Food can be one of your biggest allies (or indeed enemies) when it comes to your stress levels. Sugar, artificial sweeteners, processed carbohydrates, alcohol, caffeine and smoking are all typically well known for spiking stress (both on a cell and a mental level); meaning increased oxidative stress of our cells, more mood swings, greater stress, and an overall stressed-out body and mind.
However, there are foods out there that can help to combat increased oxidative stress which may lead to release of everyday stress levels. The team of nutritionists and dietitians at www.Vitl.com have rounded up some of the very best foods that are scientifically proven to help you feel less stressed.
As well as being an excellent source of vitamin B6, garlic is packed full of vitamin C and other minerals, such as calcium, potassium, iron and copper.
However, it’s actually the sulphur compounds found in garlic that help to increase levels of glutathione in the body – the antioxidant that helps form your body’s first line of defence against oxidative stress, caused by obesity, diets high in fat, sugar, processed foods and smoking.
When our bodies are suffering from the physical effects of stress, vitamin C is essential to help protect and repair our cells, and blueberries are jampacked with vitamin C and bursting with antioxidants.
One study shows that vitamin C may help reduce the levels of stress hormones found in the blood, and also helps to keep the adrenal glands from becoming overly enlarged.
Rich in vitamin B6, chickpeas are great for helping to manufacture serotonin; a chemical that transmits messages between nerve cells that’s believed to act as a mood stabiliser.
Chickpeas provide both tryptophan and slow-burning carbs, which make a great combination for reducing stress. Chickpeas also contain a large amount of folate – a B vitamin that helps regulate mood.
Like many other green leafy vegetables, broccoli is packed with vitamins and also contains B vitamins and folic acid, which help to relieve stress, control blood pressure and keep on top of cortisol levels.
Dark chocolate is very rich in magnesium (64mg in a 28g bar). When we’re stressed, magnesium depletes quite dramatically, which can lead to fatigue, anxiety and even insomnia in some extreme cases.
One study conducted in 2014 found that consuming 40g of dark chocolate over a two-week period was an effective way to reduce perceived stress in females.
Rich in B vitamins, particularly B5, avocados can help support normal functioning of the adrenal glands. The fatty acids found in avocados are necessary to produce the hormones the adrenal glands are responsible for. After all, our brain is approximately 60% fat!
Mussels, clams and oysters are all high in amino acids – one of which being taurine, which has been studied for its mood-boosting properties. The chemical compound is also needed to produce dopamine, essential for regulating the body’s response to stress.
A source of probiotics that look after the gut, Greek yoghurt helps it to function at its best. The gut requires a rich microflora of varied bacteria strains to help you process and digest the food you eat. This microflora can be affected by a number of things, including stress, illness, a lack of sleep and even anxiety.
The gut microbiome influences your body’s reactions as it’s linked to your brain through the vagus nerve; a long bundle of fibres that runs throughout your whole body that speak to your enteric nervous system.
Sweet potatoes help to lower cortisol, the hormone produced by the adrenal glands which trigger the stress response in the body. They’re also rich in magnesium and vitamin B3, reducing tiredness and fatigue which, on top of stress, can be very difficult to deal with.
A study conducted by a team of researchers in 2019 found that taking 2.5g of omega 3 (or 340g – 425g of salmon) can reduce stress by more than 20%. The omega 3 in salmon can reduce inflammation and promote healthy blood flow, both of which are compromised if you’re suffering from chronic stress.