For far too many of us, stress has become a commonplace factor in our day to day. Perhaps you’ve become so used to it that you’ve even stopped trying to combat stress, merely accepting that perhaps it’s just a right of passage into fully-fledged adult life.
While a little stress can no doubt be good for us - from the adrenaline boost which helps you pull out that last minute paper that’s due, to helping with problem solving - there’s evidence to suggest that chronic stress can be detrimental to our health in multiple ways.
Exercise, meditation, maintaining a fulfilled social life and pursuing hobbies are all key to bringing us back into a state of calm, however what you eat can also have a much larger effect than you may have anticipated.
A balanced diet is one that gives your body the nutrients it needs to function correctly. It’s also one in which your body can digest foods optimally, processing nutrients to reap the full benefits of everything you’re eating in order to keep you feeling your best. Digestive issues, dips in energy levels, trouble concentrating, brain fog, mood swings and fatigue are all signs that you may need to take a closer look at what’s on your plate. Eating a balanced diet will ensure our bodies are fully equipped to manage the physiological changes caused by stress, so here are our top tips:
-Avoid overly processed and chemical-laden foods, as they’re nutritionally substandard. The fact that we tend to reach for convenience foods which tend to be processed when we’re stressed can make matters worse too, as stress diverts blood flow away from your digestive system, making it even harder for your body to digest and process what you’re scoffing down.
-Try snacking on nuts, such as Brazil nuts, which are high in selenium. Selenium has been found to improve mood by reducing inflammation, which is often an indication of mood disorders such as anxiety.
-As hard as this one may be to accept, if stress has become your daily companion, it might be time to cut back on the caffeine. (this could mean trying to back from 4 cups to of 1)
-Eat seasonally, because what's in ample supply will not only be fresher, juicier and tastier, but it will also provide the most nutrients. There's nothing better than adding sweet berries to your porridge in the summer, or enjoying roasted brussels sprouts come December.
-Give fermented foods and drinks such as kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi and kombucha a go. They are rich in probiotics, which help maintain a healthy balance of flora in the gut, supporting both digestive and brain health. A 2009 study found people with chronic fatigue syndrome who were treated with probiotics saw a significant decrease in anxiety and positive effects on their mood.
-Avocado isn’t just delicious on toast, it’s also a great source of vitamin b6 and folic acid which help to regulate the nervous system. B6 has been called the ‘anti-stress’ vitamin due to its effects on mood and sleep patterns.