As an individual going on daily activities, stress seems inescapable. It has become an unavoidable part of our hectic lifestyle today. The effects of stress, however, are not just limited to bad mood or irritability.
When left unchecked for a prolonged period of time, it can spell serious trouble for overall health it can affect your sleep, skin (think acne & pimples), hormones, blood pressure, immune system- let us not also forget about mental health. It can also be a contributing factor in health issues such as heart diseases and even obesity.
What actually happens when your body is under stress? During periods of high stress, certain chemicals within the brain called neurotransmitters such as dopamine, epinephrine, and norepinephrine begin to shoot up. This causes large amounts of these and other such “fight or flight” hormones such as adrenaline to be released by the adrenal glands.
These chemicals contribute to certain physiological effects, including rapid heart rate, high blood pressure, and a weakened immune system.
While deleting stress from our lives is not an option, how we deal with it is totally in our hands. You may not be able to totally steer clear of it but there are certain ways with which you can curtail its effects on your body, mind, and overall health.
Prolonged stress may accumulate slowly and overload our nervous system.
STRESS RELIEVING FOODS
Foods that boost Endorphins
Known as natural painkillers, endorphins help one deal with stress and reduce the feeling of pain. These also trigger a positive feeling in the body. For example — the feeling that follows a workout or runs is often called euphoric. Stress relieving foods and activities that help you with endorphins are:
- Chilly Foods (Capsaicin, chemical compound present)
- Dark Chocolate
During sleep, your body releases dopamine which helps the body relax.
Foods that boost Serotonin
Serotonin is a neurotransmitter, which stabilizes your mood and happiness and helps get quality sleep. Tryptophan is an amino acid that is important for the production of serotonin. Here are some serotonin promoting and highly effective stress-relieving foods:
- A2 milk
- Whole grains
Foods that boost Dopamine
Popularly known as the ‘happy hormone’, Dopamine acts as both hormone and neurotransmitter. Enzymes in the body convert tyrosine into dopamine. You can include the following stress-relieving foods and activities in your routine:
- Protein-rich foods such as legumes, dairy, and eggs
Foods that boost Oxytocin
It is called the “love hormone” or “cuddle hormone” and its main functions are contraction of the uterus during childbirth and lactation. It is known to induce anti-stress-like effects such as reduction of blood pressure and cortisol levels. In addition, it promotes growth and healing. A few oxytocin-inducing and stress relieving foods are:
- Pumpkin seeds
- Green Tea
- Chamomile Tea
WORST FOODS FOR STRESS
1. Sweet treats
You can do it by replacing simple sugars with complex carbs, which metabolize more slowly.
2. Refined Carbohydrates
Cause a rise in blood sugar, increase calories and make you more moody and irritable by spiking the sugar levels.
3. Excess Caffeine
Too much caffeine can wreak havoc on your adrenal glands by over stimulating the body. It disrupts the hormonal balance and also causes a rise in blood pressure and heart rate that will ultimately increase the feeling of anxiety.
4. Artificial Sugars
Artificial sugars are equally bad for you. The fake sugar substitutes create more problems like headaches, confusion in mind, increases the risk of CVDs, and inflammation. They also have a similar effect on your blood sugar.
Focus on these Nutrients in mood lifting foods
- Serotonin is often called the precursor for melatonin — the sleep hormone. Serotonin is a chemical neurotransmitter that helps to regulate mood, sleep, memory, and behavior. It is also believed to improve brain function and relieve anxiety.
- Vitamin B functions majorly in the development and maintenance of the nervous system. The deficiency of vitamin-B-can has a negative impact on the nervous system, which might increase the risk of developing stress-related symptoms such as irritability, lethargy, and depression. B-vitamins also help maintain regular blood-sugar levels so that your energy and mood remain stable under stress.
- Omega 3 fatty acids also help the body tackle stress better.
- Vitamin C can curb levels of stress hormones while strengthening the immune system.
- Magnesium, in adequate amounts, is essential for avoiding headaches and fatigue. It has been found that oral magnesium can also successfully relieve premenstrual mood changes.
What to eat to relieve stress?
It may feel irresistibly tempting to reach out for junk foods and sugar treats when under stress but it is neither a healthy choice nor an effective way to beat stress. Instead, go for foods that neither overshoot your calorie intake nor spike your blood glucose level for a short-lived mood boost.
Moreover, eating processed foods when under stress is a vicious cycle. You keep eating in the hope of feeling better, which rarely happens. It also leads to emotional eating. To beat stress, pick whole and natural foods, which come under the category of the healthiest stress relieving foods that help stabilize levels of sugar in the blood. Foods that have a long-term impact on your mood and brain function such as almonds, pumpkin seeds, oatmeal, fish and eggs, etc.
How can I reduce stress naturally?
There are plenty of simple, effective, and easy lifestyle changes that can help you reduce stress naturally. Besides eating nutrient and fiber-rich foods, the lifestyle changes you need to bring in your daily routine — having meals on time, prioritizing 7–8 hours of sleep, exercising regularly, less sitting, yoga, and practicing breathing exercising which help calm the nerves. Besides including stress relieving foods in your daily diet, you can bring in these lifestyle changes to promote positivity and healthy living.
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