Nutritionists emphasise that food is medicine, especially if consumed appropriately, and in the right portion.
Food can make your stress levels go down or up, so it’s critical to pay attention to what you eat when you feel exhausted.
An article published in August 2015 in the journal Stress, proposed that the amount and quality of nutrients you take in overtime can impact the body’s neural circuits that control emotion, motivation, and mood.
Other research, such as a study published in October 2017 in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine: Journal of Behavioral Medicine, has pointed to gut microbiota — microorganisms in the intestine comprised of good and bad bacteria — as an essential link to the relationship between what you eat and drink, and how you feel.
Microbiome health, or gut health, is known to affect one’s mood, emotions, and psychological health.
According to the June 2016 review in the Journal of Nutrition and Food Sciences, a well-balanced and nutritious diet was likely the sole most vital ingredient for good health.
Foods that fight stress
Warm beverages kill stress. Past research has suggested that holding and sipping a warm beverage increases moods of interpersonal warmth and friendliness. There’s a soothing effect of sipping a warm drink, regardless of the flavour — but certain herbs, like lavender and chamomile, have been shown to have a relaxing effect on their own.
Sometimes it’s the feeling that food or drinks make, not their nutrients, that helps reduce stress. Drinking a warm cup of tea is one way to help make yourself feel calm.
According to prior research, carbohydrates can temporarily increase levels of serotonin, a hormone that boosts mood and reduces stress, though it is advisable to choose healthy, unrefined carbohydrates, like sweet potatoes and whole grains, for better nutrition and limit simple carbs, such as cookies, cake, and “white” foods, such as white pasta and white bread.
Avocados are also medicine, whether accompanied by food or eaten as a salad, they are still delicious. The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health states that avocados offer omega-3 fatty acids. These healthy essential acids are known to reduce stress and anxiety, boost concentration, and improve mood.
Dark chocolate, which is rich in antioxidants, may also help reduce stress by lowering levels of stress hormones in the body, according to a study that followed participants who ate about 1.5 ounces (oz) per day for two weeks.
However, doctors say that dark chocolate should be taken in moderation, by aiming at eating only one-fourth of a small dark chocolate bar (about 1 oz). Also, make sure the bar doesn’t contain an unnecessary surplus of added sugar.
According to researchers at Loma Linda University Adventist Health Sciences Centre in Southern California, in addition to making you happier from the sugar, consuming dark chocolate can have a positive effect on your brain health.
From examining two studies, the researchers found that eating dark chocolate with a high percentage of cacao, typically chocolate over 70 per cent, reduces stress levels and inflammation.
According to the Harvard Health Blog, seafood is a big deal as it not only fights stress, but also assists in preventing heart disease. For instance, fatty fish, in particular, is heart-healthy, and their omega-3s may help ease depression because the nutrients easily interact with mood-related brain molecules.
American Heart Association says that fatty fish include tuna, halibut, salmon, herring, mackerel, and sardines, among others.
A study published in December 2012 in the journal Nutrition Research and Practice shows that milk and other dairy foods with calcium and added vitamin D can help muscles relax and soothe mood.
One study, published in January 2017 in the journal Obstetrics and Gynecology, even found that it can also ease symptoms of premenstrual syndrome.
Some studies have found that high levels of vitamin C may help ease stress levels. One double-blind study, published January 2015 in the Pakistan Journal of Biological Sciences, reported that vitamin C reduced stress levels in participants taking 500 mg per day, and also pointed to possible anxiety prevention.
Another study, published in November 2013 in the Pakistan Journal of Biological Sciences, looked at vitamin C and vitamin E and found a momentous decrease in anxiety levels in the vitamin C group compared with other groups. Eating fruits like oranges, grapefruits, and strawberries is a good way to start.
According to a review published in July 2018 in the journal Nutritional Neuroscience, a high-fibre diet maybe linked with reduced anxiety, depression, and stress.
Healthline notes that organ meats, which include the heart, liver, and kidneys of animals like cows and chickens, are an excellent source of B vitamins, especially B12, B6, riboflavin, and folate, which are essential for stress control.
For example, B vitamins are necessary for the production of neurotransmitters (body’s chemical messengers) like dopamine and serotonin, which helps regulate mood.
Supplementing with B vitamins or eating foods like organ meats may help reduce stress. A review of 18 studies in adults found that B vitamin supplements lowered stress levels and significantly benefited mood.