There are plenty of nutritious foods that aid the body’s protective forces, soothe shattered nerves, and nourish and strengthen to help get you back on your feet when stress has taken its toll. There are also some foods you should avoid altogether – like refined sugar – for example.
Among the worst foods, you could ever consume refined sugar. The body’s natural response to stress – a reaction that could even save your life in some situations — is severely impaired by the consumption of sugar. That’s because the nutrients required by the adrenal glands, things like vitamin C, pantothenic acid, potassium and magnesium are depleted by refined sugar.
As sugar is consumed repetitively over time, these glands become so weak that the body’s ability to respond promptly and effectively to any perceived stressful event is all but impossible. What this means is that relatively minor concern can trigger a major malfunction.
Refined sugar should be avoided at all costs, and you can begin by eliminating white sugar from your coffee or tea immediately.
I would even go as far as to suggest that you stop buying those five-pound bags of refined sugar altogether because it offers zero nutritional value and acts as a poison to the body. But what you need to beware of is all the processed and semi-processed foods that contain sugar and change your ways when it comes to selecting foods.
Avoid buying cakes, pastries, donuts and the like as most of these are loaded with sugar, among other questionable ingredients. And soft drinks and prepared fruit drinks are a definite no-no too.
Use the natural sugars in fruit to sweeten things up a bit. For example, a little-dried fruit with your morning oatmeal eliminates the need to add any processed sugar.
You can also add a few dates to homemade salad dressings, dips and sauces to sweeten them naturally. Pure natural honey, blackstrap molasses and stevia are alternative sweeteners, but you may want to use these sparingly as well.
The following list of foods offer help in some way to protect the body and minimize the damages caused by stress:
Garlic helps to relax the nerves and defend against anxiety. It stimulates the immune system and helps fight off infections, naturally thins the blood, and helps lower blood pressure, triglycerides and cholesterol. Among the compounds in garlic is “allicin” which is said to aid in the reversal of hypertension and heart disease, helps prevent cancer and wards off the common cold. Stress weakens the immune system, and garlic helps to restore it to normal functioning capability. Clearly, garlic offers a ton of health benefits and is one food that everyone should have on their regular grocery list.
Eggplant is thought to prevent damage to the heart and arteries caused by stress and toxins within the body. Since it’s loaded with fibre, eggplant fills you up and leaves you satisfied, without consuming excessive calories. The skin of eggplant contains the potent antioxidant and free radical scavenger “asinine” which may help prevent cellular damage in the brain. Eggplant is also high in chlorogenic acid, another antioxidant that lowers bad cholesterol levels while providing antiviral and antimicrobial protection too.
The potassium in grapefruit is thought to be responsible for the quick surge in energy one gets from eating grapefruit. This is particularly helpful for anyone dealing with mental exhaustion caused by stress. Grapefruit is high in fibre and low in calories. It’s also a natural comfort food that can be enjoyed anytime, giving you a feeling of contentment, completeness and satisfaction.
Asparagus is a good source of vitamin A, Vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin K, chromium, fibre and folate. Folate is an essential ingredient for helping you maintain your cool and mental flexibility. Asparagus is packed with antioxidants, and it slows down the aging process. It is especially rich in “glutathione” a detoxifying compound that helps break down carcinogens. Asparagus also contains the amino acid “asparagine” which helps rid the body of excess salts.
Avocados contain lutein, beta-carotene, vitamin E and plenty of B vitamins too. Additionally, there is more folate in avocados than in any other fruit, helping you maintain emotional composure and an even keel. Avocados (and bananas) are packed with potassium – a vital mineral for helping to keep low blood pressure. It’s vitally important to boost one’s potassium level since it is a mineral that is depleted by stress, yet is an essential requirement for the conduction of nerve impulses. Avocados are also rich in “glutathione” which prevents the absorption of certain fats that can cause serious oxidative damage to the body. You don’t need a lot (avocados are fattening) to get the nutritional punch – just one-quarter of an avocado represents a single serving.
Berries of all kinds are loaded with nutritional value and have been associated with many positive, health-related results including mental sharpness. Berries contain the highest levels of the antioxidant known as “anthocyanin”. Raspberries, blueberries, blackberries and strawberries contain rich amounts of vitamin C – which has been shown to be helpful in combating stress. In tests, subjects given vitamin C after experiencing a stressful situation had lower blood pressure and lower levels of cortisol in the bloodstream.
Cashews are a great source of zinc. Just one ounce of cashews represents eleven percent of your daily recommended amount of zinc. Getting enough zinc is crucial because low levels of this essential mineral have been linked to both anxiety and depression. The body has no way of storing zinc, so it’s important to replenish your supply. It is important to control your portion sizes however since cashews and all nuts are high in calories.
Chocolate is loaded with antioxidants which catapult it to the top of the list of heart-healthy foods. But chocolate has also been confirmed as a mood enhancer. It seems that at least on a subconscious level, this is something that we’ve known for years. After a particularly stressful day, many people instinctively reach for chocolate first. Now there’s hard evidence to back up this instinctive reaction. Taken in moderation, chocolate releases the mood-enhancing serotonin, and this feel-good chemical does lift your spirits. Dark chocolate is known to lower blood pressure and help one achieve a level of inner peace and tranquillity. Research indicates that dark chocolate may also help to lower the levels of stress hormones. Chocolate also contains two important types of antioxidants – polyphenols and flavonols. There’s plenty of value in chocolate, but its high-calorie count means it should be consumed only in small quantities.
Oatmeal is a personal favourite of the author and wonderful comfort food. It fills you up, leaves you satisfied and eliminates the need to snack before your next meal. Oatmeal is a complex carbohydrate that triggers the brain to release serotonin. This mood-booster creates a warm, soothing feeling that helps you recover from stress that can at times be overwhelming. Serotonin is also known to have antioxidant properties as well. Studies indicate that children who are given oatmeal for breakfast tend to stay sharper mentally throughout the morning and they tend to perform better in school.
Oranges are a commonly known and particularly rich source of vitamin C, giving you natural stress protection and just like grapefruit, oranges give you a quick boost of energy. Though typically consumed as commercially-prepared juice, a healthier option is to eat the whole orange, minus the outer skin and seeds. This gives you the full nutritional value of the fruit plus the fibre. Multiple varieties of oranges are available, and they’re easy to take with you, wherever you go.
Walnuts can give you a mental edge – one that makes you more resistant to the damages that stress can do to the brain. Walnuts contain alpha-linolenic, an essential omega-3 fatty acid and additional polyphenols that help prevent memory loss. In animal testing at Tufts University, researchers found that animals that were given walnuts reduced some of the signs of a developing brain. Walnuts can be eaten raw or lightly toasted as a snack, added to oatmeal, or tossed in a salad.
Almonds are another natural stress-buster. Almonds are a good source of vitamin B2 and vitamin E, as well as magnesium and zinc. Vitamin E has demonstrated an ability to fight off the free radicals associated with stress and heart disease. When you’re stressed out, try crunching down on a small handful of almonds and chew away some of that tension. Almonds (and all nuts actually) are high in healthy fats, but it’s still fat nonetheless, so you’ll want to go easily to avoid excessive caloric consumption.
Speaking of crunchy foods – munching on carrots is another sure-fire way to beat stress. Carrots are sweet, delicious and crunchy root vegetables that contain vitamin A, beta carotene, fibre, minerals and more. Carrots help slow the ageing process – a process that is only accelerated by stress. Regular consumption of carrots lowers cholesterol and protects against certain types of cancer.
14. Swiss Chard
Swiss Chard packs a nutritional punch that includes many phytonutrients and thirteen antioxidants including vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin K, B-complex vitamins and minerals like, magnesium, copper, calcium potassium, iron, manganese and phosphorus. The high fibre and protein content of Swiss chard helps stabilise blood sugars and promote emotional balance – a valuable benefit in stressful times. The magnesium in Swiss chard (and other leafy green vegetables helps to balance the body’s natural stress hormone – cortisol.
15. Red Bell
Red bell peppers contain vitamin A, vitamin C and folate. This enriching combination gives you more energy while helping you maintain a calm emotional state – crucial in today’s stressful world. The nutrients in red bell peppers also help repair cell damage caused by stress. It’s easy to add more red bell peppers into your diet. Chopped peppers are delicious when added to a salad, soup, stir-fry, or rice pilaf. You can also toss them into chilli, omelettes, burritos, stuffed pitas, or pizza. Or try roasting peppers for the whole new taste experience. Red bell peppers are versatile and nutritious food.
Papayas – and any fruit or vegetable with yellow and orange pigments – generally possess good quantities of vitamin A, vitamin C and folate and therefore, produce the same kind of advantages as red bell peppers, namely – more energy and emotional balance. Chopped papaya goes great in a fruit salad, smoothie, or when served with yoghurt.
Lentils are an effective and natural cholesterol-lowering food. They are high in a couple of the B vitamins – namely thiamine (vitamin B1) and niacin (vitamin B3) – and these along with folate, are helpful for the healthy functioning of the nervous, digestive and immune systems. Consuming lentils has a naturally-calming effect on the body that dissolves stress, releases anxiety and improves one’s mood. Due to their high fibre content, lentils help stabilise blood sugar levels by providing steady, slow-burning energy that provides a balancing effect. The folate and magnesium found in lentils help to protect the heart.
18. Sunflower Seed
Sunflower seeds are a good source of vitamin E and folate – helping to improve your mood and lighten your load when you’re feeling stressed. Keep a container in your purse, handbag, or briefcase so you can reach for a handful whenever you feel the need. Not only do sunflower seeds make a nutritious snack that raises your spirits, but you can also sprinkle them over any salad, add them to a yoghurt parfait, or top-off a steaming hot bowl of oatmeal with sunflower seeds.
19. Brown Rice
Brown rice is another complex carbohydrate that can help protect you from the damaging effects of stress as well as help ease the tension. Like oatmeal, brown rice gives you energy that lasts for hours, a huge advantage on those days that are particularly stressful. Brown rice is far less processed than any version of white rice and contains an eighty-eight percentage of the recommended daily amount of manganese. It also contains selenium, magnesium and tryptophan.
Rosemary is not just a tasty herb – but one that offers real benefits in the fight against stress. For example, rosemary is said to lower blood pressure, while easing the pain of and even reversing the effects of migraine headaches. Some experts suggest that rosemary’s health-inducing qualities may be due to its ability to protect the adrenal glands from the toxic effects of stress. For people who routinely feel stressed, the daily use of oil of rosemary is suggested. Just rub a little rosemary oil on the chest area and let its pungent aroma sedate the nerves and the brain. Apply the same way to the back or any tense muscles. Rosemary oil can also be taken internally to help calm one’s nerves and to strengthen their resistance to stress.