Top 5 foods to beat stress
Feeling stressed? Instead of reaching out for that cake or bowl of crisps, why not try one of our top 5 foods for stress relief?
When you are stressed it is important to skip the sugary snacks that you naturally crave. This is because eating sugary food causes your blood sugar to spike and then fall quickly, which can make your energy levels dip. Caffeine and alcohol also give your body and mind real highs and lows so they are best avoided when the stress builds up.
On the other hand, including foods that are high in certain nutrients can help manage stress levels. Studies have shown that stress can deplete important nutrients - particularly the vitamin B complex and vitamin C, and sometimes the minerals calcium and magnesium. So replenishing these through your diet is a good idea. Here are my top 5 foods to help you beat stress.
1. Swiss Chard for Magnesium
Studies have found that the frequent release of adrenaline and cortisol involved in an unresolved stress response is correlated with decreased magnesium levels. What makes thing worse is that it all works in a vicious cycle: because magnesium is an integral part of nerve conduction and electrolyte balance, low levels can lead to anxiety, sleep disturbance and depression. You can break this cycle by increasing your magnesium stores by eating magnesium-rich foods such as swiss chard and other leafy veggies. Nuts, seeds and dark chocolate are also excellent sources of magnesium.
2. Fatty Fish for Omega-3
The heart-healthy omega-3 fats in oily fish, such as salmon, sardines and tuna, can manage adrenaline levels to help keep you calm, cool and collected. Furthermore, studies have shown that omega-3 fatty acids are highly effective in lowering cortisol levels.
Boost your levels of omega-3 fatty acids by including plenty of oily fish, walnuts and lean grass-fed beef in your diet. Beef also contains high levels of zinc, iron, and B vitamins, which are known to help stabilise your mood. Zinc can also boost your immune system when you are feeling run down.
3. Avocado and Banana for Potassium
While stress has not been proven to cause chronic high blood pressure, it may increase temporarily when you're stressed. If you overeat or eat unhealthy foods, smoke or drink to cope with stress, you are also further increasing your risk of high blood pressure and heart disease.
Potassium helps regulate your blood pressure and prevent hypertension. So make sure to eat plenty of avocados, bananas and other rich sources of potassium when you are feeling frazzled. Avocados are also rich in mono-unsaturated fats, which can help reduce bad cholesterol levels in your blood and lower your risk of heart disease.
4. Milk for Calcium and B Vitamins
Milk is high in vitamins B2 and B12, as well as protein and calcium. B vitamins work to reduce the hyper-secretion of cortisol while calcium can help relax tense muscles. Milk is also a good source of tryptophan, an amino acid that can increase brain levels of serotonin, a feel-good chemical.
Have a bowl of whole-grain cereal and low-fat milk in the morning to start your day with a stress-fighting breakfast. For a more restful sleep try drinking some warm milk before bedtime.
5. Fruit and Vegetables for vitamin C
Including some fresh fruit at breakfast time and throughout the day will also boost your vitamin C levels. Vitamin C is a powerful anti-oxidant that fights the free radicals that get released when you're stressed. Free radicals can contribute to cardiovascular disease, cancer and cognitive decline. Vitamin C also helps reduce cortisol levels. You can get it naturally in fruit, such as oranges, kiwi and strawberries, and in vegetables, such as bell peppers, brussel sprouts and broccoli.
While the key to beating stress is to discover its cause and find ways of reducing or living with it, regular good nutrition will help the body cope with at least some of its negative effects. Eating to beat stress is not rocket science – it’s really just about eating a healthy, well-balanced diet and making wise food choices.
Written by Victoria Trowse