Stress affects nearly all of us from time to time. When it comes to how to manage stress, your diet is a great place to start. Certain nutrients are depleted during times of stress and need to be topped up, and others help to reduce stress. Here we look at what nutrients you should be focusing on and the best foods to eat when you feel under pressure.
Stress and how it affects us
Firstly, it’s important to understand what happens to the body when we experience stress. You’ve probably heard of your ‘fight or flight’ reflexes, but what you might not realise, is that every time you experience stress, these reflexes are triggered. ‘Fight or flight’ is great for fleeing actual danger but a little excessive when pulled into a meeting with your boss. When stressed your body prioritises where it spends its energies and nutrients are leached away from less vital areas of the body, such as your skin and hair, and redirected towards key survival organs.
Which nutrients are depleted by stress?
Short term survival is the name of the game when your stress response kicks in and any nutrients that can support this, such as magnesium, B vitamins and vitamin C, are used up more quickly. Your adrenal glands will also be working extra hard to produce the stress hormones adrenalin and cortisol, and will be using up plenty of vitamin C in the process.
Low levels of magnesium, B vitamins and vitamin C can lead to fatigue, low energy and poor concentration, some of the most common symptoms of stress.
Keeping topped up
Magnesium: Magnesium is one of the main nutrients that is depleted by stress. You need magnesium to help support your metabolism, your muscles and joints, and your mood. Food sources of magnesium include leafy green veg, bananas, cashews, dark chocolate, quinoa and avocados.
B vitamins: B vitamins are extremely important for supporting energy levels. Food sources of vitamin B include brown rice, millet, almonds, broccoli, red meat, spinach and sunflower seeds.
Vitamin C: Just like magnesium, vitamin C can easily become depleted. This is doubly problematic because you need vitamin C to help absorb iron, a mineral that is crucial for energy levels. Food sources of vitamin C include spinach, oranges, peppers, blueberries, blackberries and tomatoes, and look to broccoli, lentils, pumpkin seeds and quinoa if wanting to increase your intake of iron. Spinach is also a great food source of iron.
What can I eat to reduce stress?
There are certain nutrients that can help to reduce stress.
Amino acids are the building blocks of protein and they have a wide range of actions throughout the body. When it comes to stress, there are three amino acids that really matter: tryptophan, tyrosine and theanine.
Tryptophan can be converted into serotonin, a feel good neurotransmitter that can help to relax your nervous system and boost your mood. Tyrosine and theanine help to support your cognitive functions and levels of other soothing neurotransmitters like GABA and dopamine. Oats, green tea, eggs, fatty fish, tofu, pumpkin seeds and lentils are good sources of these amino allies.
Essential fatty acids
Essential fatty acids are crucial when it comes to helping the body absorb nutrients, produce hormones and maintain healthy nerve functioning. EPA, a type of omega-3 fatty acid, has been linked to reducing cortisol levels, helping to relax your nervous system and promoting healthy sleep patterns. So, if you’re looking to support your nervous system and combat stress, load up on plenty of omega-3s. Excellent food sources of essential fats include oily fish, flaxseed oil, chia seeds, walnuts and soy beans.
Need a little calm? If you’re really struggling to stay on top of stress, you could try a gentle stress remedy like A.Vogel AvenaCalm tincture. Prepared using extracts of the oat herb plant, it works to soothe your nervous system, enabling you to cope better with emotional turmoil.