by Catherine Middleton
Everyone experiences stress of some kind, and everyone reacts differently. Some people stop eating, while others eat more. Unfortunately, food won’t make the stress go away, but eating the right kinds of food can help support the body.
If our neurotransmitters (responsible for transmitting the nerve pulses to our brain) are not balanced, we are more prone to stressful thinking. Protein is important here as neurotransmitters are made using amino acids in proteins as building blocks. It is also important to maintain blood sugar levels, if this drops it can leave you feeling ‘on edge’. Protein and high fibre foods such as lentils, peas, beans, and wholegrains will help maintain blood sugar levels.
Magnesium relaxes the body by limiting the stress hormone cortisol levels. We also use up a lot of magnesium when we are stressed, so it is important to focus on eating more of these foods,
- Nuts and seeds
- Leafy greens
- Dark chocolate
When our levels of vitamin D drop, so do our levels of the stress fighting neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin. Vitamin D is found in,
- Fatty fish (salmon, trout, mackerel)
- Canned fish (tuna, sardines, herring)
- Fortified dairy products
Vitamin C helps support healthy adrenal glands, which produce stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol. Foods high in vitamin C,
- Berries, black currants, strawberries, citrus fruits
- Vegetables (broccoli, capsicum, brussel sprouts)
B Vitamins (B6, 9, 12, thiamine and folate)
B vitamins play a role in the stability of your mood. The body uses these to turn protein into neurotransmitters. Foods high in B vitamins are,
- Meat such as beef and turkey
- Leafy greens
Stress can create physical reactions that can damage our brain, it’s the free radicals that damage the neurons (nerve cells). Selenium can help neutralise and reduce oxidative stress to our body and brain. Foods high in selenium are,
- Fish (tuna, sardines)
- Sunflower seeds
To produce serotonin, we need a substance called tryptophan, chromium helps this process. Chromium also reduces the production of cortisol. Foods high in chromium,
- Green beans
Zinc is essential for a healthy immune system. Zinc also balances out copper which high levels have been linked to anxiety. Foods high in zinc,
- Meat such as pork and turkey
- Pumpkin and sesame seeds
As important as it is to add certain foods into your diet when you are stressed, it is just as important to reduce/ eliminate foods.
Caffeine increases the production of cortisol. The body releases cortisol to balance blood sugar levels, so reducing foods high in sugar will alleviate any added stress. And of course, but not least, alcohol. Alcohol puts stress on our physiological balance in general, from our blood sugar to our gut microbiome.
I am sure reducing caffeine, sugar, and alcohol comes as no surprise, but every little bit helps!