Long-term stress exposure is exhausting for the body on many levels so having a fresh, wholesome, largely unprocessed, well balanced diet is essential for effective stress management. Fresh, whole foods with good levels of protein and healthy fats is key for managing stress.
There are three key nutrients to look out for when eating to combat stress:
1) Magnesium ‘oversees’ a plethora of actions and reactions in the body. These many functions make it one of the most important minerals present in the food we eat as it facilitates the other key players doing their job. Magnesium is also required for making energy from food, and when we are stressed, magnesium is in great demand to allow the nervous system to switch i to relaxation and sleep mode and for good digestion.
Foods high in Magnesium: fresh green leafy veg, fish, free-range meat, organic dairy products, seafood, apples, bananas, pulses, whole grains. N.B: Magnesium is readily lost through cooking and food processing.
2) B vitamins are fundamental to a healthy nervous system. The nervous system affects how we think, how we sleep, and how effectively we digest food. It also influences how well the adrenal glands cope with the stress response. There are 11 different B vitamins and they all work together to fulfill the many jobs they have in the body. Each B vitamin has its own specific role in the body but they also all work together synergistically. This is why it is very important not to supplement with one specific B vitamin but to take it along with all the others i.e. in B complex form or, even better, eat lots of B-rich foods.
Pantothenic Acid ( Vitamin B5) is one of the family of B vitamins and is known as the ‘anti-stress’ vitamin due to its beneficial effect upon adrenal function. It has been found to significantly decrease serum levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which is an immune and mood suppressant and triggers fat gain around the middle.
Foods high in B complex: whole grains, egg yolks, green leafy veg, nuts, meats, fish.
Foods high in B5 include: beef, pork, liver, eggs, salt water fish, pulses, mushrooms, nuts, whole wheat and whole grain rye.
3) Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant helping to protect our cells from the damaging free radicals caused by stress. It is required in over 300 metabolic functions and it is especially key in supporting our adrenal glands, which are depleted when we are stressed. It is also fundamental to keeping the immune system strong. Vitamin C is fundamental to helping the body to absorb essential vitamins (especially the B’s) and minerals and putting them to good use in the body
Foods high in Vitamin C: berries esp. black currants, kiwi and citrus fruits; green veg esp. asparagus, broccoli and kale; avocado; onions; sweet peppers; radish; spinach; tomatoes; watercress.
Key Food Tip: as the immune system takes a knock when we are exposed to persistent levels of stress hormones be sure to include plenty of garlic, onions and pot barley as they all contain good levels of germanium, a powerful stimulant for the immune system.
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