The best way to fight stress - get food to help

Stress is a modern day malady that affects almost everyone at some time. Food is known to have exceptional healing properties. The right foods can bring down stress levels naturally. Make a habit of eating foods that can control stress levels.

My grandmother, God, bless her soul, had a recipe for every ailment. According to her, there was nothing on this earth that good food could not cure. I often wondered what she'd say about 'stress' the modern day ailment that ails probably everyone. What her secret recipe would be to ward off stress.

Today, as I am older and a lot wiser, I realise that what she often said was quite true. There is something magical about food. And it sure can relieve a lot of maladies, not just of the body, but also of the heart and mind.

I was recently gifted a book, by my husband, it is a 'Nutritional Bible', so says the cover. It talks about food and its benefits on our health. The nutrients in the foods we eat heal the body. Nutrients have specific healing properties and eaten in the right doses they help combat disorders. Coming back to the book, there's a chapter in there on how food can help manage stress. Here are some interesting facts that I have snatched from the book, to share with you.

The side-effects of stress

Stress is an intrinsic part of our lives, even babies feel stressed. It's our body's mechanism to help us cope with trauma and little disturbances in our lives. Stress in small doses is fine, but too much of it can have devastating effects. High-stress levels, over a period of time, can result in hypertension, acidity, and poor digestion and muscle spasms.

The body's reaction to stress

Each time we are faced with a trying situation our body's defence mechanism kicks in. It displays, what is called the 'fight or flight' response, and pumps cortisol, the stress hormone and adrenalin into the system, as a defence, against severe stress.

Living with stress over a long period can have a devastating effect on our overall health, and cause–

  • Sharp rise in blood glucose levels
  • We put on weight as the body begins to accumulate excess fat
  • The immune system weakens
  • There is an increase in the acids the stomach produces that leads to the erosion of the stomach lining, which in turn hampers absorption of nutrients
  • Skin becomes extra sensitive
  • The body releases anti-inflammatories
  • Stress reduces the digestion process and this affects the nutrients the body receives

Food – the stress buster

Research shows that there is an inextricable link between the food we eat and how we react to situations. Therefore, when you find yourself under a lot of stress, turn to food, for help. The right foods can relieve stress and lift up sagging spirits. Follow the remedies mentioned below to eliminate stress –

Eat more meals

The body produces adrenaline when it is stressed, and this at times causes a drastic drop in the blood-glucose levels. Have at least six mini-meals, during the day, instead of three large ones, as doing so can prevent the sudden dip in blood-sugar levels.

Vitamin C will boost immunity

Boost your immune system with foods rich in vitamin C. The immune system can be adversely affected when we are emotionally stressed. Broccoli, tomatoes, green chillies, peas, citrus fruits, papayas, kiwi, melons, red peppers etc., are rich sources of the vitamin. Include these and other fruits and vegetables that are rich in the vitamin, in your diet.

Vitamin B1 to stay calm

Eating foods rich in vitamins B1 (Thiamine) and C have a calming effect, especially in those who are nervous and worried. These vitamins aren't stored in abundant amounts in the body and need frequent topping up. The best sources of vitamin B1 are meat products, rice bran, yellow and green veggies, peanuts and milk and fortified cereals, bread and pasta.

Recommended reading : Colourful foods and how they aid good health

Don't measure proteins and carbs

Don't follow the low-carb, high-protein diet, as it escalates mental activity. You don't need that, especially when you are stressed. Remember, you don't need to speed up, you need to wind down.

Eat foods that pep up the spirit

There are plenty of foods out there that can give a bit of zing to your sagging spirits. Chicken is one such food that can add some zest to your life. If you are a vegetarian, turn to complex carbs, for almost the same effect. Brown rice, potatoes, beans and pasta are 'helpful' foods. These foods are a source of tryptophan, an amino-acid that boosts serotonin production, in the brain.

Serotonin is a neurotransmitter and is known to uplift mood. Low levels of this chemical can lead to depression and anxiety. The chemical plays a significant role in regulating happiness, anxiety and mood. It has a wonderful effect on the body, as it can also act as a natural sedative.

Serotonin is found naturally in bananas, walnuts, brinjal, pineapple, papaya, figs, dates and avocados.

Recommended reading : Energy boosting foods

Treat yourself to chocolate

Take a bite off a slab of dark chocolate, to ease the tension you feel. Dark chocolate contains some amount of caffeine and the chemical theobromine. This chemical rouses endorphin (the feel-good hormone) in the brain. With the release of endorphins, the mood automatically changes for the better.

Combat nutrient deficiency

The feelings of mental exhaustion and stress are compounded when there is a deficiency of nutrients. A balanced diet is essential to overcome these deficiencies. Excessive anxiousness can be caused when the body is deficient in any one or more of the following – the minerals zinc and magnesium and the amino acid tryptophan.

Have a combination of different foods that can supply you with nutrients. Additionally, include a variety of nuts, fish, peppers, whole grains, garlic, chickpeas, cottage cheese (paneer), beetroot, tofu and seeds, particularly pumpkin seeds.

Tips to fight depression and excessive stress

  • Exercise - Work a half-hour exercise regime into your day. Exercise makes the brain release some potent chemicals that can help boost your mood. Endorphins are released when you exercise. They have a soothing effect on your stressed nerves
  • De-stress strategy – Chalk out your own de-stress plan. Make a list of things that instantly lift your mood and help you relax and be happy. They can be anything – a memory, a song, a video, a photograph, a letter…Whenever you feel down and under pressure pick one of the things from your list and spend some quiet time with it – just you and that thing. You'll be surprised how quickly you'll begin to feel your normal self
  • Make smells work – Sometimes smelling the right stuff can help deal with stress. Fragrances like orange, sandalwood, rose, jasmine and lavender work wonder at feeling better. Use essential oils in your bath or on your pillow. Light up a few aroma therapy candles or have a diffuser to spread the fragrance around you. Choose what works best for you
  • Learn to say, "no" – There is only one of you, but you are not indispensable, especially at work. Don't forget yourself in the rat race that you inadvertently become a part of. Take time to enjoy life – the simple things, like a walk in the park or a small family picture at your work station. They help
  • Surround yourself with love – Family and friends, don't leave them out of your life. Stay connected. Enjoy time with your spouse and children. Share an evening cup of tea with them or a movie night. It is surprising how being around people you love can alleviate stress levels

Recommended reading : How to reduce stress at workplace

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