Does the right food help reduce stress?

Ancient science knew something that mainstream science is rediscovering, many illnesses can be treated by optimising our food habits. Diet is the most overlooked part of the stress-fighting regime but is equally equipped to manage stress as the other factors. Yes, even a chronic lifestyle condition can be prevented from soaring, provided you know what kinds of food to consume.

What is stress?

Stress is our reaction to feeling threatened by any stimuli when we find ourselves in an unpleasant or dangerous situation. The effect of chronic stress on our bodies is harmful. In the long-term, over-exposure to stress can disrupt almost all body processes and put one at an increased risk of several health and lifestyle issues such as chronic headaches and migraine, anxiety and depression, digestive & sleep problems, heart diseases, high blood pressure, weight gain, etc. Given that chronic stress is a part and parcel of our lives, we cannot stop it but we can manage it by eating healthily.

Certain nutrients in food can keep stress at bay. Among the multiple ways of stress management, eating certain nutrients in food is the best. According to studies, just by being stressed, your bodily requirements for certain nutrients such as vitamins B & C, selenium, magnesium, etc. increase. Just by eating foods that are rich in these nutrients, you may be able to manage your stress levels. In fact, there are studies showing that quality nutrients taken long-term can have a positive impact on your body.

Research has also proved a relevant, decisive link between gut micro-organisms, which live in our intestine, what we eat and how we ultimately feel. No wonder gut health is integral to mood, emotions, and psychological health management. So, managing stress with food is a great tactic for overall health. A well-balanced, nutritious diet is the single most important element for good health. Next time you feel stressed, observe your palate and adjust it accordingly. Here are some great food options that are known to reduce stress levels:

Dark chocolate: Is said to work in two ways – by having a chemical and emotional impact. Dark chocolate is rich in antioxidants and helps lower stress hormone levels in the body when enjoyed in moderation, as traditionally bereft of any unnecessary surplus sugar.

Warm milk: Known to induce a good sleep-in night and aids stress management when sipped right before retiring to bed. Warm milk has a relaxing effect. Rich in calcium and vitamin D, it helps to maintain the bone and is also known as a muscle relaxant and mood stabiliser.

Nuts & seeds: Teeming with magnesium, healthy fats, and nutrients; nuts and seeds act as a stress-busting snack when consumed in moderation. Almonds, flaxseed, pistachios, sunflower seeds, and walnuts are great options to choose from.

Foods high in fibre: Fibre-rich foods are hailed as gut-friendly and may lower stress, anxiety, and depression. To add more fibre to your diet, eat adequate amounts of fresh fruits, leafy vegetables, nuts & seeds, and many more. You may also opt for whole-grain-based foods such as whole-grain breakfast cereals.

Whole unprocessed grains: Known to provide a mood-stabilising effect by spiking serotonin (a boosting-mood hormone that decreases stress) levels. Thus, resulting in better concentration and focus. Choose healthy, unrefined carbohydrates such as unprocessed grains for better nutrition and adequate fibre intake that takes longer to digest and thus releases blood sugar gradually over a period.

Eating healthy is the best way to relieve stress and its negative impact on our bodies. Try eating healthy and watch your food palate as per your physical and emotional requirements.

(Amarnath Halember is the Executive Director and CEO, NextG Apex India Pvt. Ltd)