Feeling frazzled? Don’t fret, one of the most effective ways to manage stress and anxiety is to ensure your diet is packed with plenty of stress-relieving foods. The key is to meet your body and mind where it’s at, and bring your stress response down – by eating well, resting when you can, exercising regularly and practicing mindfulness techniques and deep breathing exercises.
How do stress-relieving foods work?
Studies have shown that certain nutrient deficiences have been linked to mental disorders such as depression and anxiety. For instance, depression has been linked to low levels of folic acid, and the group of B-vitamins helps to ensure that brain cells and nerves function optimally. A vitamin B12 deficiency, for example, has also been linked to depression and confusion.
While you can’t always pinpoint exactly why you’re feeling stressed or which vitamins you might be lacking (unless you chat with your doctor and have some blood tests done), the building blocks for optimal health come from eating a varied diet with plenty of vitamins and minerals to meet your nutritional requirements. Be sure to eat loads of fruits and veggies, wholegrains, lean proteins and healthy fats in your diet.
Stress hormones to manage
This causes an increase in heart rate and sweating, and more rapid breathing, and makes the mouth dry – just think of what happens when you have a near miss when driving. In that instance, effects subside over an hour or so, but with stress, effects continue, and this leads to a sustained increase in heart rate and blood pressure. You also feel tense and agitated.
This hormone can give a quick energy burst and decreased sensitivity to pain. But, when high levels of cortisol are sustained – which is what happens under stress – your immunity is lowered, as is your ability to think clearly. It can also lead to an increase in abdominal fat storage, and raise your blood-sugar levels, which may increase the risk of diabetes.
The good news is, eating right can help you keep these stress hormones under control. Why? Because studies have shown that some foods contain specific ingredients that may help stabilise blood sugar or, better yet, your emotional response.
Here are 5 stress-relieving foods to reach for when you’re feeling frazzled
Oats, millet, brown rice, wheat bran, fresh fruit, vegetables and herbs, as well as pulses and beans like lentils and chickpeas are all good examples of wholegrains.
These foods are low GI and also help to stabilise blood sugar levels and guard against energy dips.
Pulses (such as chickpeas, beans and split peas) are regraded as super foods because they’re packed with vitamins and minerals, and they’re a great source of protein.
They’re also low in fat, as well as being a great source of vitamin B, which is essential for dealing with a demanding lifestyle. Their high fibre content also helps to control blood sugar levels, and lower cholesterol, making pulses a great food for diabetics.
When you’re under stress, give your body’s defences a boost by eating enough protein. This macronutrient helps to maintain healthy cells and tissues. Protein-rich foods include chicken, fish (especially oily fish), seafood, eggs, lean meat and pulses. All of these will boost your energy levels and improve your concentration.
Peas are a rich source of vitamins B and C and contain folate and phosphorus, which help the body to absorb glucose and boost energy levels. In fact peas contain just about every vitamin and mineral you need says registered dietitian, Brianna Elliott.
Blueberries, in particular are wonderful stress-fighting foods. Not only are they rich in antioxidants, they’re super high in vitamin C – an essential vitamin to help cells recover and support the body in stressful times.
Top tip: Stress depletes vitamin B6, which helps produce serotonin, a calming neurotransmitter. So turn to B6-rich stress fighters such as avocado, chicken breast, tuna, chickpeas, salmon and wholegrains.
A herbal stress-buster
According to nutritionist, Jane Clarke who also wrote the book, Jane Clarke’s Bodyfoods For Busy People, herbal remedies are brillant for alleviating stress. Here’s what she recommends:
- Add a few drops of Bach’s Five Flower Rescue Rememdy or Bach’s Mimulus Original Flower Remedy to a glass of water and then sip slowly.
- Use stress-busting homeopathic remedies like Aconite, Nux Vomica, or Arg-nit and take 50-75mg of a Kava Kava herbal supplement three times a day.