Almost everyone in today’s modern world is dealing with daily stress, some more than others. According to the Global Emotions Report, about one-third of the world’s population was stressed and in pain. Many factors, such as job pressure, money, relationships, the media, you name it, can make you feel overwhelmed.
Stress is your body’s response to situations that pose demand and threaten your survival. Stress responses, known as ‘fight or flight, include the release of hormones like cortisol and adrenaline, increased blood pressure, decreased appetite, increased blood sugars, etc. All designed to help you swiftly respond to danger without almost thinking.
Although short-lived feelings of stress are part of daily life, the trouble is when these feelings become chronic. This stress can increase the risk of developing certain illnesses like diabetes, heart disease, auto-immune diseases leading to more stress. The good news is that your diet can help you manage your stress levels.
So, how does diet impact stress levels?
Stress exerts greater physiological demand on the body — more energy, more oxygen, and more nutrients. Eating a nutritionally dense diet can help counter the effects that stress brings upon the body. For example, some foods can boost the levels of serotonin, a brain calming chemical. In contrast, others cut down the level of cortisol and adrenaline, which are stress hormones.
Ironically, when you’re stressed, you are more likely to crave comfort foods, typically high in sugars and fats, rather than nutritionally dense foods. Comfort foods may elicit feelings of temporary stress relief, but this can have negative consequences in the long run.
You should pay attention to the food you take in when feeling frizzled. Unhealthy food choices can skyrocket your stress levels and potentially increase the risk of health problems. On the other hand, healthy food choices can fend off stress.
What nutrients do you need to cope with stress?
The body requires various nutrients to manage and recover from stress. These nutrients play a critical role in the synthesis of stress-relieving hormones, boost your mood, promote alertness, and reduce tension.
Here are the essential nutrients, including their best food sources, to help you cope with stress.
Forget the negative talk around carbs; eating whole, minimally processed, complex carbohydrates can be a lifesaver when you’re feeling stressed.
A diet rich in carbohydrates increases serotonin levels, a brain chemical that regulates happiness and mood. Complex carbohydrates are also rich in fiber. These complex carbohydrates keep the stomach full for longer hours and enhance serotonin’s steady flow in the body.
You must pay attention to the type of carbohydrates you eat for stress management. Most people tend to overeat refined carbohydrates (to make themselves feel better), which may increase the risk of other illnesses.
Complex carbohydrate sources include whole grains such as quinoa, oats, barley, rice, fruits such as apples, grapefruit, banana, strawberries, vegetables such as broccoli, spinach, zucchini, radishes.
Besides carbohydrates, proteins are a vital nutrient for stress management. Proteins comprise small building blocks known as amino acids. These help in the synthesis of hormones, improve brain function and reduce mental and physical stress.
Critical amino acids for stress management include:
· Tryptophan: Tryptophan is a precursor for the synthesis of serotonin, a brain chemical that makes you calm. If the tryptophan levels are low, this may limit the amount of serotonin produced.
Research shows that low tryptophan levels in the body can contribute to anxiety, feelings of nervousness, and depression.
Foods high in tryptophan include milk, eggs, chicken, cheese, sesame seeds, and turkey.
Phenylalanine and tyrosine: Two amino acids that boost the rate at which your brain neurons produce anti-depressants like norepinephrine and dopamine. They also improve alertness, reduce tension, and promote vitality.
Primary food sources of phenylalanine and tyrosine include cheese, tofu, eggs, bananas, soybeans, lima beans, avocados, and nuts.
· L-Theanine: L-theanine, naturally found in green tea leaves. Studies show that L-theanine can reduce physiological and psychological stress response, improve cognition, and mood. It also relaxes the mind and makes you calm, thereby reducing stress and nervousness.
Green tea is the best source of L-theanine.
Omega-3 fatty Acids
Several studies associate omega-3 fatty acids with improved mood and cognition; specifically, dietary omega-3 fatty acids are metabolized in the liver to form DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA (Eicosapentaenoic acid). Both EPA and DHA play an essential role in regulating serotonin levels. DHA is also an anti-depressant.
Rich sources of omega-3 fatty acids include fish, flaxseed, hemp, walnuts, and eggs.
Vitamin B5, also known as the anti-stress vitamin, is an essential B vitamin for stress management. It supports the adrenal glands, helps the body recover quickly from stress, and improves coping mechanisms.
Other essential B Vitamins include B12, Folic acid, and Niacin. These play a crucial role in keeping your energy and mood stable, relieving stress, lowering blood pressure, and reducing panic and depression.
Rich sources of B vitamins include asparagus, almonds, broccoli, liver, fruits, whole grains, eggs, cheese, fish, poultry.
Both physiological and psychological stress can decrease the levels of vitamin C in the body. This decrease results in increased demand for more vitamin C. Low levels of vitamin C are associated with a reduced resistance to infections, which leads to further stress.
Increasing your vitamin C intake when suffering from stress can reduce stress hormones’ harmful effects and promote quick recovery. Increased vitamin C intake also improves your body’s ability to cope with stress and help you feel more relaxed.
Citrus fruits like oranges and grapefruits, blueberries, spinach, broccoli, Brussel sprouts, bell pepper, and tomatoes are rich vitamin C sources.
Physical and emotional stress increases magnesium loss from the body. This loss of magnesium naturally leads to an increased demand for more.
Magnesium deficiency is associated with other stressful conditions such as headaches, fatigue, nausea, and a poor appetite.
Upping your magnesium intake during stress could help you relieve anxiety and reduce the body’s response to stress.
Foods rich in magnesium include almonds, milk, green leafy vegetables, whole grains, dark chocolate, and avocado.
Can supplements help with stress-relief?
The nutrients mentioned above are vital for managing and recovering from stress. However, essential micronutrients like B vitamins, Vitamin C, and minerals often get actively depleted when you’re suffering from physical or emotional stress, creating extra demand for these nutrients in the body.
In this case, supplementation can be a helpful tool for relieving stress. It is vital to choose a high-quality supplement that contains the essential nutrients for stress management.
An excellent supplement to start with is our restorative superfood–Green Vibrance, packed with antioxidants, B vitamins, and varied, complex carbohydrates sources. To help improve your body’s ability to cope with stress responses and boost your mood.
What foods should you avoid when stressed
Understanding the foods you should eat or avoid when feeling stressed is the first step to improving your health. Some foods can aggravate your stress levels, and therefore it’s best that you stay away from them. These foods include;
Like mentioned earlier, you’re more likely to crave sugary foods like ice cream, pastries, and desserts when feeling stressed. Even though these foods trigger temporary stress relief, they cause a spike in blood sugar levels, leading to more stress.
Consuming small amounts of caffeine can help boost your mood and make you feel relaxed. The trouble is with excessive caffeine consumption. High doses of caffeine can lead to elevated cortisol levels, the stress hormone, leading to other health consequences and more stress.
Drinking a glass of wine can instantly make you feel relaxed. Over time, alcohol increases cortisol levels in your body. It also interferes with brain serotonin production. These effects increase anxiety and induce more stress.
Furthermore, alcoholic drinks contain hidden sugar, which is more likely to raise your blood glucose levels, leading to adverse health consequences.
Most processed foods have a low nutritional value, more calories, and a bunch of chemicals. These chemicals interfere with your body’s stress coping mechanisms, leaving you more stressed, depressed, and feeling foggy.
Although not all processed foods are unhealthy, you should keep away from processed meats, candy bars, fast food meals, and sugary drinks.
Stress is something almost everyone experiences daily. It only becomes a problem when it’s chronic or severe. There are many ways to relieve stress; however, diet plays a significant role in stress management.
The food you eat can either lower or increase your stress levels. Unhealthy eating patterns will only worsen your stress levels.
If you want to manage stress better, you need to focus on consuming a nutritionally dense diet, providing you with the essential nutrients to improve your body’s ability to cope with stress and boost your mood.
You can also take supplements to meet the high mineral and vitamin demand in the body, resulting from nutrient depletion.