Should you stress about stress? Stress is a natural part of everyday life which is caused by events that the body experiences. Eustress is the good kind, that triggers a positive response in the body, whereas distress; the negative kind, can have harmful effects on the body, when exposed to toxic amounts.
Dietary intervention can be a very effective, cheap and natural remedy to stress. Whether you realise or not, by choosing what you eat, you are also choosing how to treat your body.
With exams fast-approaching for many school students across the globe, it’s fair to say that stress is mounting! Whether you’re struck with stresses from work, exams or other people, here’s a list of foods that can help keep the effects of stress at bay.
10 of the Best Foods to Help Combat Stress
Earlier this week was Banana Lovers Day, but did you know just how beneficial this fruit is for you and your body? Not only convenient and packed of nutrients, they are also great to provide sustained glucose, due to their natural sugars and fibers which slowly release into the bloodstream. Bananas are also rich in the amino acid tryptophan, which makes your body produce serotonin, which can lift your mood!
Agricultural research studies have found that cherries are the only natural food that are a source of melatonin. This chemical is responsible for regulating sleep, as it controls the body’s internal clock. Lack of sleep is a major contributing factor to causes of stress and being tired can make you irritable. It is recommended, that eating cherries fresh or dried, an hour before bed will help you clock those z’s!
3. Sweet Potato
Also known as kumara, these are a versatile vegetable and nutritional powerhouse! They are packed with naturally stress-lowering benefits and are rich in nutrients that lower depression, alongside being high in potassium, magnesium, vitamin B6, amino acids. Like bananas, they are a good source of tryptophan. Additionally, the amounts of magnesium and potassium in sweet potatoes help reduce blood pressure levels, a common stress-affecting factor.
Oats are a great source of complex carbohydrates, which make your brain produce the ‘feel-good’ chemical, serotonin. This chemical has properties which soothe and help lower or overcome high amounts of stress, and they’re packed with antioxidant properties! Oats even have a unique ability to lower cholesterol and blood pressure levels, improving the health of your heart and reducing inflammation within the body.
5. Leafy Greens
Bursting with nutrients to help manage the effects of stress, such as calcium, iron, magnesium, vitamin B’s and C’s, even protein, leafy greens could be just as nourishing to your mental health, as your physical wellbeing. Because of the high chlorophyll content in leafy greens such as spinach, collards, asparagus, kale, dark greens can lead to a healthier mood and reduced stress levels. For those who hate vegetables, worry not, as there are plenty of ways to sneak these into your daily diet.
The humble lentil contains one of the highest sources of antioxidants found on the planet. They’re also loaded with nutrients to boost your mood and energy, such as potassium, magnesium, iron, protein, fiber and zinc and B vitamins. Also, lentils are a very affordable source of nutrition and are very versatile to be used in a variety of creative culinary ways. Why not try this lentil dhal?
7. Nuts and Seeds
There are various nuts and seeds, all with varying nutritional content, but overall, nuts and seeds are reputed for their healthy fats, high protein content and abundance of available nutrients. For example – walnuts, chia, pumpkin seeds, linseeds and hemp seeds are high in magnesium, zinc and iron, and, in the omega-3 rich fatty acid, making them a powerful healthy fat and enabling optimum brain function. When your brain is in good health, inflammation can reduce and stress levels can lower too.
All fruits are wonderful for health, especially berries! Not only bright and colourful, berries are super versatile and their benefits can be experienced in a variety of ways (smoothie bowls, porridge toppings, cookies, vegan cheesecakes…) They contain benefits which boost your mood and are rich sources of vitamin C and antioxidants, especially anthocyanins, which protect the brain and improve moods.
This is not a drill, chocolate can genuinely be good for you! (we say as we demolish another family-sized block after a long day…) Chocolate is very healthy for your heart, and studies have shown that as chocolate consumption increases, symptoms of depression decrease. Specifically, dark chocolate lowers blood pressure, in turn making you more calm. With more important antioxidants than most fruit juices, especially polyphenols and flavonols, chocolate also contains cacao; the easiest absorbed form of iron.
If you’ve ever had a headache and been sent to bed with a hot chamomile tea, there is actually truth behind why this flower is used medicinally to treat symptoms and calm frazzled nerves down before sleep. The University of Maryland Medical centre reports that chamomile can calm nerves and promote restful sleep. Also, a component of chamomile has the same effect on the brain as anxiety-reducing medication, such as Xanax or Valium, but without the side effects or physically addictive properties.
Life doesn’t have to revolve around stress. Mental health is just as, if not more important than physical health. Food isn’t the only way to combat negative symptoms, why not try meditation or yoga, followed by a healthy, nourishing smoothie?
If you’re still struggling, please reach out to a friend, family member, responsible adult or helpline if you need support and coping mechanisms.