Shih Po Ching Hannah, HK BioTek Intern
We all face stress, but the ways to handle stress do determine our quality of life. Excellent stress management can be a powerful tool for maintaining our physical and mental well beings. Read on to explore diet strategies that can help you ease the stress.
The best and worst foods proven to improve stress management
During stressful moments, it is suggested that you can eat little and often. Such practice is beneficial for keeping body metabolism ticking throughout the day and minimizing the peaks and troughs in energy levels. Try not to skip breakfast even though you may not feel hungry or when you are too busy, as eating breakfast helps to kick start your metabolism for the day and stabilizes the blood sugar level. Less frustration in blood sugar level will in turn reduce stress. Maintaining a balanced diet can help reduce stress too. To maintain a balanced diet be sure to consume at least five portions of fruit and vegetables each day and focusing on food with vitamins B and C and magnesium.
Vitamin Bs: Vitamins B1, B2, B3, B6 and B12 help to maintain a healthy nervous system where stress relief partially comes in. A strong nervous system is essential to being able to effectively fight the symptoms of stress. Also, vitamin Bs are required for energy production, which is important for supporting the bodily systems that respond to stress. Therefore, they also act as a battery to help you recharge after stressful scenes. Bananas, leafy green vegetables, avocados, nuts are good sources of vitamin Bs, they all contain essential B vitamins.
Vitamin C: Vitamin C abolishes secretion of cortisol in our body, which is a hormone released by the adrenal glands in response to stress. Once cortisol gets into the bloodstream, it is responsible for relaying the news of stress to all parts of the body and mind. Therefore, consuming more vitamin C from diet helps us to fight stress. Citrus fruits such as oranges, tomatoes, peppers, kiwi fruit, leafy green vegetables, broccoli are rich in Vitamin C.
Magnesium: Magnesium helps to relax muscles and reduce anxiety. You can increase your magnesium intake by eating nuts, especially Brazil nuts, hazelnuts, peanuts, leafy green vegetables, whole grains like oats, brown rice and beans.
On the other hand, you should also be aware of the negative effects of food that may worsen your stress level.
Caffeine: Caffeine is found mostly in coffee, tea, some soft drinks and chocolate. It can alter the effects of several hormones. For example, caffeine injects adrenaline into your system, giving you a temporary boost, but possibly making you fatigued and depressed later. If you take more caffeine to counteract these effects, you may end up spending the day in an agitated state and might find yourself jumpy and edgy by night. Also, getting adequate sleep is an important factor in reducing stress levels. But, caffeine can affect your sleep by keeping you awake longer, thereby shortening the amount of sleep you get, and giving you less time in the restorative stages of sleep. This takes a toll on your level of alertness the next day and on overall health. Try to wean yourself off caffeine by substituting coffee or tea with decaffeinated versions, herbal tea or green tea.
Alcohol: Alcohol is a sedative and a depressant that affects the central nervous system. At first, drinking can reduce fears and take your mind off your troubles. It can help you feel relaxed and give you a boost in mood. Therefore, occasionally unwinding with alcohol is not necessarily dangerous if your doctor approves. But once you start drinking, you can build a tolerance to the de-stressing effects of alcohol. This can make anxiety and stress even more difficult to cope with. Over time, consuming too much alcohol can lead to blackouts, loss of memory, and even brain damage. These issues can create more anxiety as you cope with their symptoms. So, don’t try to cope with stress with alcohol, it can create a long-term burden to your body, rather than easing your plight.
By managing our diet, eating more stress-busting nutrients and limiting the intake of stress-inducing substances, our physical and mental well-being during stressful moments can be improved. Apart from diet, exercise, sleep, socializing and counselling are also key elements in building up a great mental wellbeing when we encounter stress. Combining with a healthier diet, some gentle exercise, like yoga and meditation can help you take time to relax and reduce stress. Furthermore, if you find yourself encountering difficulties in coping with your own stress, talking to friends and family or seeking help from counsellors and psychologists are possible ways to relieve stress and figure out solutions.