With February already here and we are back into the swing of things, its common for our stress levels to start to creep up. Being mindful of stress is important because continual stress (even low-grade) has numerous negative impacts on health. For example, the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) drives our fight-or-flight-response and when activated we may experience symptoms such as accelerated heart beat, IBS-like symptoms, dilated pupils and increased sweat production. When we are in danger, this response is very important and helps us remove ourselves from dangerous situations.
Alternative to this, the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) promotes restoration, digestion and repair, which is very beneficial for our health. This means, day to day, the goal is to maintain PNS activation as much as possible.
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If you struggle to get through the day without feeling stressed or overwhelmed, Nutritionist, Zoe-Bingely Pullin shares some foods to add to your diet to help your body adapt better with stress:
Green leafy veg (spinach and kale)
Are not only incredibly healthy but are also good sources of magnesium. When our body is under added stress, magnesium is depleted. Magnesium helps the body adapt and respond to stress so its important to eat additional magnesium when under stress.
Whole grains (brown rice, barley, freekeh)
Good sources of B-vitamins, which similar to magnesium are depleted during times of stress. B’s are also necessary to convert food into energy which is important when under stress as our energy levels can be lower. Finally B vitamins also help with the synthesis of neurotransmitters (feel good chemicals).
Not only a good source of fibre but also protein and carbohydrates. This powerful combination helps to stabilise blood sugar, increase satiety and provide the building blocks for neurotransmitter synthesis. Canned legumes such as lentils, chickpeas, red kidney beans and black beans are very easy to prepare sources of protein to add to meals.
Hemps seeds and fatty fish (salmon, sardines, mackerel)
All sources of omega-3 essential fatty acids. These fats are called essential because the body cannot make its own supply so we must consume an adequate amount in the diet. Omega-3 has been shown to help reduce the symptoms of anxiety, which can be experienced alongside increased stress and assist with brain functioning and therefore mood generally.
Turmeric and saffron
These spices exert potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects in the body and due to this are linked to improved mood and are protective of brain health. Try integrating these spices into your cooking such as in smoothies, stews, sauces, salad dressings and stir-fry’s.
Great source of vitamin C, which can help support healthy cortisol production. Cortisol is our stress hormone and when constantly called upon (ie during times of stress). Our adrenal glands, which make cortisol, rely on vitamin C so if the adrenal glands are constantly activated due to stress, our vitamin C levels can become depleted.
Source of calcium. If cortisol levels are high due to increased stress, this can impact the production of melatonin and therefore make it hard to fall asleep. To help aid melatonin production, make sure you are getting adequate calcium in your diet because calcium works hand in hand with tryptophan to manufacture melatonin. If you don’t consume dairy, there are other sources of calcium such as tahini, broccoli, almonds, canned salmon with bones, tofu set with calcium and dried figs.
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