When we are persistently stressed it negatively effect our hormones, which then cascades to an increase in inflammation and various other health problems. Uncontrolled stress experienced over long periods of time is considered “chronic,” dangerous and capable of increasing someone’s risk for weight gain or obesity, digestive disorders/issues, heart disease, diabetes, mental disorders, autoimmune diseases, and more.
Incorporating nutrient dense foods into your diet is essential to maintain healthy stress levels, by adding in specific nutrients that support a healthy stress response your days will feel a lot more relaxed and you might just find you’ll achieve your goals a lot easier, whatever that maybe! Here are some of the key foods/nutrients you should be adding to your daily diet to keep your stress in check.
During stressful periods it is important that your body receives a stable supply of nutrients like antioxidants, amino acids, trace minerals, essential vitamins, electrolytes, and healthy fats all help your brain handle stress better, therefore supporting your entire body.
Food for Balancing Stress
High Protein Foods: High protein food sources include organic or free range meat, chicken, lamb beef, fish, eggs, hemp seeds, activated beans and legumes. Including foods with protein provides amino acids that are needed for proper neurotransmitter functions (balanced stress levels!) Aim for around 1gram of protein per 1kg of your body weight.
Foods High in B Vitamins (which the body uses to convert nutrients to energy): Leafy green vegetables raw or cultured dairy products, cage-free eggs, grass-fed beef, wild-caught fish, poultry and brewer’s yeast. Some B vitamins are heat sensitive, so it is important to ensure a healthy balance of raw and cooked enjoy plenty of raw salads loaded with leafy green vegetables.
Foods High in Magnesium and Calcium: As relaxing minerals and electrolytes, calcium and magnesium are important for relaxing muscles, relieving headaches and helping you sleep. Try unsweetened organic yogurt, wild-caught salmon, beans/legumes, and leafy green veggies, cruciferous veggies like broccoli, avocados and nuts.
Healthy Fats and Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Healthy fats that support brain health include nuts/seeds (activated when possible), avocado, olive oil and coconut oil. Omega-3 is found in, hemp seeds, cold-water wild-caught fish like salmon or sardines. It is required for reduction of inflammation and help stabilize moods, plus omega-3s are great for the brain, development and heart health.
Green Tea: Sipping on green, black or white tea throughout the day supports anxiety and stress reduction. Green tea contains L-theanine, an amino acid that inhibits cortical neuron excitation (over excitement/anxiety). Higher levels of L-theanine is found in matcha tea. So next time you’re considering reaching for a cup of coffee perhaps consider switching it for matcha latte.
Foods to Avoid to Keep Stress Down
Too Much Alcohol or Caffeine: Both alcohol and caffeine can cause or enhance stress levels worsening anxiety, make you dehydrated, interfere with sleep leaving you tired, and make you unable to cope with stress well.
Packaged or Sugary Foods: Processed, refined foods or those with added sugar can give you blood sugar highs and lows throughout the day, increasing anxiety and causing cravings and fatigue.
Refined Vegetable Oils: Imbalances in polyunaturated fatty acids, meaning getting much more omega-6s than omega-3s from your diet, are tied to metabolic damage, inflammation and even poor gut health, which can affect mental processes.
Jess Wharton is a Clinical Nutritionist at Key Nutrition keynutrition.co.nz