintance, physical touch can help to release oxytocin

Oxytocin is sometimes referred to as the “cuddle hormone” or the “love hormone” because it is released during physical contact like hugging, kissing, and physical intimacy.

Activities to Try

  • There are many ways to connect with others, such as talking to friends and family or joining a support group. 
  • Volunteer your time to help others, reducing stress while making you feel good about yourself. 

Other Added Health Benefits

  • Human contact may lower blood pressure and heart rate, both of which spike because of stress.
  • Spend more romantic time with your partner, even if it only involves non-sexual touch. 

11) Add Laughter to Your Day

Everyone knows the saying “laughter is the best medicine,” but did you know that it can actually help reduce stress levels

When you laugh, your body releases endorphins, which have mood-boosting and pain-relieving properties. Laughter also helps increase oxygen intake, which can improve brain function and help to reduce stress hormones. 

Activities to Try

  • Watch a funny movie with your significant other or friends. 
  • Be adventurous and go to a comedy club.
  • Read the comic strips in your daily newspaper. 

Other Added Health Benefits

  • Laughter can increase feelings of relaxation because it relaxes your muscles afterward. 
  • Laughing 10 to 15 minutes every day can be good for your physical health, too—it can burn up to 40 calories

12) Get Good Quality Sleep

a person sleeping in bed

Getting good quality sleep is one of the most effective ways to reduce stress and improve mental health. Studies show that poor sleep can significantly increase stress hormones like cortisol, which can play a significant role in feelings of anxiety, depression, and other negative emotions. 

Getting enough rest each night and prioritizing sleep hygiene can improve your moods and boost overall mental wellbeing.

Activities to Try

  • Avoid caffeine late in the day.
  • Make an effort to make your sleeping environment comfortable and relaxing.
  • Practice relaxation techniques like deep breathing or progressive muscle relaxation.

Other Added Health Benefits

13) Start Practicing Gratitude

When you focus on the things you're grateful for, it can help shift your perspective and enable you to see the positive aspects of your life. In turn, this will help reduce stress levels.

Practicing gratitude is simply taking time each day to reflect on what you're grateful for. It can be done first thing in the morning, before bed, or at any other time that works for you. The important thing is to be consistent.

Activities to Try

  • Keep a gratitude journal and list a few things you're thankful for each day.
  • Make it a point to verbalize your gratitude to others throughout the day.

Other Added Health Benefits

Engage with Your Blood Glucose Levels with Nutrisense

Your blood sugar levels can significantly impact how your body feels and functions. That’s why stable blood glucose levels can be an important factor in supporting overall wellbeing.

With Nutrisense, you’ll be able to track your blood glucose levels over time using a CGM, so you can make lifestyle choices that support healthy living.

When you join the program, our team of credentialed dietitians and nutritionists are available for additional support and guidance to help you reach your goals.

Ready to take the first step? Start with our quiz to see how Nutrisense can support your health.

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13 Healthy Ways to Relieve Stress
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Understanding the Relationship Between Menopause and Metabolic Health
Understanding the Relationship Between Menopause and Metabolic Health

Did you know that menopause can affect your metabolic health, and vice versa? Read on to understand the relationship between metabolic health and menopause, and how to manage metabolic health during your menopausal journey. 

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Understanding The Effects of Sugar on the Brain According to Research
Understanding The Effects of Sugar on the Brain According to Research

What really happens to your brain when you consume sugar? Review how interesting the relationship between the brain and sugar is, and why it’s important to control your blood sugar.

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Understanding the Causes and Symptoms of Endometriosis
Understanding the Causes and Symptoms of Endometriosis

Endometriosis is a common yet often ignored condition. Learn more about the symptoms to watch out for, how you can seek treatment, and read first-hand accounts from two women who have dealt with endometriosis.

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Understanding Hyperglycemia vs. Hypoglycemia and How to Recognize the Differences
Understanding Hyperglycemia vs. Hypoglycemia and How to Recognize the Differences

Quickly understand the differences between hyperglycemia and hypoglycemia, how to recognize the signs, and key prevention tips.

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Triglycerides and Blood Glucose [+Tips to Lower Triglyceride Levels]
Triglycerides and Blood Glucose [+Tips to Lower Triglyceride Levels]

Learn everything you need to know about the relationship between triglycerides levels and blood glucose.


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Tips and Tricks for Staying Healthy in the Summer
Tips and Tricks for Staying Healthy in the Summer

If you're gearing up to travel or spend more time outdoors this summer, here are a few tips to help you stay safe and hydrated in the sun.

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Tips for a Healthy, Happy Purim
Tips for a Healthy, Happy Purim

Purim, a joyous occasion celebrated around March or April every year, is just around the corner! Read on to learn more about the holiday and the delicious foods that accompany it.

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Thoughtful Valentine's Day Gift Ideas from NutriSense Dietitians
Thoughtful Valentine's Day Gift Ideas from NutriSense Dietitians

Still haven't settled on the perfect gift for your Valentine this year? Take a look at our Nutrition Team's favorites for some thoughtful ideas.

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The Warning Signs of Nerve Damage You Should Watch Out For
The Warning Signs of Nerve Damage You Should Watch Out For

Because nerve damage can have many silent symptoms, it often goes undiagnosed in the early stages. Read on to learn more about what causes nerve damage and some warning signs to watch out for.

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The Ultimate Guide to Fiber and its Effect on Metabolic Health
The Ultimate Guide to Fiber and its Effect on Metabolic Health

Ready to learn all about fiber beyond just the basics? In this post, we dive deep into the different kinds of fiber and health benefits of each. From functional fiber to fermentation, we break down all the jargon into a layman's language.

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The Relationship Between Cardio and Blood Sugar
The Relationship Between Cardio and Blood Sugar

Did you know that cardio can help you lose weight as well as optimize your health and blood glucose? Here's everything you need to know about cardio and its relationship with blood sugar.

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The Side Effects of Unhealthy Weight Loss
The Side Effects of Unhealthy Weight Loss

Find out what unhealthy weight loss is and learn more about its side effects and what you can do to prevent them.

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The Relationship Between Low Blood Sugar and High Blood Pressure
The Relationship Between Low Blood Sugar and High Blood Pressure

Learn about the warning signs of low blood sugar and the relationship it has on blood pressure.

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The Positive Impact Weight Lifting Has on Blood Sugar
The Positive Impact Weight Lifting Has on Blood Sugar

Here is everything you need to know about the relationship between weight lifting and blood sugar.

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The Relationship Between Cholesterol and Blood Sugar
The Relationship Between Cholesterol and Blood Sugar

Cholesterol plays a very important role in the human body, contributing to the structure of the cells, helping with vitamin D synthesis, and also promoting the production of steroid and sex hormones, like cortisol, aldosterone, testosterone, and estrogen. But how exactly is cholesterol connected to blood glucose levels?

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The Link Between Sleep Apnea and Diabetes
The Link Between Sleep Apnea and Diabetes

NutriSense dietitian Katrina Larsen, MS, RD,N, LD, CDCES discusses the risk factors for sleep apnea and how this disorder is linked to other health conditions.

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The Paleo Diet and Blood Glucose Levels
The Paleo Diet and Blood Glucose Levels

The premise of the paleo diet is that the body can handle a mix of meats, fruits and vegetables, eggs, fish, and complex carbohydrates better than processed meats, refined fats, grains and simple carbohydrates because it evolved to eat the first category as hunter-gatherers.

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The Health Benefits of Winter Squash
The Health Benefits of Winter Squash

A common ingredient in cozy winter recipes, winter squash is one of our favorite foods this time of year. Read on to learn more about how it can benefit your health.

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The NutriSense Holiday Gift Guide: Stocking Stuffers We Love
The NutriSense Holiday Gift Guide: Stocking Stuffers We Love

Haven't finished your holiday shopping yet? Pick from this list of NutriSense-approved holiday gifts to find some great last-minute stocking stuffers for everyone on your list!

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The NutriSense Holiday Gift Guide: Health-Focused Gifts They’ll Love
The NutriSense Holiday Gift Guide: Health-Focused Gifts They’ll Love

Still haven't bought all your holiday gifts this year? Don't worry—there's still time to find the perfect gift for everyone on your list. Read our guide for some great ideas!

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The Link Between Inflammation and Blood Glucose
The Link Between Inflammation and Blood Glucose

Learn more about inflammation, how it affects blood glucose levels and what you can do to prevent and manage it.

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The Health Benefits of Adding Fermented Foods to Your Diet
The Health Benefits of Adding Fermented Foods to Your Diet

Fermented foods have a range of health benefits. Read on to learn more about what they are and why you should be adding them to your diet.

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The Health Benefits of Potatoes, Yams, and Sweet Potatoes
The Health Benefits of Potatoes, Yams, and Sweet Potatoes

Potatoes, yams, and sweet potatoes are similar in usage, but pretty distinct in taste, texture, appearance, and even nutritional content! Read on to find out more about each one.

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The Health Benefits of Living With Pets
The Health Benefits of Living With Pets

Did you know that living with a pet can do more than just put a smile on your face? Read on to learn all the ways living with pets improves your wellbeing.

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The Health Benefits of Cooking With Herbs and Spices
The Health Benefits of Cooking With Herbs and Spices

Herbs and spices are a great way to add flavor to dishes, and also have a range of health benefits. Learn more about a few of our favorites.

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The Health Benefits of Beans
The Health Benefits of Beans

Learn about the health benefits of beans and how they can help you live a healthier, longer life.

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The Guide to Metabolic Diets: What Are They, Do They Work, And Who Should Try Them?
The Guide to Metabolic Diets: What Are They, Do They Work, And Who Should Try Them?

Review our guide to metabolic diets to help get a better understanding of what they are and whether they might be right for you.

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The Foods and Traditions of Kwanzaa
The Foods and Traditions of Kwanzaa

Learn about the traditions and nutrient-dense food commonly enjoyed during Kwanzaa. 

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The Blood Sugar and Joint Pain Connection
The Blood Sugar and Joint Pain Connection

Have you ever wondered how your glucose levels might be connected to joint pain? We'll take a deep dive into this connection and share tips for reducing pain.

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The Best Diet for Non-Diabetic Hypoglycemia
The Best Diet for Non-Diabetic Hypoglycemia

This article explores hypoglycemia in non-diabetics, how to manage symptoms through diet, and the advantages of glucose monitoring.

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The Effect of Aging on Your Blood Glucose Levels
The Effect of Aging on Your Blood Glucose Levels

Take a look at how aging can affect your blood glucose levels.

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The Best Diet to Increase Your Vitamin D Levels
The Best Diet to Increase Your Vitamin D Levels

Read on to learn more about vitamin D-rich foods and what you should include in your diet to make the most of this vitamin’s health benefits.

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The Best Diet for Menstruation
The Best Diet for Menstruation

When it comes to your menstrual cycle, what you eat can significantly impact how you feel. Read on to learn more about the best foods to add to your diet to help during that time of the month.

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The Benefits and Risks of Popular Ayurvedic Herbs and Spices
The Benefits and Risks of Popular Ayurvedic Herbs and Spices

Ayurveda is an ancient Indian holistic healing system that dates back over 5,000 years. In the second installment of our series on the practice, review the benefits and risks associated with popular Ayurvedic herbs and spices.

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The Beginner’s Guide to the Low FODMAP Diet
The Beginner’s Guide to the Low FODMAP Diet

In this article, we break down what a low FODMAP diet looks like for beginners, and its potential benefits and drawbacks for gastrointestinal health.

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The 6 Worst Foods for Osteoporosis
The 6 Worst Foods for Osteoporosis

When it comes to bone health, good nutrition is absolutely critical. Read on to learn what osteoporosis is and why some foods may increase your risk of or worsen the condition.

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Taking Mental Health Online: Tips & Tools for Self-Care
Taking Mental Health Online: Tips & Tools for Self-Care

Mental health has a significant impact on your overall health; here are tips, tools, and apps to improve your mental wellbeing.

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Tea, Blood Sugar Levels and Your Health
Tea, Blood Sugar Levels and Your Health

Different types of tea have different benefits for your health. Learn more about a few popular types, and see how tea can help you maintain healthy blood sugar levels.

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Summer Soup Recipes: An Expert Weighs in on 13 Healthy Soup Options
Summer Soup Recipes: An Expert Weighs in on 13 Healthy Soup Options

To help you make the most of the warmer weather, we asked Carlee Hayes, RDN, CD, and Nutrition Manager here at NutriSense, to share a few of her favorite summer soup recipes.