Due to its disastrous effects, stress has been called 'the silent killer'. A 2008 National Geographic report showed that the consequences of unmanaged stress could range from heart conditions and depression to a reduction in brain size. Moreover, Dutch researchers carried out a study that showed that a high level of stress hormones can increase the risk of premature death five-fold.
It is obvious that stress needs to be managed before it starts affecting our mental and physical health. Learning time-management skills, exercising, or using relaxation techniques are useful strategies, but when it comes to reducing the negative effects of stress in our lives, many people tend to overlook the importance of diet and nutrition. If you are feeling under pressure, it is essential that you evaluate your current eating habits, as a poor diet can make you even more vulnerable to illness. Moreover, you should keep in mind that the human body works pretty much like a car: when you are under stress, your body consumes more energy and it does so at a faster rate, which means that you can quickly find yourself running low on 'fuel', or the nutrients that your body needs to maintain optimal health. By eating healthily you can boost your body's immune system so that it can fight external stressors and be more resistant to the effects of stress. More importantly, there are certain foods that are particularly good to combat stress. Below you will find a list of the most important stress-relieving foods.
Stress is one of the most direct causes of depression. Since the 1960s, medical researchers have been aware of the role that folate deficiency plays in the appearance of depression and anxiety. To increase your levels of folate in a tasty way, add some asparagus to your meals, as this vegetable is packed with folate and with vitamins of the B-group, which together work to produce serotonin, a hormone that soothes your mood.
To combat high levels of stress, get used to snacking on almonds. These nuts are a fantastic source of vitamin B2, magnesium, and vitamin E, which is a powerful anti-oxidant that can fight the damaging free radicals that can turn into a cause of heart disease and premature ageing. Eating a handful or almonds or having some almond butter on toast are great ways of fighting stress.
Avocados are often called 'nature's butter' due to their smooth and creamy texture, but that's not the only good thing about this fruit. In addition to being packed with B vitamins (which can help combat depression and anxiety), avocados are an excellent source of magnesium, a nutrient that helps lower blood pressure, a very common side-effect of stress.
Citrus fruits like oranges, lemons, grapefruit, and mandarins are not only useful when fight colds. These fruits are mostly known for their high vitamin C content, which is considered a stress buster. A study carried out Germany showed that people who had high levels of vitamin C could recover faster from stressful situations. Moreover, vitamin C cancels out the effects of cortisol, a hormone produced when under intense stress. And to top it up, citrus fruits have a powerful anti-oxidant effect, so they can help strengthen your immune system.
This tasty type of freshwater fish contains a large amount of Omega-3 fatty acids, a nutrient that is believed to combat stress hormones. Omega-3 deficiency has been linked to depression and to certain psychiatric disorders, so by increasing your consumption of Omega-3 fatty acids, you can reduce the amount of cytokines (hormones linked to mood disorders) in your body. Salmon also has a high content of vitamins B12 and B6, which are essential in the support of brain function.
What do spinach, kale, broccoli, and Swiss chard have in common? They all are nutritional powerhouses, as they are packed with folic acid, vitamin C, and some essential minerals, like magnesium, potassium, and calcium. Like vitamin C, these minerals also help reduce cortisol levels in the body and promote an overall feeling of well-being. To make things even better, leafy greens are versatile (as they can be steamed, stir-fried, or used in salads) and have a very low calorie count.
Did you ever feel sleepy after eating turkey? If you did, there is a reason for it. Turkey meat contains L-tryptophan, an essential aminoacid that acts as a natural sedative. This aminoacid also helps in the production of serotonin, the 'feel good hormone'. Studies have shown that L-triptophan works best when consumed on an empty stomach, as it can send the brain the signal to slow down much faster. Turkey can be prepared in many different ways, including sandwiches, roasts, or even in salads, so find your favourite recipe and enjoy its beneficial effects.