In today’s ever increasingly hectic world, stress is an unwelcome fixture in many lives. Emotional stressors are something we have to deal with on an hourly basis, and we are frequently exposed to physical stressors too.
Too many emails to read through, social pressures, those wretched train strikes, booze, cigarettes, coffee, pollution, over-exercising, under-exercising and poor sleep patterns all add to the stress that is threatening to tip you over the edge.
Did you know that high blood pressure, an aching back/neck, an upset stomach, dizzy spells, fatigue, weight loss/gain, insomnia, a lack of concentration and frequent colds are – among many others - all physical symptoms of a stressed body.
When stressed, your adrenal glands go into overdrive causing a rise in your metabolic rate along with a rampaging, hormone storm! For the body to try and counteract this, we ‘use up’ nutrients faster than we can replace them. Couple this with a typical ‘pick me up’ diet of sugary, carbohydrate rich, grab and go foods and stress can quickly give way to anxiety, depression and illness. Did you know that the risk of obesity is increased by as much as 58% if you your depressed?
If you’re feeling the pressures of life, ditch the wine and ice cream and munch on the following stress busting foods instead:
Vitamin B12 is found in fish and is essential for combating irritability, depression, anxiety and insomnia. B12 works in synergy with Folic acid – so combine your fish with folate rich spinach for a nutrient double whammy!
Vitamin C is used in large quantities by the adrenal glands, therefore long term stress can result in a deficiency of this incredible immune boosting antioxidant – hello constant colds! Guava, strawberries and kiwi fruit also deserve a place in your smoothie!
Sleep-inducing and tranquilizing, honey is one of nature’s best remedies. Try stirring a teaspoon of honey into some warm milk for a restful sleep.
These nutty seeds contain L-Tryptophan, an essential amino acid which causes a boost in serotonin (the body’s natural anti-depressant) and melatonin (our natural sleeping aid). As it’s not produced within the body, we have to consume (which is why it is an essential amino acid!) tryptophan rich foods – other good quality sources are turkey and baked potatoes.
Magnesium deficiency, a common side effect of stress, can magnify physical symptoms. Due to modern farming and processing, much of the food we consume is lacking in this vital mineral – therefore we have to try harder to include foods which are naturally rich in this one.
During periods of stress we excrete more potassium than usual. Dark leafy greens such as swiss chard can go some way in rectifying this. A lack of potassium affects both the muscles and the nerves. This mineral also keeps blood pressure stable – so pick a banana over a croissant when you’re waiting for your train to come in!
According to a study conducted by University College London, 4 cups of black tea per day may promote a feeling of calm and aid in ‘de-stressing.’ If you find caffeine too much to handle, stick to herbal teas for a soothing alternative. Steer clear of the biscuits though!
Eggs are rich in valuable nutrients, they are also one of the best sources of protein around. The body’s protein stores are used up quickly during stress and seeing as protein is used in almost every bodily function right down to cellular level, it’s essential that stores are stocked up regularly. Keep your wellbeing in check by including 20-30g of protein with each main meal and 15-20g of protein as part of a healthy snack twice a day. Sources of complete protein also include meat, fish, dairy products and quinoa.