Food Tips To Help Fight And Prevent Stress
Can stress be prevented? As far as things go, any event that may be seen as an obstacle to a desired goal, or that we do not have enough resources to deal with yet, any event that feels emotionally hurtful, can cause stress. Stress is therefore a normal reaction to an alarming situation, and most probably cannot completely be eliminated from our life. To all purposeful intent, stressful events do not seem to be preventable, in the same way that life cannot completely be controlled and planned ahead. However - what if we could become better equipped for handling and coping with stress, before it even happens?
Food habits have shown to have a strong impact on not only treating stress, but also on making our body and mind better equipped for dealing with a stress reaction. Countless studies have shown that eating junk food increases during a stressful period, while eating fresh, healthier foods such as fruit, fish and vegetables decreases. (1)
Furthermore, people that eat more ‘unhealthy’ foods experience and perceive more stress than people who eat ‘healthy’ foods.(4) This happens because the rise of the level of stress hormone cortisol leads to craving fatty, unhealthy foods such as sugars and carbohydrates, which only makes our mood worse (3). Stress also causes changes in the brain that lead to increasing energy intake from food choice for more crispiness and fullness of taste.(5)
Truth being said, most people will want a quick fix to any problem, including stress. This leads to unbalanced, careless eating, which finally leads to immune system deficiencies. A balanced nutrition is the last thing someone already dealing with a stressful situation has enough resources to think about. But the fact is that balanced, healthy eating will not only reduce the effect of current stress, but also prepare us for future stress.(3)
The healthy nutrients that our bodies need in order to build the best defensive system against stress can be categorized into minerals, vitamins, proteins, good fatty acids and energy. Let’s see where we can get all of these from. The main rule of thumb is that you should choose foods you enjoy, because then the healthy eating habits will simply be easier to follow and last longer. And there is plenty to choose from.
B vitamin is well-known for its property in maintaining healthy nerves and brain cells, while feelings of anxiety may be caused by B vitamin deficiency. In short, vitamin B can be considered stress-relieving and can be found in meat, fish and dairy products. (2)
Make your pick from the following foods rich in this important vitamin:
Antioxi_dants and vitamin C are real stress-busters, with all kinds of positive health effects, including sharper cognitive functions such as memory and attention. They can be found in: blueberries (along with strawberries, raspberries, and blackberries); oranges (and other citrus fruits combat the stress hormone cortisol); dark chocolate (which also lowers blood pressure and is full in antioxidants, should be considered a safe snack once a week); garlic (highly rich in antioxidants that even prevent the damage of free radicals over time and thus strengthen the immune system).
The zinc mineral contained for example in cashews and oysters helps decrease signs of anxiety and stress, while these products are also rich in omega-3s and proteins.
Magnesium has been found to regulate cortisol levels and produce a feeling of well-being. It can be found in foods such as spinach, leafy greens, yoghurt, nuts, fish and different types of seeds (flaxseed, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds). Beyond working on the cortisol levels, magnesium also helps with depression, feelings of tiredness and irritability, which can all be symptoms of stress.
Omega-3 fatty acids have anti-inflammatory properties that help the immune system, calm down the tensed stress reactions and can be found in salmon and walnuts, that have even been shown to prevent memory loss. (6)
Turkey breast has a special role in signaling the brain to release serotonin, or the feel-good hormone, which makes you feel calmer and even sleepy.
Different teas such as chamomile tea and green tea have positive effects as well. Chamomile tea is well known for its smoothing effect and has been found to have significant effects to reducing stress and anxiety. Green tea contains an amino acid called Theanine that improves and gives a boost to cognitive functions as well as protecting against cancer. However, it should be consumed in moderate amounts, due to the fact that it also contains caffeine.
Oatmeal stimulates the release of the calm-inducing hormone serotonin in the brain. However, cooking the thick-cut oats will have better effects on stress than instant oatmeal because it contains more fiber and is thus slower to digest, which also makes the calming effect more long-lasting.
In conclusion, a lot can be done not only after, but also before a stressful event happens. The right foods help in making both the body and the mind ready for coping with future stress better. There are plenty of foods to choose from in order to make yourself better equipped in this stress-battling quest. Choose your favorite stress-battling foods wisely – the more care you show for yourself and your eating habits, the less stress will affect you.
Some other sources to help:
60 Seconds Panic solutions
Genius Brain Power
1. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0031. 11. 938498003229
2. http://2. w2. w2. w2. .prevention.com/mind-body/emotional-health/13-healthy-foods-reduce-stress-and-depression
4. Oskrochi et. al. 2014. “Food and mental health: relationship between food and perceived stress and depressive symptoms among university students in the United Kingdom”. Cent Eur J Public Health; 22 (2): 90-97.
5. Westerp-Plantenga, MS et. al. 2010. “Acute stress and food-related reward activation in the brain during food choice during eating in the absence of hunger”. International Journal of Obesity 34, 172-181.