Eat to Beat Stress by Dr. Sarah Schenker

 

roHectic lifestyles and busy workloads can push the body’s response to stress via the adrenal glands. Add to this a reliance on sugar and caffeine, combined with lack of sleep it’s only a matter of time before the body crashes. To support these overworked glands we can enrich our diet with the nutrients that they use to function: the B vitamins, vitamin C and magnesium. These nutrients can become depleted by both stress and alcohol, so the harder we work and/or party, the greater the demand!

Approximately 80% of the vitamin C used in our body is in the functioning of our adrenal glands, and as our body can’t store vitamin C, we need to be constantly topping up our levels. We can boost the vitamin C in our diet by eating plenty of

  • green leafy vegetables like broccoli and spinach
  • peppers
  • kiwis
  • cauliflower
  • citrus fruits
  • berries

As well as providing support for our adrenals, the B vitamins are vital for energy production, keeping the brain sharp, and helping our livers to detoxify substances like alcohol and painkillers. Good sources of B vitamins include

  • wholegrains
  • eggs
  • pulses
  • nuts and seeds

Chronic stress depletes the body of magnesium, and the lower we are in magnesium, the more reactive we become to stress – it’s a viscous cycle! In addition to this, magnesium has an important role to play in hormone balance, and some research suggests that low levels can worsen PMS-related bloating, headaches and sugar cravings. Boost your intake with

  • green leafy vegetables
  • nuts, especially cashews, almonds and macadamia
  • seeds, especially sunflower, chia and sesame

Nutrition surveys conducted over the last decade years have consistently shown that the average intakes of selenium are much lower than the recommended daily amount. Selenium is an important mineral for the proper functioning of the brain. Low intakes lead to low levels of selenium in the body which negatively affects mood and contributes to depression and mental health problems. Research has shown that when selenium levels are restored symptoms of depression are minimized and mood is improved. Brazil nuts are the richest source along with

  • meat
  • fish
  • wholegrains
  • dairy products.

Poor intakes of certain nutrients may also contribute to weight gain. The stress hormone cortisol can also contribute to a “spare tyre” of fat accumulating around the middle, increasing risk of chronic disorders such as heart disease and Type 2 diabetes. Omega 3 fatty acids play a crucial role in boosting the metabolism and helping the body to burn fat. These can be found in

  • oily fish (sardines, mackerel, salmon)
  • walnuts
  • chia seeds
  • flaxseeds

Ensuring a good night’s sleep is also essential for appetite control and weight management, and this can be aided by getting a good intake of the “calming” minerals calcium and magnesium. There is a big difference between getting by on a diet that provides calories and one that nourishes. A nourishing diet not only provides energy through proteins, fats and carbohydrates but also all the essential nutrients the body need to stay healthy and work properly.

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