We are exposed to a lot of stress from our environment, like toxins, pollution or loud noises, and we are creating our own stress reacting to these stimuli. Stress leads to irritability, feeling overwhelmed and unmotivated, memory loss and lack of concentration. It can go even to sleeping troubles leading to poor decision making, which brings even more stress. Eventually, this chronic stress increases the risk of more serious diseases like heart failure or cancer.
Which Nutrients are helping with stress?
Vitamin C is well known to help fighting infection, but it's also an excellent antioxidant. Under stress, the main issue in our body is oxidation, leading to free radical production responsible for aging, cancer, and many other conditions. Vitamin C helps to eliminate these free radicals, decreasing the effect of oxidation and stress.
Omega 3 fatty acids are polyunsaturated fats. They are healthy fats, in opposition with saturated fat, considered unhealthy. Like vitamin C, Omega 3 is a powerful antioxidant. Many studies have shown that Omega 3 has a very positive impact on managing the effects of stress. Omega 3 specifically increases the adaptability of our body to the effects of stress through mediators such as catecholamine and other cytokines.
Magnesium is one of the most used nutrients when the body is exposed to stress. It is often deficient among people leading a busy life. Magnesium plays an important role in our brain messages transmission and is used a lot when stressed. Magnesium can be taken from supplements. Food sources of vitamins and nutrients are better absorbed and more efficient, so it is worse simply increasing food rich in magnesium.
Vitamin B and Zinc
Even though they don’t directly affect stress, Vitamin B and Zinc are essential for various energy reactions in our body, especially reactions involving mental stimulation. Like magnesium, they are also involved in message transmission in the brain. They help for a well-functioning brain, increasing concentration and memory.
Which foods are high in these nutrients?
- Berries and Citrus Fruits
In the eighteenth century, a scurvy disease appeared among sailors who were staying for months on the sea with no access to fresh fruits and vegetables. Citrus fruits were used to heal scurvy, thanks to their high content in Vitamin C.
It is always better to eat whole fresh fruits or fresh juices to keep intact the vitamin C as conservation processes destroy part of the vitamin and nutrient content.
- Coldwater fish
One of the best sources of omega-3 in our diet is fish, especially cold-water fish like Salmon. Eating 2 to 3 times a week, some cold-water fish can bring a great amount of omega-3 and help us cope with stress through the week. Salmon, tuna, cod, herring, mackerel, trout, sardine, bass, and perch are all cold-water fish with a high content in omega -3.
Nuts and seeds.
Nuts and seeds are rich in vitamin B, magnesium, zinc and healthy fats like omega3. Their high content in healthy nutrients and fibres makes them the perfect healthy snack. It is important to eat the most natural ones, without salt or sugar added. Nuts are better kept in the fridge. They contain a high amount of unsaturated fat, a delicate type of oil, which makes them highly prone to going rancid.
Green and leafy vegetables
Green leafy vegetables are spinach and without leaves, kale, broccoli, and all vegetables from the cabbage family like Brussels sprouts.
These vegetables are packed with magnesium, vitamin B, zinc, keeping our brain alert and focus throughout the day. Meat and animal products are high in vitamin B, zinc, and magnesium, but they can be high in saturated fats. Saturated fats are hard to digest and ask a lot of energy to our body. After a meal high in saturated fat, we feel tired and low in energy as our body focuses on digesting this fat. A lunch high in saturated fat can make us feel very sleepy and tired in the afternoon and less productive at work.
Milk chocolate is not recommended as it is often high in sugar. On the other hand, dark chocolate, low in sugar and high in cacao, is considered a superfood. It can be the perfect mood boost during the day and help cope with stress with its high magnesium and vitamin B content. Two to three squares of dark chocolate per day can positively affect our health and our abilities at work.
Whole grains are the most valuable foods you can add to your diet when you want to be healthy, and is specifically good for mental functioning, thanks to their high content in vitamins, magnesium and zinc. Whole grains include:
Wholewheat bread and pasta,
Wholegrains cereals you can eat at breakfast.
Unfortunately, we don't eat many wholegrains foods due to all the foods transformation and process with more white grains available now.
What's the difference between whole grain and white grain? The whole grain will contain three different layers: outside the bran, middle of the endosperm, and the germ at the centre. White grains that have been transformed due to food processing will contain only the germ.
White grain is missing then most of the healthy nutrients contained in whole grain. Nutrients and vitamins are mainly contained in the bran, especially vitamin B magnesium and zinc, while the germ contains mainly simple carbohydrates. Introducing whole grains to your diet is easy. You can replace white bread with whole wheat bread, pasta with whole wheat pasta, rice with brown rice. It is an effortless step that can really transform your diet into a much healthier one.
- Fibres and Fermented foods
The intestinal gut is called the second brain thanks to its interaction with most of the systems in our body, especially our brain, hormonal system and immune system. Having a healthy gut is helping your body to be better prepared to enter a stressful environment. Fibres in vegetables, nuts and wholegrain are food for the gut, helping to keep our intestinal flora healthy. Fermented food like yoghurt, kefir Kimchi and sauerkraut, are direct sources of healthy bacteria and help increase the population of healthy bacteria in our guts.
- Matcha tea
Matcha tea is full of nutrients and is specifically good for its content in caffeine and L-theanine. L-theanine is known to be a great and natural brain booster. It relaxes the mind without feeling drowsiness. While Athletes use caffeine before some events to increase performance, it can have a “crash effect” after a while, and we feel then tired, stressed, and low in energy again. Studies have found that caffeine in matcha tea doesn’t have this “crash effect”, mainly thanks to its interaction with L-theanine.
A healthy balanced diet that brings us all the nutrients and keeps our guts healthy is essential as we are exposed to stress daily in our busy lives. Vitamin B, vitamin C, zinc, and magnesium are the most important nutrients to cope with stress. A diet rich in fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds, whole grains and cold water fish is a great help to cope with this stress efficiently.