How Your Diet Can Help Relieve Stress
Are you like the swan, calm on top but paddling hard to stay afloat?
We have been living through long-term stress for some time with COVID, the state of the world and our own personal anxieties. While occasional bouts of stress are difficult to avoid, chronic stress can take a serious toll on your physical and emotional health and may increase your risk for conditions like heart disease and depression.
So what has your diet to do with it? Interestingly, certain food and drinks may have stress-relieving qualities, so it can help to add some of these to your diet.
Matcha powder is a vibrant green tea powder that is popular because it’s rich in L-theanine, a non-protein amino acid with powerful stress-relieving properties.
Matcha is a better source of this amino acid than other types of green tea, as it’s made from green tea leaves grown in shade. This process increases its content of certain compounds, including L-theanine.
Both human and animal studies show that matcha may reduce stress if its L-theanine content is high enough and its caffeine is low so the test subjects significantly reduced activity of the stress marker salivary alpha-amylase, compared with a placebo group.
Chard is a leafy green vegetable that’s packed with stress-fighting nutrients. Just 1 cup (175 grams) of cooked chard contains 36% of the recommended intake for magnesium, which plays an important role in your body’s stress response.
Low levels of magnesium are associated with conditions like anxiety and panic attacks. Plus, chronic stress may deplete your body’s magnesium stores, making this mineral especially important when you’re stressed.
Sweet potatoes are a nutrient-rich carbohydrate source and packed with nutrients that are important for stress response, such as vitamin C and potassium and may help lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol.
Although cortisol levels are tightly regulated, chronic stress can lead to cortisol dysfunction, which may cause inflammation, pain, and other adverse effects.
An 8-week study in women with excess weight or obesity found that those who ate a diet rich in whole, nutrient-dense carbs had significantly lower levels of salivary cortisol than those who followed a diet high in refined carbs.
Kimchi is a fermented vegetable dish that’s typically made with cabbage and daikon, a type of radish. Fermented foods like kimchi are packed with beneficial probiotic bacteria and high in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
Research reveals that fermented foods may help reduce stress and anxiety and many other studies show that probiotic supplements and probiotic-rich foods like kimchi have beneficial effects on mental health. This is likely due to their interactions with your gut bacteria, which directly affect your mood.
Artichokes are an incredibly concentrated source of fibre and high in potassium, magnesium, and vitamins C and K, all of which are essential for a healthy stress response and are specially rich in prebiotics that feed the friendly bacteria in your gut.
Animal studies indicate that prebiotics may help reduce stress levels and one review demonstrated that people who ate 5 or more grams of prebiotics per day experienced improved anxiety and depression symptoms, as well as that high quality, prebiotic-rich diets may reduce your risk of stress.
Organ meats, which include the heart, liver, and kidneys of animals like cows and chickens, are an excellent source of B vitamins, especially B12, B6, riboflavin, and folate, which are essential for stress control.
The best sources for vegetarians are: tempeh, peanuts and peanut butter, hazelnuts, almonds, walnuts, pecans and pistachios, muesli, nutritional yeast, oatmeal or rolled oats, mushrooms, avocado, sunflower and sesame seeds, tahini, fortified breakfast cereals and wheat germ.
B vitamins are necessary for the production of neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin, which help regulate mood so supplementing with B vitamins or eating foods like organ meats may help reduce stress. A review of 18 studies in adults found that B vitamin supplements lowered stress levels and significantly benefited mood.
Eggs are often referred to as nature’s multivitamin because they are packed with the vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and antioxidants needed for a healthy stress response.
Whole eggs are particularly rich in choline, a nutrient found in large amounts in only a few foods. Choline has been shown to play an important role in brain health and may protect against stress.
Shellfish, which include mussels, clams, and oysters, are high in amino acids like taurine, which has been studied for its potential mood-boosting properties.
Taurine and other amino acids are needed to produce neurotransmitters like dopamine, which are essential for regulating stress response. In fact, studies indicate that taurine may have antidepressant effects.
Shellfish are also good sources of vitamin B12, zinc, copper, manganese, and selenium, all of which may help boost mood.
Acerola cherry powder is one of the most concentrated sources of vitamin C. The cherries have 50–100% more vitamin C than citrus fruits like oranges and lemons.
Vitamin C is involved in stress response and high vitamin C levels are linked to elevated mood and lower levels of depression and anger. Although they can be enjoyed fresh, the cherries are highly perishable so they’re most often sold as a powder, which you can add to food or drinks.
Fatty fish like mackerel, herring, salmon, and sardines are incredibly rich in omega-3 fats and vitamin D, nutrients that have been shown to help reduce stress levels and improve mood.
Omega-3s are not only essential for brain health and mood but may also help your body handle stress. In fact, low omega-3 intake is linked to increased anxiety and depression in Western populations.
Vitamin D also plays a critical roles in mental health and stress regulation and low levels are associated with an increased risk of anxiety and depression.
Parsley is a herb that’s packed with antioxidants — compounds that neutralise unstable molecules called free radicals and protect against oxidative stress.
Oxidative stress is associated with many illnesses, including depression and anxiety. Studies suggest that a diet rich in antioxidants may help prevent reduce these conditions and antioxidants can also help reduce inflammation, which is often high in those with chronic stress.
Parsley is especially rich in carotenoids, flavonoids, and volatile oils, all of which have powerful antioxidant properties.
Garlic is high in sulphur compounds that help increase levels of glutathione. This antioxidant is part of your body’s first line of defense against stress.
Animal studies suggest that garlic helps combat stress and reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression.
Tahini is made from sesame seeds, which are an excellent source of the amino acid L-tryptophan which is a precursor of the mood-regulating neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin.
Following a diet high in tryptophan may help boost mood and ease symptoms of depression and anxiety
Sunflower seeds are a rich source of vitamin E. This fat-soluble vitamin acts as a powerful antioxidant and is essential for mental health as a low intake of vitamin E is associated with altered mood and depression.
Sunflower seeds are also high in other stress-reducing nutrients, including magnesium, manganese, selenium, zinc, B vitamins, and copper.
Cruciferous vegetables are renowned for their health benefits. A diet rich in cruciferous vegetables such as cauliflower, cabbage, kale, garden cress, bok choy, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, mustard plant and similar green leaf vegetables are some of the most concentrated food sources of some nutrients — including magnesium, vitamin C, and folate — that have been proven to combat depressive symptoms
Broccoli is also rich in sulforaphane, a sulfur compound that has neuroprotective properties and may offer calming and antidepressant effects and a portion of cooked broccoli has over 20% of the daily intake recommended for vitamin B6, a higher intake of which is tied to a lower risk of anxiety and depression in women.
Chickpeas are packed with stress-fighting vitamins and minerals, including magnesium, potassium, B vitamins, zinc, selenium, manganese, and copper.
They are also rich in L-tryptophan, which your body needs to produce mood-regulating neurotransmitters and research has found that diets rich in plant proteins like chickpeas may help boost brain health and improve mental performance
Chamomile tea is a medicinal herb that has been used since ancient times as a natural stress reducer. Its tea and extract have been shown to promote calm, restful sleep and reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression.
Blueberries are associated with a number of health benefits, including improved mood.They are high in flavonoid antioxidants that have powerful anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective effects.
They may help reduce stress-related inflammation and protect against stress-related cellular damage and studies have shown that eating flavonoid-rich foods like blueberries may safeguard against depression and boost your mood.
Unfortunately stress impacts so much in our lives, and our hormones are no exception. Hormonal symptoms are made worse by stress so anything you can do to reduce that will certainly be helpful.
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